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Para Romance/Urban Fantasy: Two trends I can no longer stand
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LizJ



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
Posts: 139

PostPosted: Thu Jul 02, 2009 1:08 pm    Post subject: Para Romance/Urban Fantasy: Two trends I can no longer stand Reply with quote

I've been reading a lot of paranormal romance and urban fantasy in the last year or so; and although I have been an avid SF&F fan from way back when I was a little kid (watched the original Star Trek and the Wild Wild West with my dad), I think I've gotten really tired of a few trends.

Number one: the series that won't end.

Recently an author released out three books in rapid succession. Since there hadn't been other books announced...silly me, I thought it was a trilogy. I got suspicious when I saw the synopsis for the third book, but surely, I thought, there's be some resolution. When the third book ended on a cliffhanger and obvious setup for yet another book, I threw it at the wall. Now, I like series...I just want them to end, sometime. And, I'd rather know that a series is intended to be ongoing when I start reading it.

Number two: the hard-as-nails heroine.

If you've read much in this genre, you know the type.

She often has relations with several men in the same book (I can't necessarily use the term "relationships" instead of relations, because Ms. Hard-As-Nails tends to be rather casual about acting on her um, drive). Sometimes these "relations" may invoke or give her supernatural powers.

She kicks butt. She's either 1) superpowered/paranormally powered or 2) a highly skilled fighter, or both.

She tends to favor black leather and fighting gear as much as any member of the Black Dagger Brotherhood (you won't see Ms. Hard-As-Nails described as wearing pastels very often).

She tends to be counter-culture or off the grid or something similar.

She may be, or may become through the progression of the series, "morally grey" - willing to cross the line into dark magic, consorting with demons, etc.

Her family life is often dysfunctional or non-existent (orphaned, abandoned, etc).

As much as I dislike the whimpiness of the women of BDB, and lost patience with Bella's issues in the Twilight series (although she ended up at least being somewhat kick-butt with her power), I've come to dislike Ms. Hard-as-Nails more. I want to see more somewhat normal people having to come to terms with the fantastical (and not just in lighter-toned para romances). I want to find more of a personal connection with the heroine.

I don't know yet if I'm going to stop buying these books or just be a lot more selective. After this week's wallbanger, I'm just thinking that there's way too many mediocre paranormals out there and it's clear the same old stuff is getting recycled in the same, tired way.
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Linda in sw va



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
Posts: 4708

PostPosted: Thu Jul 02, 2009 1:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is why I love Sookie Stackhouse so much as a heroine, she's courageous but not 'tough as nails', or 'kick-butt'. I find her quirky, relatable and thoroughly enjoyable. Love the cast of humans, vamps and shapeshifters It is an ongoing series, though only one book out a year. Hopefully there's no end in sight soon...

Regarding your post I know exactly what you mean, i've tried to find other Urban Fantasy series to enjoy but they all feature these 'kick-ass' heroines that I've simply had enough of. It was Anita Blake that did me in and all those that followed. Now I just want a heroine that's more vulerable and relatable, intelligent and brave but not with guns/knives/stakes blazing along with a tough as nails attitude. So far I haven't found any other than Charlaine Harris' Sookie series.

Linda
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Trish B



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1237
Location: Mid-Atlantic, USA

PostPosted: Thu Jul 02, 2009 1:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I limit my Paranormal/SciFi/Futuristic reading to just a handful of authors like Kresley Cole, Nalini Singh, Lara Adrian, Lora Leigh's Breeds and I'm still hanging in there with JR Ward (for now). I tend to agree with you in that these series just go on and on (probably the big problem with Ward's BDB these days), and I'm also not big on the "kick-ass" heroine as you describe. That's what lessened my enjoyment of Cole's latest about the Demon King. Sabine was just not that likable to me, though I didn't dislike her. I don't want doormats, but I do want women with some level of warmth, empathy and vulnerability.
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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Location: minneapolis

PostPosted: Thu Jul 02, 2009 1:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, but for all the reasons you listed, I take it from blog reviewers, that those are the reasons they love urban fantasy. Seems like many reviews open with what a great "kick-butt" heroine is featured. Squee...and all that. It's eye-rolling...seriously. I don't read paranormal, much. Only a very select few and was never into urban fantasy anyway. I love Sookie though and that series. She isn't kick-butt, but she is not weak ether. She is the perfect balance IMO, and perhaps that is why HBO picked up the series. She isn't like all those heroines that are more like robots anyway. Take note authors....just sayin'
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Leigh



Joined: 29 May 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 02, 2009 2:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't how popular the book are. . but talking about the bad ass heroine, reminded me of the Harlequin exhibit and how they talked about their books showed women having careers before it was the norm. I wonder if the this will be the new woman of tomorrow Shocked

I don't want women to let someone walk all over them, but I do want people to matter, and relationships to matter to them. . Wink

Right now I am sticking with authors that I know end their series.
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graceC



Joined: 28 Mar 2007
Posts: 467

PostPosted: Thu Jul 02, 2009 3:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I haven't read paranormal books in ...gosh... probably over a year now. Sometimes I find myself reaching for an interesting looking paranormal novel in a book store, but when I read the plot summary at the back of the book, I usually put it down again. They're becoming weirder and weirder to me.
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LizJ



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
Posts: 139

PostPosted: Thu Jul 02, 2009 4:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glad to know I'm not alone in my frustration!

Yes, I"d agree that Sookie Stackhouse is not a kick-butt heroine, and I really lke that. Although...I admit I'm at the point where I want to see some resolution in her life.
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Cora



Joined: 12 Mar 2008
Posts: 1127
Location: Bremen, Germany

PostPosted: Thu Jul 02, 2009 8:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I like paranormal romances and urban fantasy, so I'm glad there are a lot of them around, including a bunch of really good ones.

As for the kick-butt heroines, I heartily dislike doormats and martyrs, so I'm happy about more books featuring strong female characters as they're well written. However, the problem is that several kick-butt heroines out there are written like one-dimensional fighting and f*cking machines, which does not make for very interesting fiction.

I'm with you on the neverending series, though. I'm happy to spend more than one books with characters I like in a fascinating world. However, better to let a series end on a high note before it becomes repetitive and stale.
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Retrograde



Joined: 23 Feb 2008
Posts: 458

PostPosted: Fri Jul 03, 2009 6:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think there are a ton of duds out there, so it's a matter of being really selective. To the OP, it sounds like you might enjoy a character like Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson. Have you read those books? And when you mentioned wearing pastels, Karen Marie Moning's Fever series came to mind. The heroine, Mac, is a pretty blonde who loves pink.
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LizJ



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
Posts: 139

PostPosted: Sat Jul 04, 2009 1:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No to Karen Marie Morning. I heard an audio version of the first book in that series and really disliked it.

Not sure if I've read any of the Mercy Thompson series, but I'll look into them.

And...just to make it clear, I don't care if the heroine wears black instead of pastels, I just am tired of the overly kick-butt ones. LOL on the machine description...that's what they seem like to me, too.
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Linda in sw va



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 04, 2009 2:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

LizJ wrote:
No to Karen Marie Morning. I heard an audio version of the first book in that series and really disliked it.

Not sure if I've read any of the Mercy Thompson series, but I'll look into them.

And...just to make it clear, I don't care if the heroine wears black instead of pastels, I just am tired of the overly kick-butt ones. LOL on the machine description...that's what they seem like to me, too.


The Mercy Thompson books are pretty good though the heroine is on the tough side and wears a chip on her shoulder a lot. She isn't 'overly' kick butt and does care about people and relationships, she's allowed to have vulnerabilities which helps relate to her. She's not my ideal but I like her, I think they're worth a shot for you to try. They recently went to HC so I haven't read the last one, I'll probably read in in paperback form when it comes out.

I tried the Karen Moning too and could not stand the heroine, I hear she gets better in the second book but will probably not try it because she'd have to have major personality overhaul for me to enjoy her I think! LOL To give props though, there are many fans of this series though and I tend to be heroine picky.

Linda
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Allyson



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 567

PostPosted: Sun Jul 05, 2009 2:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What about Paige Winterbourne from Kelley Armstrong's 'Dime Store Magic'..I'm reading that one right now, and she doesn't seem too aggressive to me--she's a witch, and when she fights baddies uses magic rather than guns or fists. Definitely is not hard-bitten. Only one guy in her book, and she does 'seduce' him but it's a really cute scene.

Kick butt generally doesn't bother me, I can see how it *would* but I don't think I've read many you've all described. I like Mercy Thompson, prefer her to the Sookie mold (though I don't mind that either...I just prefer a bit less...floopiness maybe? in my heroines) and I like Eve from the 'In Death' series (not that that's urban fantasy, but she's one who often gets quoted as 'too much'.)

I just can't imagine a heroine like that NOT exhibiting vulnerabilities in that kind of series, especially if there's a romantic element. I find usually the kick-buttness is used to then show her vulnerabilities later, like the 'jerk' heroes who soften around the heroine. I've avoided Anita Blake though, the first book was pretty good but I heard the series goes downhill, and too many love interests bores me fast.

The one thing I would like to see less of in urban fantasy is love triangles, gah. I would far rather she get together with a guy in the first couple books and then see the two of them in a relationship together. All these guys fighting over her bugs me quickly.
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Cora



Joined: 12 Mar 2008
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Location: Bremen, Germany

PostPosted: Sun Jul 05, 2009 2:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Joanne Baldwin from Rachel Caine's Weather Warden series is the girly type who cares about designer fashion and shoes nor is she particularly impressive in a physical fight (one of the villain even remarks that she is not a kick-butt heroine) though she can control the elements. And Joanne stays in a relationship with the same man throughout the series, though the two have their share of problems.

Katie Chandler from Shanna Swendson's Enchanted Inc. series is a small town girl in the big city, whose strength is her empathy, common sense and practicality. She lives in a world where magic is real, but what makes her special and valuable is that she is so ordinary to be immune to magic. And even though she briefly dates someone else, it is always very clear who the hero is in that series.

Jane Madison from Mindy Klasky's Girl's Guide to Witchcraft is a librarian who finds out that she is a witch. Jane is another more feminine type who is not physically kick butt and while she has a few false starts romantically, the hero is pretty clear from early on.

Allie Beckstrom from Devon Monk's Magic to the Bone can do magic in a world where pretty much everyone can do that. Plus, casting spells takes a serious physical and mental toll on her. And at least in the first book, she is only romantically involved with one man, though that may change in the sequel which I haven't read. And the romance is interracial, too, though the clues are so subtle they're easy to miss.

All of the above mentioned characters are strong women who do not conform to the kick-butt stereotype and are pretty monogamous. The non-cliched books are out there, you only have to look.
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Cora



Joined: 12 Mar 2008
Posts: 1127
Location: Bremen, Germany

PostPosted: Sun Jul 05, 2009 7:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another non-stereotypical urban fantasy heroine I forgot to add is Megan Chase from Stacia Kane's Personal Demons. Megan is a psychologist with a radio show which has the tagline of "Let me slay your personal demons". Unfortunately, real demons decide to take that tagline literally and think Megan is out to kill them, so she gets mixed up with the paranormal.
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Skrabs



Joined: 16 Apr 2008
Posts: 387
Location: Australia

PostPosted: Sun Jul 05, 2009 8:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Personally I love a kick-ass heroine and the more guns, fight scenes and ass-kicking the better. I love the urban fantasy and paranormal trend and I hope it continues. That being said I recognise that there's a lot of sub-standard works out there (sh*t) with a handful of really good paranormals.

One thing I don't particularly like in a kick-ass heroine is the multiple bed partners/ never-ending triangle. I prefer a one hero relationship and if there's a triangle then it needs to progress. That being said, my favourite heroines inc. Danny Valentine, Mercy Thompson and Elena Michaels. They're all tough heroines who can kick-butt but they're not all powerful and there are enough vulnerabilities to keep me interested.

I like ambiguous, shades of grey heroines and if she comes to a morally complex dilemma I find that really interesting - I think Anita Blake's crossing the line could have been developed a lot more strongly - instead Hamilton focused on the never-ending sex instead of Anita's brief moment of am-i-becoming-a-sociopath? Anita lost me around book nine, which I think is where the major shift happened. I really loved the start of that series - I thought she could be a bit too much tough-ass but at least she had morals and ethics and I liked that she didn't just jump into bed with anyone (boy did she undergo a major personality shift!)

The one thing I can't stand is if the heroine isn't the hero's equal and he has to pluck her out of danger due to some indignant I-know-better attitude. Kick-ass heroines can still be TSTL. I also like my heroine to be at least as interesting as the hero. In the BDBH, I really struggled with most of her heroines as they weren't very interesting - too doormat for me. The only ones I liked were Bella and Jane. I get that Mary was supposed to be normal - possibly the type of heroine people like to identify with - but I don't actually like to read about Ms. Normal. It bores me. I want to be the guns-blazing heroine with the cool vehicle and outfit. Or the smart heroine (Mercy Thompson) dealing with the pack.
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