Of Paranormal Heroines

This article was originally published on the Writers At Play blog.

Once in a while a blog post or comment takes on a life of its own. A while back I responded to a comment by Diana Peterfreund on the Dear Author post “My Paranormal Malaise”.

Diana Peterfreund said:

The other day, I heard someone refer to the pararom/UF market as the “vampire boyfriend” genre. Which is really interesting and not necessarily inaccurate because so many stories seem to be able to be described as “girl falls in love with [insert paranormal creature here.]”

An apt description, and partly why I’m much more interested these days in SFR rather than Paranormal. Why is it the paranormal character is so often the hero and not the heroine?

Love Romance Passion responded with the a very enlightening post 6 Reasons Why the Paranormal Character is Always Male and The Galaxy Express responded with The Romance Heroine is Not a Side Dish.

For the purposes of this conversation, I break down Paranormal Romance into three main types: (1) paranormal hero/human heroine, (2) paranormal heroine/human hero, and (3) paranormal heroine and hero. The “vampire boyfriend” type (number 1) seems to be quite popular, whether we’re talking about Team Edward or Angel or the Black Dagger Brotherhood. The “vampire boyfriend” type shows us a story through the Female Gaze, something quite blatant on all of those naked torso covers. We’re so used to experiencing stories through the viewpoint of a male character that this switch is remarkable and probably one of the elements that make these books so popular. Wikipedia defines The Gaze as “how the viewer gazes upon (views) the people presented and represented…[F]eminist theory developed The Gaze in describing the social power relations between women and men — how men gaze at women; how women gaze at themselves; how women gaze at other women; and the effects of these ways of seeing.”

My favorite type is number three, however, where both characters must navigate their powers in a relationship. We all read for different reasons and no matter what genre we prefer, one of those reasons is for escape. Some readers can more easily enjoy a story if the heroine is somewhat mundane because the leap between themselves and her is not so great. Me, on the other hand, I prefer a fantastical heroine. I said on Love Romance Passion:

I am average, why would I want to read about what I see in the mirror every day? I read for escape, for adventure. I do sometimes put myself in the heroine’s place, and when I do that I prefer to experience some hefty qualities I don’t possess in my real life — like commanding my own starship or being some kind of supernatural being.

If you’re at all familiar with my own Danger Gal Blog, then you probably already know that I’m just as much, if not more, interested in “alpha heroines” as I am “alpha heroes.” All of my heroines are fantastical: Jana, a nanotech-enhanced spy; Anya, who downloads people’s memories; Lara, a starship captain from another dimension; Auren, who can speak in song; Meredith, a psychic ghost hunter; and Jill, a vampire with a mid-life crisis. So the idea that the paranormal character is “always male” dared me to search for examples of types two and three. I put the word out on Twitter and Facebook for recommendations on stories with at least a paranormal heroine, preferably with a human hero.

I didn’t have far to look considering the Playground’s own Terri Garey has written three novels about Niki Styx, owner of the vintage shop Handbags and Gladrags and counselor to the dead who is involved with very human doc Joe Bascombe. Still, others graciously recommended the following paranormal heroines:

Some of my favorite heroines are the Breedmates in Lara Adrian’s Midnight Breed Series, especially Elise Chase and Renata. Less recent, I also loved Seraphim from Michele Hauf’s novel Seraphim as well as Roderica Delamor from Laura Kinsale’s Uncertain Magic.

How about you? Which type of Paranormal story do you prefer and why? What are some of your favorite paranormal heroines?