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…

58 Romantic Fantasy Books To Tie Your Heart In Knots

Looking for your next romantic fantasy read? We here at Romantic Fantasy Shelf have put together a list of our favorites and the most promising candidates from our TBRs, in no particular order, just for you! To help those of you supporting indie authors, we’ve gone ahead and marked those with #indie. Enjoy!

1. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas 

“A dazzling world, complex characters and sizzling romance. Feyre is a charming heroine with a perfect amount of flaws and strengths, and her chemistry with Tamlin is wonderfully tangible.” –Top Pick, RT Book Reviews

2. Daughter of the Forest (The Sevenwaters Series Book 1) by Juliet Marillier 

“It is dark, painful and horrifying at times but it is also balanced with extreme love, devotion and hope. So even though it breaks your heart DoF will do its best to patch it up again.” — Amazon Reviewer

3. Kushiel’s Dart (Kushiel’s Legacy Book 1) by Jacqueline Carey 

“The story is rich and complex, the characters deep and conflicted, and the setting is full of grace. There’s love & betrayal, for sure, but also sword fights, brilliant escapes, brutal warlords, torture, a good deal of kindness unlooked for, poetry, royalty teetering on the brink of collapse, and so much more.” –Amazon Reviewer

4. Blood Oath (The Darkest Drae Book 1) by Raye Wagner & Kelly St. Clare #indie

“This book has everything you could possibly want: action, love, hysterical inner monologue, the answers to the questions and predictions that eat away at you while reading, and leaves you wanting more.” –Amazon Reviewer

5. Fantasy of Frost (The Tainted Accords Book 1) by Kelly St. Clare #indie 

“Olina is a very interesting character and you’ll quickly be drawn into her story and be anxious to learn more. There is adventure, a little romance, interesting world building, and fun and interesting characters that play into this series well.” –Amazon Reviewer

6. Air Awakens (Air Awakens Series Book 1) by Elise Kova #indie

“I love Air Awakens! It’s Phantom of the Opera meets Cinderella in a wonderfully crafted world created by debut author Elise Kova.” –Michelle Madow

7. Blade & Rose (Blade and Rose Book 1) by Miranda Honfleur  #indie

“…[M]ultiple threads of a complex plot, forbidden romance, manipulative villains, and marvelous writing.” –Fantasy-Faction.com

8. Mother of Shadows (The Chosen Book 1) by Meg Anne #indie

“I’m completely shocked that this is a debut novel… It’s executed flawlessly, the storyline is decadent, full of magic, love, heat and deceit. I literally felt like I was stepping into a different world, I didn’t want to put the book down, I just had to know what was going to happen next!” –Amazon Reviewer

9. Stolen Songbird: Malediction Trilogy Book One by Danielle L. Jensen  #indie

Stolen Songbird is an absolutely wonderful addition to the fantasy genre. The book is full of magic, adventure, outlandish creatures, and at its heart is one of the most touching love stories I have ever read…” –Avid Reviews

10. The Priestess and the Dragon (Dragon Saga Book 1) by Nicolette Andrews  #indie

“This story has it all, action adventure, mystery, touch of romance, humor, excellent visual word pictures, and the deepest, full-bodied characters.” –Amazon Reviewer

11. Phoenix Unbound (The Fallen Empire Book 1) by Grace Draven 

“Grace Draven’s exciting romantic fantasy features characters who are fresh and original. Their problems and triumphs will keep you reading into the night.”—Charlaine Harris, #1 New York Times bestselling author

12. Mermaid Bride by J.M. Butler #indie

“I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s prose is very strong, with beautiful imagery that captures all the senses and a strong plot of conflictual romance, loyalty, and integrity.” –Amazon Reviewer

13. Oath Taker: Kingdom of Runes Book 1 by Audrey Grey #indie

“A lyrical, sweeping fantasy that will take you on a beautiful adventure in a world where danger and romance lurk at every corner.” ~ Olivia Wildenstein, USA Today Bestselling author of A PACK OF BLOOD AND LIES

14. A Thief & a Gentlewoman (Counterfeit Contessa Book 1) by Clare Sager #indie

“There’s romance, deception, magic, palace intrigue, murder, sword fights, a couple of cross country races against time and best of all, a selection of characters (not just two) I want to read more about.” –Amazon Reviewer

15. Fortune Favors the Cruel (Dark Maji Book 1) by Kel Carpenter & Lucinda Dark #indie

“If you love dark fantasy, anti-heroines and sizzling enemies-to-lovers romance, prepare to be tired, because you won’t be able to put this puppy down.” –Katherine Bogle, author

16. Betrayed (Magi Rising Book 1) by Raye Wagner #indie

“Brutal yet compelling, BETRAYED brings me back to why I fell in love with dark fantasy. The lush jungle kingdom of Qrali is as vibrant as it is dangerous, and the chemistry between Disa and Rune is mind blowing. Full of magic, intrigue, and plenty of mystery–this tantalizing tale will keep you glued to the book until the very last page.” ~ Kel Carpenter, USA Today Bestselling Author of Fortune Favors the Cruel

17. Waters of Salt and Sin (Uncommon World Book 1) by Alisha Klapheke #indie

“I give this book a 5/5, not only for the stellar world building, kickass heroine, and sexy love interest, but for the hungover longing for more I’m experiencing days after. Klapheke is one to watch out for!” ~Katherine Bogle, author of Savages

18. Summernight (Bridge of Legends Book 1) by Sarah K. L. Wilson #indie

“Marielle & Tamerlan’s lives intertwine with the hope and fear of their fates, and it’s an amazing ride. The question of who will succeed and who will die flows throughout the entire novel, leaving me on the edge of my seat until the very end.” –Amazon Reviewer

19. Empire of Sand (The Books of Ambha Book 1) by Tasha Suri

“The magic system is fascinating, and it is seamlessly integrated into both plot and character development. I adored the romance.” –Amazon Reviewer

20. Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

“A brilliant debut, full of everything I love: a sparkling and fully realized heroine, an intricate and deadly system of magic, and a searing romance that kept me reading long into the night. Serpent & Dove is an absolute gem of a book.” —Sarah J. Maas

21. A Bond of Venom and Magic (The Goddess and the Guardians Book 1) by Karen Tomlinson  #indie

“A swoon worthy page-turner. Tomlinson finds the perfect balance of adventure and romance. I can’t wait for the next book! I loved it…!” — Kelly Oram, Bestselling Author of Cinder & Ella

22. Feast of the Mother (Witch of the Lake Book 1) by Miranda Honfleur & Nicolette Andrews  #indie

“Steeped in rich and dark folklore, Feast of the Mother is young-adult fantasy at its best. Honfleur and Andrews take witches, murder, and romance, twist and weave them together with an imaginative and mysterious backdrop of medieval grievances. The result is a page-turning tale that will keep you riveted from the first page until the very last.” ~Raye Wagner, USA Today bestselling author of Magi Rising series

23. The City of Brass: A Novel (The Daevabad Trilogy) by S. A. Chakraborty

“THE CITY OF BRASS has some of the best fantasy world building I’ve ever read, along with compelling characters, an intriguing mystery, a dash of swoon-worthy romance, and roots in cultures that don’t normally take center stage in fantasy.” –Amazon Reviewer

24. To Claim a King (Age of Gold Book 1) by May Sage #indie

“This is the first book I have read by this author and will not be the last. There was drama, action, fantasy and romance.” –Amazon Reviewer

25. Seas of Crimson Silk (Burning Empire Book 1) by Emma Hamm #indie

“…this is a slow burn of romance, that is definitely apparent in all the most deliciously antagonizing of ways. Everything from their physical chemistry to their verbal interactions was definitely melt worthy.” –Amazon Reviewer

26. Sarya’s Song by Kyra Halland #indie

“This was a very enjoyable read, a perfect blend of well-thought-out fantasy with a satisfying romance. I loved the ingenious and cleverly implemented concept of music as a form of magic. Highly recommended.” –Amazon Reviewer

27. Kill the Queen (A Crown of Shards Novel Book 1) by Jennifer Estep 

“Kill the Queen rocked my world! With court intrigue, a cast of fantastic characters, epic political sweep, and a slow-burn romance to die for, this book had me rapt. I only regret I devoured it so fast. And that I didn’t write it. More please!” –Jeffe Kennedy, RITA® Award winning author of The Pages of the Mind

28. The Rose Crown by Catharine Glen #indie

“No word is out of place and each sentence is balanced. It reminds us of a long-forgotten melody, of which you can only remember when you hear it aloud, and it warms the cockles of your heart.” –Fantasiareviews.com (Best Writing of the Year, 2016)

29. The Shadow and The Sun (A Militess and Mage Novel Book 1) by Monica Enderle Pierce  #indie

“I love this story so much. The characters are fully realized without the author needing to go into detailed back stories. Their actions and reactions MAKE SENSE! It’s so refreshing to have not one but both of the main characters be likable and rooting for both of them. I understand where they are both coming from and the tidbits of detail into their live before they collided are so juicy and raw. I really love this book and highly recommend it if you’re at all a romance, fantasy, or action/adventure fan.” –Amazon Reviewer

30. Heart of Dragons (Chronicles of Pelenor Book 1) by Meg Cowley #indie

“I loved the characters, the storyline, the murkiness of the relationships and how the characters have to work through it. I also happen to love elves 🧝‍♀️ And dragons! I highly recommend this book” –Amazon Reviewer

31. Beneath the Mists (Of Astral and Umbral Book 1) by Bonnie L. Price #indie

“The romance isn’t overdone, it doesn’t detract from the plot but instead enhances the character’s development.” –Amazon Reviewer

32. Diviner’s Prophecy (Diviner’s Trilogy Book 1) by Nicolette Andrews #indie

“I won’t give too much away, but the cast of characters Ms. Andrews has assembled leave the reader guessing as to their true intentions, while also managing to pull them under their spell. Will NOT disappoint true romantic fantasy fans!” –Amazon Reviewer

33. Tree of Ages (The Tree of Ages Series Book 1) by Sara C. Roethle #indie

“I had the craving for a good epic fantasy, and this world provided it. There is action, a quest, the potential for a slow-burn romance, family drama, an unknown past, the the looming threat of potential war on the horizon. I enjoyed watching the character development of Finn as she slowly becomes more human” –Amazon Reviewer

34. Dragon Storm (Heritage of Power Book 1) by Lindsay Buroker #indie

“Another new series with typical Buroker flair of impossible mission, funny verbal banter, romantic attraction, and solid storytelling.” –Amazon Reviewer

35. Witch Song by Amber Argyle #indie

“Witch Song is a debut with an engrossing world full of magic, adventure and romance. It’s a story that fascinated me with its unique witch lore and rich world building, and introduced me to some great in-depth characters.” ~Katie, Mundie Moms

36. Identity Revealed (The Tue-Rah Chronicles) by J.M. Butler #indie

“I fell in love, hate, despair with all the characters. The relationships in the story are highly relatable.” –Amazon Reviewer

37. Frostbound Throne: Song of Night (Court of Sin Book 1) by May Sage #indie

“I loved this book! If you enjoy fantasy, adventure and romance you will love it as much as I did.” –Amazon Reviewer

38. Daughter of the Blood (Black Jewels, Book 1) by Anne Bishop 

“So good, I read it twice years apart and can’t wait until I read it a third time in a few years. Magic, romance, loyalty beyond measure and a great story.” –Amazon Reviewer

39. Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson 

“If you are looking for magic you will find it inside this book. Sorcery of Thorns is a bewitching gem, full of slow burning romance, loyal friendships, and extraordinary world building. I absolutely loved every moment of this story.” —Stephanie Garber, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Caraval series

40. The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air Book 1) by Holly Black 

“Heart-in-throat action, deadly romance, double-crossing, moral complexity-this is one heck of a ride.”
–Booklist (starred review)

41. Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass series Book 1) by Sarah J. Maas

“I loved the sarcasm, the romance, the mystery and the action that this story has. I loved how well developed was the love, the hatred and the friendship throughout the story.” –Amazon Reviewer

42. Sky Keeper (The Drowning Empire Book 1) by S.M. Gaither #indie

“Rich world building, fast-paced adventure, a dash of romance and a wondrous quest make this a book to get lost in and wish for the continuation as soon as the last page is done.” –Amazon Reviewer

43. Balanced on the Blade’s Edge (Dragon Blood Book 1) by Lindsay Buroker #indie

“I found myself wanting more of the book and not wanting to put it down. It had great airship action, romance was very exciting, and I find myself genuinely caring for the characters and wanting more at the end of it.” –Amazon Reviewer

44. Destiny (Experimental Heart Book 1) by Shannon Pemrick #indie

“The suspense, the wonder of romance, the different types of mythical creatures was so interesting it hooks you right in.” –Amazon Reviewer

45. Kingdom of Exiles (The Beast Charmer Book 1) by Maxym M. Martineau 

“With Kingdom of Exiles, Maxym M. Martineau launches a fresh new romantic fantasy series that has all the lush world-building and intoxicating magic of the Harry Potter universe edged with something altogether more adult… Martineau’s writing bursts with humor, heart, and an exquisite burst of magic that declare her a new voice as powerful (and charming!) as one of her irresistible characters.” – Entertainment Weekly

46. The Mark of the Tala (The Twelve Kingdoms Book 1) by Jeffe Kennedy 

“It’s a solid first book and I enjoyed the author’s world-building and writing. If you like fantasy with a little romance thrown in then this book is for you.” –Amazon Reviewer

47. Beneath the Canyons (Daughter of the Wildings Book 1) by Kyra Halland #indie

“This book had me from page one. It has fantasy, mystery, and western with a great romance plot throughout. The intrigue kept me turning the page, and the well-developed characters made me care about what would happen next.” –Amazon Reviewer

48. Eye of Truth (Agents of the Crown Book 1) by Lindsay Buroker #indie

“You’ve got adventure, mystery, romance, lovable leads and quirky supporting characters. It’s all there. Heck yeah!” –Amazon Reviewer

49. Ishtar’s Blade (Ishtar’s Legacy Book 1) by Lisa Blackwood #indie

“I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good fantasy with romance and intrigue.” –Amazon Reviewer

50. Torn (The Unraveled Kingdom Book 1) by Rowenna Miller 

“This book has romance, intrigue, betrayal and magic sewn all though it. Very well done!” –Amazon Reviewer

51. Striking Midnight (Fairy Tale Lies, Spies, and Assassins Book 1) by Jennifer Ellision #indie

“Cyn is not your average damsel, she is a kick a$$ leader with a brilliant mind. Loved the story.” –Amazon Reviewer

52. Prisoner of Silk: A Dark Fairy Tale Retelling (Queen of the Sun Palace Book 1) by Lidiya Foxglove #indie

“…it was definitely compelling and erotic but different from the usual romantic fantasy!” –Amazon Reviewer

53. Trial by Fae (Dragon’s Gift: The Dark Fae Book 1) by Linsey Hall #indie

“I loved the action, adventure, romance, and getting to know Mari.” –Amazon Reviewer

54. Shadows for a Princess (Trials of Terraina, Book 1) by Vivienne Savage and Dominique Kristine #indie

“The authors have penned a story line keeps you intrigued with a hint of romance to take your heart for a ride in the best of ways.” –Amazon Reviewer

55. Marked by Dragon’s Blood (Return of the Dragonborn Book 1) by N.M. Howell #indie

“I would recommend this book to all who like light romance with HEA and, of course, Dragons.” –Amazon Reviewer

56. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (The Inheritance Trilogy Book 1) by N.K. Jemisin

“Multifaceted characters struggle with their individual burdens and desires, creating a complex, edge-of-your-seat story with plenty of funny, scary, and bittersweet twists.” –Publishers Weekly

57. Star of the Morning (A Novel of the Nine Kingdoms Book 1) by Lynn Kurland 

“I love the fact that the heroine truly is a strong person in her own right. There’s great world-building, an interesting magic system, great characterization, and the romance element builds rather than being some crazed instalove.” –Amazon Reviewer

58. Red Winter (The Red Winter Trilogy Book 1) by Annette Marie

“An enchanting tale of fantastical magic, supernatural creatures, mysterious heroes, and forbidden romance, [set] against a wildly gorgeous and exotic backdrop.” – FLYLeF Reviews

Which of these have you read? Which others would you recommend?

AJ Lancaster: Book Review of Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Sometimes a book draws you in so completely that you only remember you meant to go to bed hours ago after you emerge, blinking, from the very last page. I mean, look at that opening sentence:

Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley.

Uprooted, p1

How can you possibly stop there? It’s clearly necessary to keep reading at least as long as it takes to find out that the Dragon is a wizard who lives in a tower, and that he takes a village girl to serve him every ten years. And once you’re that far in, well, if you’re me you won’t be able to stop, even if it is after midnight. Who needs sleep, anyway?

Uprooted isn’t technically a fairytale retelling, butit certainly feels like one. It’s partly the dreamy prose and partly the setting, which is alive and magical and sinister in the form of the malevolent Wood. Uprooted is somehow simultaneously epic fantasy about saving the world and small-scale cozy fantasy (that’s a genre, right?) about the comforts of home. I love it fiercely. I own multiple copies and have re-read it countless times.

My copy of Uprooted with bonus cameo by my cat Kestrel

So what makes me love it so much?

Let’s start with our heroine, Agnieszka (Ag-NYESH-kah). She’s messy, stubborn, big-hearted, uneducated but intelligent. The story is told entirely in her voice, and her arc forms the story’s core as we watch her grow from awkward village girl to self-assured sorceress.

She’s also clumsy and frequently spills things, and it’s so nice to see the non-adorable consequences of this represented in fiction. 

“How do you do this to yourself?” he asked me, almost marveling, one day when I wandered in with a clump of rice pudding in my hair—I had accidentally hit a spoon with my elbow and flung some into the air—and a huge streak of jam going all the way down my front of beautiful cream silk.

Uprooted, p36

(It should be mentioned at this point that our grumpy hero, Sarkan aka The Dragon, is a neat freak, and, yes, the conflict between him and our messy heroine on this front is just as amusing as one could hope for.)

It’s also a relief to find a heroine who, despite her magical qualities, doesn’t distance herself from other women or define herself as being “not like other girls”, which is a trope that hugely annoys me. Agnieszka’s best friend is the beautiful, confident, poised Kasia, and in a lesser book they’d be rivals. In Uprooted, a lot of the plot is driven by the strength of their friendship. 

The other central relationship in Uprootedis the slow-burn romance between the Dragon and Agnieszka. It’s that good old trope of enemies-to-lovers. When we first meet the Dragon, he is cold and callous, removing Agnieszka from her village and imprisoning her in his tower—and Agnieszka fears him. But as the story unfolds, we learn that the Dragon isn’t the villain of this tale at all, despite his prickly exterior.  

These two are chalk and cheese, and it’s very satisfying to watch as they come to understand each other and realize that ultimately they share the same goal of saving humankind from the relentless evil of the Wood (more on that later).

Some readers may find the Dragon’s grouchiness not to their taste, but for me his actions speak louder than words—and as Agnieszka quickly realizes, his bark is much worse than his bite.

The Dragon tries to teach Agnieszka magic, and he’s soannoyed by how unpredictable her magic is. Magic should be sharply defined, methodical, and work the same way every time! But Agnieszka’s magic is organic, intuitive, and context-dependent—and often fails spectacularly during their lessons.

[After Agnieszka has accidentally set fire to the guest bedroom]

He roared at me furiously for ten minutes after he finally managed to put out the sulky and determined fire, calling me a witless muttonheaded spawn of pig farmers—“My father’s a woodcutter,” I said—“Of axe-swinging lummocks!” he snarled.

But even so, I wasn’t afraid anymore. He only spluttered himself into exhaustion and then sent me away, and I didn’t mind his shouting at all, now I knew there was no teeth in it to rend me.

Uprooted, p54

Initially, Agnieszka doesn’t want to learn magic, doesn’t want to accept that she can’t go back to her old life. Her emotional journey is one of learning to step up and embrace her new self, whilst not sacrificing her values and her deep connection to her home village.  

Because home, the sense of being rooted (ha, see what I did there?) to a place, is ultimately what Uprootedis about. This also probably explains why it appeals to me so strongly, since I like to write about magically sentient places. There’s something powerful about home, the place that you both can and can’t return to after you’ve gone away and changed.

Which brings me to… the Wood.

It’s hard to make a place into a compelling antagonist, but Naomi Novik has managed it in the eldritch horror that is the Wood. Its evil lies not just in the monsters that roam beneath its branches, but in how it deliberately taints people it comes into contact with and uses them to manipulate events outside its borders, inciting deaths, wars, and misery. The central mystery of the novel is why the Wood hates humanity—and what created it in the first place. 

Both Agnieszka and the Dragon have to grow and change in order to have any chance of defeating the Wood, creating magic stronger than the sum of their parts. 

“Try and match it,” he said absently, his fingers moving slightly, and by lurching steps we brought out illusions closer together until it was nearly impossible to tell them from one another, and then he said, “Ah,” suddenly, just as I began to glimpse his spell: almost exactly like that strange clockwork in the middle of his table, all shining moving parts. On an impulse I tried to align our workings: I envisioned his like the water-wheel of a mill, and mine the rushing stream driving it around. “What are you—” he began, and then abruptly we had only a single rose, and it began to grow.

Uprooted, p95

There’s also wars, court politics, and magical monsters. What more could you ask for?

TL;DR list:

  • Enemies to lovers.
  • Magic training montages.
  • Strong female friendship.
  • Evil sentient wood.
  • Fairytale-like atmosphere.

Have you read Uprooted? What did you think?

About the Author

AJ Lancaster lives in the windy coastal city of Wellington, New Zealand, with two ridiculous cats and many novelty mugs. She writes fantasy of the whimsical rather than grimdark variety.

Her Stariel Quartet is romantic gaslamp fantasy, set on a magical sentient estate in a world where the fae are only stories…until now.

Reach her at:

The first book in the Stariel Quartet is The Lord of Stariel:

The Lord of Stariel is dead. Long live the Lord of Stariel. Whoever that is.

Everyone knows who the magical estate will choose for its next ruler. Or do they?

Will it be the lord’s eldest son, who he despised? His favourite nephew, with the strongest magical land-sense? His scandalous daughter, who ran away from home years ago to study illusion?

Hetta knows it won’t be her, and she’s glad of it. Returning home for her father’s funeral, all Hetta has to do is survive the family drama and avoid entanglements with irritatingly attractive local men until the Choosing. Then she can leave.

But whoever Stariel chooses will have bigger problems than eccentric relatives to deal with.

Winged, beautifully deadly problems. 

For the first time in centuries, the fae are returning to the Mortal Realm, and only the Lord of Stariel can keep the estate safe. In theory.

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:

J.M. Butler: Review of A Thief and a Gentlewoman (RFS Book Club Winner – March 2019)

For the month of March, 2019, the readers of Romantic Fantasy Shelf voted for two books: A Thief and a Gentlewoman by Clare Sage and Okami by Nicolette Andrews. And today, we’re going to be discuss A Thief and a Gentlewoman.

This story is the first book in the Counterfeit Contessa series. Book two will be coming out in June of this year if everything goes according to schedule, but let me give you a little spoiler and tell you that even if I had to wait two or more years to get the sequel, I would be more than willing to wait. A Thief and a Gentlewoman is a story very much its own while working beautifully within the genre conventions and immersing the reader into an incredible world.

Quin, short for Quinta, is a special sort of thief. She’s trained in many respects and most definitely a bit of a rogue with a skill for cards, seduction, flirtation, locks, and escape. But her life begins to change as she encounters a Pasha who is more than he appears and who is not content with her feigned appearances of demure femininity. This Pasha, Atesh, is far more than meets the eye, and though she has set him as her next mark, both are falling for one another, even though that will create even more consequences. Not only that, but Atesh is the cousin of the Sultana, an individual with whom Quin has some family history.

A Thief and a Gentlewoman is the first book in the Counterfeit Countessa Series.

Type of Story

A Thief and a Gentlewoman is an immersive romantic fantasy epic. Clare weaves together a complex and beautiful world rich with details that draw heavily on Turkish influences as well as some English with a strong infusion of magic and fantasy (my favorite distinct element being the sabre cats which are large enough to ride).

Arianople is a fascinating city, similar to Istanbul but without the dominant Christian and Muslim influences.

This is a slow burn romance with intrigue and doom looming over the couple as they are perpetually drawn together. This story also features mysteries and political intrigue in a way that is well balanced. While I did find myself accurately guessing some of the twists and turns, they were laid out in such a way that my enjoyment was not diminished. This is the sort of story where the journey and the unfolding and development of the characters is far more important.

This story is set within a distinct world from our own. Arianople is perhaps best described as Instanbul without the prominent Christian or Muslim influences. A distinct religion/spiritual tradition which serves the Hundred and draws on altered tarot cards takes their places.  

The Romance Between the Characters

As I have begun to realize is one of my favorite elements of romantic fantasy, this features a slow burn romance. Here the characters run into one another early on in the story, and matters build from there along with respect and affection amid vital questions.

Indeed there is a spark and an intimacy between these two, even from their first encounter. And despite all of the concerns that develop between the two, I absolutely wanted them to get together and yet found myself content with the more gradual connection, especially as Quin’s thoughts and emotions transform. Her attitude and growth throughout is the most complex and the most fascinating.

And while this section is intended to be about the romance of the two leads, I have to speak about another point of romance within this story that charmed and surprised me: the romance of the cards. It’s not often that an author weaves together a scene regarding games of chance and cards that makes you feel like the cards are seducing you. Don’t get me wrong. The romance between Atesh and Quin is incredible as well, but I really wasn’t prepared for how seductive the cards were going to be.

The cards play a significant role through, providing culture, context, and clues for Quin’s quest as well as serving as a source of magical influence.

The Characters and Their Relationships Beyond the Romantic

The scope of the characters’ worlds go far beyond their relationships with one another. Both not only have friends but also family who exist in different circles with distinct motivations and desires. While both are well developed, I feel that Quin’s POV is the best utilized to expand both the world and ground her motivations and observations. She notices many things, drawing conclusions that reveal the world and yet are natural to her. In particular, I’d note that the specific body language references and notations are excellent, not only for developing the characters but creating clear images.

Robin Hood faced many challenges but none quite like Quin’s.

Additionally the plight of many within Quin’s life make her a sympathetic character. Like the famed Robin Hood, her thieving is not to enrich herself. But she has to navigate a far more complex web than the cunning archer ever did since she is trying to care for a diseased and dying family member and protect old friends from a dangerous life while also remaining presentable and intriguing to the nobility. Numerous interests and concerns pull on Quin, and almost everyone in her life represents someone who has a need which she can in some way fulfill.

Of all the non-romantic relationships within the story, I most enjoyed the ones between Quin and her family. It is especially refreshing to see it developed between female members of the family and addressing certain conclusions that flow from the events of the family’s history.

Fascinating Influences Within the Story

The very first line of the story is a delightful reference to Pride and Prejudice. Other literary references and influences apparent within the story are 1001 Arabian Nights and Robin Hood. Clare’s overall style and tone is coy and artful throughout. The story is quite luxurious and calm in its pacing, allowing you time to be fully immersed in the world and live with the characters rather than a rapid page turner that skims the surface.

Though A Thief and a Gentlewoman is distinctly its own, the playful nods and allusions to Pride and Prejudice are a delight.

The very first line of the story is a delightful reference to Pride and Prejudice. Other literary references and influences apparent within the story are 1001 Arabian Nights and Robin Hood. Clare’s overall style and tone is coy and artful throughout. The story is quite luxurious and calm in its pacing, allowing you time to be fully immersed in the world and live with the characters rather than a rapid page turner that skims the surface.

The depth of the characters and their interactions reminds me most of Jane Austen with the wit of Pride and Prejudice and the gradual intertangling of the two loves. I didn’t feel as much concern about the ultimate conclusion of Atesh and Quin as Darcy and Elizabeth, but I enjoyed it immensely and felt very much that they were suited for one another, even if they had not yet reached that same conclusion. In this case, it was very much about how will they come together and how will they be changed in this journey rather than relying only on the tension of will they, won’t they.

For those who love Robin Hood stories but want a more feminine focus with political intrigue or seekers of a more modern Austen voice in fantasy setting, I certainly recommend A Thief and a Gentlewoman. It will also appeal to those who want a non-European focused romantic fantasy or simply an excursion into an immersive fantasy world with a rich romance and complex characters and a relaxing pace.

Have you read this one? What did you think? Share in the comments!

About the Author

J.M. Butler is an adventurer, author, and attorney who never outgrew her love for telling stories or playing in imaginary worlds. She is the author of The Tue-Rah Chronicles, which includes Identity Revealed, Enemy Known, and Princess Reviled. Independent novellas set in the same world include Locked, Alone, and Cursed. She has also written a number of other stories including Mermaid Bride, Through the Paintings Dimly, and more. She writes primarily speculative fiction with a focus on multicultural high fantasy and suspenseful adventures with intriguing romances. And on top of that, she lives with her husband and law partner, James Fry, in rural Indiana where they enjoy creating fun memories, challenging each other, and playing with their three cats.

Reach her at:

Check out her romantic epic fantasy Tue-Rah Chronicles:

Though her brutal husband is imprisoned, Amelia must navigate the hostile political climate or else face banishment or execution. 

Despite saving the nation, Amelia remains incapable of satisfying the demands of the Libyshan leadership. Amelia fights to stand firm in her calling and her convictions while struggling to find a solution that leaves Libysha whole, restores the interdimensional portals, and removes Naatos and his shapeshifting brothers to a place where they can do no harm. The Machat warn that these shapeshifters can only be held for a brief period, but an enraged populace and spiteful elder commander desire vengeance and block Amelia at every turn. Her bond to Naatos and his family makes her a traitor unless she does precisely as they say.

Time counts down, and soon Naatos and his brothers will be free to wreak bloody vengeance on Libysha before resuming their plans of universal dominance. Amelia must embrace being a traitor in the eyes of her own people to save them while also untangle her feelings for the man who has claimed her as his wife.


Get your copy on Amazon today!

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.

Gemma Oleander: My First Boyfriend Was a Book Boyfriend, or: Why I Write Young Adult Romantic Fantasy

I have a thing for rogues.

Disney’s Aladdin has a roguish charm, doesn’t he?

My first crush was on Aladdin. As far as eight-year-old me was concerned, he was the perfect man. Of course, back when I was eight, having a pet monkey and a magic carpet were higher on my “perfect man” checklist (ok, I admit—they’re still pretty high). My penchant for Disney rogues has even followed me into adulthood—the period of time in which my three-year-old made me watch Tangled on repeat for weeks on end was made slightly more tolerable by the presence of Flynn Rider.

My first boyfriend was a rogue too; the Rogue in fact. When I read The Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce for the first time back when I was twelve, I was rooting for George from the beginning. The witty King of Thieves seemed far more appealing to me than Prince Jon. 

As a teenager, I had many more book boyfriends—and they weren’t all rogues. In the end, I did fall in love with a few princes, but there were also crooks, warlords and pirates. I was romanced by nineteenth-century English gentlemen, assassins from Ixia and elves from Mirkwood, while safe in the knowledge that if things got too intense, I could close the book and walk away. As an awkward, gangly, bespectacled teenager, that appealed to me, and the boys in those books seemed far more interesting than the awkward, gangly, be-spotted boys I went to school with.

Young Adult Book Relationships: Unrealistic Expectations or High Standards?

The universal theme in YA stories is coming of age, and it’s a theme we can all identify with, whether we’re going through it ourselves or reminiscing about a time when we were. It’s also usually around that age that most people fall in love for the first time, and I’m glad I got to dip my toes in and fall in love a few times between the pages of a book before I handed my heart over to a real-life human. 

The romance genre as a whole is often accused of setting unrealistic expectations of relationships, and while that might be the case sometimes, for me, those book boyfriends didn’t set unrealistic expectations—they set standards. I wasn’t searching for someone who would shower me with flowery declarations of love when I found my husband (which is fortunate as the last text he sent me read “pick up milk x”), but I did expect honesty, loyalty and integrity. I wanted someone I could depend on in a crisis, and someone who knew they could depend on me. I wanted warmth, and humour and intelligence. If people think those expectations are unrealistic, that’s their problem, not mine.

Because let’s face it, it wasn’t really the fact that Aladdin was a rogue that made me fall for him all those years ago. It wasn’t even that he had a pet monkey and a magic carpet (though that really did work in his favour). I fell for Aladdin the moment he handed his loaf of bread over to those two street children after going to so much effort to get it in the first place. That love was solidified when he kept his promise to the genie at the end, using his last wish to free him, and in doing so potentially sacrificing his own happiness. It wasn’t Flynn Rider’s, “Hi, how you doing?” that made me swoon, but the moment he hands Rapunzel’s crown over to The Stabbington Brothers, realising that he’s found something far more precious. I didn’t fall for George Cooper of Pirate’s Swoop because he was the King of Thieves, and it certainly wasn’t because he liked to collect ears—if anything that would be a bit of a red flag in a relationship—it was when he sold Alanna Moonlight, her horse, for pennies, commenting that he’d give it to her outright if he thought she’d take it. I fell for Mr. Darcy’s honour, for Valek Icefaren’s strength, and for Legolas Greenleaf’s intelligence and wit; Red of Harrowfield taught me gentleness and Argul of the Hulta showed me humour.

My book boyfriends were all very different. They weren’t perfect, but then I wasn’t looking for perfection, and each one of them taught me something about myself and what I’d want from a relationship when I finally (hopefully!) found a boyfriend that wasn’t trapped inside the pages of a novel. They also taught me about love, and who might be worthy of mine.

Sprinkled Among the Romance, Lessons

On the flip side, they showed me what I didn’t want. Prince Nemian from Tanith Lee’s Law of Wolf Tower taught me that dashing saviours may not be all they’re cracked up to be, and while Darcy taught me about honourable men, George Wickham was a reminder that honour is not a quality all men possess. More recently, Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse and Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series have shown that it is sometimes wise to guard your heart.

I have had my heart broken of course, and I’m glad of it. I wouldn’t want to hide behind the pages of a book forever without experiencing love firsthand, but my book boyfriends gave me a good foundation, and without them, I think I would have kissed a lot more frogs before I found my prince rogue.

Those book boyfriends were very special to me during my own coming of age, and I think they’re part of the reason I write YA Romantic Fantasy now. I want to create book boyfriends readers can fall in love with, and I’d like to think Lok has a few traits that make him a worthy first love. 

So tell me, who was your first book boyfriend? Let me know in the comments.

About the Author

Gemma Oleander lives in Lancashire, England, and is mother to a dire wolf and two tiny humans. Growing up, she spent more time immersed in fantasy worlds than she did in the real one. Now, writing fantasy allows her to create worlds or her own and spend lots of time in them. 

Gemma studied English Literature and Journalism at university, and worked as an English teacher before pursuing a career in writing. 

When she’s not writing or reading, she enjoys travelling to different corners of the world to gather inspiration for her stories. You can reach her at:

You can fall in love with Lok in The Syphon’s Song, which will be available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited this spring.

Cali killed for the first time when she was four.

Since then, she’s committed countless murders for The Order. Imprisoned since she was born, she is their most dangerous weapon: a magical assassin who visits people as they sleep—ensuring that they never wake up. Cali would give almost anything for her freedom, but not when the punishment for any disobedience means death for her friends.

Lok knows two things; magic is evil and so are those who wield it. Becoming a member of The Order has been his dream since boyhood, but once he is stationed at the prison, he starts to see the corruption at its core. When children are used as offerings, he knows he can stay silent no longer.

Lok decides to leave, unwittingly taking Cali with him, and events are set in motion that cannot be reversed. As The Order grows more powerful, spreading  darkness through the land, Cali and Lok must break free of their chains if they are to have any hope of putting an end to the evil for good.

Sign up for Gemma’s mailing list to find out the moment the book’s available!

Ryan Muree: The Dirty on “Clean” vs “Dirty” Stories

I can’t say that I write romantic fantasy without addressing the romantic part of the genre. And there’s a lot to be said about romance and fantasy, because I feel there’s a lot of room here… other races, multiple loves, exploring sexuality in the safety of foreign worlds and cultures. I don’t hope to ever come across an orc warrior that I have to blast with a fireball, so if I can safely read about myself as the character incinerating other people to death, then I definitely can dip my toes in relationships and scary romances I wouldn’t naturally explore in the real world. This, in and of itself, is probably the best argument for romance in fantasy.

For the most part, romance in stories gets boiled down to Person A falling in love with Person B and vice versa. Maybe they hate each other at first, maybe they barely know each other, and maybe it’s the slowest of slow burns humanly possible. We tend to all agree, even though we may have preferences, HOW the characters fall in love doesn’t seem to be so taboo…

But what we can’t seem to agree on is whether sex on the page is necessary or not.

I don’t mean in that terrible story where the author thought adding a few racy pages would up people’s interest. Forced chemistry isn’t good for anyone involved. And I’m definitely not talking about those pieces that earned the Bad Sex Award. I’m talking about… totally probable, sex-having characters… where audiences can’t agree whether or not the deed needs to be shared.

…[I]f I can safely read about myself as the character incinerating other people to death, then I definitely can dip my toes in relationships and scary romances I wouldn’t naturally explore in the real world.

Maybe the reader isn’t comfortable reading consensual sex on the page. Maybe the reader doesn’t find sex necessary to tell the story, like it’s a peek into the two people’s private lives or even that of the author’s. And maybe it’s cultural. Point is, it’s almost a fear or viewed as a plague rather than a simple preference. People are offended it’s even included, rather than offended when it’s not.

And for those of us who want a decent sex scene in our stories, there tends to be a few other problems.

Maybe you don’t know this, but behind the scenes, there are battles being fought daily between “clean” authors and “not-so-clean”(?) authors. Fights for promos, swaps, ad spots, etc. And it typically tends to land… “clean over here” vs. “everyone else over there.” If your books don’t meet a specific requirement about sexual relationships between characters, you might find yourself swimming in circles with no advertising. And good luck if you write romantic YA where teens have sex. (Guess what? Teens have sex y’all.)

Side-story: Veronica Roth (YA author) was approached by several parents who questioned if her books included sex. When she said no, but they include murder and fighting and killing, the parents shrugged it off and said that was fine. Still think we don’t have issues with sex?

Also, authors who put sex on the pages of their stories in genres OTHER than romance tend to run into another interesting obstacle. If a book is deemed “clean,” you don’t typically see a lower rating or criticism for that specific trait in the book even if readers wouldn’t have minded it. However, if a book is deemed “not clean,” and the reader somehow missed the disclaimer or missed that it’s in the adult category, you’ll see books rated down PURELY because it includes sex.

So, what can we do?

First, can we do away with clean vs dirty or even clean vs not clean?

Can we just say… “no sexual interactions” or yes, “sexual relationships included”? Can that be a thing?

“Clean” reads can never be perfectly defined, just like sexual metaphors with baseball bases can’t be clearly defined across all audiences. “Clean” to me means no penetration. “Clean” to someone else might mean no heavy petting or foreplay. We’re setting up authors to fail and audiences to be disappointed.

And denoting “clean” vs “not clean” is pretty negative in and of itself. The opposite of “clean” is… “dirty,” duh, and it clearly has negative connotations. “Clean” is a very puritanical way of looking at it—pure, orderly, logical… as if to say stories that include sex, and dare I say actual relationships, are not those things and that there’s something wrong with them.

Except there’s not?

It’s okay to have a preference, but reviews that seem distracted by the sex, at least look to me like the same people griping that vampires don’t sparkle. What? (oh yeah, I went there!)

“Clean” is a very puritanical way of looking at it—pure, orderly, logical… as if to say stories that include sex, and dare I say actual relationships, are not those things and that there’s something wrong with them.

Second, can we lift stories that have sex in them?

If you read books with sex in them, and LIKE IT, then spread that good stuff around like your tub o’ buttah. I’m definitely not a fan of people feeling like they can’t voice when they like human experiences, so we shouldn’t be embarrassed or ashamed about sharing these stories.

I’m guilty of this, too. I feel inclined to warn people who haven’t read something I like that it includes sex. Not like *nudge nudge wink wink* it has sex. More like an aside so they don’t judge *me*… And that’s weird, right? I need to work on that, and I’m willing to bet some of you do, too.

Truth is we need to share if we like sex in our stories, because it’s okay and totally human to want sex in stories. It’s not putting down stories without sexual interactions, it’s just giving the other team a voice to say… “Hey! Sometimes I need to read about the main character sleeping with every male character to pick the one she truly loves, okay? You do you… I’ll do… me?” 😉

Happy Valentine’s Day, readers! <3

So, out with it! What stories do you remember for their good sex scenes?

About the Author

Ryan grew up a military brat, managed to teach middle school in Texas for a spell, and finally settled in the southeastern US with her husband, their daughter, and two black cats. She loves writing determined heroines who answer the call for wild adventures across rich lands with grit and smarts. When she’s not inventing worlds for her characters, she games, draws, paints, and uses too many exclamation points.

Reach her at:

Despite all that talk on dirty vs clean, Ryan wrote a genderbent Beauty and the Beast retelling with love and magic, but no sexual relationships, called In the Garden of Gold & Stone.

She is a beast by nature. He is a beast by duty. 

Amid the lovely roses and razor-sharp thorns, love tangles between beasts and beauties in this twist of a classic romantic tale that transcends time…

Nida, a dragonian life weaver, anxiously awaits the day her new sisters hatch in their temple sanctuary. But without the magical spirit of a human male, that day will never come.

When Rowec, a human warrior from a local village, gets captured by Nida’s people, he’s offered freedom in exchange for his participation in their hatching ceremony.

But when Nida learns the cost of bringing her sisters to life, she must either embrace the beast within to save them or save the human she’s grown to love…

Available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited!

J.M. Butler: Why Does Romance Belong in Epic Fantasy?

“Romance does not belong in epic fantasy.”

–Man in Writing group

That flat statement, followed by an explanation about how my infusing an otherwise “semi-intriguing world” with a “childish love story,” was the first bit of feedback I received in a particular writing group.

I dared to follow up with my own question: “Why not?”

The speaker was an older fellow who patterned himself after–at the very least appearing like–a literary great, complete with tweed jacket and artful arching of his thick grey eyebrow. All he lacked was the pipe, but he often tapped his chin as he stared at me through the computer screen. With a weary sigh, he rubbed his bald head and then stared at me as if I were the thickest person he had spoken to in a long while. “Romance is for women, epic fantasy is not.” He then referred to the notes he had sent me and read from the screen, “You have simply flipped, at best, the C plot for the A plot. No one will want to know about a cursed woman who realizes that she’s married to her greatest enemy due to an age-activated arranged marriage. Epic fantasy is about war. Battle strategies. Cunning maneuvers. A heroine who winds up married to a villain, no matter how charismatic he may be, simply isn’t interesting, no matter how many challenges she faces in reconciling her heart, her will, and her duty.”

I wish I could say I was surprised. This particular author, despite only having a couple books independently published himself (none of which were ranking especially high), insisted that my Tue-Rah Chronicles was doomed to failure unless I made it paranormal romance or urban fantasy, completely ignoring the many other elements that clashed with the preferences of those markets. “Those are more suitable for a woman with your… tastes.” (Yes, he did include those ellipses in the email he sent afterward.)

Book 1 of the Tue-Rah Chronicles

Sadly I’ve found that this attitude is fairly prevalent, though decreasing as time passes. Back when I started frequenting Yahoo Groups as a hopeful teenage writer, romance authors were mocked intensely within the fantasy communities. Stories focusing on “greater” issues did better in the critique groups (“greater issues” seeming to mean saving the world, fighting in vicious gritty battle, only engaging with others for sexual pleasure, and keeping love interests on hand only to kill off or provide increase in motivation). Any in-depth romantic relationships that existed within the pages were brutally critiqued in all caps that typically noted the story would be stronger if the romance was exorcised from the pages. There was one critiquer who regularly said that if such authors wanted to write romance, they should “get the f*ck out of epic fantasy.” It wasn’t a place for “soft writing” or “mushy topics.” The general belief seemed to be that romance readers were not intelligent enough to appreciate epic fantasy and fantasy readers were not patient enough to tolerate romance.

Epic fantasy (as viewed by some)

My own attempts were often met with harsh derision. Later, a mentor pointed out that the bigger issue was that I was a woman who wrote about “womanly issues” in a “male space” in an epic fantasy setting. That was not particularly acceptable within those groups.

The landscape of the genre, along with the writing world in general, has changed significantly in the past eighteen years. And overall, romance within epic fantasy is a little more accepted (not to mention it’s easier for me to find epic fantasy romance authors with amazing stories to read). But at least once a month, often more frequently, I have to explain why these epics can and perhaps even should have romance in them.

For some folks, it’s the shock of realizing that there is a subgenre out there that meets what they’re looking for (often deep worldbuilding with secondary worlds as well as complex characters and forefront romantic and personal relationships). For others, it’s an oddly aggressive reaction that suggests that somehow romance itself is an inferior focus and a genre for talentless women who want to write cheap and trite stories that don’t “mean” anything.

Sadly this general disdain of romance authors and readers is far from new (and far from gone). I have been removed from a few Facebook epic fantasy and secondary-fantasy groups because there was too much romance in my stories. In one case, I was told that there simply wasn’t room for “lesser fantasy stories.” In another, the owner of the group explained that, while he had not said “no romance as a dominant focus within the stories,” he felt it was best to keep it targeted to “serious epics” to improve his and others’ Also-Boughts.

But my argument then and now is the same: romance within fantasy epics can and should be included whenever the author desires. Let’s chat about the whys.

Readers Like It

This point is such an obvious one, but I want to make it anyway. Some readers love–no, adore–romance in their secondary-world epic fantasies. Even if that were limited only to women, that would be sufficient (especially since women make up the majority of active readers). Besides, women enjoying a genre does not make it inferior nor does it weaken the value in any respect. (Frankly the suggestion that romance as a top plot point in an epic makes it for women and also weakens the plot annoys me on so many levels I must be careful not to turn this into a rant.)

Fantasy epics are for everyone who enjoys reading a good epic. Everyone can certainly have their preferences, but one preference is not superior to the other. An epic without romance is not inherently stronger because of its lack of romance. And while we’re on the subject, romance is not an inferior genre nor are those stories less important simply for being romances.

The Epic Itself Does Not Require An Absence of Romance

In its simplest form, an epic is just a very large and long story often with world high stakes. It is typically broken into multiple books.

Arwen and Aragorn in Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

In the genre itself, epic fantasies frequently include larger-than-life characters with larger-than-life explorations of themes and challenges. The fate of the world or all mankind or even a kingdom often come into play. Battles and epic deeds of derring-do or dastardliness often make an appearance.

Now there are additional elements and factors that one can consider. But for brevity’s sake, I’ll assure you that “not having romance as a focus” is not one of them. Fantasy epic is more of a descriptor regarding length, stakes, and setup, and it lends itself naturally to the inclusion of romance.

(In fact, I would go so far as to say that fantasy has always had an element of romance to it, but that’s another conversation for another day.)

Romance and Love Are a Part of All Lives

We are all defined by our relationships. Even the lack of relationships makes a difference in the way we experience the world. Romance and love of all types from platonic to erotic are key to our existence.

I have never managed to escape any significant relationship without being altered in some way, and characters are much the same. A bright shiny-eyed idealist who has never had her heart broken or a powerful hardened warrior who is daring to hope that there may yet be some good in the world are both distinct in part because of the relationships that have entered their lives or haven’t. Even the way people walk can be impacted by their relationships as well as their health and demeanor.

A well-known example of this would be the transformation of Westley from Princess Bride. In the beginning, he is a longsuffering, self-possessed farm boy who discovers true love. He is something of an idealist. His return after becoming the Dread Pirate Roberts marks someone who is initially bitter and resentful, believing that his true love has betrayed him. But even during his time on the ship of the Dread Pirate Roberts, he persists and appeals for life, based on his love for Buttercup. And more than once, that love gives him the strength to keep going.

In Phantastes, Anodos’s lack of a romantic relationship and desperation for one drives him almost to madness and to making a critical error that actually deprives him of the happiness he seeks. In fact, both this and the loss of his shadow are two vital elements of his character development and journey.

Though not really a fantasy epic, Disney’s Mulan includes a song titled “A Girl Worth Fighting For,” which is all about how these men are risking their lives for these hypothetical women they deem worth fighting for and hope to one day meet. Objectification issues aside, the song encapsulates some of the older perspectives many held for epics, in that true love, romance, and peace are for after the adventure is completed, rather than being part of the adventure itself. Yet life itself is rarely so easily categorized.

Feelings Matter

We readers experience the story’s world through the characters, and we feel what they feel, which makes the journey so important. If it weren’t about experiencing those emotions, then we might as well read only history books. But good storytelling is far more than a recounting of facts or a statement of what makes things dangerous. It’s the journey that these characters take and who they become. Feelings are a huge component of making that journey matter to us as readers.

Éowyn and Aragorn from Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

In Lord of the Rings, Eowyn fears being trapped in a cage and becoming useless, fears I not only shared but found extremely compelling, even from a young age. The heartbreak within her confession of love for Aragorn and her subsequent rebuffment, both as a love interest and as a warrior fit for battle, is made all the more potent because of what she feels and the fears that drive her. Her subsequent connection with Faramir is all the sweeter because of what she endured previously. And this is from Lord of the Rings, a fantasy epic often cited as proof that romance should not exist within a fantasy epic. The story of Eowyn and Faramir made the story much stronger as a whole and added to the richness of the narrative.

Romance within a fantasy epic adds more feelings and motivations to the incredible feast epic fantasy offers. Incorporating romance, especially from multiple perspectives and stages within the relationship journeys, simply adds to the host of possibilities of emotional engagements readers experience. Women are allowed to participate in this space, not simply as objects to be won or admired, but as fully developed characters with agency and journeys of their own.

Epic Fantasy Is About The Fullness of Life

One of my favorite parts of epic fantasy is getting to see the ordinary lives of people within this fictional world. Sure, the massive battles, political intrigues, and daring encounters are delightful. The monsters, whether they are original creations, familiar beasts, or the ever-incredible dragons, are also a plus. But what is the protagonist fighting for? Is it only for power and possession? It’s amazing how quickly a story falls flat when a protagonist is only interested in monetary gain or fame, with no other purpose besides desire.

But when a seemingly hard character turns out to have some sort of a soft spot–and that soft spot almost always equals love of some kind–oh how quickly readers become invested! Whether dealing with noblebright or grimdark, the relationships are vital for making the story and the stakes count. Relationships, the people the characters love, the ones they are willing to live and die for, can make it all worth experiencing.

Book 1 of A Song of Ice and Fire

A Song of Ice and Fire is well known for its many conflicts, and yet comparatively, it does not have quite as many battles as one might expect. In fact, a fair bit of time is spent setting out the different elements of characters’ lives. Tyrion’s loneliness and the tragedy of what happened to his first love are not only defining elements to his character but a reason many readers hope he will find some happily ever after. Sansa might seem silly to some, but her desire to be loved, valued, and protected are understandable. And the nature of some romantic relationships form the core of certain conflicts within the epic itself. (But I’ll avoid spoilers here.) Watching these characters explore, experience, and even lose out on chances to find those individuals that understand, cherish, and accept them for who they are can be fulfilling, agonizing, and completely worth the effort.

A good epic should include the fullness of life to create fully developed characters from a variety of backgrounds. This inevitably includes love, and given that the romantic relationships within our own lives can be some of the most definitive and often form the core of the lives we create for ourselves, why should they be any less important to the characters we read about? Not everyone has to have a happy ending, of course. That’s never been the way of things. But the relationships will always be an element of that character’s life in some way or another.

So What Changes When Romance Is a More Dominant Element?

Often the greatest addition that comes about through making romance a larger issue or the A plot rather than the C plot, if you will, is that the protagonist’s success does not simply mean that he receives his love as a reward. (A common trope, especially in older fantasies and military and adventure stories as a whole, is that of the adventurer returning home, retiring and seeking comfort, understanding, and relaxation in the arms of a kind, understanding woman. She is likely to be killed off in the event of a sequel or spinoff.) Instead, the resolution or development of the romance as a whole becomes an important component to the story, and oftentimes the typical love interest may even be the protagonist and have her own say and agency in things rather than only being an item to be won.

Including more romance within an epic does not make the epic less serious by any means. It doesn’t mean that the entire story will be filled with passionate serenades or petty arguments or lopsided love triangles even if those elements may in fact appear. A stronger focus on romance does not spread cooties or some other virulent pox to be avoided. All a stronger focus on romance does is add additional elements to explore.

A fantasy epic that includes a dominant romance plot does not have to lose any of the things that make fantasy epics great. There can be just as many dragons, monsters, quests, banters, traps, ordeals, and trials as with any other. It’s just that some of the characters may feel a little more passionately about one another. There may not be as many passive persons waiting to be wooed or saved. And there may be many more stages of the relationship explored, ranging from the first meeting to the rekindling of the flame to the loss of a beloved to the ones who never missed a step and fought back to back with one another on the battlefield and through numerous adventures.

Fantasy epics with a focus on romance or that have strong romantic themes throughout them tell stories that matter. They’re about characters who feel much the way that we do and who experience great adventures and face tremendous trials, whether because of, in pursuit of, or in spite of the ones they love. Maybe these fantasy epics do feature a protagonist or two at one point trapped in a tower, hoping to be reunited with someone she loves. But in a well-told epic, all the protagonists will have their own agency, meaning that this woman too will have her own feelings and her journey will matter just as much whether she picks up a sword to jump into the fray or discovers other means for growing as a character and a person.

So why does romance belong in epic fantasy? I suppose I’ll just rephrase my first question: Why wouldn’t romance belong in epic fantasy?

How do you think romance enhances an epic fantasy story? What was your last epic fantasy read with romance, and what did you think about it? Share in the comments!

About the Author

J.M. Butler is an adventurer, author, and attorney who never outgrew her love for telling stories or playing in imaginary worlds. She is the author of The Tue-Rah Chronicles, which includes Identity Revealed and Enemy Known. Independent novellas set in the same world include Locked, Alone, and Cursed. She has also written a number of other stories including Mermaid Bride, Through the Paintings Dimly, and more. She writes primarily speculative fiction with a focus on multicultural high fantasy and suspenseful adventures with intriguing romances. And on top of that, she lives with her husband and law partner, James Fry, in rural Indiana where they enjoy creating fun memories, challenging each other, and playing with their three cats.

Reach her at:

J.M.’s romantic epic fantasy series The Tue-Rah Chronicles begins with Identity Revealed:

What if you prepared for the wrong destiny? 

Cursed by her devious mother, Amelia, a young mindreader is driven by a deadly destiny. Only she can defeat Naatos, the shapeshifting warlord, in his march of terror across the thirty-six worlds. But Naatos conquers her home in a murderous midnight ambush before she has even learned how to throw a knife. She flees to Earth where she dedicates her life to training, fearing the curse will make her a monster if she does not succeed in defeating Naatos. 

Naatos understands that with choice comes tragedy. He seeks to gather the worlds beneath his rule, righting the errors of previous monarchs and eliminating the complications of ignorant inhabitants. His only weakness is a young mindreader, the last living Neyeb. She doesn’t know who she really is, let alone what she will become, allowing him to twist both her destiny and curse to his advantage.

When Amelia finally returns to her home, the land of the bruin riders, she discovers her family captured, the royal court slaughtered, and her people imprisoned. She launches a rescue only to discover Naatos’s savagery and abilities exceed all reports. Even worse, the truth behind the curse and her identity eviscerates her resolve, forcing her to question everything from her beliefs to her priorities to her character. 

Outmatched and outflanked, Amelia must defend her nation and take control of her true destiny or condemn the worlds to Naatos’s rule and millions to death.

Get it here.

Ryan Muree: Validating Strong Women in Fantasy

Obvious Disclaimer is Obvious: This is not to say there aren’t issues with how we validate strong men in fiction.

Wonder Woman (2017)

We’ve heard it before. Women don’t make profitable decent leads in action movies (clasps barrel o’ popcorn while watching Wonder Woman). They don’t make convincing warriors (cautiously nods to Brienne of Tarth). And young women are not capable of wrapping their tiny emotional minds around bigger issues (fist bumps Katniss Everdeen). If you’re anything like me, I usually greet these opinions with a healthy eye roll and a sip of my basic Starbucks pumpkin spice. As one does.

To be honest, there’s too much here to unpack. So, let’s just focus on one piece: Not only do those characters prove the naysayers wrong, but all of those women are strong. And I mean physically strong.

It’s almost like… in order to prove that female characters are just as viable as male characters in fantasy, we have to make them less stereotypically female…

Am I saying I want physically weaker women and damsels in distress?

Uh, yes, actually… And not exactly to that second part.

Michonne from The Walking Dead

I’m grateful we see fewer stories with helpless damsels in distress. However, I would argue while fewer women are being chained to a rock with their cleavage bursting out of their tops as they scream for help, they’ve sort of morphed into a different kind of damsel in a different sort of distress. Often times, we see our damsel has the audacity to think she’s smart, to think she’s doing something right for herself with all the confidence of an F5 tornado, and then, something happens (usually sexually) to slam her right back down in her place. You can’t see it, but I’m staring down the writer(s) of Julia Wicker in The Magicians right now. My eyebrow is even twitching.

So, while a lot of women in fiction and some of their creators have forged ahead to be something… better… than damsel in distress, we get back to the original point. If we don’t want damsels in distress, then we must want the opposite, right?

Enters: Physically strong kick-ass women!

We all love kick-ass women. One of my favorite tropes of all time is the Femme Fatale. And I agree that putting some literal kick-ass women into fiction pushes the clueless damsel in distress into the past. There are so many good examples: Buffy, Michonne, Beatrix Kiddo, She-Ra, Black Widow, Letty Ortiz… They’re strong women in their own right, outside and in.

But are they viewed as such merely because they’re steeped in stereotypical masculine traits—muscle, speed, agility, a love of cars, swords, and gore?

Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Media would suggest so. Movie posters and book covers love to feature kick-ass ladies holding weapons. Video games tend to highlight the physical female fighters over their counterparts.

Strong but feminine women taking the lead seem hard to find. The physically weak or stereotypically feminine characters are often viewed as an afterthought. They’re often a support role, a side-kick.

And if there’s no hiding a “strong but weak” leading lady, the entire product often gets shifted to “chick flick” or “romance/drama” or “not really a real thing people (read: men) are interested in.”

Or it’s not fantasy at all, and it takes decades to tell a story about a woman everyone should’ve known about since the ‘60s.

Katherine G. Johnson from Hidden Figures (2016)

I get it. Kick-ass characters make money. It gets people (read: men) in the door to watch and read. And of course, physically strong, kick-ass women exist in real life and deserve their space.

But we don’t have to have it one way or the other—damsel in distress or weapon-wielding killer. We don’t have to accept or define the strength of women by their sole ability to physically hold their own against men or by how much they do “dude-like” things.

But, Ryan… racing cars or using a katana shouldn’t be a DUDE thing.

Yeah, exactly! So, we shouldn’t allow one woman to be labeled strong just for liking cars and kicking ass on the streets, while labeling another woman weak for liking nail polish and baking cupcakes.

The 21st century is about inclusion and raising voices. We’re making strides in featuring all sorts of strength and interests in leading women. They’re out there, but we need more, and we do that by supporting women of all ages and lifestyles, facing the problems of their worlds head on in their own way, be it by pen or sword.

What are some of your favorite fantasy stories featuring strong leading ladies? Share in the comments. 🙂

About the Author

Ryan grew up a military brat, managed to teach middle school in Texas for a spell, and finally settled in the southeastern US with her husband, their daughter, and two black cats. She loves writing determined heroines who answer the call for wild adventures across rich lands with grit and smarts. When she’s not inventing worlds for her characters, she games, draws, paints, and uses too many exclamation points.

Reach her at:

Ryan’s upcoming release is the first book in her new romantic epic fantasy Kingdoms of Ether series, Kingdoms of Ether:

Emeryss is stuck in a library with the wrong destiny.

As the first Scribe born to the non-magical people of northern Revel, Emeryss was hauled off to the Great Library to spend the rest of her life translating ether into grimoires for her nation’s Casters. When her plan for freedom—to become a Caster—seems hopeless, Emeryss partners with a thieving illusionist for the perfect getaway: an airship, a full crew, and the promise to train Emeryss into the Caster she was meant to be. But the escape is not easy.

Grier—Emeryss’s assigned guard—is prepared to risk his life to protect her against any enemy who would hunt her for her gift. Keeping her safe and close is all he’s ever wanted. Keeping her alive is merely a stepping stone to the greatness his family expects. Letting the love he can never have walk out of the library—not an option.

As Emeryss fights for her freedom, the war between the Casters of Revel and the devastating ether-tech of the enemy nation of Ingini draws near. With the fate of her country at the brink of ruin, Emeryss must either save her people by keeping her old destiny or pay the price for a new one.

Get Kingdoms of Ether on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited and be swept away on a fantastical journey across an expansive world full of magic, politics, love, and duty!