Growing up, I knew my mom had a bit of a romance habit. She read a lot of mysteries, but her bookshelf also spilled over with gothics, romantic suspense and the occasional Harlequin. Lately, though, she’s become a paranormal junkie. Writers like J.R. Ward and Kresley Cole are some of her new favorite authors and when she got a Kindle for Mothers’ Day, she was only too happy to start discovering the world of paranormal eBooks. We started talking books one day, and I asked her what made her start loving paranormals so much. Here was her answer, “I get that women in their 60s probably aren’t the target audience for most of these books, but they’re just so much more romantic than the books aimed at people like me.”
When I asked my mom what target audience she thought she fit into, she replied that most of the books with characters anywhere near her age seemed to be women’s fiction or what she refers to as “issue” books. While some of those are good and very relatable, I got the impression she found them a bit too relatable. After all, if you spend your days working, navigating relationships with adult children and then having to deal with the needs of aging parents, reading about all those issues isn’t much of an escape. Or as my mom put it, “It’s much more fun to daydream about Someday My Werewolf Prince Will Come!”
I have to admit she has a point. For example, I enjoy books with lawyer characters, but only when I’m in the right mood. If I need some escapist fantasy, something that reminds me of my day job isn’t going to cut it. Historicals are my first love, but I also have a certain love for vampires, dragons and other paranormal sorts of creatures. I’ve enjoyed quite a few paranormals, but as my mom mentioned, the heroines do tend overwhelmingly to be young. I sometimes wonder if the huge popularity of Twilight plays a role in that. After all, not only is Bella Swan a teenager, but she’s also pretty naive and clueless for her age.
It’s certainly not true of every paranormal I’ve read(and certainly not urban fantasy, where many of the heroines are made of sterner stuff), but in paranormals, there seem to be more naive, young heroines. And then there’s the whole eyeroll-inducing “virgin heroine=somehow more pure” issue that I’ve run into at least as often as the fated soulmates trope. The characters in many books make a point of contrasting the heroine’s pure and almost childlike qualities with the manliness of the hero in ways that remind me of old school historicals. I noticed it in Edge of Hunger, a recent read of mine, and I’ve seen it elsewhere as well.
Other subgenres sport plenty of younger heroines, but when I think of historicals, urban fantasy, category romance or romantic suspense, I can easily come up with at least a short list of books with heroines who are at least in their 30s and act as if they have some maturity to go with the number. But with paranormals, I get stumped. I can think of books where I wouldn’t necessarily consider the heroine completely naive, but I’m having trouble coming up with heroines much over 30 or so. I know there are people out there far more well read in the subgenre than I am, so I’m guessing some of you can think of some titles. After all, if we have a landscape populated with 600+ year old vampires, werewolves, and things that go bump in the night, surely their mates can have some life experience under their belts, too.
So, what do you say? Have you all also noticed that there are a lot of naive, young paranormal heroines out there? Do you know of any good paranormals without the young, childlike heroines?
– Lynn Spencer