Although I consider myself to be a multi-genre reader, I have generally always avoided Romance books like the plague. I won’t go into the reasons why that is, beyond stating that the way such books are invariably written makes it nigh on impossible for me to suspend my disbelief. It’s for this reason why I typically dislike the inclusion of romance in other genres, unless it’s done believably. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise when I tell you there is one particular sub-genre within fantasy literature that I don’t read very often: Paranormal Romance.
Despite its superficial similarities with the related Urban Fantasy sub-genre (which I do read frequently), I have always viewed PNR as inherently unfriendly to male readers. Ideally, I would prefer not to be drawn into an argument as to whether or not this viewpoint is a fair one, as the intent of this post is to highlight the one PNR series that I feel really bucks the trend.
The exceptionally good, Black Dagger Brotherhood series, by J.R. Ward (the pen name of Jessica Bird) is one of the very few PNR series that I feel is equally as accessible to male readers as it is for the books’ target demographic of female readers. The long running series follows the trials of the members of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, a society of vampire warriors charged with protecting their kind from extermination at the hands of their mortal enemies from the Lessening Society, an Order of soulless humans, turned slayers, created to eradicate all vampires on behalf of the Omega.
Not only is the Black Dagger Brotherhood unquestionably the outstanding series of the sub-genre, in my humble opinion, it is also the only one I have no qualms about recommending to other male readers; nor am I embarrassed to acknowledge being a fan of the series and the author (which is high praise considering I’ve read books from several other PNR series that I’d be very reluctant to admit to reading, let alone recommend). That said, I’m glad I had the option to purchase the books online rather than in store, because the titles and the covers are clearly designed to attract female readers.
So what does the Black Dagger Brotherhood do right that most other PNR series do wrong? Well, first of all, and most importantly, Ward never sacrifices telling a great story in favour of focussing entirely on the romance between the protagonists. She has successfully managed to strike a perfect balance where most other authors seemingly prefer to allow all the romance elements to completely overshadow the plot; assuming there is a plot to begin with.
Secondly, what really elevates Ward’s books above every other series I’ve come across is the wonderful mythology she has built for the series. Vampires have been done to death in numerous books, in many genres, but the Black Dagger Brotherhood really does bring something new and unique to the table, all of which is further enhanced by the genuinely compelling and complex cast of characters that Ward has created for her stories.
Admittedly, I’ve only only made it as far as book five of the series, so I cannot comment on whether the author has managed to maintain the high quality of writing and storytelling throughout all the books that have been published to date (though I acknowledge that the longer a series goes on for, the greater the likelihood of a decline). But given that Ward is clearly a very accomplished writer, I have no worries in this regard—at least for the time being.
If, like me, you’re a reader (male or female) who has an aversion to reading Paranormal Romance, take my word for it that the Black Dagger Brotherhood series is well worth checking out, so please don’t be put off by the titles of the books, or the artwork that adorn the covers.
Thanks for reading,