16 Fantasy Romance Novels To Sweep You Away

Welcome to my list of favorite fantasy romance novels, novellas, and short stories. I hope you find something new to read and enjoy! (Disclosure: Amazon links are affiliate links.)

Any book on this list I loved at the time I read it, whether I had a chance to write a review or not. Obviously a re-read years later might reveal a problematic aspect I didn’t pick up on back then. Please let me know via my contact form if you find something yikes in a book I recommend.

Dirt-Stained Hands, Thorn-Pierced Skin by Tabitha O’Connell (Amazon / Goodreads)

“Heron thought ey wanted to be with handsome, charming Tiel—but the relationship hasn’t quite lived up to eir expectations. With Tiel’s confidence comes a tendency to be overbearing, and now he wants Heron to leave eir farm life behind and move to town with him. And Heron can’t figure out how to explain to him that ey doesn’t want that.

When an accident strands Heron’s mother at a castle rumored to belong to a family of mages, Heron rushes off to make sure she’s all right—only to find the castle occupied by a single man who isn’t a mage at all. Prone to hiding behind his long mess of hair, the mysterious Theomer possesses a long-neglected, semi-magical garden. A job tending it is Heron’s perfect opportunity for some time away from Tiel while ey decides what to tell him.

Heron did not plan to be drawn in by Theomer’s attentive gaze and understated sense of humor. But as an undeniable bond forms between them, ey’s soon going to have a much bigger choice to make…”

A Chain of Beads by M. Arbon (Amazon / Goodreads)

M. Arbon writes excellent short stories. The emotions and worldbuilding in this one are amazing.

“‘In the middle of the hall there’s this kid standing. In one hand he’s got a knife — the kind all the students keep to sharpen their nibs and carve their names wherever it’s the most pain in the ass to sand them out — but that’s not what’s got everybody frozen, because in his other hand the poor mad kid is holding all his beads.’ Goodman Stone fled tragedy at home to build a new life doing odd jobs at a school in Frael. When one of the students does something unthinkable, Stone comes to his aid. He is helped by schoolmaster Caerel, and as the relationship between the two men deepens, Stone contemplates a decision that will once again reshape the life he’s strung together.”

Scales and Sensibility by Stephanie Burgis (Amazon / Goodreads)

“Sensible, practical Elinor Tregarth really did plan to be the model poor relation when she moved into Hathergill Hall. She certainly never meant to kidnap her awful cousin Penelope’s pet dragon. She never expected to fall in love with the shameless – but surprisingly sweet – fortune hunter who came to court Penelope. And she never dreamed that she would have to enter into an outrageous magical charade to save her younger sisters’ futures.

However, even the most brilliant scholars of 1817 England still haven’t ferreted out all the lurking secrets of rediscovered dragonkind…and even the most sensible of heroines can still make a reckless wish or two when she’s pushed. Now Elinor will have to find out just how rash and resourceful she can be when she sets aside all common sense. Maybe, just maybe, she’ll even be impractical enough to win her own true love and a happily ever after…with the unpredictable and dangerous “help” of the magical creature who has adopted her.”

Peter Darling by Austin Chant (Amazon / Goodreads)

An enemies-to-lovers gay trans Peter Pan retelling / sequel that is so good, it should be taught in college courses. Peter Pan returns to Neverland after a long absence, and we find out that in early 1900s “reality” he was named Wendy Darling, a trans man living as a cis woman. As a grown man, he was unable to continue the suffocating pretense and escaped back to Neverland.

Peter can’t cope with the changes he finds there and re-ignites his war with Hook in an attempt to reclaim the sense of rightness he once found. His Peter persona is self-centered, cruel, thoughtless, and impulsive, living out some seriously toxic and stereotypical masculinity, which leads to terrible outcomes for those around Peter. James Hook is surprisingly perceptive and patient, though also self-centered, vain, and with his own reasons for escaping from a life that isn’t kind to people who are different. Their growing and uneasy connection, now that Peter is an adult, leads to uncomfortable realizations about Neverland and why/how it functions as it does, as well as what they both need in order to move on.

So smart, so layered, so empathetic to its jerky characters. After you read it, make sure you listen to the March 2017 Hopeless Romantic podcast episode where Chant and his editor Amanda Jean recorded their thoughts at various stages of the writing and editing process for this book. Fascinating peek behind the scenes.

His Secret Illuminations by Scarlett Gale (Amazon / Goodreads)

Was so pleased to discover while reading this that I could add it to my queer M/F shelf. From how the She-Wolf describes herself, I think of her as pan. [Edited to add: I saw the author confirm this works fine.]

“By day, Lucían brews potions and illuminates manuscripts in service to the monastery that took him in as a child, wielding magic based in his faith and his purity. By night, he dreams of the world outside the cloister–a world he knows only in books and scrolls…

A mercenary known as the She-Wolf hunts for a shipment of stolen manuscripts. When she needs a mage to track them down, she chooses Lucían for both his adorable blushes and his magic. She purchases his contract, hurling him headfirst into an adventure that will test both his skills and his self-control…

Inexorably drawn to the She-Wolf’s strength, surprising kindness, and heated touches, Lucían fights temptation at every turn. His holy magic is both vital to their mission and dependent upon his purity. How can he serve both her and the Lord if he gives in to his desire? As intrigue and danger forces them closer, how can he possibly resist?”

An Offering of Plums by J. Emery (Amazon / Goodreads)

This short story romance between a man and a non-binary demon starts with attempted murder. It’s not the demon who’s at fault! Or the man, Tristan, who just wanted to have a nice picnic with his boyfriend. (Is that so wrong?!) Tristan’s badly shaken by what happened, as one might expect, and finds himself returning to the scene repeatedly, conversing with the demon, as he struggles with the trauma he experienced.

It’s a compassionate, well-constructed, comforting story about healing, and I really enjoyed it.

From The Dark We Came by J. Emery (Amazon / Goodreads)

And then I had to include this J. Emery pick as well…

“Belar has made lying into an art form. His neighbors know him as a mild mannered music teacher, but to his fellow monster hunters he’s a senior agent with one of the best track records in the organization. Werewolves, malignant spirits, and other oddities—you name it, he can track it. And kill it if necessary.

But when a vampire shows up in Belar’s parlor, his two worlds crash into each other. The vampire is named Cassian, and if he had any sense of decency he would be dead since Belar has already tried to kill him. Twice. Luckily, Cassian isn’t interested in holding a grudge. He wants to hire the hunter. Someone in vampire society wants Cassian dead and they’ve been using Belar to do their dirty work. Finding the culprit will save them both.

Their search for answers takes them through a nighttime world of ancient vampires, demon tailors, and monsters of pure shadow. But Belar hasn’t been the only one lying, and enemies and allies are harder to tell apart in the dark.”

The Hellriders in Love series by Parker Jaysen (Amazon / Goodreads)

The first magic + tech post-apocalyptic tale in this series jumped right onto my fave F/F romance list. Allie and Vick are exes and mages, trapped together for 40 days transporting cargo through a wasteland inhabited by demons and dragons, some with acid spit. Magical battles, some beautiful emotional writing as they both grapple with their feelings, and talking it out like grownups earns them their HEA.

The rest of the series continues the journey of the cargo, each one about a different F/F mage couple. Definitely worth a try if you’re into fantasy / sci-fi fusions and kick-ass gals.

Sorceress by K.L. Noone (Amazon / Goodreads)

“Lily learned magic from the last of the kingdom’s great sorcerers who disappeared a year ago, leaving her with a baby and with the responsibility of finding magical solutions for everyone’s problems. She’s overworked and exhausted, and not in the mood to have the king’s disreputable illegitimate half-brother knock on her door, demanding her help. But the king is ill, and the kingdom needs her … and the king’s brother might not be as dreadful as the rumors say.

Will knows his own reputation: the schemes for the throne, the plots and politics, the decadence of his bedchamber, and the lovers paid off with rubies. He’s worked hard on that reputation, after all — it ensures that he’s aware of all the Court intrigue, and can protect his kindhearted younger brother. He can’t protect his brother from a magical illness… but he can find the last powerful magician in the kingdom and beg for her aid.”

The Long Past by Ginn Hale (Blind Eye Books via Smashwords / Amazon / Goodreads)

Totally satisfying novella, a steampunky M/M second chance romance mixed with a magical adventure to save the world. In an alternate history United States, 1858, mages have torn open a hole in reality that let through massive amounts of floodwater and also dinosaurs. Survivors have mostly managed to carve out livable areas in what remains. African-American trapper Grove finds out his mage ex-boyfriend, Lawrence, is still alive (and his right hand is now prosthetic due to injury). Lawrence wants Grover’s help closing that pesky rift in the space-time continuum. Not everyone is on board with this plan, though, because rich white people would be more than happy to force a lot of “undesirables” through the rift for good. I adored how Hale was so attentive to race and class when building this world, and I loved both characters for their bravery and general awesomeness.

There are two other stories in this collection as well, set at later times in the same universe (one with a Jewish main character), so this collection a pretty good deal.

I also love Hale’s story Swift and the Black Dog (Amazon / Goodreads), a fantasy short story with HUGE worldbuilding and a stark look at the aftermath of teenage wizards fighting evil (i.e. child soldiers). Jack Swift, the main character, was one of those teenage wizards who overthrew an evil regime. Now someone in the new government – which isn’t as shiny as it was supposed to be – wants the surviving wizards dead. Jack connects with Owen Finch, a young man who’s part of the resistance, and together they track down who’s at the center of the attacks. I loved Jack’s darkness, Owen’s light, and the struggle between them to do what’s right, when they both have different understandings about what that is.

Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater (Amazon / Goodreads)

“It’s difficult to find a husband in Regency England when you’re a young lady with only half a soul.

Ever since a faerie cursed her, Theodora Ettings has had no sense of fear, embarrassment, or even happiness—a condition which makes her sadly prone to accidental scandal. Dora’s only goal for the London Season this year is to stay quiet and avoid upsetting her cousin’s chances at a husband… but when the Lord Sorcier of England learns of her condition, she finds herself drawn ever more deeply into the tumultuous concerns of magicians and faeries.

Lord Elias Wilder is handsome, strange, and utterly uncouth—but gossip says that he regularly performs three impossible things before breakfast, and he is willing to help Dora restore her missing half. If Dora’s reputation can survive both her ongoing curse and her sudden connection with the least-liked man in all of high society, then she may yet reclaim her normal place in the world… but the longer Dora spends with Elias Wilder, the more she begins to suspect that one may indeed fall in love, even with only half a soul.”

Lord Heliodor’s Retirement by Amy Rae Durreson (Amazon / Goodreads)

After a long, successful career in public service, Lord Adem Heliodor is asked to retire when it becomes clear to everyone that trauma from a terrifying magical attack is making it impossible for him to work. Since he was a hero during the attack, it seems terribly unfair to Adem, but what can you do when the Queen sends you away? Go back to your country estate and expect boredom, that’s what. Luckily for Adem, and probably his staff, his long-lost love Corun turns up – which is a big surprise, as Adem thought the man was dead.

I loved seeing older characters get their romance back, and the space Corum makes for Adem to process his trauma is a lovely thing. The pacing of this story is perfect for the hurt-comfort and healing to be well underway before dangerous plot pops up. It’s lovely and warm, and the villains get their dramatic comeuppance in the end.

I also rec her enemies-to-lovers book The Lodestar of Ys by Amy Rae Durreson (Amazon / Goodreads). Celyn is engaged to Sjurd’s younger brother, while Sjurd is promised to his female best friend, but everything changes when Sjurd’s kingdom is invaded. Celyn has to grow up fast and inadvertently becomes a diplomat, whereas Sjurd becomes even more gruff as he shoulders the burden of physically protecting his people. Then they have to marry each other.

How To Get A Girlfriend When You’re A Terrifying Monster by Marie Cardno (Amazon / Goodreads)

I read this sapphic fantasy romance in an anthology, and I’m excited it’s available on its own now because (a) it’s really fun and (b) this version is expanded from the short story I read. It’s a romance with plenty of adventure between Sian, a witch scientist, and Trillin, a shapeshifting breakaway piece of consciousness from an extradimensional eldritch creature. I love the additional story added here, with its HFN, and I’m excited there’s a next installment coming in July 2023 for this couple.

They do have some things to figure out, such as finding a way for Sian to look at Trillin in Sian’s own dimension without gibbering in terror. Sometimes the road to everlasting love is a bit tricky, but I believe in these two!

The Midwinter Mail-Order Bride by Kati Wilde (Amazon / Goodreads)

So completely not the kind of thing I usually read, but I really liked this f/m (non-queer) barbarian fantasy romance. A Conan-alike, Kael the Conqueror, finishes up conquering some kingdoms, then can’t understand why people are afraid of him. Come on, people, he knocked off the evil former king! Then he he finds out that the maidens who keep throwing themselves at him are only doing it because they’re scared he’ll go on a rampage if he isn’t kept happy, and he’s appalled at the idea of having a woman in his bed because of fear. So he swears off women. He also can’t figure out why bureaucracy sucks so much, and all in all this whole “king” business just seems like a bad idea.

One of his staff sends missives to every kingdom they can think of looking for a willing bride to de-grumpify the boss, and only one princess shows up: Anja of Ivermere, the only non-magical person from a kingdom full of magic users. And because tropes are fun, they end up on a road trip.

Various things happen, but what struck me as the heart of this book was Kael listening to and believing Anja about her life. Which doesn’t sound like a big thing, except that Anja has never had that before. She may as well be from the Kingdom of Gaslighting, her parents suck so much. It’s amazingly powerful that Kael listens to Anja and basically says “I believe you. Also, you’re valuable, don’t doubt yourself.”

I showed up for the barbarian and the princess, I got a love story about believing and validating women. Who knew?

The Raven and the Reindeer by T. Kingfisher (Amazon / Goodreads)

Not quite a romance novel, but readers who want fantasy + F/F love stories shouldn’t miss this.

A fantasy quest story that turns the Snow Queen fairy tale upside down, blended with an opposites attract F/F romance subplot between Gerta, an insecure farm girl and Janna, the canny bandit who takes her prisoner to save her life. The tale starts when Gerta’s neighbor Kai, the boy she’s hopelessly in love with, is… well, Gerta thinks he’s been abducted by the Snow Queen, but the reader is pretty clear that Kai goes willingly, just as the reader is pretty clear that Kai doesn’t love Gerta back and is kind of a jerk. But Greta doesn’t get it yet, and she’s a fiercely loyal friend, so she sets off to rescue him. The journey that follows is magical, funny, and emotionally wrenching. Talking creatures, noble sacrifices, Gerta’s growing bond with Janna… well, let’s just say that Kingfisher is IMHO one of the best fantasy writers around and I can’t imagine how this book could have been more perfect. Feminist fairy tale retellings with queer girls, hurray!

Alexey Dyed in Red by A.M. Valenza (out of print as of August 2019, I’ll update this when it’s republished / Goodreads)

Satisfyingly complex, though sometimes very dark Russian-flavored fantasy mystery combined with an M/M/M romance between two demons and a wizard. Alexey’s the wizard. He was perfectly happy to spend his time eating pastries and hanging out in the library in the city of Kalinstrad, which kind of adopted him after he turned up there with amnesia. His cozy life, though, is interrupted when two of the Emperor’s servants come to town. Porfiry and Vasiliy are Darkrow, a.k.a. magic-users, and both are demons. They sense something strange about Alexey’s magic, and as they begin to train him it’s like pulling a thread from a web of secrets. I really enjoyed how Valenza rolled out the clues to Alexey’s past and how things unraveled. Alexey’s slightly bratty personality was a delight, and I loved the distinct personalities of each of his Darkrow lovers. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

Content warning: This gets kind of out there at times. Cannibalism in backstory, but it’s, uh, consensual, connected to magic? Some gore is described in flashbacks.

And that’s the list! Hope you found something new and interesting for your TBR!