Undead/paranormal and romance

What makes undead/paranormal romance different from other romances? What is it about the relationship that has changed?

When asking on Twitter, one of my friends wrote “@GraecoMuse:  The fear and incomprehension of a normal romance is emphasized through personification among other things.  I always think that they aren’t that different except in portrayal and emphasis.”

And on Facebook (yes, social media bunny that I am), another friend (who works in a bookstore and is one of the local paranormal romance experts) said “A lot of the conflict in paranormal romance is the same as in normal romance, but it is conveyed in different ways or to greater extremes.”

  • Cross species or living/dead relationships are looked down upon – same as cross class relationships, particularly in older days. There’s usually some sort of difference, but what makes the paranormal ones special is the amount of difference. It usually involves them being more violent, dangerous or out of control some or all of the time.
  • “We can’t be together!” – that old defence! Whether family, your loved one lives off blood/brains or whatever, there’s got to be a reason you just can’t be together! As my pararom expert buddy says, this “is common in most romance, whether they’re potentially divided by ambition, class, distance, species, law.”
  • Can’t have children – barrenness is pretty typical in romance or romance/other-genres, so it’s nothing special for the undead or paranormal. Or the opposite:
  • ‘Our child will be different!’ – as in a half breed, or full breed paranormal. Again, this isn’t so wrong or different in normal romance.
  • Legal issues – undead don’t have legal rights or can’t legally be married. This is a side issue. Not every romance ends in a marriage, and marriage doesn’t mean something to everyone. Some books specifically deal with discrimination of the undead/paranormal, if they are known in society, and it has been an issue throughout human social/legal history as well.
  • ‘One will always be more powerful than the other’. In quite a few para-roms, the partner of the one who is paranormal must be equal in some way and it doesn’t mean has to be paranormal as well.
  • “You just ate my X!” – well, isn’t that the same as ‘You just killed my X’? People fall in love in romance novels despite killings, and sometimes come together for it.
  • While violence is in a lot of novels, whether it’s about wartime love or love with pirates or Vikings (Viking Vampires are the best…) , it’s a lot more dominant in paranormal romance novels.

One of the main differences about paranormal relationships is that it usually relies on a change of life state – to becoming vampire, were or zomb to keep up with their partner.  As my pararom expert friend says “a conversion in species is more irrevocable than changing religion and noobs can be dangerous until they control their new abilities.” Let’s say Klingons. Klingon men need a Klingon or otherwise hardy woman for their ferocious…nighttime activities *cough*. But one cannot physically change to become Klingon for their loved one. One can take on Klingon traditions, but it’s not the same.

With vampires, weres, zombies, you CAN become just like them. Give up life itself, or becoming furry occasionally. That is a big ask. There are people who give up (or take up) religion or traditions for their loved ones, but this is a totally different ask. Particularly in the case of vampires, vamps are usually immortal. You can either live, grow old and die under their love while they continue on, or you can live on forever together. Of those with human lovers, vamps (where the lore allows) could watch generations of their descendants live, grow old, and die.

Not all paranormals live forever or require their loved ones to convert. Some magical beings that are still essentially human don’t have as severe a problem as those undead/immortal beings.


Have a thought on the above or disagree entirely? Go for it in the comments!


With brain love to Allison, Jenni and Nicole Murphy for helping me think about this more. Now go buy Nicole’s excellent books where Allison works and check out Jenni’s blog, because they are all brilliant!


Articles which made me think about this and are on the topic paranormal romance, but not really comparing paranormal to straight romance novels:

* Deadly Love : Images of Dating Violence in the ”Twilight Saga”

by Victoria E. Collins and Dianne C. Carmody

Affilia 2011 26: 382

* A Boyfriend to Die For: Edward Cullen as Compensated Psychopath in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight

By Debra Merskin

Journal of Communication Inquiry 35(2) 157–178

* Beauty and the beast : The romanticization of abuse in popular culture

by Laura Béres

European Journal of Cultural Studies 1999 2: 191

* ‘The urge towards love is an urge towards (un)death’: Romance, masochistic desire and postfeminism in the Twilight novels

by Anthea Taylor

International Journal of Cultural Studies 15(1) 31–46


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