Over at the blog of the Smart Bitches, a blog entry considers the surge in popularity of Urban Fantasy and the possible reasons for it.
Is it the romance? Is it the strong heroines? Is it both?
For me, it's more about the setting. I've only lived in "big cities." I have no memory of the small town of my birth. I have no experience with rural or smaller city living. I only know NYC and Miami. So, urban fantasy was fantasy within my own milieu, one that was vivid for me. I don't care if the protagonist is female or male, frankly (and my fave urban fantasy series has a male lead character). I like the weird juxtaposition of elements of fantasy within a modern, tech-touched setting. Old magic in a new world.
I am somewhat surfeited on vampires and werewolves, but wizards and women with unusual powers, or cities within or below or around cities (Underworlds, neverwheres, borderlands, faelands, etc) they're still bount to get my attention.
But the allure of female-centric stories with strong romantic sub-plots, yes, as a former romance genre junkie, I totally get why urban fantasy would please a nice subset of the romance world. I remember Silhouette Shadows--about 15, 16 years ago--with the paranormal mixing in with the romantic. And some other titles in other lines offered (and I'm sure still do) super-powered or mythical elements (a selkie hero, a genie, a fire-generating hunk, vampires, werewolves, visionaries, aliens). Futuristic fantasies melded mild sci-fi with strong relationships of the smoochy sort.
And we have readers who did, in fact, grow up with the kick-butt Buffy and the seductive Angel (and Spike). I can imagine those readers wanting to experience similar adventures in print.
Wanna see what the Smart B's had to say about it:Read it.