We all love a good romance. But throw in some supernatural elements like vampires or ghosts? You’ve got me hooked. Supernatural romance stories have gripped female audiences (and me) for years.
But what is it about vamps and other things that go bump in the night that make a steamy romance that much more enjoyable? What even is supernatural romance, and why does it have its own subgenre? We’re answering all that and more in this deep dive into the bloody depths of the deliciously entertaining supernatural romance genre.
Where does supernatural romance come from?
Supernatural, or paranormal romance, gets its roots in Gothic fiction. These stories were infused with supernatural elements and haunting, almost claustrophobic settings to imbue fear in the reader, but also spark curiosity of the unknown.
From the ominous castles of traditional Gothic novels came female Gothic. Authors like Ann Radcliffe, Mary Shelley, and Charlotte Brontë paved the way for a new era of Gothic in which women’s societal and sexual desires were introduced in fiction. Female Gothic narratives centered around the critique of male power and societal obligations forced upon women in a patriarchal society.
In short, the emergence of ghost stories in Gothic and female Gothic gave women something to write about that wasn’t the traditional marriage plot. It was an exciting, liberating time for women in fiction. As the works of Anne Rice, Shirley Jackson, and Daphne du Maurier enthralled readers, the supernatural romance genre began to take shape.
Modern supernatural romance
Within the last few decades, the supernatural romance genre has taken a distinct shape. These juicy stories typically feature romantic relationships between humans and otherworldly creatures like:
- Werewolves (and other shapeshifters)
More specifically, the story usually goes like this: a beautiful, vulnerable heroine falls in love with an attractive, mysterious, and possibly dangerous hero who turns out to be a supernatural creature. What ensues is a high-stakes, forbidden romance fraught with danger, deception, passion, and of course, plenty of shameless spice.
One of the most famous iterations of this story appears in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, in which a beautiful, unsuspecting Bella Swan falls in love with Edward Cullen, a vampire. Meyer’s love story spawned a new era of supernatural romance, sparking a surge in stories featuring vampires, werewolves, and other creatures.
If you’re not into reading so much as watching those steamy supernatural romances unfold, the subgenre has found a home on TV and the big screen. Adaptations of modern supernatural romances have captivated audiences over the years. Meyer’s Twilight saga spawned a film series that still captivates fans to this day, and Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries inspired the delicious True Blood on HBO. And of course, who can forget the many iterations of Count Dracula via talented actors like Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, and Gary Oldman.
Supernatural vs. fantasy romance: what’s the difference?
One of the most common questions that come up when talking about supernatural or paranormal romance is how it differs from fantasy romance. After all, there are plenty of fantasy romances that feature vampires and demons. Doesn’t that make them supernatural romances too? Well, not quite, and here’s why.
The key difference between supernatural and fantasy romance lies within the plot itself. Supernatural and paranormal romance arose from the romance genre itself. The story is rooted in romance with paranormal features sprinkled in. While the world may be magical and full of supernatural creatures, the story is still primarily a love story.
Fantasy romances blossomed from epic and high fantasy stories. While romance is often an element within these stories, it’s driven more by the plot and action rather than romance.
Sink your teeth into these supernatural romances
Now, you didn’t think we’d leave you without any recommendations, did you? Check out some supernatural romance recommendations featuring vampires, gargoyles, and more.
Dark Lover by J.R. Ward
Wrath is the world’s only purebred vampire and leader of Black Dagger Brotherhood. He’s got a score to settle with the slayer who killed his parents centuries ago, but then, his most trusted fighter is killed, orphaning a half-breed daughter, Beth Randall, who has no clue of her heritage. Wrath must put aside his dagger to usher Beth into a dark, new world. The passion that soon blossoms between the two has the potential to consume them both in this steamy vampire romance series from J.R. Ward.
Feral Sins by Suzanne Wright
When female wolf shifter Taryn Warner meets alpha male wolf shifter Trey Coleman, she does her best to resist his undeniable charms. To avoid an arranged mating and win political allies, Taryn and Trey form an uneasy alliance. But what happens when the growing attraction between them becomes too much and threatens their initial deception?
Stone Guardian by Danielle Monsch
Terak, Leader of the Gargoyles, has been watching over Larissa Miller, a human, for months due to a cryptic prophecy. When Larissa is attacked by a mob of Zombies one night, Terak is her savior. But by saving her, he ushers her into a dark world. Together the two work to figure out why Larissa is so important to the Gargoyles’ prophecy, and awaken a passion in each other that has the potential to change the fate of their worlds.
The Darkest Night by Gina Showalter
Ashlyn Darrow has been tormented by voices from the past all her life. Attempting to end the nightmare, she travels to Budapest to seek help from men who are rumored to have supernatural abilities. When she meets Maddox, their most dangerous member, the two will ignite a passion within each other that could bring both of them to the brink of destruction.
Halloween Boo by Sarah Spade
Dani is convinced her apartment is haunted. After trying to ignore the spooky happenings around her house, she learns to live with whatever it is that haunts her. She even calls her ghost Casper. The night before Halloween, though, Dani learns that “Casper” is actually named Zack, and that on All Hallows Eve, he has the power to cross over into the human world. Zack is in love with Dani, and he’ll take whatever he can get with his one night in the mortal world.
Beware: this love story isn’t just a bunch of hocus pocus…
Want to learn more about where some of your favorite romance subgenres evolved from? Check out our deep dives on the always spicy CEO/billionaire romance and out-of-this-world love stories in alien romance.