My Top 5 . . . paranormal romances

July 6, 2009 at 5:00 am 22 comments

This week’s top 5 list is a mixture of both series and individual books. I never thought about how many fewer paranormal romances I read as compared to urban fantasy, but I guess that makes sense, since I’ve been reading uf the longest. Also, in all honesty, I had quite a few that after reading 1 or 2 paranormals in a series, I just didn’t feel strongly enough about them to continue reading the series.

I’ve been debating on whether I should try to define the difference between uf and pnr. I’d hoped to avoid it, but I think for clarity of the list, I’ll give it a shot.

I consider a book “paranormal romance” if the book is essentially character driven. That is, the action of the book springs mainly from the h/h coming together. (For uf, the book would be more plot driven, and the main thrust of the action would spring from that.) Also, generally speaking, each book will end with a happily ever after for the main couple. If it’s part of a series, the next book will focus on a new couple, since the previous protagonists’ story has reached its conclusion.

Of course, this is only MY definition, since I have a feeling everyone asked would give a slightly different one. 😉

When I list a series, the book pictured is usually my favorite of the series. This list is in no particular order.

Previous week’s lists:

ETA: Katie, over at Katidom has also posted her Top paranormal, uf, and alternate reality books. Be sure and check out her list!

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Branded by FirePsy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh

I had heard for so long that this series was so great that by the time I got around to starting it, I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to the hype. Luckily for me, it really did. I think it’s one of the best written, most consistent pnr series out there.

I actually had a hard time picking out a cover of my favorite in the series. I wound up going with Branded by Fire, not only because it’s really really good, but also because it will be released this coming Tuesday, July 7, 2009.

Not only are the shifters sexy and the chemistry between the heroes and heroine’s sizzling, but I thing what makes this series a stand out for me is the balance in the books between world building, plot action, character development (of both the primary couple and secondary charactes) and romance.

I have been dying for Hawke’s story, as he is one of my favorite heroes around, and love how a little bit of his story has been given in each book so far. Hopefully, his book will come in the next year or so. (Dev’s story, Blaze of Memory, is next, to be released November 2009.)

  • Nalini Singh’s site

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Lover Eternal by JR WardBlack Dagger Brotherhood series by JR Ward

This was another series I had apprehensions about starting. Again, hyped all over the place. What made me more nervous about it was that, while I really liked the Dark Lover excerpt that’s on JRW’s site, the whole “bad-ass” brotherhood with funky spelled names sounded too cheesy for me.

Well, I was wrong and I was right. I still have to control the automatic eyeroll when I see the random letters in their names, and the hood talk still makes me giggle, but boy, what fun books! I’ve posted before about their Pringle’s factor for me. I’ve only read the first 2, but when I did read them, I did not want to put them down until they were all done.

Now, because I’m still in the early books from this series, they are still definitely in paranormal romance territory. I’ve heard mixed things about the series’ later books, and am very interested to see how her shift in style (less romance based, more plot driven, heading into uf territory) affects my enjoyment of this series.

Zsadist’s (my favorite Brother) book is waiting for me at the library, as I write this.

I feel a sudden craving for potato chips coming on . . .

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Angels' Blood by Nalini SinghAngels’ Blood by Nalini Singh

OK, because this is a “hybrid” book, packaged as an “urban fantasy romance” I wasn’t sure where to put it. I decided to include it in my paranormal list, since the uf list was already hard to keep down to 5.

Also, the relationship between Elena and Raphael is entirely central to the story, thus (for me) putting it more in the paranormal side of the house.

Aside from the absolutely stunning cover, this book is awash in beautiful images, especially those of the Angels, and Raphael in particular.

Nalini Singh, again, has been able to create such a compelling and original world. The more I read her, the more the word “balance” comes to mind when I think about her writing. Plot depth is not sacrificed for more time spent on character development.

I am so excited that this is a new series, and am so looking forward to more of Elena’s story.

BTW, NS also released an excellent prequel e-novella, Angels’ Pawn, which is available for purchase. I was thrilled to read on her site that she will be revisiting main characters, Ashwini and Janvier, later in this series.

  • Nalini Singh’s site
  • Angels’ Blood excerpt. (Scroll down linked page.)

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With Caution by JL LangleyWith or Without series by JL Langley (M/M)

This was the first M/M novel I read, and this series is a really good one. I originally won this book when JL Langley was a guest over at the DIK blog.

Since then, I’ve read just about all of her back list, and have become such a fan of her 3 series (this one, the Ranch series, and the Sci-Regency series.)

The With or Without series focuses on a werewolf pack whose territory includes a Native American reservation. Pack politics, family drama, race issues, and of course, romance all get covered so well in this series.

To me, the biggest strength of JLL’s writing is her ability to write characters that really connect with the reader. When reading one of her books, I often find myself wondering about them throughout my day. I love the dynamics between the heroes, and how they work out coming together, usually amid an abosrobing mystery.

With Caution is my favorite of the 3 stories. Jake is one of the sexiest alpha heroes around, and I love how he helps Remi heal from his tragic past. Also, this book includes Remi’s little brother Sterling, whom I love to pieces!

  • JL Langley’s site.

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My Wicked EnemyMy series by Carolyn Jewel

I loved Carolyn Jewel’s historical romance, Scandal, so much that I was eager to read her new paranormal romance series.

The world of fiends, mages, and witches is really original and interesting. Though powerful, the fiends are vulnerable to a witches or mages power, and can become enslaved (mageheld) by them. This makes for an interesting dynamic between the h/h, where (at least in the first 2 books) the fiends are the heroes, and very alpha, and the heroine witches — while theoretically having the upper-hand, with the potential to “capture” the hero — are ignorant of the power they possess.

If you like alpha heroes, the men in this series are as alpha as they come.

I am currently reading My Forbidden Desire, book 2 in the series, and enjoying it a lot! I was really intrigued by Xia in My Wicked Enemy, and am so glad CJ is telling his story. Book 3, will tell Durian’s story, according to Carolyn Jewel’s blog.

  • Carolyn Jewel’s site.

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OK, so I’m trying to see what these books and series have in common. The most striking thing to me is that they have not only really good romances between the h/h, but also original worlds that have been very well developed.

I actually sort of struggled with this list. I have a few more that (like the Psy-Changeling series) I’ve heard great things about, and am meaning to try. Meljean Brooks’ Guardian series, for one. Do you have any recommendations for me? What are your top 5 paranormal romances?

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Entry filed under: Paranormal Romance, Top 5. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

Some hit and run reviews My Reader’s Survival Kit

22 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Carolyn Crane (CJ)  |  July 6, 2009 at 6:05 am

    Wow, I never tried the Carolyn Jewel series, but you rank it in your top five! I have to try it.

    I think your definition is a good one, though I’d say a UF has to be equally character driven, but the action of plot is more about the world, whereas in PR, the center of gravity is more about the romance. Have you ever read a UF that is just soulless in terms of character but has a great world? For me, those will never work. But the resolution of a couple in PR: so true.

    I’d stick Meljean Brook and Kresley Cole in a list of mine.

    Reply
  • 2. Renee  |  July 6, 2009 at 7:38 am

    CC/CJ: I’ve only read 1 1/2 of the Jewel series, but I think the strength of the world puts it up there. Again, that balance thing.
    If there is an achilles heel for pnr, I’d say it’s world building. The good ones do it well. The not-so-good ones, don’t. For uf, I’d say the same thing about character, just like you are saying. Soulless. Often, it’s the cardboard cut out “kick-ass heroine” who is so busy with the butt kicking and wise cracking, without a good reason for it. I’ve dnf’d those.
    I’m telling myself when I finish the BDB, the Guardian series is up next. I read a couple of Cole’s, but the series didn’t stick with me.
    Have you tried the Dirk & Steele (Marjorie Liu) series?

    Reply
  • 3. Sarai  |  July 6, 2009 at 7:44 am

    I was in a historical funk while reading Scandal so it became a DNF with the hope of picking it up again. I wonder if the paranormal will help?

    I really like J L Langley’s books and her sci/fi one is fantastic my favorite I think of her’s anyway *g*

    I might have to steal this idea from you. You really made me think about what would be my top five.

    Reply
  • 4. Renee  |  July 6, 2009 at 7:54 am

    Sarai: Oh, bummer about Scandal. What didn’t work for you? Try her pnr. Her writing skills are so solid, and she really brings that to this series.

    I love the Sci Regency series! The Broken H is really good, too (from the Ranch series) if you haven’t read that one.

    Steal away, m’dear! I’d love to see your top 5 lists! 🙂

    Reply
  • 5. Barbara  |  July 6, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Nice list Renee!! Lover Eternal is also one of my favorites. I haven’t read a JL Langley–yet. I’ll have to add this one to the TBB list. As for Nalini, I’ve only read one of her books. It was good, I need to pick up a few more.

    Reply
  • 6. KatiDancy  |  July 6, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Yay! Great list, Renee! I’ve not read the Jewel or the Langley series. Both pique my interest.

    My list is up today too. Thanks for such a wonderful exercise! I’ve really enjoyed doing this!

    Reply
  • 7. Renee  |  July 6, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Barbara: Loved Rhage’s and Mary’s romance! Can’t wait for Z, now. 😉

    Kati: Thanks! 🙂 Glad you saw something here worth looking in to.
    Cool! Will be heading over your place. Glad you’re having fun with it. I think my favorite part has come to be finding what these books have in common, since when I read them and made the lists, I wasn’t thinking about that.

    Reply
  • 8. sula  |  July 6, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    Rhage is teh awesome!!!! ok, I just had to say that. lol.

    Have you read the Keri Arthur series? Definitely UF and not so much on the romance. But still pretty engaging and exciting.

    As for the Cole books, the series gets better with each entry, imo. 🙂

    Reply
  • 9. Mandi  |  July 6, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    Great picks – JR Ward, Nalini Singh, JL Langley all some of my favs! I would add Colleen Gleason Gardella Vampire series and Larissa Ione’s Demonica series:)

    And I really want to read Meljean Brooks!

    Reply
  • 10. Nicola O.  |  July 6, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    I *heart* Meljean. I left a bunch of my faves on Kati’s list (and then I had to go back and add some more that I forgot).

    I didn’t like the first Larissa Ione though, which apparently makes me COMPLETELY WEIRD among pnr readers. I’m OK with that, though *sniff*.

    Reply
  • 11. Renee  |  July 6, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    sula: Duly noted, on the Rhage! lol
    Keri Arthur’s Riley Jensen series? It was fun, but I sort of lost interest after about the 4th one. IDK why, actually.
    I think about trying the 3rd (Bowen’s?) KC book. This might sound stupid, but one of the things that bug me about the series is the “great race” storyline. Maybe I’ll try again. 🙂

    Mandi: You know, Gleason sort of fell thru the cracks with my lists. I guess it wouldn’t have been in my top 5 ufs, but definitely in my top 10. I still need to read the last one (it’s on my tbr shelf!)
    I keep hearing MB mentioned in the same breath as Nalini Singh, so I have high hopes for it!

    Nicola O: lol. There’s always more books, isn’t there?
    Yeah, I get you about the Demonica. By the end of the first one, it grew on me, but unfortunately not enough to keep reading the series after the 2nd book. So I guess I’ll join you in your weirdness! 😛

    Reply
  • 12. nath  |  July 7, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    I agree with your definition of paranormal and urban fantasy. I think the easiest way to differentiate them is that paranormal series get a new H/H for each book and urban fantasy usually sticks with one main narrator.

    Hmmm, the only series I haven’t read that you’ve listed is the JL Langley.

    Top 5 is hard!! LOL, I agree with the Psy-Changelings series. I would have The Guardians series as well by Meljean Brook. Hmmm, and that’s it for now, LOL, I can’t think of 3 more series ^_^; I didn’t really like Angel’s Blood and I think it’s a little bit too early to judge that one. Same thing for the Carolyn Jewel series… 2 books is not enough. BDB, I don’t like.

    Reply
  • 13. orannia  |  July 7, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    Ohhh, great list Renee! I just adore the Psy-Changeling series :

    The more I read her, the more the word “balance” comes to mind when I think about her writing.

    That is just the most perfect description!

    The Psy-Changeling series would definitely be on my list, as would the BDB (even though I had a few ‘issues’ about the latest book – it was my ‘hit the wall’ book).

    I’ve read two of Meljean’s books and I liked them but they are very complex. I’ve heard good things about Lara Adrian’s Midnight books, but I’ve only read the first, and I still haven’t picked up Larissa Ione’s books 😦

    Reply
  • 14. orannia  |  July 7, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    Sorry! Duplicate post! It was meant to say – I liked Scandal apart from one particular plot twist that left me reeling!

    Reply
  • 15. Renee  |  July 8, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    nath: Yes, the unique h/h for each book is usually my quick way to distinguish.
    Once I finish BDB, I’m going to focus on The Guardian series!
    Did you read Angels’ Pawn, the prequel novella to Angel’s Blood? It was really good!
    I really loved how internal the CJ series is. There’s lots of action, but the connection between h/h is what I like best about it. Well, that and Xia. 😛

    orannia: I’m so in awe of NS’s talent, the more I read her books.
    The Lara Adrian and Larissa Ione series were good, but I just didn’t feel like sticking with them right now. Tho’ that’s not to say I won’t pick them up in the future. 😉
    Yeah, that Scandal plot twist was a shocker, wasn’t it?

    Reply
  • 16. April  |  July 16, 2009 at 4:33 am

    First of all, I must say that I just found your blog and am excited to become one of your readers. It seems that we have similar reading tastes.

    Most of the books you’ve included on your “favorites” lists, I would include on mine as well.

    I love Nalini Singh, and I’m interested in trying the JR Ward books. I have the Carolyn Jewel books on my ereader waiting for me to read. They sound promising.

    I would put Kresley Cole on the paranormal romance list. I love her.

    Someone mentioned Marjorie Liu. I had heard great reviews for her paranormal Dirk & Steele series and had it on my TBR pile for awhile, so I read the first book (Tiger Eye) yesterday. Or I tried to, I couldn’t get past the first 100 pages. The premise was great, and had a lot of promise, but I found the dialogue unrealistic, and the descriptions too flowery. It was off-putting.

    I’m anxious to try to the Lara Adrian series. The first book is offered for free at the Sony ebook store.

    Reply
  • 17. Renee  |  July 17, 2009 at 7:56 am

    April: Why thanks! 🙂 It’s always nice to find someone who shares my reading interests.
    I’ve been meaning to try the Dirk and Steel series, too, but haven’t gotten around to it. That’s too bad you didn’t connect with it.
    I read the first 2 of Lara Adrian’s series, and they were good. 🙂

    Reply
  • 18. FemmeFairyGodmother  |  July 26, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    I love this idea! I’ve been thinking about what to do with my much-neglected blog and, at the moment, I think I’ll write about books as much as review them. I read so much I didn’t really give most books a thorough review. I will definitely have to do some Top 5 lists! As for paranormal romance – I don’t know if I’ve read any … unless the Jeaniene Frost books count.

    Reply
  • 19. FemmeFairyGodmother  |  July 26, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    Oh,hell! I forgot to sign out of FFG and sign in to My World in Books. Oh, well. It’s still me! ; )

    Reply
  • 20. Renee  |  July 27, 2009 at 12:17 am

    FFG: I’ve been missing your posts! Glad to see you online. 🙂
    I’ve really enjoyed doing these top 5 posts. It’s given me a chance to really think about my reading choices and preferences. I’ll look forward to seeing your top 5s!
    I’d consider Jeaniene Frost more urban fantasy than pnr.
    lol. I know it’s you in either of your personas! 😉

    Reply
  • 21. Top 5 Reads of 2009 « Renee's Book Addiction  |  December 29, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    […] my comments about Angels’ Blood in my Top 5 Paranormal Romances […]

    Reply
  • […] My Top 5 . . . paranormal romances For more info on the series, the author has a great primer on it. […]

    Reply

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