Some time ago I was browsing romance novels covers. I noted that readers seemed to favor paranormal romances. These are love stories that explore relationships of humans with supernatural creatures or monsters,1 for example, the Twilight series.
In these stories, vampires, werewolves, and shapeshifters look for everlasting love. Demonic and angelic lovers seek out their a soul mate. Alien lovers crash-land on Earth to find that special someone. Dragon lovers fly across the world searching for their one and only dragon lovers. And let’s not leave out the alien dragon lovers. After all, there’s someone out there for everyone, even monsters.
As a reader (and writer!) of romance,2 I adore tales about how love conquers all. In paranormal romance, a human and a “monster” fight to build their relationship, when all else demands they shouldn’t be together. Who doesn’t love a story like that?
Why fans want humans to meet monsters
In the real world, no one expects to meet a shapeshifting lion with a heart of gold and no interest in eating you. But such stories aren’t just fiction for its own sake. They give discerning readers deeper glimpses into one unseen side of paranormal romance fans, who find nothing extraordinary about ordinary events.
Most paranormal romances assume unique monster-meets-human couplings to appeal to our imaginations.
One book shared a unique merman premise. A happy reviewer said: “Sexy merman, distraught woman who flings herself into the ocean and his embrace and discovers the love that she’s been missing…what’s not to like???”
Another book shares the interesting tale of two thieves who are trying to steal a $2 million golden dragon egg. One of its reviewers said, “This story is absolutely amazing! Elena and Galek are shadow witches and Galek is also a unicirim.” (That’s a unicorn shapeshifter.)
In seeking monsters, we’re seeking something beyond
But Parker, you say. Some of your favorite fairy tales have non-human mates.
Fairy tale non-human mates are different. They want to be human. In “Beauty and the Beast,” the Beast works to restore his humanity. In “The Princess and the Frog,” the Frog also wants to become human again, and must trick the princess into kissing him. (This never worked, by the way—she threw him against a wall.)
These modern tales show non-human mates in a more glorious light than human mates. I think I’ve found three reasons people love this concept.
- If we fall for a non-human mate, we feel elevated. No longer am I just plain ole’ Jane. I’m the love interest of my monster. I’m special.
- Conversely, monsters in these stories exhibit human qualities. As the saying goes, “Opposites attract.” But when these opposites do attract our attentions, we also look for the commonalities between us.
- Monsters are different than us. They can live forever, jump over trees, and wield special powers. This element is more telling because it points to an interesting fact: Monsters reflect a blurred image of our Lord’s abilities in limited form.
Monsters often symbolize our internal struggles—grace and evil, in constant battle. Paranormal romances remind us that we can eventually win this battle through the power of love. No matter the type of monster, we see love bind couples together.
Find the grace in paranormal romance stories
I think it’s all right to read about some paranormal romances.
To me, these stories offer the best of both worlds: the world-building of speculative fiction with the character development of love stories.
Pay attention to how the story portrays our monster: Brooding like Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre? Arrogant like Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice? Meanwhile, what do we think about our human girl? Is she Feisty like Elizabeth Bennet or consoling like Jane? See how the author portrays grace’s eternal struggle against evil’s machinations, as shown by our monster’s internal demons or external struggles.
Even more profound, watch for the graces that paranormal romances can ultimately reflect. As Christians, we should see how these graces point to our Savior’s rescue of us. In fact, it turns out we are the monster all along, shaped by sin. And guess what: we’re rescued by love! Ah! Doesn’t it make your heart flutter?