Since pickings used to be so slim in terms of para rom (see my previous post), I used to devour any dark romance that came my way. With the exponential explosion in para rom and UF offerings I have found myself in a bit of a pickle. I actually have to make choices about the books I read. Crazy, I know. I no longer have to settle for what the publishing houses release. There is a multitude of offerings every week. This is a seemingly wonderful problem to have. Too many choices can't be a bad thing, can it? Actually, it can.
Because reader demand for para rom is at it's highest in years, the publishing houses are releasing floods of books for our consumption. When they only offered a handful of selections, the publishers would be more selective about the stories they released. Today, I fear that there is more of a focus on quantity than quality. It used to be a much rarer occurrence for me to buy a vamp or werewolf novel and end up disappointed. Nearly all of the books were well written with interesting, well thought out plots. I am sad to say that is not the truth today. Don't get me wrong, I know not all of the para rom novels released ten years ago were of the highest quality, but the percentage of high quality para rom books has seemed to decrease as this recent trend has built.
Or it can be explained in a different way. Perhaps the benchmark has been set higher. In days past I was ecstatic to snag new titles by the likes of Lynsay Sands and Susan Sizemore. These authors are still writing, still giving us the same style and plot that they have for years. This is neither good or bad, just a statement of fact. I just finished reading The Rogue Hunter by Lynsay Sands. It was pretty much what I expected from her: light, easy read, a sprinkle of vamp angst (although really more like worry than angst), some misunderstandings, and lurv. As is typical of her vampire series the H&h meet in an unexpected way. He can not read her thoughts and... life mate! How to tell her? I am beginning to view her books more like a contemporary romance where the hero or heroine just happens to be a vampire. The focus is more about the interactions between the main characters and how they will overcome the fact that he/she is different. Heck, take away vampire and insert a different religion or ethnicity and you have a contemp. Again, this is neither good nor bad. It really depends on what you are looking for in your paranormal romances. Lately, I have been wanting more.
Maybe I can lay blame at the feet of such authors as J.R. Ward, Larissa Ione, Lara Adrian, and Meljean Brooks, but I expect more out of a para rom novel these days. I demand angst. I expect suspense. I want a Big Bad that makes you cringe. There must be some damn good chemistry and that HEA better make my heart speed up. (The Rogue Hunter seemed to have more of a HFN, which I don't accept in a romance novel, thank you very much.) I finished reading Pleasure Unbound (Larissa Ione) earlier this week. I put it down and immediately went to my computer to find out when the next book was going to be released. THAT is what I am talking about. Eidolon was all I could ask for in a hero: smart, sexy, wrestling with his own inner demon (pun slightly intended.) He had his own set of morals, yet was tempted to break them, or realign them, in order to be with Tayla. He was drawn to her, despite being enemies. He wanted to help and protect her despite knowing that she fought against and killed his people. Tayla was a great heroine. She was tough (could match Eidolon in a fight), smart, troubled, and dealing with her own torments. Not only did she have to work through a crisis of conscience, but had to face the realities of her past and her future. These were not small issues. I love that Ms. Ione had two opposing sides (demons and Guardians), both of whom could be considered the good guys in some way. Each was misinformed about the other, causing confusion and enmity that was not necessary. I think this made the novel even better. It would have been easy to make one side right and one side wrong. These shades of gray are what kept the reader intrigued. The Big Bad was committing crimes that justified the reactions of all the characters. No one seemed to be overreacting or blowing the events out of proportion. The terror and worry were well matched with the actions of the Evil. You could understand why everyone was so angry and frightened (sorry Ms. Ward, but your baby powder smelling guys just don't invoke that fear in me. Love your men, though!)
I think the publishing houses need to take note. We readers love the wider availability of paranormal romances, but our benchmark for quality has not lowered. Neither should their standards. I would rather a smaller selection of high quality reads, then a plethora of lackluster demons and fae. Give me one or two decadent Vosges chocolate truffles. You can keep the 5lbs. box of school fundraiser chocolate crisp bars.