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…