Just to let you know, we have published a paranormal romance list prior to this one, but the first article is predominantly focused on ya paranormal romance. Today's list is going to feature some 18+ topics, so if you're wanting something for the younger adults in your life, or just something focused more on romance and less on the spice, click here.
Paranormal romance vs fantasy vs urban fantasy
We get a lot of questions from you guys about what the differences are between paranormal romance, fantasy, and urban fantasy. The genres are very similar, and to someone who maybe hasn't been in the genre for very long, or has only really read one of the genres, it can be hard to spot the differences. I'll briefly go over the differences just to avoid the 'that book is urban fantasy not pnr' comments. But also keep in mind that multiple things can be true at the same time. Paranormal romance and urban fantasy are very similar and the difference between them is very slight.
You’ll love paranormal romance if you like…
You'll love paranormal romance if you love crying and screaming. I'm not even joking. Romance fiction in general gets looked down on far too much considering the quality of writing and popularity of it. But by far it's one of the most cathartic genres. Romance writers know how to manipulate you into caring about their characters, so when things go wrong, you feel it almost as deeply as them.
You'll also like paranormal romance if you like, surprise surprise, romance. Paranormal romance is just romance with a hint of the supernatural. Twilight for example, is a paranormal romance as Edward is a vampire.
As someone who reads a lot of blogs, I know how annoying it can be to have to read through lots of stuff you're uninterested in to get to what you want. I've put the full list below, all featuring the best of the paranormal romance genre! I would definitely recommend reading ahead, just to read the blurbs if not the reviews.
I've tried to recommend a variety of genres within paranormal romance. The list consists of some murder/mystery, historic fiction, vampires, angles/nephilim, witches etc. There's a mix of centuries and decades on here too. I wanted this list to represent a really broad picture of the paranormal romance genre and I think I've achieved that. So please don't be offended if your favourite book or author isn't featured. I'm not saying these are the best paranormal romances ever, but they're definitely ones you should read!
Some of my recommendations are standalone books, some are incomplete series and others are complete series. I'll let you know in each review what's what, and if one title catches your eyes, click on it and you'll be taken down to the section!
1. Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
In an isolated castle deep in the Austrian forest, Laura leads a solitary life with only her ailing father for company. Until one moonlit night, a horse-drawn carriage crashes into view, carrying an unexpected guest – the beautiful Carmilla. So begins a feverish friendship between Laura and her mysterious, entrancing companion.
But as Carmilla becomes increasingly strange and volatile, prone to eerie nocturnal wanderings, Laura finds herself tormented by nightmares and growing weaker by the day… Pre-dating Dracula by twenty-six years, Carmilla is the original vampire story, steeped in sexual tension and gothic romance.
As someone who isn't usually a fan of any book written before 2000, Carmilla pleasantly surprised me. It's just over 100 pages, so a quick read for anyone fancying a palette cleanser. But if you like vampires, you should really read this standalone.
Carmilla has a hauntingly gothic atmosphere, taking the place in a small town, surrounded by forest. The main heroine, Laura, lives in a castle a bit away from the town so the feeling of isolation is really hammered home.
It's been some time since I've read Carmilla, but it's definitely one that I will be revisiting. Sapphic vampires are the best. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who's interested in the genre, or even someone who's interested in urban fantasy or another subgenre!
Carmilla is one of the founding novels of the genre and yet I find it so frequently overlooked. As I said before, I was surprised that I liked it due to the fact it was first published in 1872! Carmilla was published even before Dracula and is definitely the founding novel of the vampire genre.
2. The Dance of Lost Souls by Kelli Call
'Is it awful being dead?’
‘No love’ he said softly ‘it’s as gentle as a kiss’...
Malia was once the most promising dancer on her home island of Blisse until her parents died, and all her dreams came crashing down. With her brother in charge and ruining the family business, he has promised her to an old and corrupt man in order to forgive his debts. But she refuses to accept her bleak fate without a fight.
So, when she meets Rogan she dismisses him as another lusty sailor with nothing but heartache to offer her. But could she convince the mysterious sea captain to take her away from Blisse? Or will he demand a price she can’t afford?
Immortality didn’t change Rogan, or so he thought. But with every passing year, he lost more of himself. Sailing back and forth, taking souls to paradise or hell becomes nothing more than survival. That is until he sees a strange woman crying over her parents’ graves as he comes to collect their souls. She ignites a fierce love and loyalty that he never thought he would be capable of.
A love that people sell their souls for.
This is a book we've published, but I think that should convince you to read it more than anything. As a publisher, I loved this book so much that I was willing to publish it, even before it was edited! The Dance of Lost Souls is a brilliant paranormal romance, featuring an immortal pirate captain, Rogan, and an orphaned dancer, Malia, whose brother has gambled away the family fortune.
Malia needs to escape the island to avoid the consequences of her brother's gambling which creates a sense of urgency that runs throughout the story. There's also a festival for the dead which takes place over the week which is why Rogan's been summoned to the island. There's a beautiful scene where their eyes meet over the bonfire, and you can practically feel the passion between the two.
Call's planning to make this into a series, but I won't say how as it might spoil something.
3. The Promise of Lightning by Jenna Weatherwax
Finding your soulmate should be easy. At least, when the Goddess Aphrodite is involved — but Vanessa Reyes’ life seems more Greek Tragedy than Happily Ever After.
When a supposed clerical error turns the moment Vanessa has spent all her life waiting for into a nightmare instead of a dream-come-true, she finds herself in an unprecedented situation.
With two soulmates instead of one; Alexander, Vanessa, and Theo are forced to question everything they ever wanted and where they truly belong. After all, can you really be whole with only half of your soul?
Another SmashBear original, The Promise of Lightning by Jenna Weatherwax , has fast become a cult favourite (if you've read the book, pardon the pun).
The Promise of Lightning is a new adult, 18+, spicy adventure steeped in mystery, murder, and passion. It's a long book, at just over 500 pages, but Weatherwax uses the time wisely. The story doesn't drag, and more than once I was gasping and on the edge of my seat, wondering what was going to happen next! If you like a bit more of a thriller/murder mystery vibe, you'll really enjoy this. Weatherwax is also planning to turn this into a series.
4. Caught in the Devil's Hand by Ruby Duvall
Desire leaves her bound to a demon. Love will unlock her destiny.
In Shumei's world, her black hair marks her as being touched by magic and thereby vulnerable to its corruption. Shunned by her village, she and her family scrape by selling herbal remedies, but a mysterious epidemic has depleted her stores, and she is forced to leave the protection of town to replenish them.
With only moonlight to guide her, Shumei does what she can to evade the demons known to stalk the woods, but she finds herself confronted by an alluring man with a wicked smile and desolate eyes—one who somehow knows her deepest, darkest desires…and whose depraved hunger betrays his inhuman nature.
Little does she know how a single moment of weakness will end up unlocking her potential, her destiny, and her heart.
Please check the trigger warnings for this book.
Caught in the Devil's Hand is a wild ride from start to finish. In all honesty, I wasn't a fan of the beginning. The initial meeting between the two main characters was great, but the premise for Shumei saying yes to the deal in the beginning is a bit tenuous. But once you're past the first chapter there isn't really anything that I'm really not a fan of, and the smut is astounding. It's really well written and fits in seamlessly with the plot. You can read my full review for Caught in the Devil's Hand here. This is the start of a series but I've yet to read the rest.
5. Cat & Bones Series by Jeaniene Frost
Kicking off the sexiest, smartest, most badass paranormal romance series out there. You won't be able to stop turning the pages.
Half-vampire Catherine Crawfield is going after the undead with a vengeance, hoping that one of those deadbeats is her father - the guy responsible for ruining her mother's life.
But when she's captured by Bones, a bounty hunter and a vampire, she finds herself forced into an unholy partnership.
In exchange for his help in finding her father, and still astonished she hasn't ended up as his dinner, Cat agrees to train with the sexy night stalker until her battle reflexes are as sharp as his fangs. But that's not all Bones has to show her - Cat's starting to believe maybe vampires aren't all evil after all, especially ones as cute as Bones. She's half-convinced that being half-dead doesn't have to be all bad.
But before she can enjoy her newfound status as confident kick-ass demon hunter Cat finds herself, and Bones, hotly pursued by a band of killers. She's is going to have to pick a side - and fast ...
Please check the trigger warnings for this book.
The Cat & Bones series is a staple amongst paranormal romance fans and urban fantasy fans alike! It's a crowd pleaser due to being a relativley easy and fun read! There is the theme of sexual assault running throughout so as I've said above, please check the triggers before reading.
We follow Cat as she graduates from amateur vampire hunter to professional, under the tuteledge of another vampire called Bones. It's steamy, action packed, fun, and definitely a founding member of modern paranormal romance!