When I was little girl, I dreamed
of monsters. Not nightmares—dreams
. I didn’t care for Prince Charmings. I wanted a vampire princess to steal me away in the night, a fallen angel to sweep me up in a grand adventure, a demon to capture my soul.
Yes, I was obsessed with paranormal romance. Anything in the genre, I read it. Didn’t matter if it was “too mature” for me. I consumed these stories. I needed them. I craved
them. These stories were my lifeblood. For my twelve-year-old and later teen self, they fulfilled me, and sometimes even healed me, rather than draining me as my struggles with depression often did. There was always the next book in the series, there was always something new by a favorite author. I had to read that next thing—those stories sustained me.
Why did a Black girl from Texas love monsters so much? Maybe because I felt like one. Not athletic or rich or white like most of my classmates. Not straight, no matter how much I pretended to be. At a young age, I already knew I was going to hell for being who I was, for having crushes on my best (girl
) friends, so dreaming of monsters? Wanting to become one? Hoping one would save me and take me away? That wasn’t as unbelievable as the idea that I’d ever find my place and my people, and stop hating myself. (Spoiler alert: I did, but that’s for another story.)
By the time I reached my midtwenties, I hadn’t read paranormal romance regularly in years. I had started to live my life “in the real world.” I had found my people and was finding myself. When I read books, yes, I loved fantastical settings and elements, but I also wanted to see my
life reflected. I wanted Black girls and women protagonists and queer found families all while finding yourself and falling in and out of love.
Paranormal romance, though it made me the book publishing professional I’d become, still felt overwhelmingly white, cis, and straight to me. I couldn’t stop questioning if
I had seen myself more, in the pages of the books I loved so much, would I have wanted to change the very fabric of who I am? Would I have hidden who I loved for so long?
That isn’t to say there aren’t BIPOC and queer paranormal romance authors—find me online, I’m happy to give you recs—but even as the publishing industry was beginning to diversify in other genres, paranormal romance was labeled “dead.” In other words, those who were in the door were there, but for the rest of us, the door was sealed shut. It felt like no wanted our stories.
So when my publisher asked me for another anthology idea, I said paranormal romance thinking I had nothing to lose. Worst happens, they’d come back and say, Nice try, but we have enough of that
. Instead, they said, We’d love to buy that book
. I went from thinking it would never be possible to having to come up with an entire contributor list overnight. Thankfully, it was easy—by this time, I had found my people. I knew that there were a lot of authors who felt the same—who LOVED paranormal romance and wanted to give the genre a much-needed resurrection.
These fifteen stories took my love of paranormal romance to new depths. They allowed me to revisit my favorite paranormal romance novels (i.e., the books that got me through 2020) and value them as they are while also getting to take part in fifteen new paranormal worlds. They represent what paranormal romance truly is—a genre in which anyone can find acceptance and true love. Within these pages, you’ll meet vampires and demons and mermen and angels (yes, we’re even bringing fallen angels back). But you’ll also meet asuras and other creatures from folktales, legends, and myths.
Though some of these stories depict struggles or explore grief, they ultimately end in happily ever afters—or happy for nows.
Fifteen stories by fifteen incredibly talented authors who reflect the world around us and embody the reach that paranormal romance can have—how I wish it looked all those years ago with characters teen me could’ve really seen herself in. Fifteen stories in which our monstrousness belongs.
It is my wish that these stories ultimately bring you joy. That you find a story that comforts you, one that makes you feel seen and believe in the power of love.
I so hope you enjoy these tales that have captured my heart and soul.
Copyright © 2022 by Patrice Caldwell. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.