Upcoming Romantic Fantasy/Fantasy Romance Titles in 2020

2020 may be more than halfway over (thank goodness!), but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the year isn’t chock full of great new releases that are sure to satsify your craving for fantasy romance or romantic fantasy.

Come on, let’s take a peek at the goodies coming up. (Titles are listed in order of release and then alphabetically based on author’s last name.) At the very end, you’ll find a list of stories that are due to come out at some point in the latter half of 2020 but don’t have a final release date.

July/August

Let’s start off with the last week of July. Now you might be pointing out, “Jess, why are you including stories that have already been published as of the publication of this blog post?”

Ahhh, that is an excellent question. And the answer is simple. I am very far behind. When I asked the lovely authors to share what stories they had coming up, they supplied them promptly. It just took me a couple weeks longer to get this post up and running. So some of these upcoming releases are current releases!

July 28, 2020

Bethany Adams’ collection of Books 5 – 7, The Return of the Elves, released on July 28, 2020. It is a portal high fantasy romantic fantasy with stories that take place on Earth and in other realms.

A widening abyss. A threat unknown. A canny enemy.

Although Prince Kien was defeated, the trouble he started is far from gone. Now poison seeps into a crack in Earth’s energy field, requiring allies new and old to take action. Continue a journey that crosses from Moranaia to Earth and through the Seelie and Unseelie courts as mage, warrior, and rogue alike must work together to solve a new threat and face a rising enemy.

This collection includes Books 5-7 in the Return of the Elves epic fantasy series:

-Abyss

-Awakening

-Ascent

As well as:

-A BONUS short story, “The Sentinels,” first published in the Once Upon an Enchanted Forest anthology.

July 31, 2020

Domino Taylor & Vivienne Savage’s Book 3 in the Kingdom in the Sea went live on July 31, 2020. It is the final book in this fantasy romance series.

As unknown powers develop in Manu, darkness spreads to more than the underwater kingdom. If Kai is to abolish the evil of the dark sea gods, she’ll need to make new allies beyond the ocean–if the underhanded politics of Atlantis don’t destroy them first.

Don’t miss the thrilling conclusion of the Atlantis saga.

August 13, 2020

Elizabeth Briggs’s Book 2 of Royal Hearts went live on August 13, 2020. It is a steamy fantasy romance.

She would do anything for her kingdom. He would do anything to protect her.

After the King of Talador’s mysterious death, Princess Lily must prepare to take the throne, even if she doesn’t feel ready yet. As her coronation draws near, an attack on her life sends her fleeing the castle with her devoted Captain of the Guard, Keane, the one man she trusts above all others.

When she arrives at her other palace, she is courted by seven handsome suitors, all hand-selected to potentially be her future King. With her kingdom in danger and her forbidden magic growing stronger, the last thing Lily wants to do is select a husband—especially when she’d rather be with the man who’s been by her side for years.

Now that Lily is going to be queen, Captain Keane understands she needs to marry a nobleman, even if the thought makes him want to run his blade through every one of her suitors. As long as he hides his true feelings for Lily, he can continue to protect her—even if no one can protect his heart. But when the attacks on Lily grow more dangerous and a threat from the past emerges, they must embrace her magic and their forbidden love if they’re going to save her throne.

Kiss Of Snow is a steamy fantasy romance, perfect for fans of Sarah J Maas, Miranda Honfleur, and Grace Draven.

August 18, 2020

Kendra Moreno’s Book 3 of Daughters of Neverland went live on August 18, 2020. It is a dark fantasy romance with a series of twisted fairytale retellings. You can find out more about Kendra Moreno at her website.

Blood, lust, and pixie dust. . .

The Crocodile continues to drain Neverland of its life, and the world is running out of time. The very soil is dying, and no one can stop it. The clock is ticking.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Tink knows Neverland will never be the same, and though the Daughters face the dangers from the Crocodile and the Lost constantly attacking, that isn’t the only threat on the horizon. A choice must be made, to live or die, to fight or perish, and there’s no clear path to take. But even at the end of the world, love stumbles before the pixie, and though she’s the Wicked Queen, her heart carries a battle axe.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

The happy thoughts are piling up, and Tink must face them head on. Can the Daughters stop Neverland from dying? Can they save the ones they care for most?

Every monster has a heart.
Every demon has a home.
And every pixie must believe.

Tick. . .tick. . .tick.

If you’re not in the US or don’t use Amazon, you can use this link to get your copy.

September

September 1, 2020

Jennifer L. Armentrout’s A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire releases September 1, 2020. It is a dark fantasy romance, and it is set in the Blood and Ash series.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout comes a new novel in her Blood and Ash series…
Is Love Stronger Than Vengeance?


A Betrayal…Everything Poppy has ever believed in is a lie, including the man she was falling in love with. Thrust among those who see her as a symbol of a monstrous kingdom, she barely knows who she is without the veil of the Maiden. But what she does know is that nothing is as dangerous to her as him. The Dark One. The Prince of Atlantia. He wants her to fight him, and that’s one order she’s more than happy to obey. He may have taken her, but he will never have her.

A Choice….Casteel Da’Neer is known by many names and many faces. His lies are as seductive as his touch. His truths as sensual as his bite. Poppy knows better than to trust him. He needs her alive, healthy, and whole to achieve his goals. But he’s the only way for her to get what she wants—to find her brother Ian and see for herself if he has become a soulless Ascended. Working with Casteel instead of against him presents its own risks. He still tempts her with every breath, offering up all she’s ever wanted. Casteel has plans for her. Ones that could expose her to unimaginable pleasure and unfathomable pain. Plans that will force her to look beyond everything she thought she knew about herself—about him. Plans that could bind their lives together in unexpected ways that neither kingdom is prepared for. And she’s far too reckless, too hungry, to resist the temptation.

A Secret…But unrest has grown in Atlantia as they await the return of their Prince. Whispers of war have become stronger, and Poppy is at the very heart of it all. The King wants to use her to send a message. The Descenters want her dead. The wolven are growing more unpredictable. And as her abilities to feel pain and emotion begin to grow and strengthen, the Atlantians start to fear her. Dark secrets are at play, ones steeped in the blood-drenched sins of two kingdoms that would do anything to keep the truth hidden. But when the earth begins to shake, and the skies start to bleed, it may already be too late.

September 10, 2020

Denali Day’s Book 3 of Dokiri Brides releases September 10, 2020. It is a barbarian fantasy romance. You can check out her website here, and you can sign up for her newsletter here and get a free novella, Sven the Collector.

She’d walk through fire to save their world. To claim her, he’d let it all burn.

Her widowed heart freshly healed, Lavinia wants nothing more than to bind herself to Ivan, the man who adores her fatherless sons almost as much as he loves her. Then duty calls her to risk their future and return to a life she’d fled — to a man who wants her as much as she fears him.    

Tasked with escorting Lavinia back to the land of her birth, Ivan pledges his heart along with his protection. He’ll have his mark upon her within days. But no sooner do they arrive than her previous life threatens to tear her away forever. 

Haunted by the mistakes of her past, Lavinia would do anything to redeem herself and save her people. Consumed by desire, Ivan must decide if passion is worth more than the survival of his race.

Duty or love? They can’t have both.

The third novel in a sweeping new fantasy romance series. If you liked the world of Game of Thrones and the savagery of Conan the Barbarian, you’ll love Denali Day’s epic new series.

Buy Ivan the Bold to embark on your fantasy today!

September 12, 2020

Kendra Moreno’s Book of 2 The Valhalla Mechanism releases on September 12, 2020. It is a steampunk fantasy romance inspired by Norse mythology. You can find out more about Kendra Moreno at her website.

Ottilie Kingsford thought she knew her world. She lived a double life, dodging disappointing bachelors during the day, spying for the Queen at night. She craved adventure and excitement, but there was none of that in the streets of London.

Until a single mission changes her entire perception of reality.

Now, with Ragnarok raging across earth, Tillie is knee deep in mythological creatures and the Gods who imprisoned them. FIghting dark elves and the deepest secrets of Asgard coming to light, Tillie, Thor, and Loki must search for a cauldron that could slow the end of days. Mischief, Espionage, and Thunder collide in an epic power, but will that be enough to save the realms from utter destruction?

The thrones of civilizations begin to crumble. The nine realms will tremble as they waltz in the ashes of Ragnarӧk. If Tillie can’t stop it, Yggdrasil will burn.

It’s time to learn just how much fortune favors the chaos…

If you’re not in the US or don’t use Amazon, you can use this link to get your copy.

September 15, 2020

Grace Draven’s Book 3 of The Wraith Kings releases September 15, 2020. It is a fantasy romance and a continuation of the much-beloved story, Radiance.

 

The WRAITH KINGS saga continues.

The demonic horde that threatened to devour the world has been defeated, but at great cost.

Plagued by guilt and nightmares, Serovek Pangion sets out to deliver the soulless body of the monk Megiddo to the heretical Jeden Order for safekeeping. Accompanying him is sha-Anhuset, the Kai woman he admires and desires most–a woman barely tolerant of him.

Devoted to her regent, Anhuset reluctantly agrees to act as a Kai ambassador on the trip, even though the bold margrave known as the Beladine Stallion gets under her skin like no other, and Anhuset fears he’ll worm his way into her armored heart as well.

But guilt and unwelcome attraction are the least of their problems. The demons thought vanquished are stirring again, and a warlord with blood-soaked ambition turns a journey of compassion into a fight for survival. When the Beladine king brands Serovek a traitor, Anhuset must choose between sacrificing the life of a man she’s grown to love and abandoning lifelong fealty to the Kai people.

A tale of loyalty and acceptance.


Bec McMaster’s Book 2 of Dark Court Rising releases September 15, 2020. It is a fantasy romance with a wicked fae princes and an enemy princess.

Thiago and Iskvien survived a dangerous curse, but will they survive the coming war?

True love will face the ultimate challenge when a dark goddess rises, secrets threaten to tear them apart, and a queen will stop at nothing to gain revenge.

September 17, 2020

S.M. Gaither’s Book 1 of Shadows and Crowns releases September 17, 2020. It is an enemies-to-lovers epic romantic fantasy with a bit of steam, a lot of banter, and a bunch of magic and meddlesome gods and monsters.

The old gods are growing restless. An ancient evil is stirring. Can they stop the coming storm?

Mercenary Casia Greythorne cares about two things: Completing whatever her latest job is, and earning enough coin to buy the expensive medicine that’s keeping her mentor alive. 

So when the king himself offers her a job, she can’t resist the massive reward he offers—even if it means working with Captain Elander, the arrogant, mysterious right-hand to that king.

Her partner may be infuriating, but at least their mission seems simple and quick enough: Investigate the origins of the strange plague that’s been ravaging their empire, help find a cure, and then call it a day.

But in a land brimming with old magic and meddling gods, nothing is ever that simple, and nothing is ever what it seems.

As the bodies pile up and strange monsters begin to wreak havoc throughout the realms, Cas and Elander will have to work together to protect their world whether they like it or not. Because one thing is clear: Something ancient and evil is stirring in the shadows of that world.

And their empire will not survive its full unleashing. 

Filled with luscious world-building, banter-filled enemies-to-lovers romance, and epic battles, this first book in the Shadows and Crowns series is the perfect next read for fans of Throne of Glass! Don’t miss your chance to grab it for the low, special pre-order price!

September 22, 2020

H.L. Burke’s Ashen goes live on September 22. It is a fantasy romance fairy tale retelling.

Stealer of warmth, bringer of death. What if Cinderella had a secret that kept her locked away?

Unable to make her own body heat, foundling Lizbete survives in the tavern kitchen, drawing warmth from the fires, the sun—and sometimes, other living beings. Her days are spent cooking alongside the tavern owner and avoiding the suspicious gazes of the villagers in her small northern town. While she quietly longs for the handsome Brynar, she knows she has no chance with the mayor’s son, even if he invites her to the First Frost festival.

When sudden earthquakes strike Brumehome, blame falls upon Lizbete, and not even her friendship with Brynar can protect her. She finds shelter in the dangerous caverns of nearby Ash Mountain. There she discovers mysterious people with her same ability to draw heat—and a fiery doom in the mountain that slowly awakens with every quake.
Now the festival Lizbete thought to avoid is her only chance to warn the villagers. Yet even with Brynar at her side, can the strange girl dubbed the Ash Lizard hope to save the town that fears her?

A rugged YA Cinderella retelling set in a fantasy world with light steampunk elements.


Roshani Chokshi’s Book 2 of The Gilded Wolves releases on September 22, 2020. It is a romantic fantasy epic.

Returning to the dark and glamorous 19th century world of her New York Times instant bestseller, The Gilded Wolves, Roshani Chokshi dazzles us with another riveting tale as full of mystery and danger as ever in The Silvered Serpents.

They are each other’s fiercest love, greatest danger, and only hope.

Séverin and his team members might have successfully thwarted the Fallen House, but victory came at a terrible cost — one that still haunts all of them. Desperate to make amends, Séverin pursues a dangerous lead to find a long lost artifact rumored to grant its possessor the power of God.

Their hunt lures them far from Paris, and into the icy heart of Russia where crystalline ice animals stalk forgotten mansions, broken goddesses carry deadly secrets, and a string of unsolved murders makes the crew question whether an ancient myth is a myth after all.

As hidden secrets come to the light and the ghosts of the past catch up to them, the crew will discover new dimensions of themselves. But what they find out may lead them down paths they never imagined.

A tale of love and betrayal as the crew risks their lives for one last job.

September 30, 2020

Clare Sager’s Book 2 of Against Dark Tides releases September 30, 2020. It is a new adult romantic fantasy adventures with pirates and passion. You can find out more about Clare Sager at her website.

Enemies. Lovers. Enemies once more. Now they must work together to survive. 

Notorious pirate Lady Vice has lost everything: ship, crew, and friends. Even her body has betrayed her, leaving her magic weak. To make matters worse, she’s stuck at sea with the man who stabbed her in the back.

Knigh Blackwood is no longer a captain, no longer a pirate-hunter, no longer … anything. All he has left is the woman he betrayed, and she’d rather cut out his tongue with his own dagger than forgive him.

There’s just one thing that might make up for what they’ve lost: Drake’s treasure.

But they’re not the only ones searching for clues and the elusive X that marks the spot. Between them and the treasure stand a scheming duke, a former lover, and a sea monster thought the stuff of legends – not to mention Vice and Knigh’s complicated feelings for each other.

If you love the scheming of Black Sails, the high seas adventure of Pirates of the Caribbean, and the romance of Holly Black, you won’t want to miss this heart-pounding new series.

Buy AGAINST DARK TIDES now and escape to a magical world where enemies become allies and even the closest lovers can become the worst foes.

*** 

As you might expect from pirates, these stories include mild cussing and steamy encounters.

  • Prequel – Across Dark Seas – Out now
  • Book 1 – Beneath Black Sails – Out now
  • Book 2 – Against Dark Tides – Coming September 2020
  • Book 3 – Under Black Skies – Coming 2021
  • Book 4 – Through Dark Storms – Coming 2021

October

October 1, 2020

Kate Grove’s Book 3 in the Yokai Treasures releases on October 1, 2020. It is a mythical romantic fantasy. You can find out more about Kate Grove at her website. And you can also sign up for her newsletter here.


October 6, 2020

Kristin J. Dawson’s Book 3 in The Unchosen releases October 6, 2020. It is the final book in the series, and is a romantic fantasy epic.

Ice warriors to the north. A greedy kingdom in the south. With only one ally, Dacia fights for its very existence.

Empress Nicoleta Aurelian is engaged to Prince Asander of Auripo, and his training of Dacia’s soft army is not enough against the ancient magi of the north who have magic beyond any Dacian’s comprehension. With the Rose Court in shambles, and attack imminent, Nicoleta must blaze a new trail for her kingdom.

Refusing to lie down and wait for the first blow, Nicoleta travels Dacia, calling them to arms. She must bring old enemies together, and trust in the one man she cannot give her heart to, Marcus Constantin, to blindly follow her plan, no matter the cost. Nicoleta must win more than a battle, or even a war, they must keep invaders from returning. She must not only unite her deeply divided kingdom, something that no emperor had ever attempted, but also rip the kingdom apart the social norms from the inside out, in order to save it.

Can Nicoleta bring her country together, and figure out how to stop the ancient magic before its too late? The final installment of The Unchosen trilogy will take you on a gripping, page-turning war-torn story, slow-burn romance, ancient magic, and characters that will stay with you long after you close the book.


V.E. Schwab’s The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue releases on October 6, 2020. It is a beautifully contemplative historical romantic fantasy.

In the vein of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Life After LifeThe Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is New York Times bestselling author V. E. Schwab’s genre-defying tour de force.

A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever―and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.

October 9, 2020

Lyra Wolf’s Book 1 in the Nine World Chronicles releases October 9, 2020. It is a dark romantic fantasy that draws on Norse mythology. You can find out more about Lyra Wolf at her website. You can also sign up for her newsletter here to get a free copy of Lies, Knives, and Apples.

The Destroyer is coming to Asgard. All will fall. All will burn…

Loki thrives on danger, but when he’s struck by a painful vision of ash and death he knows his fun has run out. The Destroyer is real and isn’t taking prisoners. 

Refusing to have his life obliterated by some stuffy prophecy, all Loki wants is to save Asgard. But the gods stand in his way. They don’t trust the “Trickster.” 

To prove himself, he must return to the side of the man he wanted to forget. Odin, his blood brother and a first rate con. 

When he meets a mortal woman, his plans hit a snag. 

Sigyn is delightfully stubborn and quick with a blade. She also, inexplicably, possesses a divine element found only in a god.

As Loki falls for her, he never expects it to fulfill the prophecy threatening all their lives.  

Forced to choose between betraying Odin and protecting the woman he loves, Loki must face all he never wanted. 

…But the truth changes everything. 

“Truth and Other Lies” is the first book in an imaginative new series inspired by Norse mythology, and thrusts you into a world that’s dark, twisted, and deliciously fun.

October 29, 2020

Shannon Pemrick’s Book 6 in Experimental Hearts releases on October 29, 2020. It is a romantic epic fantasy. You can find out more about Shannon Pemrick at her website.

Freedom is everything.

I should know, I finally have it. After fighting for my deepest desires for so long, it feels more like a dream than reality. But when I start to get comfortable, I’m reminded of one last task that needs to be done.

Only, things don’t go according to plan.

From the shadows, old and new enemies spring forth, bent on destroying what I worked so hard to create. It’ll take everything I have, and my unbreakable bond with my life mate, to keep everything from falling apart.

And destiny isn’t done with me yet.

The fate of the timeline is at stake, and at the end of all this, I may never be the same.

October 29, 2020

Alexi Blake and May Sage’s Pick Your Poison releases on October 29, 2020. It is a dark fantasy romance.

Fae-touched Keira has always seen the folk. For eighteen years, she’s managed to avoid attracting their attention, until one encounter in the woods.

Thrust into the nightmarish realm of the fae, she has to forge herself into someone else to survive.

Calreth represents everything she should fear. The lord of the Hunt is the worst kind of monster, as terrifying as he’s devastatingly beautiful.
Asking his favor constantly puts Keira in the worst kind of danger—from the fae, from the folk, and most horrifying of all, from Cal himself—but he promised to help her get home.

Although the person she’s becoming may not fit in the mortal world. Her very blood craves the fae realm. A land of perils, schemes, and deception, where she may never belong.

An enticing, dark world, with magic spells, romance, and betrayal.

October 30, 2020

Nicolette Andrew’s Book 1 of Thornwood releases October 30, 2020. It is a Gothic romantic fantasy epic with fae. You can check out her website here, and you can sign up for her newsletter here.

She pretended she could not see them. They told her the fae weren’t real. Then they cut out a woman’s heart and she could no longer look away.

Catherine’s first memories were of the fae. They visited her in her garden, and she offered them saucers of cream and honey. But they repaid her in tricks and misfortune. They broke vases and locked her in trunks. Her parents didn’t believe her–no one did–and so all her life she took the blame for their mischief.  When Catherine arrives at her new home in the village of Thornwood, she’s determined to put her past behind her and live a normal life. That is, until a girl is found with her heart cut out… murdered by one of the fae. 

Catherine has spent a lifetime looking the other way. She convinced herself she was mad and that the fae were not real. But a chance meeting with the handsome gardener, Ray Thorn, throws everything into question. She can no longer ignore the truth, because the killer is after women who can see the fae, and Catherine might be their next victim. 

With the killer still on the loose, Catherine and Ray race to uncover more about her power and the dark secrets Thornwood hides. But time is running out and to find the killer, Ray brings her into his world, the mesmerizing and deadly faery. She should know better than to trust one of the fae, and making a deal with him could jeopardize everything she’s worked for, but if she doesn’t… she’ll be the next to lose her heart.  

Fans of Carnival Row and Jane Austen will not want to missHEART OF THORNS, the first in this gothic romantic fantasy trilogy.  

Unlock the mysteries of Thornwood in this tale steeped in fae intrigue, romance, and mystery…


Juliet Marillier’s Book 2 of the Warrior Bards releases October 30, 2020. It is a Norse romantic fantasy.

A young woman who is both a bard–and a warrior–seeks to repay her debts and settle scores in this thrilling historical fantasy series.

The young warrior and bard Liobhan has lost her brother to the Otherworld. Even more determined to gain a place as an elite fighter, she returns to Swan Island to continue her training. But Liobhan is devastated when her comrade Dau is injured and loses his sight in their final display bout. Blamed by Dau’s family for the accident, she agrees to go to Dau’s home as a bond servant for the span of one year.

There, she soon learns that Oakhill is a place of dark secrets. The vicious Crow Folk still threaten both worlds. And Dau, battling the demon of despair, is not an easy man to help.

When Liobhan and Dau start to expose the rot at the center of Oakhill, they place themselves in deadly danger. For their enemy wields great power and will stop at nothing to get his way. It will take all the skills of a Swan Island warrior and a touch of the uncanny to give them a hope of survival. . . .

November

November 5, 2020

Kimberly Rogers’ Book 1 of The Unseelie of Sonera releases on November 5, 2020. It is fantasy romance epic.

Her past is a mystery.
Protecting the children is her duty.
Her future could destroy everything she loves.

Tatiana has no people and no past before she became a companion and nurse to a noble family for five generations. She knows only that her feathered wings make her different, neither human nor gargoyle. When her young charges are orphaned, Tati escorts them across the sea to their father’s homeland. In a strange new city, she finds others like her and the chance to uncover her own past but pursuing it risks losing the children she loves.

Ramessu has spent his life serving the human rulers of the port city of Chaon. A servitude threatening to destroy his people. With their females collared, unable to fly or use magic, the Unseelie are slaves and they are dying. When an uncollared adult female arrives in the city, Ra knows she could change everything…or tear their people apart.

Unseelie Uncollared is the first book in the Unseelie of Sonera epic fantasy trilogy. Explore the world of Sonera beyond the Five Kingdoms in this thrilling new trilogy where loyalty is challenged, sacrifices are made, and love creates new hope.

November 24, 2020

Nora Roberts’ Book 1 of The Dragon Heart Legacy releases November 24, 2020. It is a romantic portal fantasy.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Nora Roberts begins a new trilogy of adventure, romance, and magick in The Awakening.

In the realm of Talamh, a teenage warrior named Keegan emerges from a lake holding a sword―representing both power and the terrifying responsibility to protect the Fey. In another realm known as Philadelphia, a young woman has just discovered she possesses a treasure of her own…

When Breen Kelly was a girl, her father would tell her stories of magical places. Now she’s an anxious twentysomething mired in student debt and working a job she hates. But one day she stumbles upon a shocking discovery: her mother has been hiding an investment account in her name. It has been funded by her long-lost father―and it’s worth nearly four million dollars.

This newfound fortune would be life-changing for anyone. But little does Breen know that when she uses some of the money to journey to Ireland, it will unlock mysteries she couldn’t have imagined. Here, she will begin to understand why she kept seeing that silver-haired, elusive man, why she imagined his voice in her head saying Come home, Breen Siobhan. It’s time you came home. Why she dreamed of dragons. And where her true destiny lies―through a portal in Galway that takes her to a land of faeries and mermaids, to a man named Keegan, and to the courage in her own heart that will guide her through a powerful, dangerous destiny…

November 30, 2020

Nicolette Andrew’s Book 2 of Thornwood releases October 30, 2020. It is a Gothic romantic fantasy epic with fae. You can check out her website here, and you can sign up for her newsletter here.

She didn’t want to believe. She tried to run away. But you can never escape the fae. 
Despite personal tragedy and being ostracized by the village, Catherine is determined to carve out a life for herself in the village of Thornwood. She’s content with her garden, and quiet life but it is a lonely existence. She would do anything to win the village’s forgiveness and her place in the community. To pay penance for her sins, she swore never to see faery or Ray again. But she cannot run from the power that blooms in her or the danger that lurks in the shadows.

When a strange plant’s creeping vines chokes the gardens of Thornwood, it also corrupts the minds of those encounter it, turning them into raving mindless zombies. Catherine works to find a cure but the plant is not of this realm and she has no choice but to turn to Ray for aid.  Together they must find the source of the plant, but doing so means not only embracing her power but confronting her budding feelings for him.  But as they investigate the plant’s origins, it exposes Catherine to those that would destroy her at any cost. 

As they work to save the village, Catherine is further embroiled in fae politics and the threads that tied her to the Thorn Court and her the source of her power.  Getting mixed up with the fae cost her dearly before. If Catherine fully embraces her power she can save the village but in doing so she must give up on her very humanity.

December

December 1, 2020

Alexi Blake and May Sage’s Book 1 of The Darker Woods releases December 1, 2020. It is a fantasy romance epic.

My lips hitch up an inch as the hulking, slender man bends down to whisper in my ear. “A divided kingdom without a leader is weak. You will fall. You will fail. You will all die without my kindness, little girl.”

He expects me to falter, shiver, and drop my gaze to the ground like the flock of gentry buzzing around him.

My eyes widen in feigned dismay. “Kindness? Why did no one think to tell me you had any?”

I have to allow him that one concession: Rydekar is fun to tease.

He doesn’t even smile. I don’t think anyone has taunted him. “I have none. You will beg nonetheless.”

I just may, in his dreams. And in my nightmares.

No one was ever born less suited to ruling than Rissa, the thorn of the seelie realm—a half-fae so wild she’s spent the better part of a hundred years in the woods.

For all her flaws, she’s the last of the high court bloodline, and the southern king seems to think that’s reason enough to slap a crown on her feathered head. He needs her to unify the seelie forces. She needs him to forget about that nonsense.

In an effort to aid her people without condemning herself to a lifetime of misery, she sets off on a journey to find the one person with a stronger claim to the throne than hers: the cursed prince.

Sealed in the mountains of the Wilderness, under many spells, the heir of the first seelie queen is the only royal strong enough to protect the fae lands from their immortal invaders.

Surviving the untamed tribes and awakening a thousand-year-old prince seem a lot easier than ruling an entire kingdom where everyone hates her very nature.

And her choices won’t come without consequences.

January

January 14, 2021

Denali Day’s Book 4 of Dokiri Brides releases January 14, 2021. It is a barbarian fantasy romance. You can check out her website here, and you can sign up for her newsletter here and get a free novella, Sven the Collector.

She’d willingly march into hell…just not with him.

Fiercely loyal to her country, Nadine will do whatever it takes to destroy the ancient evil threatening her world. Anything. Except allow a wild savage to put his mark on her.

Plagued by survivor’s guilt, Magnus the Vast vows to do whatever it takes to bring home the friend he left behind. Claiming the beautiful hellcat who wants his head is a convenient bonus. One he won’t let her get out of.

Bound together, Nadine and Magnus must rely on one another to complete their mission and save their people. Easier said than done for the woman-warrior who thinks her new husband a domineering brute, and the sly barbarian who is all too happy to play the part.

They’ll walk into the pit of the earth, and they’ll do it together—or they may never walk out.

The fourth in a sweeping new fantasy romance series. If you liked the world of Game of Thrones and the savagery of Conan the Barbarian, you’ll love Denali Day’s epic new series.

Buy Magnus the Vast to embark on your fantasy today!

January 26, 2021

Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Silver Flames releases January 26, 2021.

Sarah J. Maas’s sexy, richly imagined series continues with the journey of Feyre’s fiery sister, Nesta.

Nesta Archeron has always been prickly-proud, swift to anger, and slow to forgive. And ever since being forced into the Cauldron and becoming High Fae against her will, she’s struggled to find a place for herself within the strange, deadly world she inhabits. Worse, she can’t seem to move past the horrors of the war with Hybern and all she lost in it.

The one person who ignites her temper more than any other is Cassian, the battle-scarred warrior whose position in Rhysand and Feyre’s Night Court keeps him constantly in Nesta’s orbit. But her temper isn’t the only thing Cassian ignites. The fire between them is undeniable, and only burns hotter as they are forced into close quarters with each other.

Meanwhile, the treacherous human queens who returned to the Continent during the last war have forged a dangerous new alliance, threatening the fragile peace that has settled over the realms. And the key to halting them might very well rely on Cassian and Nesta facing their haunting pasts.

Against the sweeping backdrop of a world seared by war and plagued with uncertainty, Nesta and Cassian battle monsters from within and without as they search for acceptance-and healing-in each other’s arms.

January 31, 2021

Bec McMaster’s Book 5 of Legends of Storm releases January 31, 2021. It’s an enemies to lovers fantasy romance with dragon shifters.

The old eddas speak of dreki—fabled creatures who haunt the depths of Iceland’s volcanoes and steal away fair maidens.

Solveig wants none of such myths. Mated—and spurned—by the devilishly handsome Prince Marduk, the furious dreki princess refuses to be the laughingstock of her court. Marduk will beg for her forgiveness. Or he will die.

A political alliance that ended in ruins….

Marduk’s evil mother bound him to mate with one of the daughters of King Harald, but when Marduk chooses the fierce-tongued Solveig, even he is surprised. The princess is known for her ruthlessness—the son her father never had—and when he promises to be a mate in name only and leaves her alone and wanting in the mating bed, she swears revenge.

But there is something about Solveig’s wild nature that stirs the heart of his dreki. And with his court and family at the mercy of a powerful curse, he needs all the allies he can get. But can she forgive him for playing recklessly with her fate? And will two clashing hearts ever learn to yield to each other?

At Some Point in 2020

Of course, as much as we authors would love to have firm plans, some of us are just in process and have to be flexible with our release times. Especially since we don’t want to frustrate readers. This section of the list may change as dates are updated or authors may move their books from one part of the calendar to the next.

Miranda Honfleur’s Book 2 of The Dark Elves of Nightbloom is set to release in later 2020. It is a fantasy romance set in the world of Blade and Rose; each book in the series is a stand-alone. You can check out her website to learn more about her and her stories, and you can sign up for her newsletter here to receive a free copy of Winter Wren.

(There is currently no link to preorder, but the book will be up when it’s ready! Sign up for our mailing list to know the moment it’s available.)

Wrath consumes him as the dark does the night… Until she rises. But can she chase away his darkness?

Most would say the “sweet” and “quiet” Signorina Arabella Belmonte has lived a quiet life as a young noblewoman in her family’s castello. But little do they know she pens treatises criticizing the realm’s warmongers… and now there’s a price on her head. As she struggles to hide her seditious activities, a chance encounter with a unicorn leaves her with four hooves and a horn of her own–and a form she can’t control. The dark-elf queen has offered her a chance to acquire that control… if Bella can find the unicorn who turned her.

Prince Dhuro of Nightbloom has never met a problem he couldn’t solve with his fists–that is, until he fought his sister for a place in the army’s elite forces and lost. When the light-elves defeated them and his father was executed, Dhuro’s inner demons laid claim to the whole of him. Now Immortal beasts are growing in power and threatening his people.

Dhuro has a chance to help his people win, but his mother, the queen, sends him on a fool’s errand instead–helping a human newly turned unicorn find her sire, and asking the impossible: whether the Elder of the pacifistic unicorns will stand with them against the beasts ravaging his people. Making things worse, Bella challenges his every decision, argues with him, infuriates him… until beneath the full moon, she shifts to her human form… and enchants him.

A war is raging, Dhuro must marry for political advantage, and only Bella’s sire can help her… And when the bounty hunters hunting her find them, Dhuro and Bella’s worldviews collide like life and death. But can he be the answer to helping her control her form, and can she chase away his darkness? Can they find a way to be together and fight the war threatening to devour the land… or will it swallow them too?

Readers are saying if you like the fantasy and romance of Grace Draven’s Wraith Kings and a Swan Princess tale with unicorns, Bright of the Moon will lure you into its world and not let you go.


Miranda Honfleur’s Book 5 of the Blade and Rose series is set to release in later 2020. It is a romantic fantasy epic. You can check out her website to learn more about her and her stories, and you can sign up for her newsletter here to receive a free copy of Winter Wren.

Darkness stirs in the heart of Courdeval. And in the heart of its very king. But she’ll fight until her last breath to save them both.

After Jon’s near brush with death, Rielle couldn’t be happier when he awakens. As he resumes his duties and his normal life, however, it becomes clear he is changed–perhaps forever. There is a power in him, and a darkness, that threatens to consume him… for all time.

With the Order of Terra and the Tower of Magic now serving the Crown, Emaurria is stronger than ever, but the threats it now faces might lead to the kingdom’s undoing. Locked in open war against the Divinity of Magic, Emaurria is in grave danger and, worse, divided at its core. The Houses see opportunity in a withdrawn king, and Rielle, Brennan, and Olivia fight to keep stability as they try to reach Jon, while Leigh finds himself damned and looks for the strength to save himself before he can save the world from the Rift.

As the Houses and the war poke a sleeping dragon, they invite flames that could char Emaurria to mere glowing embers. Can Rielle and her friends reach Jon before it’s too late, or will he be lost to the darkness, and Emaurria to the flames of dragon fire?

If you like the fantasy romance of A Court of Thorns and Roses, the dark intrigue of the Black Jewels series, the epic adventure of Game of Thrones, and a heroine who never gives up, you’ll love this romantic epic fantasy series.

Dive into a medieval world sensual and dark, full of magic and greed, love and blades, where factions vie for influence and there are no easy choices…


Miranda Honfleur’s Book 1 of the Blooded series is set to release in early 2021. It is a romantic fantasy epic, connected to the world of Blade and Rose. You can check out her website to learn more about her and her stories, and you can sign up for her newsletter here to receive a free copy of Winter Wren.

The pack hunted down her family and left her for dead. She survived. And now she’s hunting them.

As a princess of Morwen, Melora has lived a sheltered life–her only escape hunting with her mother and her brother on royal lands, and the opulent Winter Palace where the court has moved for the season has long been a favorite of hers. But when a hunt goes horribly wrong, her mother and her brother disappear, and the Winter Palace becomes a bloodbath.

Injured and ill, Mel turns to her lady-in-waiting, Aislinn, for help and soon finds herself changed… and the court overrun. The royal family has vanished, the land is abandoned, and her people are hunted and forced into hiding. A darkness deepens and spreads from the Winter Palace as refugees spill over the borders. With only Aislinn and a small band of brave souls, Mel nevertheless pushes back against that darkness, for her people, for answers, and for herself. The Wolves of the Winter Palace wage a war that could kill her and everyone with her. No one else comes to her aid… until him.

The Black Wolf was a hushed whisper among hunters and wayfarers, a cautionary tale told to children and young lovers, but when Mel hunts him down, she finds him real. Very real. Enormous and menacing, with a strong werewolf pack behind him, he claims to be a friend, but can he be trusted? Or is he just another ravenous mouth eager to devour her land’s riches… and maybe even her?

Unsure of whom to trust and stripped of allies and resources, can Mel reclaim the Winter Palace, or will the wolves’ reign of blood run red forever?

Fans of Sarah J. Maas and Holly Black will love this dark and mesmerizing romantic fantasy, in which Red Riding Hood and the Wolf follow a different thread of fate.

Let Blooded take you deep into dark forests and windswept moors, where hope whispers through the leaves, love and death dance in shades, and werewolves lurk in the darkness…

ROZ P. GARRETT: BOOK REVIEW OF KUSHIEL’S DART BY JACQUELINE CAREY

Undoubtedly, if you’ve been in any of the recommendation request posts in the RFS Facebook group, you’ve heard of Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey, and for good reason. In case you haven’t heard of it, let me give you a treat because this week I have the pleasure of reviewing it. I’ll try to keep my review from spoiling the entire story, but give you enough to whet your appetite about it.

Kushiel’s Dart came out in 2001, at a time when I was bright eyed and college bound for the first time. I grew up on fantasy books like Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern books and Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest series, with a smattering of Piers Anthony’s Xanth novels as companions. I love these stories, but I eventually wandered away from the genre as a whole because the books were satisfying in their adventures but didn’t give me a real sense of fulfillment. Part of that had to do with the stations and genders of the protagonists, but the most glaring lack was that the emotional journey in the books was often boiled down to the bare necessities to augment the fantasy or adventure plot, and I wasn’t given enough interaction between the leads for the romantic aspects to seem realistic. I understood having the sexy bits behind closed doors or faded out, but it often felt like the sweet bits were being locked away as well.

The same copy that I bought back in 2001. <3

So I came to the purchase of Kushiel’s Dart on a whim, needing something to distract me from the frustrations of freshman year, and was rewarded with a love for a genre I hadn’t even realized existed. As RFS defines the terms fantasy romance and romantic fantasy, Kushiel’s Dart is in the  romantic fantasy category, meaning that there is a romantic subplot that plays a significant role in the novel. (For a more in-depth discussion of the two genres, check out the blog posts: “The Place of Romantic Fantasy,” and “Falling In Love With Fantasy Romance.”)

Kushiel’s Dart is the first book of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy series, and also the first of the trilogy about Phèdre no Delaunay.

The book begins with Phèdre telling the tale of her birth and departure from her parents. This serves to explain several of the important aspects of Jacqueline Carey’s fictional world, which is what I like to call a not-Europe, in that the landmasses on the map are familiar but the names of the countries are changed. You learn at once that the D’Angelines of Terre d’Ange are known for and value beauty, that there is an acknowledged and non-stigmatized system of sexual companionship known as being a Servant of Naamah, that the Night Court (or Court of Night Blooming Flowers) is an esteemed system of brothels, and that Phèdre is the child of a former Servant of Naamah who went on to marry a merchant’s son with questionable business acumen.

A Little Background on Terre D’Ange

With this book, it’s hard to balance a review between plot and worldbuilding, so allow me to interject some explanation here.

According to D’Angeline lore, the head of their pantheon of gods, Blessed Elua, was an angel conceived by Yeshua ben Yosef, the son of the One God, and Magdelene at the crucifixion. The story of Elua’s conception is told to a very young Phèdre, and makes reference to Magdelene’s tears and Yeshua’s blood, and that it was from this union that “the grieving earth engendered her most precious son,” which is a bit confusing. But the salient point is that Elua is the One God’s angelic, half-mortal grandson. Elua was scorned by the One God and Yeshua’s followers for his mortal conception and his open beliefs regarding love. (Blessed Elua’s slogan is Love as thou wilt, which is the basis of the D’Angeline faith.) As he wanders, the tale of his persecutions reaches heaven, and some of the hierarchy of the One God’s angels feel compassion for him and flout the will of the One God and come to earth to become Elua’s Companions. Even with a retinue of angels, Elua isn’t welcomed to stay anywhere, so he spends a long while as a nomad.

Terre d’Ange is the land where Elua and his Companions were finally welcomed. Not only do D’Angelines worship Blessed Elua and his Companions, they are also said to be their descendants. (Elua and most of his Companions practice what he preaches.) Among the Companions, Naamah, the elder sister, is said to have lain with strangers in the street for coin to keep Elua and the Companions fed. It is from her sacrifice that Naamah’s Service derives, and those who take up Naamah’s Service are called, appropriately, Servants of Naamah. They pledge themselves until they can make their mark – a full back tattoo that supposedly originates in the marks Naamah herself would have acquired from bedding people against unforgiving surfaces – in stages as they ply their trade. Patrons can leave gifts above the price they pay for the service, and from there come the funds to pay the tattooist to fill out the mark. Most Servants of Naamah within the City of Elua (the capital of Terre d’Ange) choose to operate within the Night Court, where there are contracts and safeguards and standards. The Night Court is made up of thirteen houses that all cater to a particular aesthetic both visually and in terms of sexual desire.

The Fate of a Child: “A Whore’s Unwanted Get”

As Phèdre tells it, her parents probably intended to apprentice her into the Night Court, and thus she could pay for her own upkeep and eventually they would be given a portion of her income, but the plan hits a fatal snag because both by D’Angeline and Night Court standards, Phèdre is flawed. She was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye, and that imperfection makes her unfit for service. Her parents, who she explains have more love for each other than sense, failed to make profit from a trading caravan and desperately need money enough to survive. Her father is the least capable of the trader’s sons, so though the trader has offered them a second chance, it comes with a price. They must back the goods with their own coin. As Phèdre’s father is too proud to share his wife’s talents to earn coin to make up the difference, and without Phèdre’s entry into the Night Court they are in dire straits. In desperation, her mother turns to the first house, Cereus House, for a way out. You get, in Jacqueline Carey’s beautiful prose, the scene thusly:

I remember standing in the courtyard upon marble flagstones, holding my mother’s hand as she stammered forth her plight. The advent of true love, the elopement, her own Dowayne’s decree, the failure of the caravan and my grandfather’s bargain. I remember how she spoke of my father still with love and admiration, sure that the next purse, the next sojourn, would make his fortune. I remember how she cited, voice bold and trembling, her years of service, the exhortation of Blessed Elua: Love as thou wilt. And I remember, at last, how the fountain of her voice ran dry, and the Dowayne moved one hand. Not lifted, not quite; a pair of fingers, perhaps, laden with rings.

“Bring the child here.”

So we approached the chair, my mother trembling and I oddly fearless, as children are wont to be at the least apt of times. The Dowayne lifted my chin with one ring-laden finger and took survey of my features.

Did a flicker of something, some uncertainty, cross her mien when her gaze fell on my left eye? Even now, I am not sure; and if it did, it passed swiftly. She withdrew her hand and returned her gaze to my mother, stern and abiding.

“Jehan spoke truly,” she said. “The child is unfit to serve the Thirteen Houses. Yet she is comely, and being raised to the Court, may fetch a considerable bond price. In recognition of your years of service, I will make you this offer.”


(Kushiel’s Dart, page 7-8)

Kushiel’s Dart is told in first person, with a limited omniscience. The Phèdre narrating the story is a much older version than the Phèdre in the action of the story, so logically, I know that she’ll overcome this, but the feels when the Dowayne of Cereus House goes on to name Phèdre “a whore’s unwanted get” aren’t lessened by knowing she carries on. Phèdre’s situation feels so real to me that I choke up every time I read that scene.

An Imperfection Turned Mark of Destiny: “I remember the moment when I discovered pain.”

The second chapter of the book, which is quite short, begins thusly. And this gives the first glimpse of Phèdre’s story with her attraction to pain. She scores her hand with a pin and is caught enjoying the pain of it by the Dowayne, who starts to send her off to Valerian House, where they specialize in that sort of fascination, but stops herself. The Dowayne is a shrewd one, and has an inkling that there is more to Phèdre than just her parentage. She sends for Anafiel Delaunay, who is not a member of the Night Court, but something of a noble and a scholar.

Kushiel’s Dart is not a fantasy book containing magic, exactly, but there are moments of divine guidance and intervention. Delaunay recognizes instantly that the scarlet mote in Phèdre’s eye is not a mark of imperfection, but the mark of the god Kushiel, who was a bestower of punishments, and whose followers have a special relationship with the experience of pain. The scarlet mote in her eye is the Kushiel’s dart of the title. Phèdre also feels Kushiel’s call to action on more than one occasion, and her tolerance for pain helps her to carry out Kushiel’s wishes. What’s more, Phèdre’s pleasure in pain is not common, but the trait of an anguissette. Delaunay, after giving a name to her gifts, buys her mark so that once she has reached the age of ten she will join his household as one of his apprentices.

From here the story grows into a masterfully crafted, War of the Roses style political intrigue. Delaunay is loyal to the main royal house of Terre d’Ange, the de la Courcels, and his two apprentices – Phèdre and a lad named Alcuin, who is, honestly, too pure for words – are his tools for securing the line of succession in favor of Ysandre de la Courcel (who happens to be the daughter of his former lover, the late Crown Prince). He seeks to accomplish this by using the pair of his apprentices, who pledge to become Servants of Naamah in an independent fashion, as honey pots.

Having started and put down a lot of books with political intrigue, Kushiel’s Dart might have died on my endless TBR pile at this point, because considerable time is spent on Phèdre and Alcuin’s apprenticeship in which they are learning to observe and think, which is great and makes a case for the dramatis personae section in the front of the book, but also contains a lot of details about the political movers and shakers of Terre d’Ange. That the book did not molder in the annals of my college shelves or become a very thick table leg replacement is where credit is due to Jacqueline Carey’s gorgeous prose, lush worldbuilding, and Phèdre’s relatable narration. That’s what kept me going through all ninety-five chapters of the book. Alongside Phèdre I fell in love with Delaunay, wept at his misfortune, was frustrated with not being told the aim of his schemes, and despite my own tastes in intimacy, I found myself looking forward to Phèdre’s eventual assignations.

ABOUT THOSE ASSIGNATIONS

You get a hint early in the book that Phèdre’s not going to be a vanilla-sex sort of romance heroine. Being an anguissette means that it is in Phèdre’s nature to derive pleasure from pain, but during her apprenticeship we slog through what Phèdre calls the “dumb torment of virginity.” In chapter fourteen we are further educated about what sexploits we can look forward to as, alongside Phèdre, we journey to Valerian house and are introduced to “the tools of algolania,” or the implements of pain we can expect her clients to use on her. She’s somewhat familiar with most of them, at least in an academic fashion, but she is nonetheless excited by the show and tell. For someone on the outside of these desires, it was nice to be introduced to the ways of Phèdre’s art. The sex scenes themselves are handled as masterfully as the rest of the prose in the novel, without an excess of detail but with a true connection to Phèdre’s feelings in these moments. Her experiences and pleasure are vividly portrayed. So, while I couldn’t sympathize with her excitement over the specifics of her assignations, I was on the edge of my seat because she was going to experience what she’d been craving for chapters upon chapters. That I could understand, and Phèdre’s fulfillment makes the read that much better.

Piece by piece, assignation by assignation, we move through the story, and along the way we meet Melisande Shahrizai. If Delaunay is Sherlock, with an immense intellect, a keen eye for detail, and a mission for the greater good (as he sees it), then Melisande is his Moriarty in the sense that the two of them are equally clever and motivated towards their own goals. Melisande is beautiful, dangerous, and a noble of Kushiel’s line, which makes her a flame to Phèdre’s moth. Kushiel’s chosen and a scion of Kushiel’s line have an undeniable chemistry between them that could make them perfect for each other, but while Melisande appreciates Phèdre as a singular creature, they are not entirely on the same side. Melisande has as many schemes as Delaunay, and both are playing a very long game with the succession of Terre d’Ange as the prize. While Delaunay seeks to secure Ysandre de la Courcel, it takes the whole book to learn Melisande’s true aim, and she damn near razes the country in pursuit of it. I enjoy Melisande for her ruthless ambition and her intelligence. Like so many of the characters in the novel, she’s real, vibrant, and alluring enough that even I can understand Phèdre’s instant infatuation with her.

As with all good stories involving political intrigue, the tête-à-tête regarding the succession involves a rather stunning betrayal, and as our narrator and protagonist, Phèdre is caught in the middle of it, finding herself shipped off to the barbarians of Skaldia in chapter thirty-nine. She has the good fortune not to be sent alone, which brings me to one of my favorite things about this novel.

OH, JOSCELIN…

I’ve been saving possibly the best part of this story, because Joscelin Verreuil is probably every reader’s best fictional boyfriend, and he deserves to be done justice. If you’re wondering what I mean, I think a case could be made that Joscelin is to romantic fantasy what Mr. Darcy is to regency romance.

How? Well, let’s start with how he enters our story.

As much as they are Delaunay’s apprentices, Alcuin and Phèdre are also part of Delaunay’s household and, despite the brewing adoration in them for their master, they are like family to him. Delaunay is a veteran soldier (along with being a poet and a nobleman), but it isn’t his station to escort them to their every appointment, so he keeps an unofficial man-at-arms in his household for that purpose. We see a glimpse of the danger he has set his apprentices to courting when Alcuin comes riding pell-mell back from an assignation on horseback after his carriage was attacked and the man-at-arms, Guy, perishes facing off against the attackers to defend Alcuin’s escape.

Guy is an older, chaperone-type figure during Phèdre’s younger years in the household. He doesn’t spend much time talking in the book. Like everyone else in Delaunay’s household, he knows when to keep his mouth shut, and he’s got a few secrets in his past. The only real tidbit we’re given is one that Phèdre discovers during the torment of her virginity, that Guy is a disgraced Cassiline Brother.

Much like Naamah and Kushiel, Cassiel was one of Eula’s Companions, and he alone among them remained chaste, disdaining the open, loving ways of the others. The Cassiline Brotherhood are not descendents of Cassiel, but an order of bodyguards pledged from noble houses that are considered to be the ultimate protectors. Usually they are only in service to those born of the Great Houses (i.e., nobility). They dress in grey and carry two daggers and a sword, though mostly they fight with unmatched skill with the two daggers, as their swords are only drawn to kill. But it’s rare for them to draw their swords. Cassilines won’t even draw their daggers except in defense of their charges.

Delaunay secures a Cassiline to replace Guy in accompanying Phèdre on her missions, which she thinks a disaster in the making as she anticipates a prudishly chaste, old, wrinkled guardian that will be off-putting and unsuitable.

What she gets is Joscelin Verreuil.

The young man standing in the shadows behind me bowed in the traditional manner of the Cassiline Brotherhood, hands crossed before him at chest level. Warm sunlight gleamed on the steel of his vambraces and the chain-mail that gauntleted the backs of his hands. His twin daggers hung low on his belt and the cruciform hilt of his sword, always worn at the back, rose above his shoulders. He straightened and met my eyes.

“Phèdre no Delaunay,” he said formally, “I am Joscelin Verreuil of the Cassiline Brotherhood. It is my privilege to attend.”

He neither looked nor sounded as though he meant it; I saw the line of his jaw harden as he closed his mouth on the words.

It was a beautiful mouth.

Indeed, there was very little about Joscelin Verreuil that was not beautiful. He had the old-fashioned, noble features of a provincial lord and the somber, ash-grey garb of a Cassiline Brother adorned a tall, well-proportioned form, like the statues of the old Hellene athletes. His eyes were a clear blue, the color of a summer sky, and his hair, caught back in a club at the nape of his neck, was the color of a wheatfield at harvesttime.

At this moment, his blue eyes considered me with ill-concealed dislike.

Kushiel’s Dart, pg 254-255

Joscelin enters the story at a tumultuous time. Alcuin has made his mark, leaving Phèdre as the only active spy for Delaunay, and the waters she’s diving into are getting turbulent. A trained, chaste protector, Joscelin is affronted by her “service.” Phèdre equally resents Joscelin for his rigidity. But they are of a similar age, and he is assigned to be her protector at a time when she is becoming isolated from those she cares for by their shared mission. Their similar age and exclusion from Delaunay’s greatest secrets gives them common ground. He becomes a fixture in the household, and a steady companion to her, despite not having Phèdre’s training at political intrigue. There’s something of a role-reversal in their dynamic from the more standard male-warrior/female-damsel relationships in the fantasy I read prior to this book. Phèdre faces danger even without carrying a sword, and she lacks a sense of caution about her work. Joscelin, who is much more careful, is a good foil for her, and proves himself a stalwart companion when the chips are down.

What draws me to Joscelin is similar to what draws me to Phèdre. Despite his impressive skills with a sword, he’s not perfect. He messes up and needs help finding his way, and has some growing up to do when we meet him in the book, but he never stops trying and he never abandons Phèdre despite their differences and disagreements. And they have some serious disagreements along the way, but even to at the worst of them, he remains a constant in the turbulence she’s embroiled in.

“You don’t know.” He bowed his head, pressing the heels of his hands into his eyes, despairing. “You don’t understand. It has naught to do with thrones and crowns. Cassiel betrayed God because God Himself had forgotten the duty of love and abandoned Elua ben Yeshua to the whims of Fate. To the point of damnation and beyond, he is the Perfect Companion. If you are true, if you are true… I cannot abandon you, Phèdre nó Delaunay!”

Kushiel’s Dart, page 388

The two of them are such a slow-burn, antagonists-to-lovers romance that I could write an entire epic saga in honor to it. They both support each other and grow to be capable individuals that fit together. There’s a lack of narrative focused on how they feel about each other, but with Jacqueline Carey’s gorgeous prose and Phèdre’s insightful narration, you know how close they grow without needing purple prose descriptions or long-winded confessions to explain it. And Carey doesn’t rush into their pairing, or ignore or avoid their individual truths or situations. Their affection for each other doesn’t magically erase the impediments to it – Phèdre remains a Servant of Naamah and Kushiel’s Chosen; Joscelin remains a Cassiline with his oaths. Joscelin can’t supply for all Phèdre’s sexual desires, and she can’t give them up for him. Likewise, there’s the pesky issue of his vow of celibacy to consider.

In another story this might lead to a relationship doomed for failure or only lasting a single novel, but the main tenet of the d’Angeline faith is Blessed Elua’s decree to “Love as thou wilt,” and thankfully their relationship proves that love will find a way despite the struggles it must endure. Their growth as a couple and the progression of their love make Phèdre and Joscelin one of my favorite literary couples.

LOVE AS THOU WILT

I can’t write this book review without further exploring the open-mindedness of Elua’s teachings. The acceptance of sexuality, desire, and love in this world (I would say book, but remember, this series continues on for more than just this one) are another reason I love it so. There’s an absence of shaming of desires in the book. Even Joscelin, who doesn’t agree with or understand Phèdre’s assignations or desires, comes across more like he’s asking “Are you sure the answer to this calamity is sex?” than throwing stones about how she finds her pleasure when the matter comes up. (Remember, he starts off a chaste guardian that errs towards restraint rather than passion.)

That D’Angelines keep certain things private, but don’t stigmatize an individual’s desires, has been refreshing to me since I first read this book almost twenty years ago, and remains a message that’s relevant today. I like that sort of inclusion in my fantasy stories, and in Kushiel’s Dart, Phèdre not only understands her desires, she expresses them, and isn’t rebuked for it. Because the narrative voice always makes me feel one with Phèdre when reading the book, that transfers a powerful feeling of validation to me as the reader.

It’s pretty obvious at this point that I love Phèdre’s story, and I love the emotional roller coaster it takes me on. But as a responsible reviewer, I can’t conclude without an honest assessment of a few potential distractions from the book’s glory.

Some Possible Cons…

I mentioned before the flavor of most of the sex in the book, which won’t be to everyone’s taste despite being handled tastefully. The book is also long, nine-hundred-and-one pages long, which puts the paperback in the category of self-defense brick. The story is gorgeously written, but with so much of it, I find that every time I read the book new details come to my attention. Also, there’s the pesky problem of not being able to put it down, and my poor wrists trying to hold open this mass-market paperbrick.

None of the above is reason not to pick the book up, as there’s so much to the story to enjoy, but you have been warned.

Now, because this review has been lengthy (and hopefully without too many spoilers), I’ll give a bit of a summary.

TL;DR

Kushiel’s Dart is the story of Phèdre, who was marked at birth by the god Kushiel in Terre d’Ange. This romantic epic fantasy:

  • involves political intrigue;
  • includes sexytimes in which pain brings the protagonist pleasure and sexytimes in which sex brings the protagonist pleasure;
  • is told from the protagonist’s point of view in first person narration;
  • has a well-detailed and fleshed out fantasy setting;
  • has a bright and interesting cast of characters; and
  • has a swoon-worthy, slow-burn, antagonists-to-lovers romance within it.

(Also, you could defend yourself in a dark alley with the paperback version.)

Did I miss your favorite part? Have you been in love with it as long as I have, or is this your first introduction to it? Let’s chat in the comments about it!

You can get your copy here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Roz has a degree in both theater and comic books from different ends of the country, and has been telling stories since she was chasing fireflies barefoot at dusk and tormenting her cousins by enforcing a storyline on summer games of tag. She enjoys video games that rival epic sagas in length, writing books with heroines that require her to spar through her fight scenes with friends, and a good cup of tea.

Reach her at:

Roz’s latest release is Partner to Trouble, which is the third installment in her fantasy romance series, Shieldsister. The series starts with An Evening’s Truce:

No amount of coin will convince Belisare to use her magic, but that never stops her lover Gio from trying to change her mind. 

With hard times thinning the ranks of her pack of mercenaries, Belisare doesn’t have a lot of options when it comes to romance, and even less on making the coin to keep them all going. Rather than spend her nights cold and alone, she’s hung on to her erstwhile lover, Gio. Rather than disband, she’s taken one last, desperate contract before winter to try and make ends meet.

When convincing the lads of the plan goes poorly and Gio shows up in her tent, Belisare is more than happy for a few hours of distraction. But are Gio’s nighttime attentions meant to help her unwind or are they yet another attempt at convincing her to use the magical ability she keeps firmly suppressed?

Appropriate for fans of KUSHIEL’S DART and OGLAF, the SHIELDSISTER series is for mature readers only, and is certainly NSFW.

Content Warning: Steamy love scenes, occasionally naughty language, and busty ladies in armor wielding swords. Intended for mature audiences.