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I was telling a friend of mine about Christine Feehan the other day. I had picked up Dark Slayer to read after a long absence. I realized that if my friend picked up Feehan today that she would think Feehan was derivative. After all Feehan’s books are marked by the soul mate, a group of good vampires fighting against bad vampires, seeking out a life mate to save the good vampire from turning bad. Sounds familiar, right?
But the fact is that Feehan was writing about vampires that would lose their mind unless they found their mate before JR Ward came on the scene. Dark Prince, the first in the Carpathian series, came out in 1999. Susan Sizemore’s fantastic Laws of the Blood series began in 1999. While not romance, it was an interesting look at a vampire world, a kind of progenitor of what is now considered urban fantasy. Sizemore also published a number of other high fantasy, science fiction, and speculative fiction books with romance plots in the late 90s, early 2000s.
You can’t obliterate what you’ve already read to appreciate the novelty of what Feehan brought to the romance reading genre. But there are those who walked the path of PNR before PNR was very successful. Maggie Shayne wrote about vampires for the Silhouette Shadows series in 1993 with Twilight Phantasies and is part of her overall vampire series that she still writes today.
In the early period of the genre, there were a lot of magic books. Moonlight and Magic by Rebecca Paisley (pub 1990) featured a hapless wannabe witch. Teresa Medeiros Breath of Magic featured a time traveling witch (pub. 1996). The infamous time traveling romance, Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux was published in 1989. Nora Roberts wrote a trilogy of books for Silhouette Special Edition: Captivated, Entranced, and Charmed in 1992 featuring cousins with magical abilities.
There were also the time travel books: Robin Schone, Awaken My Love (pub 1995); Son of the Morning by Linda Howard (pub 1997); books by Constance O’Day Flannery (dubbed as the Queen of Time Travel Romance, pub dates 1986+).
Jayne Ann Krentz penned Sweet Starfire in 1986 starring Cidra in a other planetary adventure. I’m not sure if this would be categorized as a space opera or not. Sherrilyn Kenyon’s first book, Paradise City, published in 1994 was a definitely a space opera complete with spaceship, cranky pilot, and stubborn female mechanic. By contrast, Linnea Sinclair’s first novel was Finders Keepers, published in 2002 and Susan Grant’s Star King and Star Prince in 2000.
In 1995, Rebecca Flanders published her “Heart of the Wolf” series, a trilogy of books released by Harlequin under its Silhouette Shadows line. (I’ve asked Harlequin to re-release these in digital format). The first Silhouette Shadows book, The Last Cavalier, was written by Heather Graham Pozzessere. According to the Romance Wiki (which was started by Kirk Biglione and Kassia Krozser of Quartet Press), Silhouette Shadows ran from 1993 to 1996.
Suffice it to say that the roots of paranormal romance, science fiction romance, and fantasy romance run deep in the romance genre. There is hardly an established long running author who hasn’t dabbled in the other world at one point or another. I think it’s easy to forget that these sub genres have been around for a very long time. Some of these books are worth going back and re-read.
Are there any books you would categorize as “classics” within the romance sub genres of paranormal, science fiction, or fantasy? Any particular titles or authors that you see as the “founders” of romance speculative fiction?