13 Paranormal Historical Romance Novels I Adore

I had no idea how much I’d love the paranormal historical genre in romance! Here’s a roundup of my favorite (so far) paranormal historical romance novels, novellas, and short stories, in case you also appreciate some ghosts and whatnot with your tales of smooching. (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 Scandalous Letters of V and J by Felicia Davin (Kobo Plus / Amazon / Goodreads)

THIS NONBINARY ROMANCE IS FREAKING AWESOME! I know because I beta read it and I was like “Why do you even need someone to beta read this? Just publish it so I can tell people to buy it.”

“Paris, 1823. Victor Beauchêne has led a stifling existence, unrecognized for both his cleverness and his gender, except in the pages of his meticulous diary. Abruptly cut off from his family’s fortune, he takes the opportunity to start a new life in a shabby boarding house with his beloved spinster aunt Sophie. There, he stumbles upon two kinds of magic: a pen with eerie powers of persuasion and a reserved, alluring art student named Julien.

Brilliant, unconventional Julien is also Julie, a person whose magical paintings can transform their body or enchant viewers. Haunted by a terrible episode in their past, they’ve come to Paris for artistic success—the ordinary, non-magical kind. Victor, too handsome and far too inquisitive, is a dangerous distraction from their ambitions.

Drawn to each other, Victor and Julie strike up a cautious correspondence of notes slid under doors. It soon unfolds into a passionate romance. Outside the bedroom, their desires clash: Julie wants to distance herself from the world of magic and Victor wants to delve deeper. When the ruthless abuser from Julie’s past resurfaces, he aims to take control of her powers and ruin more lives. Victor and Julie are the only ones who can stop him. Do they trust each other enough to survive the threat to their love and their lives?

The Scandalous Letters of V and J is a historical fantasy romance with two nonbinary main characters, told primarily in letters and diary entries.”

Heart of Stone by Johannes T. Evans (Amazon / Goodreads)

Just gorgeous. Paranormal historical gay romance in 1764 between a vampire and his human clerk. ADHD and autism rep, super slow burn (with deliciously intense pining!). Truly seeing each other and forging the emotional connection over time is arguably more precious than the ultimate romantic and sexual relationship. Though that bit is also lovely.

“The year is 1764, and following a glowing recommendation from his last employer, Henry Coffey, vampire, takes on a new personal secretary: young Theophilus Essex. The man is quite unlike any secretary – or any man, for that matter – that Henry has ever met.

Henry Coffey, immortal and ever-oscillating between periods of delighted focus upon his current passion project, is charming, witty, and seems utterly incapable of closing his mouth for more than a few moments; in contrast, Theophilus Essex is quiet and keenly focused, adopting an ever-flat affect, but as time goes on, he relaxes in his employer’s presence.

Craving resounding intimacy but with an ever aware of the polite boundaries for their situation, Coffey and Essex perform a slow dance as they grow closer to one another, and find themselves entangled.”

Caroline’s Heart by Austin Chant (Amazon / Goodreads)

Why I loved Caroline’s Heart: aside from both main characters being trans and bi (representation yay!), there’s a gentle cowboy with lovely manners, some spooky-as-hell magic done by cranky witch, and Austin Chant is freakin’ gifted with the English language. So many sentences in this novella kicked me right in the heart. It’s about loneliness, loss, the burden of keeping secrets, and finding a person with whom you can be your whole self, but it never feels heavy. The story ends with such a feeling of relief, hope, and home. The blurb for this book centers Cecily, but Roy’s the emotional heart (no pun intended) of the story, the one who coaxes Cecily alive and holds her up when she needs it.

Set in 1885 in both Texas (including Austin, yay!) and Oregon, but with no road trip, because witches have better travel options than non-magical people.

For a really good, long review of it by someone who writes about books far better than I ever will, see this take on Caroline’s Heart by X / Black Magic Reviews.

All Manner of Hats by Elva Birch (Amazon / Goodreads)

Valentina is an *extremely* put together & proper milliner and widow. Charlotte is her brash & fiery rival for the hand of a well-to-do gentleman… whom both gals have set their sights on for reasons very much other than love. That rivalry + an inconvenient attraction between them + a supernatural mystery to solve might sound like a lot for one novella, but Birch pulls it off gloriously by keeping a tight focus and a fast pace.

Loved the story, loved the ending, and I hope the author wasn’t teasing when she said in the end note that we might see Valentina and Charlotte again.

Imperfect Illusions by Vanora Lawless(Amazon / Goodreads)

“Chicago, 1917.

Idealistic, aspiring poet, Elliot Stone can make people feel euphoria or horror with a simple touch. But that’s only part of his magical abilities. He can also wake in the dreams of people he cares deeply for.

Stubborn, fiercely independent Warren “Sully” Sullivan is an illusionist with a secret of his own: he feels the emotions of others as visceral sensations. That, and a lifetime of fending for himself, has left him guarded.

On their last night of freedom before shipping off to training—military and magic—Elliot and Sully indulge in an explosive, emotional night together. Elliot assumes it’s a one night stand and nothing more, until he awakens in Sully’s nightmare. The urge to rescue Sully is impossible to resist. And when dream-Sully begs him to keep coming back, something Sully would never do while awake, Elliot can’t resist that either.

As real life draws them into battle, their shared dreams become a refuge that only Elliot recalls. So when Elliot has the opportunity to recruit Sully to the secret elite unit of magical soldiers he leads, he’s willing to risk everything for the man he’s fallen in love with in dreams. But being away from the front lines doesn’t mean Sully’s safe. Now they battle enemies with twisted magic where their secrets are a liability.

Can they bring their dreams—and love—to life? Or will the war cost them everything?”

Romancing the Inventor by Gail Carriger (Amazon / Goodreads)

The lighthearted slow burn paranormal Victorian steampunk lesbian romance I never knew I needed, but I totally did.

Imogen Hale goes into service with a vampire hive because she can’t figure out how else to avoid expectations to marry a man, and also because she suspects there’s “perverted” sex going on in the hive and how else is a gal with sinful (i.e. same-sex) desires supposed to get lucky? Inventor Genevieve Lefoux, who wears “men’s” clothing, is an indentured servant to the vampires after a slight misjudgment involving a rampaging attack in London with a mechanical octopus.

The setup sounds a bit ridiculous, but there’s a genuine love story here within the genre fun. Imogene sees Genevieve and both her heart and body say “YES, YOU!” Genevieve sees Imogene and says “Thanks, but I’d rather not, because many excuses, but you’re great at mathematical calculations so help me in my lab.” Imogene is fine with working in the lab, but hell if she’s giving up on this amazingly perfect woman! The will-they-won’t-they often makes you want to whack them both on the back of the head with a newspaper, but it’s hard to stay mad because they’re both so damn cute. Also, there’s a lot of interference that isn’t their fault, such as class issues, employment contracts, and of course the damn vampires.

This is a spinoff of Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate multi-series universe, but I hadn’t read any of the Parasolverse before I read this and I had no trouble with it whatsoever.

Content warning: Attempted sexual assault on page.

The Spirits Trilogy by Jordan L. Hawk (Amazon / Goodreads)

Baltimore, late 1800s, a time when belief in ghosts and mediums ran rampant… and in this series, that belief is true. This is a suspenseful rivals-to-lovers tale with angry ghosts and significant critique of privileged folks who act like jerks. (So relevant to my interests!)

Henry Strauss is a gay inventor who believes in using science to banish hauntings, after his family was financially ruined by a fraudulent medium. Vincent Night is a gay Native American medium and former street kid whose last exorcism led to the death of his mentor, leaving Vincent afraid of his own powers. They’re invited to compete against each other to de-haunt a mansion with a malevolent ghost. The immediate sparkage between flirtatious fashionista Vincent and uptight scientist Henry is compelling and sexy. The ghost story is chilling and suspenseful. Both the science and the paranormal magic system are appropriately interesting. If that’s all we got here, I’d have no complaints.

What’s layered on top, though, and which I found very entertaining, is “liberal” white guy Henry repeatedly being forced to acknowledge and fix his ignorance. Henry is the guardian for his younger biracial African-American cousin Jo, so he has gotten a couple clues from that, but that doesn’t mean he’s automatically a thoughtful, enlightened person on all other topics. Several other characters and the author have zero interest in letting Henry off the hook for his screwups, and it’s enormously satisfying to see him apologize properly and grow as a result.

The second book, Dangerous Spirits, was just as satisfying. The haunting is truly frightening, and Hawk wasn’t afraid to complicate things for Henry and Vincent by repeatedly punching the button marked “Henry’s insecurities.” I was quite pleased to hear that Hawk’s working on a third book for these guys. [Update November 2018: I read the third book of the trilogy, and it was lovely!]

Content warning: In the first book, a trans character is outed, threatened, and physically assaulted by a Bad Guy, so it won’t work for some people, and that’s okay. Take care of yourselves, folks!

God Rest Ye Merry Vampires by Liv Rancourt (Amazon / Goodreads)

A fun meet-cute-ish short story with bloodsuckers, set in 1913 on Christmas Eve in Seattle. Vampires infest the world and everyone knows it, so Clydie probably should have worn a more practical dress to the train station to meet her boyfriend late in the evening. I’m just saying, a gal whose sorority activities included weapons and hand-to-hand combat training might be a little more sensible. Chaos ensues, Clydie learns important information about both her fiance and her father’s charismatic assistant Lucas Storm, and the New Year promises to be quite different than the year that’s ending. (For anyone who’s read it, fangirl moment, the bit with the handkerchief near the end? So understated and yet packs such a punch, holy crow!)

If you like her writing style, also check out The Clockwork Monk (Free at Liv Rancourt’s site / Goodreads), an intriguing short story that combines espionage and the beginning of a romance in a steampunk alternate United States. Trevor is a spy tasked with finding a missing spy and retrieving an artifact called The Clockwork Monk. Trevor infiltrates the household of the Archbishop of Chicago and tangles with Father Stephen, who is probably not a Father. Or named Stephen. He is, however, tremendously attractive.

Salt Magic Skin Magic by Lee Welch (Amazon / Goodreads).

“Lord Thornby has been trapped on his father’s isolated Yorkshire estate for a year. There are no bars or chains; he simply can’t leave. His sanity is starting to fray. When industrial magician John Blake arrives to investigate a case of witchcraft, he finds the peculiar, arrogant Thornby as alarming as he is attractive.

John soon finds himself caught up in a dark fairytale, where all the rules of magic—and love—are changed. To set Thornby free, both men must face life-changing truths—and John must accept that the brave, witty man who’s winning his heart may also be about to break it. Can they escape a web of magic that’s as perilous as love?”

The Charm of Magpies trilogy by K.J. Charles and the related novel Jackdaw (Amazon / Goodreads)

Fairly dark magical adventure romance set in an alternate Victorian London. Magic is real, though kept hidden by a network of magical police. Lucien Vaudrey, Lord Crane, ends up hiring Stephen Day, one of these magicians, when a supernatural threat causes Lucien to make repeated attempts on his own life. It’s not at all awkward that Lucien’s family destroyed Stephen’s. Nope. Stephen’s not angry about that at all.

Three books in this series, each of which is a very compelling combination of (a) Lucien being a tall kick-ass rich motherf—- who’s SO unimpressed with backwards England after living in exile in China for years, (b) Stephen being a short, pissy, frighteningly powerful magician who Lucien can’t keep his hands off, and (c) some kind of terrifying and creepy paranormal threat they face together. Charles is known for her expertise and attention to historical detail, and she balances the paranormal threat and the passionate ongoing love story (the sex is often D/s) in each book exquisitely. There tons of great secondary characters, including believable villains, and enjoyable political infighting within the secret magical community.

Once you’re done, if you liked it, I highly recommend the spinoff novel Jackdaw and then the spinoff stories A Queer Trade and Rag and Bone. In that order.

The Bachelor’s Valet by Arden Powell (Amazon / Goodreads)

“Alphonse Hollyhock is blessed with wealth, class, and more beauty than brains. Though he hasn’t got a lick of wit or magic to his name, he’s perfectly content living life as an airheaded bachelor with his valet—the clever, unflappable Jacobi—by his side to ensure everything runs smoothly. All he lacks, according to his mother, is a wife.

Despite Alphonse’s protests, he’s to marry Aaliyah Kaddour: a bright, headstrong young woman who would probably be charming company if she didn’t threaten everything about Alphonse’s way of life. Marrying means giving up his fashionable flat, his fast car, and, worst of all, it means losing Jacobi.

Perhaps most distressingly, this talk of marriage is bringing all sorts of confusing feelings to the forefront. Because rather than falling for the beautiful girl being pushed into his arms, Alphonse seems to be falling for his valet. Except a man can’t fall in love with another man. Can he?

Meanwhile, Aaliyah has plans of her own. She’s as devious as she is pretty, but if Alphonse wants to get through this marriage business in one piece, he’ll have to trust her. Her and Jacobi, and, most dangerously, his own feelings.”

Redressed by Cat Sebastian (Free download / Goodreads)

A historical paranormal sapphic romance short story about a middle-aged seamstress and a vigilante selkie, which is free to download.

I really enjoyed this short, and I don’t think you need to have read any of Sebastian’s Turners series to appreciate it fully. It’s one of my fave sapphic romances. If you’d be into a middle-aged woman choosing her own happiness after successfully taking care of others for years, and you’re down with great justice done against bad men, check it out.

Like Fire Through Bone by EE Ottoman (out of print as of August 2019, I’ll update this when it’s republished / Goodreads)

E.E. Ottoman is possibly one of the smartest, most research-y queer romance novelists ever. This book is a perfect example of his strengths. In an alternate Byzantine Empire we meet quiet, capable Vasilios Eleni, who as a young man was captured in war, castrated, and enslaved. He’s now in his mid-thirties, a valued household business manager for a wealthy family. He has a mutual long-term crush on General Markos Ozdemir, a slightly older high-ranking soldier and politician in Vasilios’s owner’s circle. Markos’s mission to track down a child-kidnapping demon brings them together, because Vasilios is having precognitive visions of the demon. What follows is Vasilios and Markos working together to solve the case, including trips into the desert to fetch holy seers and whatnot, while finding out that yes, they they like each other for all the right reasons.

Consent is a huge issue in this book, and handled beautifully. Vasilios is enslaved, and thus can’t freely agree to a relationship. Both characters understand this, and it tears them up, but neither would want something to happen without Vasilios being able to say no. The situation finally changes not because Markos singlehandedly saves Vasilios, but because they both have caring friends. The deep respect for consent carries forward into their relationship. The end of the book is a slightly non-traditional HEA where Vasilios has what both parties want for him the most, self-determination, with Vasilios praying that their relationship works out but prepared to have a good independent life if that doesn’t happen. So appropriate for a character whose well-being was previously dependent on others’ goodwill.

If you’re a history nerd, you’ll also enjoy the detail that Ottoman weaves in about various households and political currents. And if you like women resisting power, you’ll appreciate who ends up defending Vasilios from his second master.

And that’s the list!