July 13th, 2010


Why Women Find Vampires Hot

New York Times bestselling author Jeaniene Frost (the "Night Huntress" series) has an interesting piece at CNN.com called Why Women Find Vampires Hot. What I find particularly interesting about it is that it goes well beyond the "love tames the bad boy" fantasy that I thought was at the heart of the paranormal romance subgenre. And while there is certainly quite a bit of that--the vampires, werewolves and other man-creatures who populate these novels almost always start off dangerous but become loving, protective partners once the affection blossoms between him and the heroine--according to Frost it goes much deeper. She puts forth some fascinating theories, from a woman's inner rebellion against propriety to no longer needing a hero to rescue damsels in distress, but one particular theory stands out for me:

You won't catch a paranormal anti-hero being intimidated by a strong woman, either. In fact, more often than not, her strength is what attracted him in the first place. Sure, these hell-raising heroes can be rough on villains -- or anyone trying to force them to conform -- but you won't see them raise a hand to the heroine....Plus, when the cocky hero has no doubt about how bad-ass he is, he's less hesitant to reveal his feelings to the heroine who catches his heart.

I think this might hit the nail on the head. The paranormal paramour isn't just the tamed bad boy, he's a mirror image of the heroine--strong, self-reliant, confident--who by extension is a reflection of the female reader's aspirations for herself.

Frost goes on:

The paranormal bad boy is usually a fiercely loyal partner for the heroine. Once his sights are set on her, he doesn't notice other women, and he's utterly unconcerned with what anyone else thinks of his choice....The heroine also doesn't have to hide her flaws -- he'll accept her just the way she is.

For many, this is pure wish fulfillment. Not everyone is lucky enough to be in a relationship with a partner who accepts you warts and all--or to be in a relationship, period. Reading paranormal romances, then, can act almost as practice for a certain segment of the audience, a safe way for readers to test what they want in a relationship, and what they don't. The way horror lets us safely confront our fears, maybe paranormal romance lets us safely confront our wants, needs and other issues a relationship brings with it.

Like I said, interesting stuff, and certainly open to interpretation.

On a personal note, I haven't read much paranormal romance, if any, but it fascinates me. Is this steamy mix of horror and romance the future of both genres? I don't know. All I know is that every time I see one of Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan novels (A Fistful of Charms, For a Few Demons More, etc.) on a bookstore shelf, I stop, pick it up and think about giving it a try. They actually look pretty good.