— Updated in November 2020 with even MORE books, yay! —
Do you like your romance mixed with 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.
Before we jump in:
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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. I really enjoyed this, and will be looking out for Lorien’s next book.
Content warning: References to a character’s past suicide attempt.
Diversity note: Lorien is queer.
“Rocío is one tired boricua. She’s tired of her tiny apartment, her lack of a social life, and her boring job. But when the ghosts of her tías start showing up to try to get her to change, will Rocío be brave enough to make the one change she really wants?”
This ownvoices f/f Latina retelling of A Christmas Carol is lovely, it really made my day. Rocio’s tías have SO many opinions about her (lonely) life, and they seriously want her to get back together with her ex-boyfriend. But Rocío can’t seem to stop thinking about another special person…
The ending is sweet, and I’m really looking forward to more from this author!
“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, alcohol use, main character’s attraction is partially due to influence (but came across to me that it would have been there anyway).
I haven’t had a chance to write a review for this one yet, but I enjoyed it so much.
“Connor’s life is always an absolute disaster around Valentine’s Day. Since he was just a kid, he’s had the power to see people’s soulmates and bring them together with a well-placed blow, and Valentine’s is his busiest season. Love has always been nothing more than a job to him at best, and a curse at worst. So when the beautiful Simon takes a barstool and buys Connor a drink, he looks like just another lonely soul in need of saving.
But, in Connor’s life, things are rarely that simple, and in the search for Simon’s soulmate, lines begin to blur. For a man who knows so much about falling in love, Connor never could’ve imagined a day when it might happen to him. As he experiences life like never before, Connor starts to realize that love might not be such a curse after all. Until he has to hand Simon over to his soulmate, anyway.”
Lovely paranormal, one of my new fave f/f 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 some more f/f in the future.
Diversity note: Noone is bi.
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.”
Diversity note: Thomas has a wife, though I don’t know how she identifies.
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!
Diversity note: Katz has a wife, though I don’t know how she identifies.
I was lucky enough to beta read this a while back, and I was so excited to buy and read the finished version.
“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.”
Diversity note: Emery is grey ace/pan and biracial. She/they pronouns.
A haunting polyamorous vampire romance from the POV of Elliott Iverson, a municipal employee in a world where vampires live openly, and some humans decide to join them by becoming legally dead. Eli goes to a vampire “warren” to resolve a paperwork issue. Richard, the head vampire, somewhat-accidentally bites Eli during a consensual threesome with Richard’s lover Matthew… which leads to Eli being declared legally dead against his wishes and required to stay in the warren for a full year.
As usual for McRae and Maltese, the story is written in present tense, and that works well with the “suspended in time” feeling that Eli’s life now has, cut off from everything and everyone he knows. Eli struggles to accept what’s been done to him, his continued feelings of attraction for both Matthew and Richard that wars with his justified resentment, and to figure out how he can forgive them enough to at least find his own peace, if not happiness, and maybe even love.
I was hesitant to read about a man falling for the people who are essentially his captors, because ick in real life. But I trusted McRae and Maltese, from reading their other work, that they wouldn’t sidestep the ethical complications around the power dynamics here. I appreciated the thoughtfulness of both process and outcome here that kept the complexity of the situation instead of sweeping it under the rug.
Diversity note: McRae and Maltese are both queer.
A jaw-dropping short story, free on the publisher’s website, about Louise, a world-weary vampire lady who teaches college lit, and Nicole, the attractive woman who joins one of her advanced classes. It’s a tantalizing meet-cute (meet-sexy?), so don’t expect a full story about two people getting to know each other and falling in love. This is how they find each other, nothing more, but it’s extremely compelling and intriguing.
If you’re in the mood for paranormal F/F and would enjoy something short and very well constructed, give it a chance. I was happy with it the way it is, but I would be 100% thrilled if in the future Hughes wrote the rest of these gals’ story.
I’m usually leery of teacher-student romances, but I felt like even before the full picture was revealed (which nullifies power differential concerns IMHO), the way things were handled didn’t creep me out.
Diversity note: Hughes is a lesbian.
Grey Jean-Marcelin, a bisexual Haitian-American artist who practices vodou (i.e. that is his religion), meets EMT Saint when Saint responds to Grey’s suicide attempt. Saint is a fae who survives by feeding on artists’ life force. Grey is losing his lifelong battle with depression. Saint can offer Grey the final relief he craves after years of failed treatments haven’t led to peace.
It’s a romance, so there’s a happy ending, but this is a dark book. Magical bargains with your life, doomed love, and the heartbreaking truth that we don’t yet know enough about mental illness to effectively treat it. Not an easy read, but powerful and beautifully written, with a desperation to the love story that makes the resolution such a relief. (And to reassure you, the resolution does not include a magic wand for depression.)
Sanders has just released a new remastered version, and I’m so excited to dig in! If your library has the older version, I’d still recommend you skip it and go for this version, because remastering it gave him the opportunity to make this book much truer to his vision.
Diversity Note: Sanders is Native AmeriBlAsian POC, demigray, and bi.
A sweet 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.
This is my favorite Amy Rae Durreson book so far, but after reading several, I’ve found it’s hard to go wrong with her work.
If you’d told me three years ago that I’d read and adore a romance novel involving a cat that can control people’s minds, I’d have laughed at you. How times have changed! The cat in question uses his powers for good, influencing his new owner Emerson – introvert, music store clerk, and apprentice instrument maker – to finally connect with his crush, once bitten twice shy musician Lola.
Unfortunately, having to bring a cat on dates isn’t a workable long-term strategy, so things get pretty complicated before Emerson and Lola get to their HEA. Recommended if you like adorable courtship involving handwritten letters, heroines moving past scars from previous relationships, and dramatic musical+romantic gestures. Really sweet.
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.
Diversity note: Hibbert is a pan, black, autistic woman.
Second chance M/M romance between FBI agent Rain Christiansen, currently on a watch list by his department after claiming he sees ghosts (which he does, but he never should have told anyone), and his ex-lover Daniel McKenna, a major crimes detective who still doesn’t really know why Rain left him years ago. They reconnect when Rain’s sent back to their Florida hometown to help Daniel’s department on a cold case, and wow do they still have both ridiculous chemistry and very little ability to communicate openly with each other.
Rain’s narration is acerbically hilarious, though he can sometimes be a real jackass. He can’t even get through Daniel picking him up at the airport without making a mess. Part of that is his loneliness and misery around the ghost thing, since he still suspects his visions are mental illness (for which he is medicated as our story begins – which unfortunately IMHO leads to the trope of “oh thank goodness I’m not mentally ill, this is real” and I wish the author had found a different way around that). As Rain accepts that reality does in fact include ghosts, that somewhat untangles his brain and heart, but there’s still a murder to solve and damage between him and Daniel that seems impossible to undo.
Rain’s voice is so damn funny, but it never undercuts the very real feelings here. These characters make a good team.
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.
Nevada Baylor is a private investigator with low-level magical abilities. Connor Rogan is a walking weapon, a heavy hitter magic user and head of one of the most powerful magical families. He’s also a former POW who came out of that experience with a very different moral code than Nevada’s. Their paths collide during one of Nevada’s cases, so they end up working together, and Connor makes it perfectly clear that he’s attracted to Nevada and intends to have her. What follows is a three book thrill ride of suspense, danger, magical attacks, political conspiracies, betrayal, and intricate worldbuilding that made me want at least 20 more books in this universe.
Two things in particular made this series a standout for me.
One, how difficult the path is for Nevada’s and Connor’s relationship. They are very different people in ways that can’t just be shuffled aside because they want to bang. For a decent chunk of the series, Nevada actively rejects Connor because she thinks he’s amoral, and he really cannot wrap his mind around what her problem is. They both have to work so hard at understanding each other and make compromises, especially Connor, because the way they see the world and other people is fundamentally different. Fascinating and quite distinctive among romance novels I’ve read.
Two, Nevada’s amazing family! She lives in a converted warehouse with her mom, grandma, sisters, and two cousins. Every single one of these characters is fascinating and wonderful and should have their own book. It was such a pleasure to read about an ass-kicking female character who isn’t a lone(ly) wolf.
Stunning collection of paranormal short stories about queer men, some of them romances, some of them heartbreaking, all of them the perfect length for what Burgoine wanted to share. It took me literal months to finish this because I didn’t want to run out of stories so I kept stopping for weeks at a time.
When you get it (or get your library to get it), my fave romances in the book are Time and Tide, The Psychometry of Snow, and Struck. The Finish and Heart are also gorgeous, but NOT romances. Then there are plenty of other wonderful stories as well.
An anthology of nine stories about gals falling for gals, ranging from what I think of as paranormal contemporary to fantasy. There were two paranormal contemporary standouts for me here that made it well worth picking up the whole collection.
The first is Dance With Me by Michelle Frost. It’s a classic grumpy PI meets bombshell client tale, except the PI is a motorcycle-riding werewolf and the client is a vampire heiress. Frost uses tropes so well without falling into cliche, and the worldbuilding is so intriguing that I’d definitely read more from her in this world.
The second is By Candlelight by Ziggy Schutz. Zoe is a young adult who passes away after a long illness. A ghost, who Zoe names Clotho, shows up to help Zoe finish any last tasks, such as comforting her family. As Zoe stays on Earth longer than Clotho wants her to, their relationship starts to change. This is a gorgeous story, so well crafted, I can’t possibly say enough good things about it. I especially love how Zoe uses a gender-neutral pronoun for the ghost until she gets more information. Diversity notes: (1) Both Zoe and Clotho are women of color. (2) Schutz is queer, using she/her or he/him pronouns.
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.
Diversity note: Kit has depression, and Holloway has mental illness.
Affairs of the Dead by A.J. Locke (out of print as of November 2020, I’ll update this when it’s republished / Goodreads)
A totally satisfying paranormal romance with a woman of color as the lead character, written by a woman of color. And it’s a SERIES YAY! Selene Vanream is a necromancer, here meaning that she can see and communicate with ghosts, working for a private agency that handles paranormal crimes and problems so the regular cops don’t have to. When she meets Ethan, a seeming ghost who claims he was kicked out of his body while still alive, which is totally not normal, both her job and her personal life start to go haywire. Micah, her one-night-stand from last year who’s hated her ever since, is assigned to be her partner, and the case they’re working points back to her ghostly evictee. Since Selene is ill-advisedly sleeping with her married boss and she’s using proscribed powers (punishable by mind wipe) to handle Ethan’s problems, things are going to get more complicated before they get better.
It’s by turns funny, sexy, spooky, and heartfelt in all the right places. Selene’s rebelliousness against bureaucracy mixed with dedication to getting her job done was a satisfying combination. I would have preferred that Selene’s explanation to Micah for having sex but not relationships had been “because I like sex” and not “because I didn’t feel worth being loved,” since I thought it would go better with her personality, but I’m willing to overlook it in the face of Selene’s general awesomeness.
The second book has just as much action and snark. I really enjoyed it, but content warning for some fairly harsh language around mental illness. Content warning for books 1 and 2 for attempted sexual assault and stalking.
Diversity Note: Locke is a woman of color.
And that’s the list of my favorite paranormal contemporary romance novels! If you have any reading suggestions, let me know, and as always, if you found this post helpful, please share it!