Helena Rookwood: 5 Books To Read If You’re Excited About Disney’s Live-Action Version of Aladdin

It starts with that first glimpse of smoke-and-sand clouded rooftops, the calls of “Stop, thief!” and the crash of a body hurtling through narrow, winding alleyways.

Then the music starts. That familiar, evocative tune that makes you feel like you’ve wandered right into a mysterious, magical bazaar.

Disney’s new live-action adaptation of Aladdin looks like it’s going to be spectacular.

We’ve enjoyed the films they’ve brought out so far (anyone else find themselves sobbing continuously through Beauty and the Beast?), and Aladdin is high on our list of films we loved as kids, so our expectations are high, our desire to see the desert stars is great, and our love of smart-mouthed genies has been rekindled.

In fact, since getting our first glimpse of the trailer, we can’t seem to get our fill of strong-willed princesses, wish-granting djinnis, and magic carpet rides.

And since we love a good fairytale retelling, we’ve been voraciously reading all the Aladdin retellings, Arabian Nights inspired stories, and desert-based dramas we can get our hands on.

If you’ve also been looking for romantic fantasy books which will take you to a whole new world, we’d recommend you start with these…

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

US Weekly described The Wrath and the Dawn as a “Game of Thrones meets Arabian Nights love story” – and what’s not to love about a concept like that?!

In the land of Khorasan, each night its eighteen-year-old ruler takes a new bride. Each morning, she is executed. But when sixteen-year-old Shazi, vengeful after her best friend was executed,  volunteers herself, she soon discovers that there’s more to these murders – and this young ruler – than it first appeared…

This is a beautiful, lyrical book. If you love a mystery dragging you through your epic fantasy, and plenty of angst about whether your heroine is falling in love with a murderer, this is the book for you.

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

In this Aladdin retelling, Jessica Khoury reimagines the story as a romance between Aladdin and a female djinni called Zahra. There’s no insta-love here, so the romance feels rewarding – and all the more devastating when Zahra is offered the chance to be free of the lamp forever… if only she betrays Aladdin.

With a strong female lead, a carefully constructed romance, and rich world-building,we think this is everything a fairytale retelling should be.

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

Set in a world inspired by Arabia, this is one of the most talked about young adult fantasy books of 2019.

Zafira is legendary for being the only hunter brave enough to go into the forest of the Arz – but no one knows she’s a woman. Nasir is an infamous prince charged with assassinating those foolish enough to defy his father, the sultan.

This book definitely lives up to the hype. There’s so many clever plot twists, *incredible* world-building (especially the descriptions of food – don’t read this when you’re hungry!), and we love an enemies-to-lovers romance.

City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty

City of Brass follows the story of Nahri, a thief and fortune-teller based in Cairo who accidentally summons a warrior spirit, and a Daeva prince called Alizayd.

This magical story set in 18th-century Cairo leads the reader on a fascinating journey through the mythology of djinn and other desert spirits in Middle Eastern folklore. Perfect for those who want a deep-dive into the spirit world.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

This is the first in a gritty, epic series that slowly builds until you can’t stop turning the pages. Told with an alternating POV between Laia, a lowly scholar who’s dragged into a resistance effort she didn’t want to be a part of, and Elias, who’s desperate to get out of the regime Laia’s fighting against.

This one’s not strictly speaking an Aladdin retelling, but we think the healthy dose of Middle Eastern-inspired folklore, elaborately constructed fantasy world, and romantic feels earn An Ember in the Ashes a place on this list.

And here are a few other honorable mentions if you still haven’t had your fill…

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston

Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

Have you read any of the books on this list? Which is your favorite? Comment below!

About the Author

Helena Rookwood has spent a long time researching all there is to know about Faerie, and she’s happiest when she’s poring over old books and imagining what the world used to be like.

More recently, Helena has also been wondering what the world might be like in the future – whether there will ever be a turn back to the Old Ways, when people cared about stories and the little people and the land they lived on. This was the starting point for her River Witch series, a deliciously dark tale about fairies and witches and earth-magic which is set in post-technology Britain. She promises you’ll love it!

Find her at:

Helena Rookwood and Elm Vince have a new release inspired by Aladdin, too:

An imperious sultan, an ancient djinni, and a wild princess who wishes to rule…

The Sultan of Astaran was promised the greatest beauty the kingdoms had seen in centuries – an accomplished, raven-haired princess who caught the eye of even the desert spirits. Unfortunately for the sultan, he got Zadie instead.

With dreams of becoming a powerful sultanah, Zadie never expected the sultan to be quite so haughty and traditional. Or so handsome.She definitely didn’t expect to be dealing with brazen bandits, wily spirits, and mysterious thieves.

But Zadie’s determined to prove herself to the sultan and his court. And now she’s stumbled on a secret that might just help her get her wish…

The Girl with Seven Wishes is episode 1 in the romantic fantasy serial Desert Nights, a fairytale retelling inspired by Aladdin and Arabian Nights.

New installments in this series of novellas release every 18 days. It’s perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, Sabaa Tahir, and Rae Carson.

Scroll up and one click now to start reading the Desert Nights series today! FREE in Kindle Unlimited.

15 Books to Read If You Love Warrior Women

We here at Romantic Fantasy Shelf thought it a good time to celebrate our favorite fierce warrior women and magic users in a post of books about women who fight hard and fall in love. These books were selected by our administrators and community members. We hope you find your next favorite read!

1. Graceling by Kristin Cashore

In a world where some are bestowed with special gifts, Katsa is given the gift of killing. An action-packed fantasy that tackles what it means to be strong.

“I absolutely adored Katsa. She was such a fierce, independent heroine…”

Amazon Reviewer

2. First Test by Tamora Pierce

One woman fights to realize her dream of becoming a knight amidst discrimination. This is a fantastic tale about persistence despite opposition.

“This series tackles weighty issues like sexism, bullying, classism, poverty, crime, and the injustice of law head-on, all while never once sacrificing the suspense and delight of the story itself. “

Amazon Reviewer

3. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

A deadly assassin must win a contest against the most wicked, bloodthirsty men in the kingdom for a chance to win her freedom.

“I couldn’t put the damn book down! From the moment I started reading I was entranced in a world I had never been yet felt like I had known my whole life.”

Amazon Reviewer

4. The Blue Sword by Robin Mckinley

Exceptional prose, strong characterization, and an imaginative world that readers adore.

“A strong female lead, horses, swords, magic… i read it probably a dozen times. “

Amazon Reviewer

5. By the Sword by Mercedes Lackey

An action-packed romantic tale about one woman’s journey to realize her destiny.

“This is one of my favorites books of all time. Lackey writes very real, very diverse characters and her Heralds of Valdemar series has the best fantasy world I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.”

Amazon Reviewer

6. Steelflower by Lilith Saintcrow

An adventure story featuring a foul-mouthed assassin and her companions. Filled with action and romance that readers rave about.

“The world that Saintcrow constructs pulled me in and her characters were alive and emotionally invaded my life it seemed.”

Amazon Reviewer

7. Steal the Dragon by Patricia Briggs

A slave turned assassin, political unrest, and plots abound in this exciting romantic adventure.

“This takes you into a completely different world with heroes, villians, magic and much more with a plot that twists and turns – P. Briggs at her best!”

Amazon Reviewer

8. Embellish by Demelza Carlton

A fun and fast-paced retelling, mixed with a great romance.

“I loved this story. A great female role model, a great equal relationship between the two main characters and supportive families in the background.”

Amazon Reviewer

9. Mercenary by Catherine Banks

A human girl raised by elves fights for her place at the mercenary academy, despite her parents’ opposition and fending off kidnap attempts.

“The characters were outstanding and I enjoyed the pacing: fast, and action-filled.”

Amazon Reviewer

10. Duel of Fire by Jordan Rivet

In a world where swordfighting is king, one girl is paired with an indifferent prince. A story packed with magic, battles, and danger

“The author’s merging of prose and world building is sublime. “

Amazon Reviewer

11. Savages by Katherine Bogle

A warrior with a dark past and a fight for freedom that may just cost her life. An epic story that you can get lost in!

“This book had me gripped from the time I picked it up”

Amazon Reviewer

12. Ishtar’s Blade by Lisa Blackwood

A woman chosen by the goddess as her warrior maiden, a kingdom ripe with intrigue and romance that will leave you swooning.

“It’s not too often that I can’t put a book down, but this was definitely one of those times. I loved the fresh, intriguing mythology. “

Amazon Reviewer

13. The Shadow and the Sun by Monica Enderle Pierce

A story packed with action and romance, featuring a badass heroine and hero you’ll fall in love with.

“I loved that a woman was the hero of the story, which is something lacking in this genre. I LOVE a good dose of girl power! “

Amazon Reviewer

14. The Fifth Knight by Clare Luana and Jesikah Sundin

A clever take on the usual King Arthur retelling. This reverse harem is packed with action and slow burn romances.

“Every page is filled with gorgeous, poetic prose and deliciously vivid imagery that makes it easy to fall into the magical world that Luana and Sundin have masterfully created. “

Amazon Reviewer

15. Curse of the Fae Queen by Delia Castel

A fae huntress, a curse, and a slow-burn why-choose romance that we think you’ll love.

“It is such a beautiful tale that I couldn’t get enough of from page one. I want more!!! Now!!”

Amazon Reviewer

Do you have any recent reads you’d add to the list? Comment below!

About the Author

Nicolette is a native San Diegan with a passion for the world of make-believe. From a young age, Nicolette was telling stories, whether it be writing plays for her friends to act out or a series of children’s books (which her mother still likes drag out to embarrass her with in front of company). 

She still lives in her imagination, but in reality she resides in San Diego with her husband, children, a couple cats, and an old dog.  She loves reading, attempting arts and crafts, and cooking.

Reach her at:

Nicolette also writes books about warrior women, with her latest being Okami:

(Romantic Fantasy Shelf March 2019 Book Club Winner)

An enemies-to-lovers romance set in ancient japan.

“I was honestly so hooked on this story that I couldn’t put it down. The characters are very strong and well written… the story and plot flowed well with many twists and turns.”

Amazon Reviewer

Jaycee Jarvis: In Defense of Beta Heroes

I’m a huge fan of beta heroes both as a reader and a writer, so I wanted to explore how beta heroes play out in fantasy romance and romantic fantasy, and make a few reading recommendations along the way.

Beta heroes are generally defined as softer, emotionally intelligent people who are willing to take directions and listen to advice, both from their romantic partner and from other characters in the book. They are in direct contrast to the ever popular, take-charge, domineering alpha heroes. Because alphas are often larger than life, it is easy for beta heroes to get dismissed as weak or–worse yet–boring, when in fact being willing to do the emotional labor in a relationship and truly listen to their partners can be incredibly sexy.

Radiance by Grace Draven is a good example of an incredibly hot, slow-burn relationship that builds over time. Brishen and Ildiko are wed in a largely symbolic marriage to unite their two very different people—in a plot that seamlessly crosses Beauty and the Beast with a marriage of convenience. This set-up lends itself to a beta hero, as Brishen is willing to do his duty—however distasteful–and make the best of it rather than resenting the circumstances. They quickly learn to be honest with each other and frank about their cultural (and indeed species) differences. Brishen wins his bride over with his humor, kindness, and respect—all hallmarks of a great beta hero. As this excerpt shows, the agency of the heroine is often underscored in stories with beta heroes, which is one of the things I like about them most.

The laughter faded but their smiles remained. Brishen’s thinned a little. “What do you want to do, Ildiko?”

He had asked a question Ildiko thought she’d never hear in her lifetime. No one ever asked her what she wanted; they only told her what she was to do and say. For a moment she was struck dumb. He waited patiently as she gathered her thoughts.

Radiance by Grace Draven

Because beta heroes generally value compassion over status or control, there are some traits or stereotypes that are often paired with beta heroes. They are often written as scholars or geniuses rather than soldiers or commanders. This association with being quiet or nerdy is a natural fit, which is part of what makes Jadrek from Oathbreakers by Mercedes Lackey a quintessential beta hero.

As a scholar who relies on his knowledge and book learning to help Tarma and Kethry, Jadrek often underestimates himself and lacks confidence with women, showing the very sweetest side of a beta hero. Oathbreakers is a romantic fantasy with an epic fantasy storyline, so the love story between Kethry and Jadrek is an important subplot, not the main focus of the novel. Because of this, the relationship development happens more as part of the other action, yet the romance still gets me in the feels every time—especially when Kethry finally admits her growing attraction…

“It’s you I admire, Jadrek; the mind, the person. You’re something special—something those pretty bodies downstairs aren’t, and probably never will be.”

Very hesitantly, he leaned forward and kissed her. She returned the kiss as passionately as she dared, and suddenly he responded by embracing her and prolonging the kiss until she was breathless.

When they broke apart, his gray eyes were dark with confusion. “Kethry—”

“There are more comfortable places to be doing this,” she said, very softly. “Over there, for one.” She nodded at the curtained bed, half-hidden in the shadows.

He blushed. He blushed even harder when she led him there by the hand, and all but pushed him down onto it. “I—” he stammered, looking past her. “Kethry, I’m not—very experienced at this sort of—”

“You were doing just fine a moment ago,” she interrupted…

Oathbreakers by Mercedes Lackey

While sexual inexperience is often found in beta heroes, it is not a necessary trait. Harlan, from Talon of the Hawk by Jeffe Kennedy, is more sexually experienced than Ursula, the heroine of this fantasy romance. Harlan also breaks the beta mold in other ways, as a skilled swordsman and the leader of his own band of mercenaries. He is confident and assured of himself, yet he has no trouble deferring to Ursula, letting her take the lead in many milestones in their relationship, and stepping back when she takes charge–an important mindset for a man who wants to partner with a powerful ruler. Because Ursula is so emotionally cut off and determined to stand alone, Harlan’s compassion and tenderness are exactly what she needs—even if she can’t admit it to herself at first. He is the perfect foil for her harrowing emotional journey. Harlan himself puts it best—

“There is no shame in feeling emotion. It doesn’t make you weak. Strength is in bearing our wounds, living through them, and carrying forward regardless—not in pretending they never existed.”

The Talon of the Hawk by Jeffe Kennedy

Beta heroes can add emotional depth and texture to books already filled with wonder and magic. Do you have any favorites for me to add to my TBR pile? Let me know in the comments!

About the Author

Jaycee Jarvis has been an avid romance reader since devouring all the Sweet Dreams books her middle school library had to offer. Also a fantasy fan from an early age, she often wished those wondrous stories had just a bit more kissing. Now she writes stories with a romantic heart set against a magical backdrop, creating the kind of book she most likes to read.

When not lost in worlds of her own creation, she resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three children and a menagerie of pets.

Learn more about her around the web:

She enjoys writing beta heroes as much as she loves reading about them. Her latest book, Deadly Courtship, features an empath who isn’t afraid to bare his heart.

In a world rife with elemental magic, can a bard with a knack for predicting the future help a warrior face her painful past?

Han-Triguard Magdalena turned her back on her heritage and her family in order to pursue life as a Hand, honor bound to serve as a Protector in the tropical market town of Trimble. She never regrets putting duty first until a string of brutal murders changes everything.

Her former lover, the attractive musician Jasper, stands accused. Madi knows the gentle empath could never kill anyone, but her word alone is not enough to protect him. Even worse, one of the other victims is a member of her old clan, for whom justice is entirely out of reach.

As Madi begins to question the demands of her work, Jasper asks her to give safe haven to his brother’s orphans. With the children, Jasper has the family he’s always wanted, a dream Madi has never shared. Living in close quarters, their attraction combusts while Madi is beset by unwanted tenderness for the children. When a new threat looms, Madi vows to protect their future, make peace with her past, and maybe find a love worth fighting for.

If only she can stop the killer in time…

Available on Amazon and through KindleUnlimited: