Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Good Introduction to Vampire Romances

I have long resisted reading paranormal romances. While I'm a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a lukewarm fan of HBO's True Blood series, I never read the Sookie Stackhouse novels, nor the many other romances featuring non-human heroes. I do not necessarily identify with the heroine in a movie or television series the way I do when I immerse myself in a romance novel. While I do not need to find Buffy's love interests personally attractive in order to enjoy the show, I feel differently about romance novels.  I have never fantasized about being with a vampire or werewolf, so I never understood the appeal of paranormal romances.

I was surprised when I first noticed the shelves filling with paranormal romances, back in the days when Borders was still around (sigh).  I assumed it was a generational thing that I could not quite appreciate, like body piercing and neck tattoos.  I assumed that the appeal of paranormal romance was in being desired for what the heroine is rather than what she does, and I thought it fulfilled a wish to vicariously be inherently special (a slayer, a fay, an especially tasty blood type).

I got a new perspective when I read Beyond Heaving Bosoms: the Smart Bitches' Guide to Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell & Candy Tan. They pointed out that, in a paranormal romance, being fed upon or changed by a vampire/werewolf/shifter serves emotionally as a secondary loss of virginity. It is an experience that the heroine has never had before that will change her life and forever bond her with the hero.

OK, so now I understand another layer of the appeal for many readers. It still doesn't especially appeal to me, but I am trying to broaden by horizons by reading other subgenres and authors. I recently finished reading Lauren Dane's Goddess with a Blade, and I enjoyed it very much.

This particular novel could be classified as urban fantasy as easily as paranormal romance. Although the growing relationship between the heroine (a hunter of rogue vampires) and the "Scion" (the ruler of Las Vegas' vampire community) is important to the plot, it's difficult to say whether it is the central plot element. There are certainly other things going on with the heroine that do not directly involve the hero.

I loved the Las Vegas setting. Clearly, Lauren Dane does as well. When the Cosmopolitan opened a few years ago, during the recession, its bars and restaurants were hugely popular with young club-goers, but the casino was virtually empty. At first, I speculated that they were drawing the pretty young things as an amenity for the older gamblers, but those gamblers never really materialized. Of course, it would make perfect sense if the place was run by vampires who wanted to lure willing young blood donors. Dane's fictional vampire casino-hotel is called Die Mitte (German for "the center"). There are no German-named casinos on the Las Vegas strip, but the Cosmopolitan's original developers defaulted on their construction loan, forcing Deutschebank to foreclose and finish the place in order to recoup some of their investment. The German bank found itself reluctantly in the casino business for a couple of years before they were able to sell the place. I laughed out loud when I saw that Dane gave her vampire casino a German name.

Perhaps I was able to enjoy this book so much because the Scion is really presented more as a CEO/politician than as a vampire. He never feeds on the heroine -- in fact, all of his feeding is done off-stage.  While the sex scenes are steamy and plentiful, they are surprisingly vanilla (and I don't mean that in a bad way).  Rowan and Clive are equal partners, not dom/sub.

I have already put the sequel in my Amazon shopping cart.

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