Vampires and Desire: Blood, Sex, and Ritual in Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy Fiction

Publication year

This item is given by Palgrave Macmillan as having been released online on "27 June 2023" so that's the year I've given for it. However, the collection as a whole has a date of 2024. I assume the discrepancy is due to the fact that this is a "Living reference work entry".

Here's the abstract:

Vampires remain an enduring icon. Over centuries, vampires have traversed literary genres, moving between liminal spaces of life and death, inhabiting cultural currents, and reflecting social anxieties. Using a literary framework, this chapter offers an analysis of the relationship between vampires and desire, as the latter remains central to vampiric representations in adult paranormal romance and urban fantasy fiction. In the paranormal romance genre, the codes and conventions of the vampire character as a grotesque or monstrous creature are adapted and recast as part of constructing a popular romantic lead. While these novels still recall the well-known characteristics of the vampire as a predatory figure, they also often display the undead as tender-hearted, or at times even love-sick, protagonists. Urban fantasy genres, however, remain generally unconstrained by notions of romance or an expectation of a “happily ever after.” Even with attempts to sanitize or popularize vampires within these literary genres, this chapter demonstrates that these iconic figures have not forsaken their murderous appeal, nor have they relinquished their transgressions in favor of being depicted as “good” over “evil.” It is the intention of this chapter, therefore, to analyze how the vampire’s uncontrollable desires are still continuously made manifest through notions of blood, lust, sexual cravings, and ritualized kinship.


A number of contemporary vampire narratives also call attention to the vampire’s heart and how it is perceived, each one being distinct in its representation. Arend’s VAMPS trilogy exemplifies this by claiming that the vampires’ “metabolic and circulatory systems have become incredibly efficient” and that their “hearts beat so slowly” that they are not even aware of them (2022: 108). In contrast, the vampires in Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series are fully dead, so their hearts do not beat. In Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood and Midnight Breed series, the vampires’ “six chambered” hearts beat and pump blood into bodies that are physically superior. While in Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series, vampires who have been “turned” originally occupy a dead body; as a result their hearts are still. However, when the pulse returns because of a romantic interest in a human companion, their latent sexual urges are also reawakened.


In Adrian’s Midnight Breed, the vampire’s human lover can only become pregnant if, during the sexual act, the vampire ejaculates at the same time as he drinks her blood. The dynamics of the act encircle the transactional exchange: as she gives him life with her blood, he returns that “life” back to her through his semen.


rituals defining vampiric marriage unions are familiar examples within paranormal romance novels such as Feehan’s Carpathians, Cole’s Immortals After Dark series, Adrian’s Midnight Breed, and Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood, where desire, devotion, and love are central arcs to the narrative plot.