There was a time, not so long ago, when paranormal ruled the romance roost. We were the cool kids. Vampires, werewolves, magical flying pancake men, it didn’t matter. Whatever you had, everyone wanted it.
Those days are gone.
It only takes a glance at the ever-proliferating (and hence ever more meaningless) bestseller lists to see that. You can’t turn around without falling over a BDSM billionaire, a rough-and-ready yet strangely un-misogynist motorcycle gangster (yeah, and I’m Chopper Read’s lady love) or a gratifyingly disease-free
Jon Bon Jovi fantasy whiskey-addled rock star man-whore. Covers feature close-ups of kissing couples in the rain (uh-huh) or female butts in tight jeans being fondled by big hoary hands. And the vampires—even the sparkling kind—have seemingly scuttled into hiding.
Shudder. It’s Day of the Contemporaries, folks. And I, for one, am suffering a serious case of romance ennui.
It’s not that the writing isn’t good. I’m sure a lot of it is. And do excuse me for poking a bit of fun – obviously, not all these books are clichés, any more than every paranormal book is a cliché.
I simply fail to care about these characters and their boring old faux-real-world problems. Even the cover blurbs put me to sleep. Chance meeting, hot night of sex (oh, no!), what a surprise he’s not who I thought, random boring complication, mmm hmm, zzzz… oh, jeez, is the teleshopping on already?
I mean, no one’s saying everything has to be Shakespeare, or have drama and danger and plot twists worthy of Machiavelli’s secret soap opera. I’m all for your basic shag-story romance. There are plenty of juicy paranormals based on the plot ‘Oh noes! Which hot guy shall I bang, while I’m SAVING the WORLD and coming to terms with my own INNER MONSTAH!?!?’
This is cool. This is interesting. It has pathos, and dark humour. It has conflict, for god’s sake.
Take out the monstahs! and the world-saving—while you’re at it, why not stick a denim-clad ass on the cover and call it ‘wistful verb + preposition + YOU’? Falling Into You, Crying Over You, Bleeding Onto You, Shoving It Up You, jeez, what is this, an imagination failure generator?—and what’s left? ‘Oh, noes! Which hot guy shall I bang? You know, while I’m doing NOT MUCH OF ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR.’
The problem’s all mine. I admit that. Plenty of people adore the contemporary resurgence, and are no doubt kicking up their conspicuously designer-branded stilettos at the thought of grinding those boring old vampires and fairies and stuff into the dust for a while. Good luck to ’em.
But it does make me ask myself some hard questions. Self, I say to myself, maybe you’re not really a romance reader. Maybe it’s the paranormal and fantasy stuff you actually like, and the romance is just a cool thing that happens along the way.
Ooh. Ooga booga, folks. What if that means I’m not really a romance writer?
Can open, worms all over the carpet. I mean, evidently I am, after six romance novels. If it quacks and shits green, it’s probably a duck. But it would explain a lot of things. My love of subplots and secondary characters. The fact that no one in my books ever seems to be totally straight. My tendency to dress my heroes in tight lime-green tops and purple pants. Serial killer heroes. Gay angels. Men who turn into snakes… Jeez. Maybe I just don’t get the idea that ‘two people fall in love’ can be a story all on its own.
Still. I want stuff to happen in my books. And weird people need love too. Face it, weird people falling in love is way more interesting than college girls sexxin’ their teachers, or innocent interns tripping over their bosses in the lobby, or firemen who fuck, or whatever. And weird people and their icky yet desperately hot smexxing is even more interesting. Just add ‘who eats people’ onto the end of any description of your hero and I guarantee your book will be way better than before. BDSM billionaire who eats people. Motorcycle gangster who eats people. Whiskey-addled Jon Bon Jovi fantasy who SUCKS your BLOOD… well, maybe we’ll stop there I WOULD TOTALLY READ THAT yes ahem fine quietening down now.
So I say bring back the paranormal, from wherever it buggered off to while everyone’s wetting themselves over all that pretend real world shiz. Bring back the world-saving! The inner monstahs! The orgasmic blood-sucking! The bad bedroom dialogue and fantastically big willies! …oh, wait. I guess those never really left. Plus ça change…
Oh I agree wholeheartedly! Fortunately, my TBR pile is stil in its mountain state, so I have a lot of catching up to do.
I’m with you Erica!! and I actually have an upcoming blog tour where one of my blogs is about how I’m tired of people saying paranormal is dead. Your comment “Maybe I just don’t get the idea that ‘two people fall in love’ can be a story all on its own” captures my own writing. I also don’t buy-in to whatever is “in” at the moment because that is more about what the Big 6 want to see. Yes people will read them and support them, but in the e-world, where you don’t have tables of books/covers telling you WHAT to buy, then you go for what you WANT to buy.
Funny post…and all too true. When I get to the point where everything seems too familiar in my romances I turn to a good horror story…or pull out one of my dog-eared copies of an early Agent Pendergast novel.
OMG, you made me spew out my coffee this morning! Thank you thank you. I really WANT to like contemporary but…I just don’t. I think editors and publishers are tired of paranormals but there’s a core audience of us who won’t give them up. Thankfully, like Liz, I have such a huge TBR pile of unread paranormals that I can stay busy until the wheel of paranormal fortune spins round in our favor again.
Lol thanks for this fun ranting post, I so wholeheartedly agree with you! No contemporary for me when I can have some paranormal fun! All that talk about paranormal /werewolves / vampires are out, they are so dead wrong. There are still so many series on my wishlist, and others I am still discovering, and with me, millions of new readers world wide. So ladies, please keep writing those paranormals!
There is enough real life drama in the real world, I don’t want it in my books!
Made the mistake of reading this at the office today. I couldn’t stop chuckling. I totally agree, comtemporary romance is a bit of a snooze. Granted, there are a few writers I read, but that’s it. I’m a little sick of werewolves, but I’d take one over a Billionaire Dom any day.
I don’t mind contemporary, but there has to be something that really makes them stand out for me to give them a read.
I know what you mean though. I haven’t purchased a book in a store in over six months. The store where I usually go must have a new buyer and stopped stocking paranormals! I’ve been buying all my books online. Oh, well.
LOL Great blog post!!! 🙂 I’m not a very good contemporary reader because I while I can suspend my disbelief about someone being a werewolf or a vampire, I can’t believe a billionaire is good looking single and falls for his hair dresser… If life and death isn’t on the line, I have a hard time keeping my attention on the story… 🙂
Plus ça change…Plus c’est la meme chose! OMG, Erica, what a fun post. I was laughing so much my husband and daughter were both asking me, “what’s so funny?” Thank goodness I wasn’t drinking coffee like Suzanne. 🙂
I’m a diehard UF and PNR writer and fan but I will add that every once in a while a contemporary hooks me, such as Laura Kaye’s Hearts In Darkness and her Hero series.