Maybe because I write paranormal romance, I'm pickier about this genre than most. It could just be because I get tired of reading the same stories over and over, with different names, by different authors.
It could be because I've been turned off by so many authors in my most beloved genre, for doing the unthinkable and creating a heroine that's Too Stupid To Live (TSTL). And, even worse for me than a character who doesn't care that she's deliberately putting herself or her mate in danger for a stupid reason, is a heroine who is too...
Too perfect. Too bitchy. Too combative. Too bland.
So, my criteria for this list is simple:
*The heroines don't have to be supernatural in any way. They can be mortal to their mates immortal. They can be a shy bookworm with no fighting skills to name to his battle-hardened warrior. They can be a kickass woman in their own right, capable of handling their own business. They can be the immortal, badass, dangerous one, while the hero is human. They just can't be stupid. I need them to deserve the dangerous, world-weary hero who'd sacrifice everything for them.
*Heroes can be as alpha as they want, curse until even *I* blush, start fights and make crappy decisions to protect their mate and the people they care about. They just can't be assholes. I need them to deserve the heroine who will pick up a shield that weighs twice as much as they themselves do, just to protect him.
*Happy Ever After is a MUST. This is paranormal romance. HEA isn't optional. It's mandatory.
*I have to feel something while reading. If it doesn't engage my emotions, if I don't close the book and occasionally wonder what happened to that particular couple, or be desperate to read the next book in the series, it didn't make me feel enough.
**Eden's note: Because most of these belong in series, I'm linking to the first book, but I'll add my favorite in the series beneath.
I'm just going to say, this is my favorite series on this list. It hits all of my hot spots, and then some.
Ridiculously hot (and huge) alpha males.
Heroines who range from human to angels, with everything in between.
Hero and heroine who absolutely, 100% deserve each other, in the best possible way.
Emotional upheaval? YES. In every book.
I'll admit, I avoided this series for a long time. I'm not even sure why. Hell, it wasn't even on my radar until about a year ago, and even then, I had it on my Kindle for months before I finally started.
From the first couple, Maddox and Ashlynn, the Lords have faced insurmountable odds ranging from Titans, to their own demons. But not only are the relationships between hero and heroine swoon-worthy, the Lords relationships with each other is the stuff bro-mances are made of.
The heroes aren't perfect. They've all done some pretty messed up crap in their long lives. And they've all paid for it, a million times over, but while they have different views of finding love, their acceptance of each other, and their mates, is unquestionable.
Mostly, though, each Lord has an undeniable reason not to trust himself around the woman he cares about. While that could get old book after book, Gena Showalter makes them human enough, that each internal battle is unique, gut-wrenching, and devastating.
So when I say the heroines deserve these Lords, it's the absolute highest honor I could give them.
Favorite books in the series (so far): The Darkest Kiss, The Darkest Whisper
Each of these books are so different, even when they're so alike. But instead of writing herself into a box until every story, every set of characters, every conflict is the exact same, Nalini Singh always manages to keep the will they-won't they fear in your belly up until the very end. Even when you know they'll find their HEA, you don't know how. You just know you so, so want them to.
Amazing characters, freaking fantastic world building, and engaging, nail-biting conflicts make this series one of my absolute favorites.
Favorite books in the series (so far): Slave to Sensation, Caressed by Ice
Word of warning, I've only read the first two books in this series. I'm not exactly even sure why I haven't read more, because I LOVED these books.
Thea Harrison writes everything I love about paranormal romance: huge, alpha heroes, unique heroines who can survive quite nicely on their own thankyouverymuch, and situations where they're thrown together with no choice but to work together, or die.
Also, the second book in this series, Storm's Heart, has a thunderbird as the hero. First one I've ever read with that particular shifter--and even better, the heroine is a tiny fae. And if there's one thing I love, it's my big, badass heroes and their tiny, feisty women.
Come for Pia and her dragon, stay for Tricks and her thunderbird. You'll thank me later.
When I found this book several years ago, it woke me out of a fog I hadn't realized I'd been in. I hadn't yet started writing paranormal romance, and the idea that there could be a romance between a demon and a human had never occurred to me.
It was also before I started watching Supernatural, and met Dean and Sam Winchester. Which changed my life.
*ahem* Everything about these books was everything I'd been looking for in a series: they were dark, the heroes were drop dead sexy, with just enough bad in them to make a girl want a demon of her own. The heroines were perfect--fighters, too, in very different ways.
And they were unique. They were the first paranormal romance series I read where the author had built the conflict so perfectly, even I couldn't see how she'd get them past it to their HEA. (It's a hazard of being a writer, you always see the endings and twists coming.)
**Eden note: The Demonica Series and The Lords of Deliverance Series are set in the same world, with the same cast of characters occasionally popping up. But while I LOVED the Demonica series, I did hit a problem with one of the books in the Lords of Deliverance series that made me walk away. I know she's a talented enough author that she'd have no problem turning the conflict that turned me off into something amazing, but it just sat wrong to me.
Ya'll, you don't even know. This book--Mikhail and Raven's story--is the reason I started writing paranormal romance. AND I ONLY MADE IT TO PAGE 3 before all the problems I'd had with my books, my characters, my stories, shifted and solved in my head and I knew. They weren't human. Never had been.
Christine Feehan did something extraordinary with this series, starting with the first book. She not only woke up the real author inside me, and helped me give my characters LIFE (which is the greatest gift you can give an author, and the reason even Stephen King tells authors to READ ALL THE TIME), she blew my mind with her story telling abilities. From the romance, to the conflict, to the world building...she turned everything I thought I knew about how boring world building could be, into something magical. She's the missing link to the paranormal romance puzzle--the one that fits it all together, who shows how the genre is done, and done right.
Of course I have to mention J.R. Ward, right? Even if for no other reason than Zsadist and John Matthew. *swoon*
Eden Ashe is the USA Today best selling author of paranormal and fantasy romance. Happy endings are her life, whether they're dragons who will go to war to protect those they love, demon hunters who will stop at nothing, or small town ghost hunters who will risk everything for love, and the women who love just as fiercely, just as possessively as their mates.
Top 5, Paranormal Romance, Must Read Paranormal Romance Series