If you read romance blogs for more than a week, you will come across this sentence:
I am SO over paranormal romances.
The reviewers mean it, some of the editors do too. They have had their fill, they never want to read about another pulsing fang or short-haired wolven fur coat. No more demons. No fallen angels, and for Godssake, live in the century you were born in!
The readers though? Not so much. The readers are still sucking down paranormals with glee.* There was a time when you couldn't find a paranormal if you sliced your wrist open and stood, waiting, at midnight on a busy city street. No one was willing to believe, no one was willing to buy (from agent to editor to reader). So despite the unheard minority clamoring for 'something different', there were nothing on the shelf for them to find.
The clamoring minority is now looking for contemporaries that go beyond the bounds of erotica, back to that crazy thing called "story." Interestingly enough, it's already on the shelves, and it's better than it used to be - you know why? Paranormals.
When the PNR wave hit the industry, heroes got bigger, and badder, and more heroically flawed. (The disfiguring scar being the most common.) Plots got tighter, moral ambiguity hit an all-time low and emotional development was ratcheted up to an excruciating level of life (love) or death.
Heroines had to develop too. No more TSTL ... for Godssake, in a paranormal, TSTL really means something. Heroines had to be mentally stronger to handle the lives their heroes chose and the traumas they'd been through. They were also allowed to be even more emotionally broken to match the level of fuckedupedness in their hero. They had to be physically stronger and learn to save themselves, because their hero was off fighting someone bigger and badder and more deadly than the threat facing her. You can't sit around twiddling your thumbs waiting to be rescued as a PNR heroine.
Action also plays a greater role in the PNR, and this is where the contemporary distinguishes itself. In a PNR they fight through character development, in a contemporary, they talk, misunderstand and plot through that same development. But the action still has to be there. The reader is now accustomed to hitting the ground running--not much down time for introspection and long odes to the quality of green in the grass outside the window. The physical battles lost and won in a PNR are the emotional battles the contemporary writer now delivers.
The rules have changed as a result of the Paranormal romance, and no matter your personal feelings on the sub-genre, it's not going anywhere--even if you don't recognize its newest incarnation.
Currently reading: Wolf Tales IV
* I will concede that new paranormal authors probably aren't seeing those gleeful sales because reader dollars are already spent keeping up with the multiple paranormal authors they're already following. I'm personally following at least seven series, but I'm not unwilling to start more.
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