Paranormal Romance Books: Vampires Bite
As you will have realised by now, I’m a lover of paranormal romance, but while I’m in love with shapeshifters, werewolves and dragons, vampire stories aren’t quite my cup of holy water.
Ironically, I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on Bram stoker’s Dracula and studied a range of Gothic vampire texts as part of my MA (if you want my unusual Halloween read recommendations click here), yet it seems that readers of vampire romance novels are all celebrating the sexy vampire trope at a blood stirring romance party, while my invitation has got lost in the post.
Left wondering whether to grab some garlic bread and head to that party, my FOMO raises the question: why is the subgenre of vampire paranormal romance books so popular?
Traditionally, vampires are villains. They drink blood, kill and corrupt to ensure their own survival. Given this fictional fact, a perusal at the undead makes them unlikely romantic heroes… yet, to many readers they are the definitive romantic hero. But why?
Vampires have become sexy and you just have to turn on the TV or spend five minutes on social media to see that we like to be entertained by sex. But how did vampires change from being objects of gothic horror to romantic leads in paranormal romance teenage novels?
Like many stories, gothic vampires have their evil origins in folk lore and history. Many academics will cite Vlad the Impaler as the inspiration for Dracula’s character, a blood thirty aristocrat who impaled his enemies on spikes throughout Europe. Another frequently cited ‘vampire’ figure often mentioned is Countess Elizabeth Báthory, a female serial killer who bathed in the blood of her virgin victims in a bid for eternal youth. While there is certainly evidence for these figures being influential in the development of the vampire myth, there are other more grounded and common place events that arguably helped ingrain the concept of vampires into our culture: bloated corpses, washed out of flooded graveyards are a credible example of how the dead were perceived as coming back to life. Bloating of said corpses was attributed to the ‘undead’ feasting on the blood of their victims rather than to decomposition.
The traditional vampire stories I’ve read draw on these examples of grim history and tend to have a number of features in common: the villain, the vampire, has a sense of otherness - a foreignness that allows writers of classic English Literature to cast him as the corrupting influence on young women. The male is usually older and attractive; he is rich (often a member of the aristocracy - Count Dracula) but his values are corrupt. Conversely, the heroine (and/or victim) is young and virginal. Innocent, she contrasts to the predatory nature of the villain, and her downfall – her seduction – allows for an element of sexual titillation within the novel.
It is important to note that because of the social context in which these classic gothic novels were written, vampirism was often used metaphorically and euphemistically for sex. Vampire novels like Dracula are heavily symbolic and present a range of sexual activities through symbolism that would have met with societal disapproval. You just need to read the ‘staking’ of Lucy to death by the male heroes and read the description of her writhing around in death throws of ecstasy so see what I mean…
It is no surprise then, that vampires and sex became inextricably linked in literature as sexual desire was presented through the extended metaphor of the vampire.
Writers of the subgenre of paranormal romance have latched onto this sexy symbolism and vampires have morphed into teenage heartthrob heroes. The evil characteristics of the nineteenth century vampire have been softened by popular culture. For teenage readers it is forbidden love, seduction and temptation that have replaced the symbolic ill-advised lust of Dracula.
These contemporary vampire stories also contain a level of selfishness; the protagonist’s refusal to bow to the rules of society. These rebellious themes could, perhaps, account for part of the appeal of these stories to a teenage audience. Desire is placed above the needs or rights of others, and secondary characters are used to allow the main characters to meet their passionate, consuming end. The other-worldly setting also provides the perfect backdrop (or excuse) to act upon temptation and explore passion with a Byronic hero in a way wholly impossible in a real-world setting.
Given the forbidden nature of the relationships, virginal qualities of the heroine and the sense of rebellion that permeates these stories, it is not hard to see why vampire paranormal romance books attract a teenage readership. In essence, vampires are rebellious role models that ooze sex appeal and offer excitement through dramatic plot twists.
Within paranormal romance, teenage or otherwise, sex remains paramount to the plot. Just like the shapeshifters I so enjoy writing and reading about, vampires are animalistic. Some vampire stories show their characters controlling their animal urges, others present a lack of control, and (as I explore in my blog about the presentation of the alpha male) readers of paranormal romance find this aspect of the hero compelling. The result is a paranormal subgenre that scales from rebellious teenage romance to erotic vampirism reading!
Paranormal romance books that feature the sexy vampire trope assuage poplar culture’s fascination with sex and death. What’s more, they present characters with hidden depths – the result is hot, sexy escapism without rules.
Suddenly, I can see the appeal…
Now, where’s my garlic bread?
To find out about my novels click here and visit my books page where you can find the blurb for the first five books in the romance series.
To learn more about the origin of vampire stories read:
For an excellent essay on vampire stories with examples from popular culture read: