While paranormal romance as a subgenre can take place in fantasy, science fiction, or other forms of speculative fiction, I find that it always pops up in my urban fantasy readings.
Urban fantasy is a genre that takes place in a modern or contemporary setting, but still incorporates some degree of fantasy. The most typical example of this is The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris, the series on which True Blood the show is based on. I’ve read a variety of other urban fantasy/paranormal romance series and in general there are some earmarks of the subgenres that are easy to pick up on.
- the protagonist must for some reason be interested by paranormal goings on (Sookie Stackhouse is interested in vampires because she cannot read their minds)
- the love interest must not be a typical human (Bill the vampire, Eric the vampire, Sam the shifter, Quinn the weretiger, etc.)
- for some reason the protagonist becomes interesting to multiple supernatural creatures (Sookie can read minds, has particularly strong smelling blood, and is attractive)
- there is some sort of separation between the supernatural world and the regularly human world (though vampires are now public, shifters and weres remain secretive and there are other creatures Sookie is not aware of at first)
Not too long ago I discovered my new favorite paranormal romance/urban fantasy series: The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews. This series focuses on a young woman running a bed and breakfast in Texas. The twist is: her B&B caters to the supernatural, who are actually various alien races stopping on Earth on their way to other intergalactic destinations. Vampires, werewolves, and a variety of other creatures all hail from planets and galaxies with complex political backgrounds. Earth remains a neutral planet where the existence of the Inns’ residents is kept a strict secret.
In general, I like this genre a lot. Paranormal romances just add something extra to a romance story. I also find urban fantasy to be just as creative as traditional fantasy, and fulfills my occasional desire for a contemporary story.