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Strange Love: Paranormal Romance

Two wolves

Before doing this blog, I’d heard a bit about paranormal romance, and at first it sounded extremely goofy, and maybe a bit off-putting. People falling in love with ghosts, aliens, and werewolves? Shapeshifters, vampires and witches involved in the romantic lives of humans? Please. How ridiculous. But then I remembered the HBO series True Blood, and how over the top, weirdly complicated, and entertaining it was, with vampires, werewolves, fairies and humans getting up to all manner of crazy hijinks. Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse books on which the show was loosely based were real guilty pleasures. So hey, maybe paranormal romances aren’t so bad after all. If you want to explore this genre, here are a few romances featuring supernatural beings. Paranormal romances can be more intricately plotted than other subgenres, and the romantic element is sometimes only one of many intriguing aspects of the stories. There is a lot of variety, and a very broad range of sexuality portrayed within this subgenre, and these few books are only a tiny sampling.

Wickedly Wonderful by Deborah Blake

Inspired by the Russian folk tales of a witch who lives in a magical house in the forest that spins around on giant chicken legs, this story features a network of witches called Baba Yagas who help keep nature in balance. The Baba in this story is called Beka Yancy, and she is in charge of maintaining the California Coastal region, helping the sea-folk (mermaids, selkies, etc) with their problems. She lives in a magical hippie bus on the beach with a gigantic talking dog named Chudo-Yudo who’s really a dragon in disguise. The story opens with a mermaid asking for Beka’s help rescuing her baby from a fishing boat’s net. Mermaids have been leaving their secluded part of the ocean because something there is making them sick, but then they encounter other threats like this to their safety. Beka rescues the merbaby but can’t get herself out of the net quickly enough, so she meets the grizzled boat captain and his grouchy son. She presents herself as a ditsy surfer girl, saying she released a baby dolphin from the net. Marcus, the son, is a troubled veteran who’s come back to the sea to help his sick father. Beka and Marcus are intrigued with each other, but seem to be polar opposites.

Beka is charged with figuring out what is causing the sickness affecting the undersea people by the Queen of the Otherworld, an intimidating gal that nobody wants to anger. Beka convinces Marcus and his father to let her use their boat as a diving base, but she can’t get deep enough to see what’s really going on down there. All she finds is a few damaged and dead fish and plants. Being so far underwater makes it difficult for her to use her magic, so she has trouble finding out what the problem is. But she likes seeing Marcus, and the romantic tension is building between them, so she keeps trying. However, time is running out, the Queen expects results, and Beka worries that she’ll fail her first big assignment and be asked to leave her position. As Beka spends more time with Marcus, she realizes they have real chemistry, but at the same time she is becoming friends with Kesh, a good looking Irish guy who’s new to town. Jealousy and suspicion build between the two men, as Beka gets more and more stressed about figuring out what’s wrong in the water. But Kesh isn’t a man at all! It turns out he is a selkie prince who’s embittered toward his family and wants to hurt everyone he can. Things come to a magical showdown with the fate of the sea people hanging in the balance, as Beka, Marcus, and Chudo-Yudo put all their strength and magic into the fight. This is a charming and action-packed story with a lot of interesting elements from folklore, and the slow building romance is very sweet. Other books in this series: Wickedly Dangerous; Wickedly Powerful.

In the Air Tonight by Lori Handeland

Raye Larsen doesn’t fit into her small Wisconsin town. Dark haired and dark eyed, she stands out from the fair-haired Scandinavians around her. It doesn’t help that she’s adopted and her background is a total mystery. Oh, and she can see and talk to ghosts. She learned to conceal this ability as a child when her parents sent her to a shrink and the other kids made fun of her. So she has a bit of an unusual reputation. Despite that, her life as a kindergarten teacher is pleasantly uneventful and predictable. Single and dedicated to her job, she doesn’t mind if life is a little bit dull. Everything changes when a woman’s body is found in the town square, burnt, branded, and missing an arm. Bobby Doucet, a strikingly handsome Creole detective from New Orleans, comes up to investigate whether this murder has any connection to a string of similar unsolved cases from his department.

The hatchet-wielding killer comes after Raye in her apartment, and she can’t tell if he is real or a ghost because he’s so creepy. As she rushes out terrified, Bobby nearly runs her over. He stops to help her and is attracted but cautious, as he can sense that there is something strange about her. As they get to know each other better over the next few days, Raye finds his culture shock about the North charming, and they appreciate each other’s good looks, so they start up a blazing romance. But that’s only one of the many exciting things happening in his seemingly sleepy little town. Raye helps Bobby with some other unsolved cases, just by telling him what the ghosts he’s unwittingly brought along say to her. One of these ghosts reveals some secrets from Bobby’s painful past. Another ghost that has always followed Raye finally tells her why, helping her understand her witchy heritage and her special powers. A magical showdown pitting Raye, Bobby, a super secret FBI officer, and a voodoo priestess against a group of witch hunters forms the harrowing conclusion to this, the first in the Sisters of the Craft Series. The other two are Heat of the Moment and Smoke on the Water.

Growl: An Anthology

The three short novels in this book are what I thought all paranormal romances would be like, with a lot of strange plotlines surrounding bizarre sex scenes that are more erotica than adventurous love stories with supernatural characters and magic as part of the plot. If you can suspend your disbelief enough to not get repulsed or confused, maybe this kind of paranormal romance is for you.

Legal Wolf’s Mate by Eve Langlais: This short, quick read is kind of like a comic book because of its simplicity and fast, action packed pace. Gavin is a lawyer/werewolf, with a new client, Megan. She is a plump, seemingly very average secretary who is accused of murdering her boss. When Gavin first sees her, he’s outraged because he knows she is destined to be his mate, and he doesn’t want to give up his bachelor ways. As a werewolf, he has no choice but to obey nature’s laws. So he decides to take her case, win it and then woo her, because it’s unethical to have a romantic relationship with a client. But of course, things get sexy and more complicated between them before he can win her case. Also, there is much more to Megan than meets the eye—namely that she is a trained assassin, and she is equally distressed to be falling in love with a werewolf, a type of creature with which she is not entirely unfamiliar.

Feral Passions by Kate Douglas: Cherry is a smart lady with a PhD and an interesting job in advertising research who has horrible self esteem. She’s overweight and has only had terrible experiences with men. Her sister Christa wants her to come on vacation with her to a unique resort called Feral Passions. It’s staffed exclusively by men, and only takes small groups of women as guests. Cherry thinks it sounds weird, but finally she gives in to the badgering and joins Christa and her friend Stephanie. Unbeknownst to the guests, the guys who run the resort are werewolves—really old werewolves. Being a werewolf stops the aging process, so they all look to be very healthy men in their thirties, in prime physical condition. Their pack is dying out because none of them have found their mates yet—hence, the resort, which is marketed as a wolf preserve where the guests can interact with semi-tame wolves. Two of the men, Brad and Cain, take a liking to Cherry. She is baffled by this, since she thinks she is hideous and no man will ever be interested in her, especially not two men as attractive as these. It gets very complicated and extremely sexual between the three of them, and Cherry is sad that the end of her vacation is looming, but Brad and Cain have a surprising solution for her. This peculiar story isn’t as cartoonish and includes more detail about the characters and their inner thoughts.

The Alpha’s Woman by A.C. Arthur: Kira’s werewolf pack, The Hunters, is embroiled in conflict with another pack, The Devoted. The Hunters are more aggressive and emphatically dislike humans. In her human life, Kira has just graduated from college with a degree in psychology, which she wants to use for developing an understanding of the werewolf mind. Her mother was killed shortly after Kira’s graduation, and Kira is trying to get over her grief and move on, but the battle between the packs keeps drawing her back in, especially because her father wants to marry her off to an alpha male of his choosing. Kira’s human side doesn’t want to follow these old arcane rules, but her wolf side can’t resist Blaez, an alpha wolf who kidnaps her. Again, it gets extremely sexual and complex, as Kira struggles to find her place in the world.

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