What makes a vampire appealing to so many different romance readers? I mean, seriously, the basic characteristics of a vampire are: He’s dead and he drinks blood to exist. To get the blood, he’ll kill or just suck a living soul almost dead because everyone knows once you get going on a pleasure you want to take it to the extreme. So, what is it that makes the vampire so, well, darn romantic? I usually manage to avoid this kind of conversation, but at last week’s Adventures in Fiction our table conducted a lively discussion on why a vampire is the perfect type of romantic hero.
To recap: A vampire is an ‘undead’ being who needs an infusion of blood—human or otherwise—to keep going. We all agreed on that premise. I know, you’re getting squeamish but we didn’t stop there. A vampire of necessity is usually surrounded by emotion, because we’re human and we can’t imagine being able to suck the life force from another being without feeling emotion. I mean, that’s just a natural reaction. So, the vampire can’t feel too much emotion or naturally they’d stop drinking blood and they would fade away. Or erupt into flames. Or crumble into dust. But in the end, go away. Cease to exist.
All of those descriptions create a semblance of emotion in the reader. Because we’re human and usually women and we feel. Oh, baby do we feel. We like to feel sunlight on our faces, or hands or heads or wherever we can tolerate it. Most of us have a favorite memory of just sitting or lounging in the sunlight for at least five minutes. It does something wonderful to our spirits, so imagine a being who is denied that pleasure. They evoke so much sympathy from us. So does a vampire. A vampire can be emotionless and yet evoke emotion in the people around them, especially the reader.
But let’s not stop there. We have a hero, definitely a bad boy type, very alpha, and he’s denied emotion and at the same time he evokes emotion in others. Well, there you go, he can be perfectly cast as a hero in a romance novel. Why not? Christine Feehan burst into the romance shelves with her Carpathians series, which took romance readers by storm. Her very alpha males were not only able to evoke emotion immediately from the heroine but also forced the reader into a compulsive state of anticipation. Feehan marries the sensuality of the emotion almost perfectly with the horror of blood taking. And she’s managed to use the same formula for over 13 years, which is amazing in the romance world. Her latest in the Carpathian series, Dark Storm, is a treat to read. Taking a tormented hero, Feehan matches him with an anti-hero opposite in every way, the villain of the piece who not only is truly despicably evil to not only the hero but also to the only female who was the match to save him. Thus doubly damned, he is part of the story in Dark Storm that continues to twist the emotions of the reader into a very satisfying, if not completely sweet, experience.
But for kicks, let’s add even more nuances. For starters, one of the most popular attributes of vampires is snark, a sarcastic attitude that covers a multitude of sins. Several authors have given their vampires humor to overcome their shortfalls as a human. MaryJanice Davidson and Kerrlyn Sparks come to mind quickly when you pinpoint a humorous vampire. Davidson’s Queen Betsy is almost the epitome of snark, accumulating a selfish attitude twisted with humor in an almost cathartic way. And I know Davidson’s fans agree. Sparks approaches the character a bit differently, as she makes a parallel world and populates it with vampires who are just funny. In Sparks’ latest, Wild About You, she tosses in a shape-shifter in love with a vampire on television and yes, it’s humorous and a bit sexy. Both approaches must gloss over the blood draining and try to use surrogate sources. For the reader hoping for a more emotional read, the humor method isn’t always very satisfactory, but if you’re looking for a lightening of the mood, add these two authors to your list for consideration.
I could go on with examples, but what about the readers who really aren’t fond of the camp or sensuality? Then we have the vampire as a true villain. Emily McKay takes this approach in her new YA series beginning with The Farm. If vampires need blood to exist, then wouldn’t young blood be the best? Maybe not just “virgin” blood but the healthy blood full of hormones from teenagers would be a real treat. So to protect their future, the society traps all their teens on an isolated “farm” for their own protection. I’ll leave the story there because as Fresh Fiction’s reviewer called it, it’s “terrifying” and I mean that in a good way!
So that brings me back almost full circle to where we started. What is it really about vampires that makes them perfect heroes for a romance novel? And we must all admit vamps are popular, from ones who sparkle in sunlight to those of erotic dreams, romance authors and readers gravitate to the genre in droves. There is no month that goes by without a new vampire release and you can’t watch a season of television without at least one vampire show. Even soap operas are putting in vampire storylines. So, for you, gentle (or not) reader, who is your favorite vampire? I’d really like to know!
Sara Reyes is the founder and partner at FreshFiction.com a popular fiction web site for today's reader with new titles, contests, over 50,000 genre fiction author profiles with backlists, and permanently archived reviews, plus all the industry buzz. Fresh Fiction has a biweekly segment (Buy the Book) on WFAA Channel 8 Good Morning Texas to talk about new books not to miss. Believing face-to-face interaction is as important as virtual communities, Fresh Fiction sponsors an annual readers conference, monthly literary events, and book clubs. Follow Sara at @FreshFiction on Twitter or Facebook.com/FreshFiction.