paranormal romance (thing)
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Paranormal romance is a sub-genre of romance that has become extremely popular in the past decade. In 2008, paranormal romances generated 12.65% of the $1.37 billion in romance novel sales; it's not uncommon for a popular paranormal romance title to sell over 500,000 copies (if you see a paperback stocked in a grocery store, that means the book had a print run of at least 150,000). Paranormal romances have their roots in gothic fiction and feature otherworldly and speculative elements such as ghosts, witches, faries, psychic abilities, time travel, and of course werewolves and vampires. Some paranormal romances are pretty much standard category romances that just use the otherworldly elements as window dressing; others have an increased focus on the speculative elements and explore them more seriously.
As with all romances, the relationship between the female protagonist and her love interest has to be the focus of the storyline. The amount of sex in a paranormal romance can vary from a little to a whole lot, depending on the publisher and the category. Most books feature straight characters (and plenty of gender stereotypes), although paranormals featuring GLBT secondary characters have grown more popular in recent years, and some specialty presses such as Loose Id regularly publish novels featuring GLBT romances.
There's been considerable blurring of the genre lines between paranormal romance and urban fantasy; here are some of the genre-specific "rules" of mainstream paranormal romances:
These rules can become a problem for writers of other genres such as urban fantasies if romance readers pick up their novels with the belief that something not intended to be a romance is going to be one; romance readers have an active Internet community and are vocal in expressing their displeasure with books that fail to conform to their expectations.