The list separates the genre into Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal, Inspirational, Romantic Suspense, Young Adult, New Adult, and “Other;” and then breaks the categories down even more. What, I wondered, are the characteristics of the Contemporary (Tattooed) sub-sub-genre? What about Romantic Suspense (Steampunk)? And finally, finally a chance to dig into Inspirational Romance (Amish).
Alright, Seattle Public Library. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.
So here’s how it’s going to work: every week, Common Novel will be running a new post on a romance sub-genre. In that post, I’ll be finding and discussing books that check off each sub-sub-genre on the list, all the way from Contemporary (Straight) to Other (Time Travel). And since I’ve been trying to get into Paranormal Romance for a while, I’m starting there.
Paranormal Romance: Romance novels in which the future, a fantasy world, or paranormal elements are an integral part of the plot.
• Ancient Gods
Shape-shifters, vampires, and ancient gods (oh my)
The Book: Magic Burns (Kate Daniels #2), by Ilona Andrews
The Grade: A-
Down in Atlanta, tempers – and temperatures – are about to flare…
As a mercenary who cleans up after magic gone wrong, Kate Daniels has seen her share of occupational hazards. Normally, waves of paranormal energy ebb and flow across Atlanta like a tide. But once every seven years, a flare comes, a time when magic runs rampant. Now Kate’s going to have to deal with problems on a much bigger scale: a divine one.
When Kate sets out to retrieve a set of stolen maps for the Pack, Atlanta’s paramilitary clan of shapeshifters, she quickly realizes much more at stake. During a flare, gods and goddesses can manifest – and battle for power. The stolen maps are only the opening gambit in an epic tug-of-war between two gods hoping for rebirth. And if Kate can’t stop the cataclysmic showdown, the city may not survive…
I was able to check three items off my list immediately, thanks to Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniels series. Written by a husband-and-wife team, the series seems to be something of a gold standard in the genre—heroines are frequently compared to Kate, and knock-offs are pretty common. I’ve mentioned the series here before, but the short version is that the books are fun, fast-paced reads that I enjoyed immensely.
While shifters and vamps are constants throughout the series, Magic Burns (Kate Daniels #2) includes an ancient god plotline. Jackpot.
Angels and Demons
The Book: Demon Angel, by Meljean Brook
The Grade: A-
All hell breaks loose in Meljean Brook's erotic, supernatural debut novel.
Lilith, a demon, has spent 2,000 years tempting men and guaranteeing their eventual damnation. That is, until she meets her greatest temptation: the man whose life mission has been to kill her.
This was a tougher assignment: despite my rapid consumption of paranormal romances over the past month, I couldn’t think of any that included angels or demons in any meaningful way. I took to Goodreads, which seems to have a discussion thread for just about anything, and I was not disappointed: multiple threads promised to point me in the right direction, which apparently included the pleasingly-entitled Demon Angel. Thinking that the title provided as much of a guarantee as could reasonably be expected, I hastened to my Kindle store and began to read.
Well, it’s pretty great, and now I’m hooked into yet another completed series that will distract me until I’ve finished it. Epic in both scale and physical size, the book spans over 800 years, several dimensions, the globe, and a lot of moral gray area. It went on a trifle long for me, hence the minus after the A, but since it was a debut novel I am hoping that the later books are tighter.
The Book: The Ghost Exterminator (Karmic Consultants #2), by Vivi Andrews
The Grade: B+
Jo Banks has been seeing ghosts since she was six, so normal was never really an option. Embracing the weird and shunning normalcy makes her the top Ghost Exterminator in her region. Then she meets Wyatt Haines, the uptight, materialistic and irritatingly sexy owner of a successful resort chain. Wyatt's new Victorian inn is extremely haunted and the Commando Barbie Ghost Exterminator is just the girl for the job. Except Wyatt doesn't believe in ghosts, or Jo, or anything outside the norm. He'll have to start believing fast, though, because Jo's extermination goes awry and accidentally throws two prankster ghosts into Wyatt's body to haunt him. Every time he falls asleep, the mischievous ghosts take over, turning his perfectly ordered life into chaos. His waking hours are no less chaotic, with his thoughts possessed by Jo's quirky appeal and Playmate physique. Unfortunately, Jo's ghost-exing mojo is on the fritz just when she needs it the most to unhaunt Wyatt and figure out why his inn is swarming with ghosts. Preferably before his spirit is permanently separated from his mouth-watering body. And before her heart is permanently attached to the most sexy, frustrating, normal man she's ever met.
This book is light and adorable, perhaps too light and adorable. I wasn’t ever really able to lock into it—to get to that place where you don’t want to put a story down—even though it left pleasant feelings behind. If you’re looking for a fun, frothy, totally undemanding paranormal, this is a great choice. Perfect for beaches and hammocks.
The Book: Dragon Actually (Dragon Kin Series #1), by G.A. Aiken
The Grade: A-
It's not always easy being a female warrior with a nickname like Annwyl the Bloody. Men tend to either cower in fear - a lot - or else salute. It's true that Annwyl has a knack for decapitating legions of her ruthless brother's soldiers without pausing for breath. But just once it would be nice to be able to really talk to a man, the way, she can talk to Fearghus the Destroyer.
Too bad that Fearghus is a dragon, of the large, scaly and deadly type. With him, Annwyl feels safe - a far cry from the feelings aroused by the hard-bodied, arrogant knight Fearghus has arranged to help train her for battle. With her days spent fighting a man who fill her with fierce, heady desire, and her nights spent in the company of a magical creature who could smite a village just by exhaling, Annwyl is sure life couldn't get any stranger. She's wrong...
I’ve covered this series once before, where it won my “most surprising” award for June. It’s an incredibly funny—and fun—series, and if you think you have any chance of getting over the whole shape-shifting dragon thing I suggest you begin it immediately.
The Book: Dance Upon The Air (Three Sisters Island #1), by Nora Roberts
The Grade: A
When Nell Channing arrives on charming Three Sisters Island, she believes that she’s finally found refuge from her abusive husband—and from the terrifying life she fled so desperately eight months ago… But even in this quiet, peaceful place, Nell never feels entirely at ease. Careful to conceal her true identity, she takes a job as a cook at the local bookstore café—and begins to explore her feelings for the island sheriff, Zack Todd. But there is a part of herself she can never reveal to him—for she must continue to guard her secrets if she wants to keep the past at bay. One careless word, one misplaced confidence, and the new life she’s created so carefully could shatter completely. Just as Nell starts to wonder if she’ll ever be able to break free of her fear, she realizes that the island suffers under a terrible curse—one that can only be broken by the descendants of the Three Sisters, the witches who settled the island back in 1692. And now, with the help of two other strong, gifted women—and with the nightmares of the past haunting her every step—she must find the power to save her home, her love…and herself…
Romance novels about witches aren’t particularly uncommon, but I’ve always enjoyed Nora Roberts’s Three Sisters Island trilogy. Roberts is particularly gifted at creating meaningful, believable female friendships—they’re the basis for almost all of her trilogies—and that skill is certainly on display in this one. I also appreciate that although the heroine of Dance Upon the Air is escaping from an abusive husband, she is not “rescued” by the hero—instead, she rescues herself with his help, and the help of her friends.
Despite the dark subject matter, it’s a fun book, and a fun series. Highly recommended.