Vampires themselves are very interesting when used as tropes, but today I specifically want to address when vampires are placed in a “romantic” place. Generally this is in a paranormal romance story where the vampire is the primary love interest, or a rival love interest. Different tropes continue to feed into the trope of the vampire love interest depending on the subgenres of the work, as well as the general lore and supernatural elements of the story. Ultimately, the “romantic vampire” trope can be broken down into three approaches: a dark and mysterious, potentially dangerous creature; a genuinely romantic love interest who happens to be a vampire; and an antagonizing “love interest” who may just be obsessive about the object of their affections, and is largely a manipulator with multiple goals.
Dark Romantic Vampire
The dark romantic vampire is probably the one we’re most familiar with culturally, which is why I’m starting here. This vampire is largely characterized by being dark and broody, with old school ideals when it comes to romance. We’re talking Bill Compton here–an older vampire with more chivalry than straight sex appeal, and who probably agonizes a little bit over the separation of human and vampire in the relationship. These vampires can be appealing in a romantic situation–but they also require some character development. If they can’t move past their older ideas, their angst, or their “darkness” (usually a history of violence or something similar), then they likely won’t remain the primary love interest.
Real Romantic Vampire
This trope vampire is what I consider the true love interest; a vampire who has romantic traits without the dark, broody, angsty, and potentially dangerous factors from the previous trope. These are arguably less common in human-vampire relationships but can absolutely be found! Alexander Sterling would be a good example of the real romantic vampire; he poses minimal threat to his human love interest and the humans around her, commits himself to the relationship, and draws romantic inspiration from positive aspects of his past. These vampires know how to draw from their past while embracing the present and future. Ultimately, these characters are likely a good person or good love interest on their own and the vampire factor is just bonus sexy.
Manipulative “Romantic” Vampire
And here’s where we get to the yikes factor when it comes to romantic vampires. The manipulative one. Edward Cullen in a nutshell. A vampire who uses their vampirism to go the extra mile to ensure their love interest–almost always a human–remains theirs. This vampire will manipulate their human love interest into not doing things that are undesirable–perhaps putting their lives in danger, or just spending time with some potential love rival. They will stalk, coerce, and threaten their love interest when need be for whatever motives. Usually this is a clearly toxic relationship, but depending on the book it can be portrayed as positive or negative. This is where vampire romances get a bed rep.
As a lover of all things vampires, I definitely have my preferred vampiric love interests. I like vampires who don’t seem to be hung up on something about their vamirism and can just exist in a romantic relationship. Angsty brooders who can’t resist their partner but fight the relationship every step of the way are boring. Manipulative vampires who excuse their actions by their nature but are cast in a positive light are annoying (and creepy). It can be interesting to explore themes of toxicity and manipulation through the lens of a creature of horror like a vampire, but those stories have to be written with the intention of exposing abuse tactics and they often aren’t. There’s a lot of room for improvement in how we use vampires as love interest in writing, and how they’re viewed when they do engage in manipulation tactics in a relationship.