The Vampire Lover in the Popular Romance


There are a couple of moments when i think the author seems to jump from the specific to the general in terms of understanding genre, but I found Helen Bailie’s discussion of vampire romance interesting…  she writes:

“In the paranormal romances, the conventions and practices of the vampire found in horror novels are appropriated and transformed by popular romance writers into the essence of women’s fantasy heroes.” (p.141)

Though the traditional vampire with its association with evil or its persona as an agent of the devil may seem an unlikely model for the archetypal popular romance hero, the vampire hero, in fact, follows closely the paradigm of what Jane Gordon calls the sympathetic vampire. Gordon differentiates between the vampire figures in horror novels as inherently evil ‘‘whose power over [their] prey is both extraordinary and cruel’’ (230), and the sympathetic vampires who rather than being ‘‘super-killers’’ are ‘‘super-survivors’’ (230). These vampires ‘‘must live in harmony with their world, be flexible, adaptable, and possess stamina,’’ writes Gordon, adding that in this new depiction the sympathetic vampire ‘‘retains its strength, but loses its terror’’ (230).” (p.141)

Typically, the vampire archetype in the paranormal romance adheres closely to the model of the Gothic romance hero in the Heathcliffean or Byronic mode, a standard in the romance novel genre. In the gothic romances, the hero is usually depicted as ‘‘dark and brooding, writhing inside with all the residual anguish of his shadowed past, world-weary and cynical, quick-tempered and prone to fits of guilt and depression. He is strong, virile, powerful, and lost’’ (Barlow 48–49). He keeps himself apart from the rest of society and, because of this, is usually surrounded by rumors of associations with the black arts or, in contemporary romances, with illegal activity. He is autocratic, wealthy, considered dangerous and, most importantly, exudes sensuality; an eroticism that makes other men envious and suspicious of him and which intrigues and attracts women.” (p.142)

One important dimension of the paranormal romances is that, unlike traditional vampires, the vampire heroes are not the creation of an evil force.” (p.142)

“That the vampire heroes in the paranormal romances do not originate as products of Satan or some dark force is crucial to the acceptance of the vampire as hero in this genre.” (p.143)

“In these romances it is this that demarcates the vampire hero from the vampire as villain; the evil vampire makes a deliberate choice to embrace his darker nature, while the vampire hero not only struggles against the temptation but will sacrifice himself rather than succumb to it.
As already noted, one characteristic of the Gothic romance hero is that he is often marginalized and misunderstood. This may stem from some past action that has ostracized him from society or because he has chosen to withdraw himself due to some guilt or burden he bears. Similarly, the vampire hero is depicted as a marginalized figure both in the human world and among his own people.” (p.143)

The theme of alienation or Otherness is an important facet of the traditional vampire novel often representing what is strange and thus deemed to be evil or threatening to society. Nursel Icoz writes that Otherness is associated with ‘‘any one whose origins are unknown, who has extraordinary powers and whose differences enable him/her to disturb the familiar and the known’’ (211). However, in the paranormal romance, this very Otherness is what initially attracts the heroine and the hero to each other, becoming a unifying element in these novels.” (p.143)

“As Isabel Santaularia writes, ‘‘Vampires, endowed with an ethical dimension . . . become enticing alternatives to ordinary humanity, especially if we take into account that humanity, as it emerges from the narratives, is presented as a tangle of darkness, evil and sorrow’’ (118).” (p.144)

“While the vampire of romance novels is an extension of the Gothic hero, the heroine of the paranormal romance, in turn, follows the model of the Gothic romance heroine displaying many of the characteristics such as honor, loyalty, courage, and intelligence found in such novels. But in addition, much like the Gothic hero, she is also set apart from society. In the Gothic romance novels it can be because there is some kind of scandal attached to her past, she may not be wealthy enough to find husband, ….” (p.144)

“Just as in the romance genre passion and the sexual act define the couple’s commitment and love for each other, in the paranormal romance the sexual act between the vampire hero and heroine symbolizes a connection between them that takes place not only on a physical level but equally on an emotional and spiritual level.” (p.145)

One of the conventions of the popular romance novel is the understanding that the strong sexual bond between the hero and heroine is not only an affirmation of their love but a promise that commits them to a life-long partnership and eventually a family; in other words, that their love will produce a next generation. This same paradigm is present in many paranormal romances where, by the end of the novel, the heroine is either pregnant or the couple are anticipating starting a family. In bearing the vampire’s child, [-p.146] the heroine again ensures that she has saved the vampire from self-destruction or from succumbing to the demon inside himself. The child symbolizes a love that is eternal as it resides in the very DNA of the succeeding generations. Furthermore, with the growth of a family, there is the assurance that both vampire and heroine will finally be part of a community—this time of their own making—that will never reject them.” (pp.145-146)

“While for both the traditional vampire and the romance novel vampire blood is a source of life, in the paranormal romance vampire blood is more than just a means of survival—after all, the vampire in this genre is usually at the point of giving up his life when he meets the heroine—it is a source of spiritual salvation and emotional commitment.” (p.146)

“While the vampire hero eventually finds true love in the popular romances, like the Gothic hero who is only ever partially reformed, the vampire’s predatory nature is never completely vanquished.” (p.146)

“Icoz explains that fantasy ‘‘frequently serves to reconfirm institutional order by supplying a vicarious fulfillment of desire and thus neutralizing an urge toward transgressions’’ (220). The paranormal romance fulfills this same function as it seeks to create order out of emotional and social chaos.” (p.147)

Ref: (emphases in blue bold, mine) Helen T. Bailie (2011) Blood Ties: The Vampire Lover in the Popular Romance The Journal of American Culture, 34:2, pp.141-148

Reference is to: Gordon, Joan. ‘‘Rehabilitating Revenants, or Sympathetic Vampires in Recent Fiction.’’ Extrapolation 29.3 (1988): 227-234.

Icoz, Nursel. ‘‘The Un-dead: To be Feared or/and Pitied.’’ Vampire: Myths and Metaphors of Enduring Evil. Ed. Peter Day. New York: Rodopi, 1994: 208-26.

Santaularia, Isabel. ‘‘The Fallacy of Eternal Love Romance, Vampires and the Deconstruction of Love in Linda Lael Miller’s Forever and the Night and For all Eternity.’’ The Aesthetics of Ageing: Critical Approaches to Literary Representations of the Ageing Process, 2002.


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