You Know It When You Read It
Have you ever seen a book spine that identifies a story as Urban Fantasy Romance? Even though I’ve read more than a few UFRomances, I’m still hard pressed to identify what sets them apart from a regular old Urban Fantasy. Heck—when I took a look at Goodreads and Amazon, there are lists for UFRomance, and I was surprised to see that I’d had always identified most of the books on there as straight Urban Fantasy.
So is this a subgenre that’s so distinctive that it needs its own classification? Or was it just a newer, fresher way to brand and market Urban Fantasy?
Now, separating an UFRomance and an Urban Fantasy from a Paranormal Romance on a very basic level is pretty easy: Paranormal Romances usually have both the hero’s and heroine’s points of view (as opposed to the popular first person protagonist POV for Urban Fantasy). Also, in Urban Fantasy, the emphasis is on saving the world while there might be a strong romance—or, most likely, a love triangle—while Paranormal Romance emphasizes saving the one you love, and maybe even saving the world at the same time.
But where does UFRomance fit in here? I heard an editor say this about New Adult, which can have similar identification issues: “It’s just like porn—you know it when you read it.” I have to agree with that.
And I have to say that after I just wrote what I consider to be an UFRomance, I totally know that’s how my book should be identified. I’m just not 100% sure why. My book, Shadows ‘til Sunrise (to be self-published in a couple of months) has definite Urban Fantasy elements: the story is told from the heroine’s first person POV. Also the setting—New Orleans—is essentially its own character, just like in other Urban Fantasies. There’s a lot of kicking butt, mystery solving, and supernatural mayhem, too.
But there’s a huge Paranormal Romance element that sets this book apart from Urban Fantasy: by the end of the story, there’s a “happily ever after” for the hero and heroine. Maybe what makes this book a hybrid—UFRomance—is that the romantic relationship is developed just as strongly as the “save the world” plotline. (In other words, the action/adventure is evenly balanced with the romance.)
Having said that, though, I’ve read books that have “UFRomance” on the spine, and they don’t have that fully developed romance relationship. They seem more like Urban Fantasies, albeit with a lighter, more romance-y tone.
What’s odd is that my newest series, Jensen Murphy, Ghost for Hire, was labeled as Urban Fantasy, and it could have been branded UFRomance, based on what I’m seeing with other UFRomance books. There’s lots of world building, action, blood, and mystery, but the series has a lighter tone and lots of romance. Who knows? But one of my friends, Erin Quinn, put the difference between Urban Fantasy and UFRomance in cinematic terms—The Walking Dead versus Warm Bodies. The “save the world” element is dominant in The Walking Dead. Love lives are messy—just as they often are in Urban Fantasy—but love is still strong. Heck, it’s one thing that keeps “the walking dead” humans from becoming monsters themselves.
Lost Girl would be a strong Urban Fantasy example, with even more of a romantic element (although world building and action are emphasized). Warm Bodies is a great example of what I think an UFRomance is: it surrounds a hero and heroine with a zombie apocalypse, and romance takes the front seat as we see the story from the POV of a male zombie who falls for a female human. (Have you seen it? It’s awesome!)
Since Shadows ‘til Sunrise will be self-published, the big challenge for me is figuring out how to create a cover that straddles the line between Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy. Most UFRomances I see have heroine-centric UF covers, but I want to show that there’s a strong romance, so I’m hoping to find stock images with a couple. However, I don’t want them in total clinch mode; I want the female to come off as strong as he does while showing that they are together. I want the cover to say, “Hey, we just finished chasing a deadly phantom through a cemetery, but there’s gonna be time for some lovin’, too.”
Maybe that’s what UFRomance boils down to for me! So what’s your definition of an Urban Fantasy Romance? Do you have any examples to share?
Chris Marie Green writes the Urban Fantasy Ghost for Hire series for Roc, along with the Vampire Babylon series. She tries her best to avoid international incidents whenever she takes a break from her first love, writing, and cheats on it with her other true love—traveling.
She has an alter ego named Crystal Green who likes to write hot Romance such as her new Rough and Tumble series with Berkley Intermix. You can find her at www.chrismariegreen.com or hang out with her online at https://twitter.com/ChrisMarieGreen and http://www.facebook.com/chrismariegreen. Excerpt from her latest—ONLY THE GOOD DIE YOUNG, book one in her new Ghost for Hire series!
You know the theory that ghosts are energy trapped when someone dies violently? It’s true. I know it for a fact…
My name is Jensen Murphy, and thirty years ago I was just an ordinary California girl. I had friends, family, a guy who might be The One. Ordinary—until I became a statistic, one of the unsolved murders of the year. Afterwards, I didn’t go anywhere in pursuit of any bright light—I stayed under the oak tree where my body was found, and relived my death, over and over. So when a psychic named Amanda Lee Minter pulled me out of that loop into the real world, I was grateful.
So I’m now a ghost-at-large—rescued by Amanda (I found out) to be a supernatural snoop. I’m helping her uncover a killer (not mine—she promises me we’ll get to that) which should be easy for a spirit. Except that I’ve found out that even ghosts have enemies, human—and otherwise…
It took me a while to get used to being a real ghost, and I only say that because, since my death, I guess I was in some kind of state of shock.
That’s what Amanda Lee told me, anyway.
My so-called savior was an intuitive and, well, let’s just be honest, a different lady. First of all, when she pronounces her name, it sounds just like that creepy house in the book Rebecca. Remember “Manderley”? That’s how Amanda Lee says her name, except with an “a” at the beginning. “A MANdaley.” I think it’s because of the years she
spent living in Virginia before moving to SoCal. She told me a little bit about that after she rescued me from the woods, but we’ve basically been talking about me instead ever since then.
At least, she’s been telling me what she knows of my story.
Based on what my friends had said to the police about that night, the tale went a little something like this: a young college dropout slash Round Table Pizza waitress and her buddies went out late to frolic in the spooky old forest out of sheer boredom. Said waitress drank scads of soda pop because she’d been in charge of carting around her doped up buddies that particular night, then wandered off to take a pee, never to return.
And that’s all she wrote. No body, no trace of evidence that would help the cops to find me—not much of anything, really.
Weirdly, when I heard what’d happened to me, it didn’t surprise me all that much, because the second I snapped out of what Amanda Lee called my “residual haunting phase”—a time loop I was clearly stuck in until she yanked me out of it with the psychic mojo in her voice and the sight of the bracelets from my era—I knew just what I was.
Deader than a doornail. Deader than a shrunken head. Deader than when video killed the radio star.
Very dead indeed. Actually, I had been living that truth over and over for a long time in that forest, so death didn’t seem like all that big of an issue when I became an intelligent spirit. What actually freaked me out more than anything was the fact that I didn’t remember who my killer was. I guess I’d spent so much time in my non-interactive ghost state that I’d gone a little numb. Or maybe, as Amanda Lee suggested, I had some sort of “fright wall” erected in my brain, and that was the only thing keeping my fragile spirit psyche together.
Amanda Lee thinks my memories will all come back to me, though, just as soon as I’m ready to deal. And, being a total rich-lady do-gooder, she promised to help me figure out my deal. To her, I was a real live…I mean…not-totally-alive mystery.
I’d latched on to Amanda Lee’s offer to help me straightaway, mainly because she also told me I’m probably “tethered” to this plane because of being killed, and the only way my soul can find peace would be to take care of my earthly business.
Funny, huh? That word—“tethered.” Like I was a volleyball tied to a pole, winding around it and around it, going nowhere…
From Only the Good Die Young, Jensen Murphy, Ghost for Hire, Book 1
Copyright: Chris Marie Green