Do you like your romance with a twist of monsters or magic? This is the list for you. Witches, ghosts, vampires, fae, and even a cat that controls minds (really!) If any of this is your jam, read on, because I enjoyed all of these novels, novellas, and short stories. I hope you find something new to read and adore here. (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.
The Haunting of Killian McKay by Leigh M. Lorien (JMS Books / Amazon / Goodreads)
Meet-cute (meet-spooky?) between a dude who makes his living talking about hauntings on YouTube and a genderfluid witch. Killian McKay hires Lady Ivana to help him stir up some dramatic paranormal activity at a house that he knows, from personal experience, is haunted. Killian needs money to continue his show, and the (skeezy) dude he’s sleeping with has promised him help if he can make a big splash with this episode, so it’s now or never.
Lady Ivana shows up as Ivan, which confuses the rather distracted Killian for a bit. Once they clarify that Ivan doesn’t mean the gender-shifting is a magical thing, Killian’s like “oh cool you’re genderfluid well let’s get this ghost thing going.” Which Ivan does, far more than Killian was expecting. Personal revelations ensue, Killian’s life changes course in several ways, all ends well.
Content warning: References to a character’s past suicide attempt.
A Little Village Blend by ‘Nathan Burgoine (Bold Strokes Books / Amazon / Goodreads)
“According to Ivan’s sister Anya, Ivan’s tea leaves promise his perfect match is out there somewhere, just waiting to be swept off their feet. Ivan knows Anya’s always right—an annoying trait for a sister if ever there was one.
Ivan’s own knack with tea might not deal with the future, but it’s pretty good at helping with the here and now. When Walt, a tall, dark, and grumpy soldier shows up at his store, NiceTeas, in obvious need of a hand—and a dog-sitter—Ivan rises to the challenge and offers blends to make Walt’s life a little easier. There’s just no way he can help falling for the guy. But Anya says Walt’s not the one for Ivan, and the tea leaves don’t lie.
Is it worth steeping a here-and-now while waiting for the one-and-only? Ivan’s not sure, but everything tells him it’s all just a matter of finding the right blend.”
Alone and Palely Loitering by Julian Stuart (Amazon / Goodreads)
“Late one night, at a bar, two people meet over a cigarette. One of them is a cab driver. The other may or may not be real. A tale of assumptions, expectations, bad habits, and the importance of listening to your instincts. And most of all, about love and the strange places you find it.”
A fairy-tale feeling romance/romance-adjacent novella with an un-gendered main character, by an agender author. There’s a lot of pain in it, but a lot of beauty as well. I was absolutely captivated.
Content warnings: substance use, heavy alcohol use, sex does happen while the MC is drunk, main character’s attraction is partially due to influence. I initially read this in 2019. Re-reading it in 2023, I was less comfortable with the heavy alcohol use of the main character, but I didn’t feel like it crossed the line into dubcon. YMMV and that is valid.
A Shot of Cupid by Elizabeth Wilde (NineStar Press / Amazon / Goodreads)
Satisfying paranormal m/m romance novella about Connor, who has the power to see people’s romantic soulmates and make sure they connect – by punching them (weird) to deliver some kind of divine matchmaking energy. Interestingly, I’ve read this twice and still can’t find any language saying *everyone* has a soulmate. I would have expected that from a book with this setup, and I appreciated its absence. (If I missed something, let me know.)
Anyway, Connor meets Simon – who has the glowy look of someone with a soulmate, but Connor can’t see who it is. Connor hates the necessity of spending so much time with Simon waiting for his soulmate to appear on scene, because these two guys fall for each other fast, and it’s going to hurt when Connor has to match Simon with his destined partner. (I’m sure you see where this is going.) I love Simon and Connor’s bantery interactions, I found the worldbuilding around Connor’s powers intriguing, and I will definitely be looking out for more from Wilde.
Content warning: LOTS of drinking on Connor’s part.
The Ninepenny Element by K.L. Noone (JMS Books / Amazon / Goodreads)
Lovely paranormal, one of my fave sapphic romances. Verity Friday (leather jacket & boots, tattoos, witch) runs into Lia (corporate polish, lawyer) outside a bookshop. (I’m a sucker for oops you spilled my coffee meet-cutes, I’ve found, even though I don’t drink coffee!)
Verity’s used to living for other people, being the anchor for her magical family; is this a chance to have something for herself? There’s a curse, and some righteous justice, and Verity and Lia just like each other sooooo much…. Really good stuff. Can’t wait to see if Noone writes more sapphic romance in the future.
A Duet for Invisible Strings by Llinos Cathryn Thomas (Amazon / Goodreads)
I haven’t had a chance to write a review for this one yet, but I enjoyed it so much.
“Heledd, leader of the first violins, has been in love with her irrepressible conductor Rosemary for years.
She’s keeping a secret that means she can never be with Rosemary, but the time they spend working and performing together is enough for her – until a near miss with a speeding car forces her to reevaluate everything she thought she knew.
When the orchestra is mysteriously summoned to perform in the Welsh village where Heledd grew up – a village she hasn’t returned to in decades – the life she’s made for herself begins to unravel, and her secrets threaten to escape.”
Sea Lover by J.K. Pendragon (Amazon / Goodreads)
I’ve always been skeptical that I would enjoy a mer-people romance, but Pendragon made it happen with this novella. This is an M/M romance between a trans dude fisherman and a mer-dude who turns up injured on the beach. Ian, the trans dude, is fairly miserable and isolated before cheery, affectionate S’mika shows up in his life. Ian has distanced himself from people for various reasons, and S’mika has been cast out from the mer-people, so both would really benefit from making a connection with someone. Pendragon doesn’t let that be either too easy or too difficult, and at the end I just felt this warm happiness for these two guys.
Love Bites by Ry Herman (Amazon / Goodreads)
I really enjoyed how this sapphic paranormal romance is made up of not just POV chapters from the two MCs, but journal entries, short POV chapters from two friendly SCs, and scenes of one MC’s past that show us how she got to where she is now.
“Two years after a painful divorce, Chloë is still struggling to leave the house, paralysed by anxiety and memory. So when she’s bullied into a night of dancing by her busybody aunt and finds herself in a goth club, on her own, in a strange part of town, she isn’t looking for anything more than to pass the time until she can leave.
Then she meets Angela, a smart, beautiful astronomy Ph.D. student whose smile makes her heart pound. In Angela’s eyes, Chloë can see a future. Suddenly, home alone is the last place Chloë wants to be.
Trouble is, Angela can only come out at night. Angela doesn’t feel the cold. Angela doesn’t eat. Angela doesn’t have a pulse. Angela has sharp and deadly teeth.
Angela and Chloë might just be perfect for each other. But how do you build a life together when one of you is already dead?”
Note: This is billed as “laugh out loud” and some readers call it a rom-com, but there are some heavy themes here, including depression, on-page suicidal ideation by the mortal MC, on-page suicide attempts by the immortal MC, and extensive flashbacks to an emotionally and physically abusive relationship that ended very badly.
Empty Vessels by Meredith Katz (Amazon / Goodreads)
Creepy darker urban fantasy M/M romance with ghosts, prophetic dreams, animated toy dolls, and a boy with antlers. Our hero is Keith, a college student who was almost killed in an accident several years ago. A passing stranger, Lucas, saved Keith but lost his own life in the process. After the accident, Keith was suddenly able to see what he calls Others, magical creatures he never had seen before. This includes Lucas, now a ghost and tethered to Keith. When Keith has a dream that monsters are attacking Others, he and Lucas start to investigate. They connect with deer guy Hildraeth, the trio closes in on a spooky abandoned house in the woods… you know nothing good ever comes from spooky abandoned houses in the woods, right?
The fantasy/mystery plot was well done, but what I loved even more was the conflicted connection between Keith and Lucas, and how it starts to change as Keith admits his attraction to Hildraeth. It’s like a chemical process that begins once a new element is added and doesn’t stop until everything’s different. I hate to say more because it’s almost spoilery, but I was seriously impressed by how deftly Katz handled three very different men and their emotions, especially Keith’s journey from such social isolation to his HFN.
Update: The sequel, If Wishes Were Fishes, was really good too!
Edge of the Woods by Jules Kelley (Amazon / Goodreads)
This queer M/F (they’re both bi yay!) werewolf paranormal has a satisfying slow burn romance subplot, and it’s become one of my comfort re-reads. Haley Fern is the new pack alpha in the small town of Pine Grove, Montana. Leland Sommers takes a job as deputy in Pine Grove to get away from his painful past. Problem is, the FIRST DANG THING he runs across in town, before he’s even! started! work! is a teenager who’s just been bitten by a werewolf and will be turning shortly.
Not that he knows that. Leland doesn’t know anything about werewolves. And it’s Haley’s job to keep it that way, even though sparks fly between the two of them immediately. Chaos, as they say, ensues.
I love Jules Kelley’s writing, always. I adored Haley and Leland being very real and attractive people rather than the traditional thin airbrushed hotties you see on so many paranormal covers (who are fine! but I like variety in my MCs!). The trouble they run into trying to, uh, consummate their relationship had me cracking up. The book has plenty of suspenseful action of the non-bedroom variety as well.
Frostbite by J. Emery (Amazon / Goodreads)
I was lucky enough to beta read this a while back, and I was so excited to buy and read the finished version. It’s lovely.
“All spoiled vampire Ezra wanted was a night of fun. Drinks, dancing, and hopefully a lot of sex. What he gets instead is kidnapped by a rival vampire clan. He escapes his captors only to end up lost in the woods. In the middle of a blizzard. Seeking refuge from the cold and snow leads him to a seemingly empty cabin.
Morgan just dropped a bomb on his family for Christmas—after years of training in the family monster hunting business he’s quitting, effective immediately. To escape their judgment he runs away to a friend’s cabin for a week of solitude. No family. No phones. Unfortunately the cabin has a little vampire problem: Ezra.
But this vampire is unlike any monster Morgan has come up against before. For one thing, Ezra is dressed in five inch heels and follows Morgan around like a lost puppy. For another, Morgan can’t stop thinking about what it would be like to kiss a vampire instead of killing one. And the longer the snow keeps them trapped together the more vampire and hunter wonder if they’re really meant to be enemies at all.”
Sleeping Dogs by A.L. Lester (Amazon / Goodreads)
I really enjoyed this short, especially the midlife main characters. We don’t see enough older people in romance!
“Alice doesn’t think she’s ready to start dating again. Or even to make new friends in the village where she’s come to live with her sister’s family. Will a rainy autumn day and an encounter with a mysterious black dog, a beautiful woman and a fox cub change her mind?
A 10,500 word Halloween short story in the Celtic Myths Collection. With dogs, bats, a camper van with a woodburning stove and a fox cub.”
Spindrift by Amy Rae Durreson (Amazon / Goodreads)
A tender M/M romance blended with a suspenseful ghost story about queer history, set in a seaside British village. Siôn Ruston is a gay actuary and amateur artist whose depression and insomnia led to a suicide attempt three months ago, so he’s on medical leave and renting a cottage to recover and paint. It’s going fairly well until the morning he sees a ghost in his bedroom.
At the village museum, he’s shocked to see the ghost again… but it’s not the ghost, it’s his descendant, gay college student Mattie Jopling. Outgoing Mattie flirts like other people breathe and immediately takes a shine to Siôn. Siôn has no idea why young, vivacious Mattie would be interested in him and tries to resist so he won’t get hurt later, but Mattie’s irresistible, especially with the two spending all this time together researching the ghost. What they discover is a tragic secret from the past that threatens Siôn and Mattie’s possible relationship, as well as their lives, because omg drama scary stuff no spoilers but y’all, Durreson knows how to creep me out.
She’s also a darn good writer of people. Mattie is so young emotionally, not in a bad way, but this is so realistic in his perceptions and relationship skills. The characters are “only” nine years apart, but the contrast between them is striking, heightened by how isolated Siôn has been since college. Siôn’s mental state is still a little shaky, but he has some tools, and Durreson writes his rough days with respect for the work he’s done and without melodrama.
Mating the Huntress by Talia Hibbert (Amazon / Goodreads)
A paranormal f/m romance that I found hilarious, both in a “laugh out loud because it’s funny” way and in a “laugh because these characters are such dorks” way.
Chastity is from a family of monster-hunters. Luke is a werewolf who’s decided she’s his mate. She’s determined to kill him, except they can’t stop making out, and also he baked her some cupcakes. A not-too-serious take on the “fated mates” werewolf trope, focusing on adoration instead of irresistible biological urges and possession. A Halloween romance, but feel free to read it anytime for some light entertainment.
The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires by Molly Harper (Amazon / Goodreads)
I feel weird thinking of a book with some fairly serious threats of violence as “lighthearted,” but that’s where this vamp romance sits in my brain. No angst on the relationship front, a mystery that I was always confident would be solved, and plenty of entertaining insults between concierge-to-the-undead Iris and vampire investigator Cal. The tone is snappy and humorous, and the secondary characters are super enjoyable, especially Iris’s teenage sister Gigi.
Content warning for attempted sexual assault (don’t mess with Iris, you skeevy vamp!), but if that’s not a barrier and the plot looks fun to you, go for it.
Black Magic Glitterbomb by Sage C. Holloway (out of print as of August 2019, I’ll update this when it’s republished / Goodreads)
Black Magic Glitterbomb is NOT a metaphor but an actual thing, and also there are evil cupcakes in this novella, so I’m not REALLY sure I need to say more. In case that’s not enough to sell you, though… This story begins when Benji Seung, a Korean-American dark magician with slightly more ethics than his colleagues, begrudgingly takes in Kit, a homeless younger man who was about to get murdered by dark(er) wizards. Kit is the upbeat practicality to Benji’s grumpy pessimism (he’s probably my favorite cranky guy in all of romance), and Benji can’t resist feeling… something… for his new ward. Something he might want to explore, maybe possibly, if they weren’t so busy avoiding the people who are trying to KILL THEM.
It’s fluff, kinda spoofy, not too complex, and exactly the short, fun read I was hoping for. It doesn’t take itself seriously at all and I found that delightful. Holloway doesn’t try to give her characters their One True Love Forever, just connects a couple of guys who find each other attractive, get along, and end up boyfriends after evading evil. In a bakery.
And that’s the list!