Vampires have always been around––lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce on some innocent, young maiden and lure them into a life of sensuality and darkness. The vampire romance subgenre (falling under the umbrella of paranormal romance) is one that’s existed for ages.
Today at Bookstr, we’ll be exploring the history, themes and conventions of vampire romances. Naturally, we’ll also be recommending several recent novels, shows and films to take a bite out of too!
A Bloody History
When people think of vampires, their mind automatically goes to Dracula by Bram Stoker. The 1897 novel put vampires on the map, as far as classic English literature goes.
What most people don’t know is that Dracula was partially inspired by a novel that came before it by 25 years. Sheridan Le Fanu wrote Carmilla in 1872. In the novel, he establishes Carmilla (or, Countess Mircalla Karnstein) as the prototypical ‘Lesbian Vampire’. His work is so revolutionary that since, Carmilla has been adapted numerous times.
Even before Carmilla was published, however, the first vampire romance (though it’s questionable whether it can be called that) was The Vampyre by John Polidori. It was published in 1819 and featured a satanic English lord inspired by the poet, Lord Byron (hence, you know, the whole ‘Byronic vampire’ trope thing). Not exactly a hero to root for.
Romance Meets Supernatural Thrills
Like with any other genre, vampire romances have their own rules and conventions that they adhere to. If you take a moment to think about the most popular vampire romances out there, you’ll find that there’s patterns between all of them!
Some of the most common plot threads, archetype and themes of the vampire romance are:
- The protagonist (often––if the couple is heteronormative––a woman) has to be either human, mostly-human or once-human. This makes her a contrast for the vampiric lead, and allows the reader (psst, that’s you) to relate better to her!
- An active struggle of desire. For instance: Twilight and how Edward constantly represses his sexual feelings for Bella. Understandable, considering she’s a minor for most of the books!
- There needs to be a concrete magic system in place. For example, in Twilight vampires sparkle and in True Blood they can live off synthetic blood.
- Themes of morality and goodness. A lot of times, but not always, the allure of the vampire romance comes from the darkness vampires walk in. In the Carmilla web-series, Carmilla is drawn to Laura because of her ‘cupcake’-like sweetness.
The Allure of the Modern Vampire
For centuries now, vampire romances continue to withstand the test of time. The late 2000s and early 2010s were a period where vampires were everywhere you looked. Between The Vampire Diaries being adapted for TV, Twilight being turned into a movie, and all the other countless forays of the era, we had our hands full!
Today, there is even more content to consume. Jennifer L. Armentrout’s From Blood and Ash series hits the sweet spot for many of our readers. Not to mention, Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead is now a hit Peacock show! Vampires and their romances are more popular than ever, it seems.
Vampires Will Always Evolve
So, you might be wondering, what comes next? Well, vampires have been around for a long time now, and they’re not going anywhere! The thing is, vampires are always going to be popular. After all, there is a very solid reason they’re considered a ‘classic’ monster in pop culture.
And as doors open for even more creators from different backgrounds, more diverse content will hit shelves and screens. The way we see vampires will evolve and expand to include people from all walks of life. Consequently, not all vampire romances will need to be white, straight and cis.
We’re lucky to be living in a world where Interview with the Vampire can be watched in all its queer-glory. Unfortunately, sapphics will always get the short end of the stick (First Kill being cancelled will never not hurt). Still, we must always keep pushing for progress! I know I’d personally love to see a Muslim vampire of color or a demisexual protagonist one day!
Whether you’re a long-time lover of the vampire romance or a newcomer to the genre, we’re hoping you came away from this article having learned something new. As Halloween comes and goes, don’t be afraid to embrace the classic draw of the vampire!