Aged Out of Paranormals?

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

21 thoughts on “Aged Out of Paranormals?

  1. It’s not just paranormal’s, a lot of romance books also have early 20 heroine’s. I just read one… and I have a huge blank but she was 23… Oh, the new Robyn Carr Xmas book that I haven’t managed to go farther than the couple of chapters. So, I read the last couple and I have a feeling it’ll hit the box unread in the middle.

    Sorry, they have to be “MATURE” women for me. Jobs, lives, confidence etc and preferrably late 20′s and up.

    Paranormal is hit and miss for me. I did return to David and Leigh Edding’s Belgariad/Mallorean world this week for a change in scenery :) They are fantasy, and they and Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar, are IMO the best of the genre.

  2. I don’t think of age having to do with maturity. Katniss Everdeen (Hunger Games) was putting food on the family table at 12 as well as taking care of her sister. That, to me, is mature. So the age of the h/h never interest me, just who they are as people.

    As far as naive young heroines being matched with more jaded, worldly men several of those novels (historicals) are listed on the AAR Top 100 romances. Clearly, something about that mix is popular.

    In the end I think it comes down to what you like but also what novels you pick up. Sandy spoke of having outgrown Harlequins but I disagreed. Yes, there are ridiculous Harlequins out there but there are excellent ones too. Same is true of paranormals. I think Singh has one innocent young girl meets older man and she’s a pretty lethal young woman. None of the Ward books but the most recent meet that criteria either. The Andrew’s book (Edge series) definitely don’t. It’s early so I can’t pull out every example in my befuddled brain but suffice it to say the majority of what I read in paranormal is nothing like what you are describing.

    • Oh yes, I agree that the young woman-older man pairing definitely sells. I’ve read and liked more than a few of that Top 100! However, when my mom and I were talking paranormals, every other book I thought of with a more mature heroine was either UF rather than PNR, or actually had one of those naive young heroines and I was only remembering her later, more bad-ass scenes from after she encountered the hero and had forgotten the beginning.

  3. The age and the similar characterization has cause me to quit reading most paranormals. For me Kelly Armstrong’s books paved the way for kick-ass heroines but after a while, it seemed everyone wanted to write that type of heroine. And I begin to feel that if I read one, then I have read them all. Also same with the characterization of the brooding hero.

    And while I do understand the appeal of Singh- for me her heroes and heroines all run together. No matter who they are -their conflict is centered around whether they are Psy, or Changling.

    I don’t want to overwhelm myself reading books that are constantly dealing with the same issues I am – where is the escape in that, but I do want to feel a connection to the character. And I rarely find that in paranormals.

  4. I would say that most of the paranormals I read are a mix. Some are the young heroines, but a lot are as ageless and immortal as the hero. For example, one series you mentioned was Kresley Cole’s. Many of her immortal females – Myst, Kaderin, Regin, Sabine, etc. are milennia old. In fact, Myst and Regin were significantly older than their heros! There is also JR Ward’s Xhex and JM – he is much younger than she is, though his reincarnated soul makes him a unique factor. And though her Tohr and Autumn are about the same age, both are in their four hundreds.

    I think that when the vamp, werewolf, dark hunter, etc. falls for a human is when the age factor comes in – and most series focus on that trope so that may be why it seems to be such a stand by. But the really strong paranormal authors go for a mix within the series. Some are the young 25 year old with the two hundred year old vamp, while others stories have something different.

    • I agree with you on variety. I think series in any subgenre can have that problem. I hadn’t really noticed the proliferation of young woman-older vamp/were novels until my mother commented on it recently, but I have started a few series where the sheer repetition of fated mate stories got to me.

  5. I don’t read much paranormal, because, it seems to me, it heaps fantasy upon fantasy. At some point, the other-worldness flips some skeptical switch in my brain and I lose interest. But since it is fantasy upon fantasy, it’s not surprising, is it, that the Cinderella trope gets a hearing in a great deal of it.

  6. Most of Lynsay Sands’ Argeneau heroines are older. Some are vampires/immortal (old already) and some are human. One that particularly plays with this theme is ‘The Accidental Vampire’ where both heroine and her best friend are in their 60′s yet find themselves falling for much (seemingly) younger men and struggle with that. It’s a fun book and a nice twist on the fairly routine tropes.

  7. Oh, and how could I forget Sunshine?!? While she may not be old, she certainly has life experience. I think the way she handles the situations she finds herself in would not be the way a young and inexperienced (Bella-type) would react. And that makes her compelling.

    (Robin McKinley’s Sunshine)

  8. I agree completely. Being a cough, mature woman myself, I hate to read or write about heroines that are in their twenties. And like your mom, I don’t want to read about women my age either.

    Give me a thirty year oldish who has waited, and waited, and waited for her prince werewolf to come along and then one day he does.

    Loved Beauty and the Wolf by Lynn Richards

  9. ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD is quite good. The hero is a 17-year-old ghost hunter (no werewolves or vampires). The heroine is the very deadly ghost he’s supposed to dispatch.

  10. I totally get the attraction of paranormal heros to contemporary innocent, naive young human heroines. For most of their paranormal centuries of lifespan, there would have been no such thing. Through most of history a female by young adulthood would have assisted at the birth of infants, listened to her parents’ make love, slaughtered countless animals, watched a quarter of the village die slow, agonizing pre-antibiotic deaths, gone hungry for a couple of months, hidden for three days to keep from getting raped by an invading army and most likely buried a parent and a couple siblings.

  11. As a died in the wool historic romance reader I am also finding that I am being drawn more and more to paranormal…I think it has something to do with “escape the reality of life thingy”. :)

  12. Can I just butt in here? I don’t know if I’m allowed to advertise here and apologies if not, but I have recently published a paranormal romance ‘SOPHRONIA AND THE VAMPIRE’ with e-publishers LYRICAL PRESS under my pen name JACQUELINE FARRELL. The heroine is nearly 50, because I had recently attained such a great age(!) and while I love Buffy and Sookie, I had reached the point where I just felt a bit weird having to identify with a young woman in her twenties when I was way beyond that. Sophronia is a crone, a witch in the third stage of the goddess Triad, a real fifty year old. (not a 600year old 20 year old vampire/shape-shifter and so on) complete with all the joys of incipient menopause because that’s what I’m going through at the moment. The male character is a 2000 year old vampire. I’d love to know if there are any other paranormal romances out there that actually feature women of my age. I did send it to one agent about a year ago and she rejected it because she said she’d already got authors on her lists with older heroines , but I’ve never seen any myself. For more info check out my message on the writers news forum message board.

  13. I have to agree. I too enjoy the vampires and werewolves and am waiting for my Prince Vampire to come. I find too many books have the naive, immature young female character, and over powering male character. Its not just in Paranormal, look at 50 Shades of Grey and other hyped books. The only ones I see where they use more older and mature heroins are many of your historical romances. I love them all and just let it slide that they are all immature virgins

  14. I agree with the posters who argue that it isn’t so much age as strength and independence that make characters interesting, particularly in the face of strong/bossy heroes. My favorite PNR heroines are characters like Armstrong’s Elena, Brigg’s Mercy Thompson, Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse, and Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty. Two characters come to mind that may be actually in their 30s are Mary – from JR Ward’s Lover Eternal; and Raven Whitney from Feehan’s Dark Prince?

  15. I like some of those heroines, too. However, some of those authors, such as Armstrong or Briggs, I would see as urban fantasy more than PNR(hmm…the dividing line between those two subgenres would be fun thing to chat about someday.) The heroines in urban fantasy definitely tend not to be fainting flowers, I’ve noticed. I think that’s why I like more than a few of them. :)

  16. I’m in my early 50′s and I’ve been reading and loving paranormals for a long time. Lynne Viehl’s heroines are also more mature, with life experience, as are a lot of Christine Feehan’s heroines. Larissa Ione, Nalini Singh, Meljean Brook, Ilona Andrews, and Jeaniene Frost all write some great heroines with varying life experiences. Being young doesn’t denote level of maturity. Karen Marie Moning took Mac from an immature young woman to a very mature, seasoned young woman over the course of her 5-book story arc. The list of great paranormal authors goes on and on. These are but a few that I haven’t seen mentioned yet that I think are worthy of reading.

  17. Being a “mature” (as a cough, that’s 72 next month) woman, I have to say that the distinction between 23 and 28 looks a bit minuscule from my perspective. If I insisted on romances with women my age or older, I’d actually be **limited** to some of the paranormals :)

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