Romance Literature, Vampires in

Romance Literature, Vampires in

(pop culture)

According to the Romance Writer of America, the romance novel is defined by the prominence of two elements: a central love story, in which two individuals fall in love and struggle to make the relationship work, and a story line ultimately brought to an emotionally satisfying and optimistic (that is happy) ending, meaning that their relationship is rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love. The story requires a strong female character who is searching, however consciously, for an ideal romantic love and whose feelings about the men she encounters are in the foreground as the novel proceeds. The male figure may approach any of a spectrum of ideals and is often pictured as larger than life relative to strength, courage, will, handsomeness, recklessness, ability to bear suffering, knowledge of women, and/or mystery.

Romance novels are written by women for a female audience, though a few men (usually writing under a female penname) have proven successful masters of the genre. The primary story line is usually the female character’s account of events and in many cases is written in the first person.

The romance genre is often traced to the eighteenth century and the novel Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded by Samuel Richardson (1740), one of the earliest popular novels to have a story line written from the woman’s point-of-view. Romantic writing was further popularized in the nineteenth century, Jane Austen being a noteworthy exemplar. Such novels both accepted the social roles into which women were pushed while providing an element of escape in romantic adventures. The genre blossomed in the twentieth century with British writers such as Barbara Cartland (1901–2000), who wrote over 700 novels, and Georgette Heyer (1902–1974), who invented the regency romance. Their careers blossomed in the 1930s and continued until shortly before their deaths.

The British company Mills and Boon was the first publisher specializing in romance titles, and Harlequin Enterprises, a Canadian publisher, emerged as their North American equivalent. Both companies initially specialized in historical romances, historical settings providing some rationale for the perpetuation of what many post World War II readers began to see as outmoded emphases on traditional sexual mores. The success of the new romance novels with a modern setting pioneered by Avon Publishing, in the 1970s, led to the growth of the field in the 1980s and 1990s. By the beginning of the twenty-first century, romance novels accounted for about half of all the new paperback book sales in North America—much to the distain of both writers and publishers in other fields. The most important romance publishing imprints include Avon, Dorchester, Kensington/Zebra, Dell, Berkley, Love Spell, and of course Harlequin (and its imprints Mira and Silhouette).

The vampire theme in romance writing emerged in the 1970s with the burgeoning of gothic romance. The new wave of vampire novels in the early 1970s appear to have been occasioned by the success of the television show Dark Shadows and the accompanying singular phenomenon of Daniel Ross, who wrote numerous romance novels under the pseudonym Marilyn Ross. He began to produce original stories (all quickly written) using the characters and settings of the popular television show late in 1966. The first six (1966–68) featured Victoria Winters, but with the addition of the vampire Barnabas Collins, by the end of 1968 the stories moved to him and the women in his life. Ross would go on to author more than twenty additional Dark Shadows novels during the next three years.

In the wake of the popularity of Dark Shadows, writers of gothic romances found that dropping vampires into their novels was relatively easy. In the three years of 1969–1971, more than a dozen romance novels appeared including titles by Dorothea Nile (a penname of Michael Avallone), Barbara Michaels, Virginia Coffman, Elna Stone, and Florence Stevenson. Ross would even contribute one non-Dark Shadows novel under another of his pseudonyms, Clarissa Ross, while Stevenson would go on to write additional vampire romance novels into the 1980s.

Through the 1980s, vampires would show up sporadically in the occasional romance novel, but would not again enjoy anything like the presence it manifested during the early 1970s until the mid-1990s. By this time, the romance genre had expanded to the point that numerous subdivisions had emerged, among them the paranormal romance. Paranormal romance was envisioned as encompassing a variety of phenomena—ghosts, witches, werewolves, time travelers, and vampires. Most importantly, Anne Rice, whose novels were seen by many as approaching the romance genre, was enjoying great success, and Laurell Hamilton was emerging into prominence.

Heralding the new wave of vampire romance novels was Lori Herter, who issued four vampire romance novels in the early 1990s, and Maggie Shayne who issued her first vampire romance in 1993. Then in 1994–95, following the release of the movie version of Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, more than a dozen vampire-related romance novels suddenly appeared. Maggie Shayne (a.k.a. Margaret Benson) was already producing a vampire romance series and would now be joined by Linda Lael Miller and Amanda Ashley (a.k.a. Madeline Baker). Miller’s For All Eternity and Ashley’s Embrace the Night launched two new series. While a number of popular romance writers would attempt a vampire novel, Miller and Ashley would began to redefine the field, suggesting vampire romances as more than just another form of paranormal romance.

By the end of the 1990s, however, editors at the different houses specializing in romance novels diverged significantly in their view of the vampire. Some felt that the vampire was a passing fad and that its time had come and gone. Others, noting continuing high sales figures and the popularity of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, continued to accept and even solicit new vampire novels. In 1999 the appearance of two very successful vampire series was initiated by Christine Feehan, and Shannon Drake (a.k.a. Heather Graham Pozzessere).

Through the early years of the new century, publishers one-by-one recognized that vampires had carved out a secure niche in the expanding romance field. At the same time, writers unable to find a publisher took their novels to publish-on-demand (POD) publishers and issued their books in both electronic and trade paperback formats. A few writers who began with POD houses such as Ellora’s Cave were able to jump to one of the larger romance houses. By the end of the decade, more than fifty writers, almost all women, had written and published multiple vampire titles. A few, like Charlaine Harris, became superstars, but a number became well known for their writing of vampire novels—Nina Bangs, Mary Janice Davidson, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Katie MacAleister; Lynsay Sands, Susan Sizemore, Kerrelyn Sparks, Susan Squires, and J. R. Ward.

At the same time several romance writers had been able to adapt their vampire novels toward a high school and even junior high school audience. The field had been opened by Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its many spinoff novels (at one point eighteen annually). The novels of Stephenie Meyer, P. C. and Kristin Cast, and Elle Schreiber opened the vampire realm to young women, which previously had almost exclusively been inhabited by young males. In the wake of the success of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, an early young adult romance series, The Vampire Diaries series written by Lisa Jane Smith in the 1990s, was reprinted and was adapted into a hit television show.

The romance field is served by Romantic Writers of America (RLA), its primary professional organization, and Romantic Times (RT), the primary trade magazine. Amid a variety of romance awards given annually by various organizations, those offered by RWA and RT are the most coveted. Romantic Writers of America has, since 1982 given annual awards (known since 1990 as the Rita Awards) for excellence in the field. Authors of vampire romances were recognized only recently by the Ritas, which have been awarded to Maggie Shayne (2005), Kresley Cole (2007), and J. R. Ward (2008). In 2007, Linda Lael Miller won the RLA’s Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award.

RT began issuing awards in 1987, the first for the years 1986–87. Initially issued to authors for a body of work, RT added a second award for best books in 1995. The first writer known primarily for her vampire-oriented titles to be honored was Heather Graham (Pozzessere), who received awards in 1988–89, 1991–92, and 2000. In the mid-1990s, fantasy was added as a category, and Maggie Shayne (1995, 1998, and 2000) and Linda Lael Miller (1997) received awards. Madeline Baker (a.k.a. Amanda Ashley) and Christine Feehan received awards in 1999 and 2003.

In 2004, Paranormal Romance was first recognized with separate three awards. Among the early recipients were Kelley Armstrong (2004) who has written primarily of a werewolves (but ones who live in a world also inhabited by vampires), and Susan Sizemore (2005). For the first time, in 2006, Vampire Paranormal Romance was recognized as a separate category, the first award for career achievement going to J. R. Ward. That same year, the number of categories was significantly increased, in recognition of both the growth of the field and the emergence of new subgenres, and both Charlaine Harris and Linda Lael Miller were also recognized in other categories.

In 2007, the number of categories would be radically cut back, and the vampire and paranormal categories collapsed into a single Paranormal award, received by Angela Knight largely for her werewolf/vampire crossover novels. The same award would go to the writing team of C. T. Adams and Cathy Clamp, who wrote both a vampire and a werewolf series. Heather Graham and Keri Arthur also received awards in other categories.

When RT began its awards for best books in 1995, Fantasy was an established category, and the first award went to Susan Krinard for her vampire book, Prince of Dreams. Maggie Shayne would receive the award in 1997. In 2000 an award for best Vampire Paranormal romance was added, and again Christine Feehan won the first and the second in 2001. In 2002, the award went to Sherrilyn Kenyon, though Feehan won for Best Historical Paranormal Fantasy. In 2003, the Vampire award went to Susan Sizemore, with additional Paranormal awards to Kelley Armstrong and Thea Devine.

In 2004, best vampire novel went to Mary Janice Davidson with additional awards to Kim Harrison and Angela Knight. Sherrilyn Kenyon walked away with the Best Vampire book of 2005, with additional recognition of a vampire title going to C.T. Adams and Cathy Clamp. J. R Ward had the best Vampire title in 2006 with additional vampire titles by Angela Knight also receiving an award. Ward again won the vampire award in 2007, additional vampire books also receiving awards included books by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast, Kim Harrison, and Jeaniene Frost. Michele Bardsley won her first award for her vampire novel in 2008, with Paranormal awards going to Mary Janice Davidson, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and Jeanne C. Stein. In 2007, RT had given its first award to the best in the Silhouette Nocturne series. In 2008, that award went to Anna Rice for her vampire title.


“About the Romance Genre.” Romance Writers of America. Posted at Accessed on April 11, 2010.
Coffman, Virginia. The Vampire of Moura. New York: Ace Books, 1970. 265 pp.
Davidson, Mary Janice. Undead and Unwed. New York: Berkley Sensation, 2004. 277 pp.
Gideon, Nancy. Midnight Kiss. New York: Pinnacle Books, 1994. 411 pp.
———. Midnight Temptation. New York: Pinnacle Books, 1994. 380 pp.
Herter, Lori. Obsession. New York: Berkley Books, 1991. 278 pp.
James, Stephanie (pseudonym of Jayne Ann Krentz). Nightwalker. Silhouette Desire 163. New York: Silhouette Books, 1984. 186 pp.
MacAlister, Katie. A Girl’s Guide to Vampires. New York: Love Spell, 2003. 374 pp.
Michaels, Barbara. The Dark on the Other Side. Greenwich, CT: Fawcett Crest, 1970. 224 pp.
Nile, Dorothea (pseudonym of Michael Avallone). The Vampire Cameo. New York: Lancer, 1968. 190 pp.
Shayne, Maggie. Twilight Phantasies. Silhouette Shadows 18. New York: Silhouette Books, 1993. 251 pp.
Sands, Lynsay. Single White Vampire. New York: Love Spell, 2003. 369 pp.
Stevenson, Florence. The Curse of Conculens. New York: World Publishing Company, 1970. 143 pp.
Ward, J. R. Dark Lover. Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 1. New York: Signet, 2005. 416 pp.