Over at Romantic Fantasy Shelf, we don’t mince words about loving books with fantasy and romance, whether they’re romantic fantasy, fantasy romance, or reverse harem fantasy. Sometimes you want a little something sexy in your fantasy & romance reads (or instead of “sometimes,” “most of the time”? “Always”? Yeah…). It’s lovingly known by many terms: heat, steam, smut, and spice.
Spice means sexy content! Spicy reads are hot books that *don’t* leave it all to your imagination. (So on our heat-level chart, that includes “zesty” and “piquant.”) This means that, for example, when the heroine and the hero finally do the deed, you get it all on the page—no fade to black. All of that tension leads to a spicy scene (or two… or five…).
You want steam? Let me thud this tome on your desk and warn you: you are not ready for it. When Nesta and Cassian met in A Court of Mist and Fury, sparks flew. A lot has happened since then—war, The Cauldron, death, and destruction—but that heat remains, and in this book, those sparks burn. Maas has leveled up these sexy scenes, and damn is it a pleasure to read. But it isn’t all spicy deliciousness—Nesta is a complex and fascinating character dealing with real trauma, and watching her navigate recovery and new friendships as well as the threat of a new war brewing makes for a powerful story you’ll struggle to put down.
How about some enemies-to-lovers and vampires in your romantic fantasy? Poppy bears the weight of an entire kingdom on her shoulders while being caged and sheltered. When she sneaks out of her cage, fate takes her to Hawke, a hot guard and much, much more. While most books with spice feature a single love scene, Jennifer L. Armentrout spoils readers who love steam, with a mix of sexy and heartfelt (and a bit of heart stomping, so drama gluttons, this is for you!). Make sure you have the next book ready, because you will definitely not want to pause between From Blood and Ash and Kingdom of Flesh and Fire.
In this followup to The Orchid Throne, Lia and Conrí are in a marriage of convenience and struggling to trust each other as they prepare for the wrathful retaliation of an emperor. Amid intrigue and politics, Lia and Conrí have different ruling styles and philosophies, and they fight. Those fights are worked out between the sheets, and trust us, you will be glad they clash if only for the make-up sexytimes! But these intimate moments also serve as building blocks toward a strong marriage and partnership between these two. This is a steamy and sex-positive romantic fantasy that will engage your intellect as you fan yourself through the spice. The heat turned up in this book, but make sure you start with The Orchid Throne.
Phantom of the Opera fans, this one’s for you! A unique, steamy retelling featuring the beautiful and determined Aria, who, after falling into destitution, becomes the ward of a count and a dancer in his theater. She dreams of singing the lead role and making her own way in the world. If she succeeds in this, the count agrees not to marry her off to the highest bidder. Drawn by the haunting music calling to her from the nearby forbidden tower, she encounters its sole inhabitant: the mysterious and disfigured Uriah. Aria becomes swept up in the music—and the magic—discovering her true skill under his tutelage and experiencing untold passion in his embrace. But what of the monsters plaguing their remote town? The horrific deaths in the theater? Aria and Uriah’s love is tested as she unravels the mystery of the mist-shrouded town. Dark secrets and unexpected twists await you in this captivating, sensual fantasy romance.
Do you have a huge crush on Jareth from Labyrinth? This book is your catnip. In this story, the fae are feared, and humans like Lark and her sisters have learned to be wary. But when Lark has to flee her home and accidentally crosses over into the land of Faerie, she gets the chance to save her sisters by getting through a mountain labyrinth within thirteen days. And enough cannot be said about the hot, javelin-wielding Cerulean, but yum. Full of magic, animals, and bargains, this is a wild journey with a heroine who is in touch with her sexuality, and the enemies-to-lovers romance is slow burn and spicy, with multiple steamy scenes to make you swoon. (Do you have a comfy reading chair? You’ll want one.)
In this doorstopper fantasy romance, two royals are married at the end of a war—our hero, Wynter, who is wrestling with an ice power he embraced, and our heroine, Khamsin, a storm summoner who’s been ostracized in her father’s palace. What Kham assumes will be a punishment of a marriage turns into passion, with chemistry that jumps off the page, turning into tons of steam as the emotional side builds. Clocking in at over 600 pages and with vivid worldbuilding, this is a true epic-fantasy romance with spicy heat that’ll call for a cold shower (or an ice bath!!!). This is a world (and a love) you won’t want to leave.
A scorching-hot reverse harem fantasy that will leave you breathless. Empowered and intelligent Jaeda is well versed in the pleasures of the flesh. When she becomes the Chosen of a sex mage known as the Jackal, she proves herself worthy of the position, gaining not only his favor but his respect. Amidst dangerous political intrigue, the story explores the power of sex, love vs. lust, and sex-shaming head-on. Hadley writes ground-breaking, epic stories with complex characters, and this trilogy is no different. The steam is off the charts, a blend of reverse harem and polyamorous relationships that is unmatched in the genre. The Power of Lies is not for the faint of heart, unabashedly (and positively) portraying consensual sex (including M/M and group) as well as mature language and violence from the series’ antagonists that may be triggering to some.
Ema is the fabled, the feared Black Thorn, an assassin sworn to her clan and their interests. But after recuperating from a job gone wrong, she finds herself questioning everything she does and everything she thought she was in this reverse harem fantasy inspired by historical Japan. Promise of a Storm takes place before the harem, but don’t worry, that doesn’t mean our heroine Ema can’t have some steamy fun when she’s reunited with dear friend and even dearer lover Ryo. As well as some delicious spice, you’re going to need to brace yourself for heartache, action, and a dark mystery in this full-length Shadowed World Saga prequel.
Are you in the mood for Beauty and the Beast with steam and a mature twist? This medieval-fantasy retelling of the beloved tale has a fresh spin, with the Beast placing his hopes for breaking the curse on his son. The widowed heroine, Louvaen, accompanies her sister, who hopes to marry a handsome young lord, to his estate. It is there that Louvaen meets the lord’s father, Ballard, and what begins as a casual affair blossoms into so much more. Louvaen owns her sexuality, and the steam in this book is hot as hell, with lots of heat to keep even the biggest fans of spice happy. Bonus: there is more than one love story in this book, with Louvaen’s romance, her sister’s, and a third. There is a richness here that goes far beyond just the two romantic leads, so grab this one when you’re ready to be transported into a fully fleshed-out world that also delivers the swoon and the spice.
This book has already made two of our lists so far, and if you haven’t read it yet, the third time’s a charm, and here’s your sign. In a story full of intrigue and mythology inspiration, Yeine is a young warrior from a matriarchal society who is thrust into a political struggle over the hundred thousand kingdoms. Yeine loves as she pleases, and stuck in her grandfather’s palace, she collides with an enslaved god of destruction, Nahadoth. He’s hot, wrathful, and dangerous, and if you have questions about sexytimes with a god, Yeine has answers… and if you read this book, so will you. It’s complex, masterfully written, and the spice is divine. (Pun very intended!!!)
Inspired by a Russian fairytale, this fantasy romance brings together Marya, sister to a king, with Ferrand, a demi-fae prince in an arranged marriage. Marya is a no-nonsense heroine who wished to rule, but in a patriarchal society, lacked the proper below-belt equipment. Ferrand had planned to live a life of leisure, knowing his fae father’s lifespan would give him plenty of time to enjoy some freedom. Although at first neither of them is thrilled with the idea of marrying each other, as they spend more time together, sparks fly, and this book is not stingy with the spice! There’s plenty of steam to keep things hot as these two realize they’re meant for each other.
In this third book in the romantic fantasy Experimental Heart series, set in a rare mash-up of sci-fi and fantasy with fantastical creatures and technology existing side by side, our tortured heroine with a bloody past, Eira, struggles with her new position of ambassador and her developing relationship with dragon-shifter Raikidan. If you’re looking for depth and breadth to your romantic fantasy, you’ll find it here, with plenty of characters to root for and fall in love with. The slow burn of the romance turns steamy in this volume, so strap in for heat that spices up to a menage relationship by the final book of this completed series. Be sure to start with Destiny, the first book in this series.
If you’re in the mood for pirates and fae, then look no further because here we have just what you need. A zesty high-seas romance filled with tension and sexiness and not just one sex scene but also pretty steamy play that takes place in a cave (trust me, you’ll never find a more romantic spot than this one). Knigh and Vice must contend with treacherous seas, brigands, and their own intense passions. Fortune has bound them together, and they are sworn enemies to start. But they’re swearing other things well before the end of the story, and it isn’t exactly to stay away from one another. Of course, it should go without saying that you’re going to need the second book handy because you won’t want this one to end.
In this hotly anticipated fourth entry in the Tue-Rah Chronicles romantic fantasy series, the slow-burn enemies-to-lovers romance between our heroine Amelia and her enemy-turned-lover Naatos is finally consummated. When Amelia finds herself swept away into an unforgiving wilderness, Naatos goes after her, knowing the risks, to help her and find a way through the desolation and dangers together. In scenes that bring both the heat and the tears, sparks will fly and your heart will clench as you experience these two growing together and closer as both a couple and a team. (Amelia may have Naatos, but don’t worry—he has hot brothers to spare. *wink*) Be sure to begin with the first book, Identity Revealed.
If you don’t know the final ship in the romantic fantasy Throne of Glass series, then we won’t spoil it for you! There’s a delicious love triangle to savor in the first couple books. In this volume, while on her journey from assassin to royal, Aelin is on a quest to stop a war and protect those she loves. If you were looking for something spicier than fade-to-black or the implied sexytimes like in the first few books, then don’t worry, because Empire of Storms takes things up a notch (or ten!). And the spice lives up to the title—when our heroine and her lover hit the sheets, they cause a literal storm. Buckle up for the long haul, and you’ll want to start with the first book, Throne of Glass.
Blade & Rose kicks off an epic adventure with an equally epic romance, full of twists and heart-wrenching turns that will have you up late into the night. Our determined heroine, Rielle, finds herself assigned to protect her mage order’s natural enemy—a handsome paladin immune to magic. Of course, he isn’t immune to her charms, and as the pair travel together, they are drawn closer and closer, leading to some gorgeous scenes of romance and spicy yumminess. But it isn’t all fun in the arms of a sexy paladin for Rielle, oh no. She battles enemies on all sides as well as the demons within to prevent a civil war, uncover the dark threat encroaching on her world, and keep one step ahead of her unwanted werewolf fiance. Honfleur knows how to deliver beautiful prose, fierce action, and delicious steam, wrapped up in all the feels.
It should surprise no one that this story features on our list! When it comes to steamy romance and passionate sex, Carey sets the bar high throughout the Kushiel’s Legacy series. And even in the first book, you will get everything you hoped for and more. Phèdre nó Delaunay “loves as she wilt,” in line with the world’s guiding precept, and oh does it show up on the page. Rich in romance, intrigue, and worldbuilding, this is one book you won’t be able to get enough of in a single sitting, and the imagination and excitement will keep you coming back for more, more, more as you get to know this unlikely heroine and explore the entirety of her journey in love and politics.
In this tale of revenge, redemption, and romance, Broadbent will rip you apart so beautifully, you’ll love her for it. Formerly enslaved, Tisaanah is determined to learn how to harness her magic and use it to fight for justice. Things only get more complicated as she’s apprenticed to Max, a disillusioned former star of the magical orders. Despite living as a recluse and shunning the orders, Max makes space in his life for Tisaanah, and they slowly, surely make space in their hearts for each other. Even as they finally find their way into each other’s arms in a gloriously passionate scene, dark shadows from the past resurface and threaten all they hold dear. A truly beautiful start to a must-read epic series.
Who here wants a Beauty and the Beast retelling in a lush Celtic fantasy world with deities and spirits, monsters and sprites? Well, good! Because we have just the ticket. As a deadly plague strangles the land, Sorcha embarks on a quest while Eamonn, the beastly king of Seelie fae, broods in darkness and in great discomfort due to his crystalline disfigurement. Passion grows between the two as she finds herself in his home with a near-impossible mission and a heart far more willing to love than either might anticipate. A gripping page-turner that will have you eagerly seizing the next in the series, which is the second book of a duet featuring Sorcha and Eamonn, for your romantic fantasy zesty fix.
Enemies to lovers? Check. Fae? Check. Romantic tension that reaches a steamy crescendo? Check! As we’ve come to expect from May Sage (under her fantasy romance brand, Alexi Blake), we have snarky banter, an independent heroine, and delicious steam in this fantasy romance. Rissa might have been given a crown, but it doesn’t mean she wants it. In a twist on Sleeping Beauty, it is a prince who lies in a cursed sleep, and if Rissa can awaken him, she can rid herself of the crown that’s been foisted upon her and get on with the life she wants. But of course, things are never that easy. Let this standalone fantasy romance with spice sweep you away on a fast-paced adventure in the fae realm.
Vampires aren’t limited to urban fantasy or paranormal romance. Indeed, you’ll find that Vela Roth’s Blood Grace Series is chock full of them—vampires and plenty of steamy heat! Lio is an honorable vampire and diplomatic negotiator. Cassia is a human with more determination and temptation than he bargained for, even if she intends to be cold and aloof at the start. Of course, she can’t really withstand the soft sweetness of this peacekeeper, despite the threat he poses and her own journey and plans. Of course, not much goes to plan in this story, and that works to our benefit indeed. Especially when it comes to this burning romance and all that it entails.
An epic love story that transcends time itself, Outlander brings 18th-century Scotland vividly to life in this sweeping, steamy, spell-binding romance. WWII nurse Claire Randall, while on a second honeymoon with her husband, discovers an enchanted group of standing stones and tumbles through back to the year 1743. Alone and trapped in the past, Claire faces the dangerous, violent realities of the time. Her savior comes in the form of Scottish warrior Jamie Fraser, inevitably drawing her deeper into the war-torn country and further entwining their lives. In each other, they uncover love and unparalleled devotion that is tested time and time again. Sparks and passion leap off the page, underscored by Claire and Jamie’s deepening intimacy. Yet all the while, Claire knows she must return home to the 20th century. Can she—and if given the chance, will she? Whisk yourself away to the past in Gabaldon’s unforgettable acclaimed series. (There is sexual violence depicted in the series that might be triggering to some.)
With fae, fated mates, and star-crossed lovers, Between Dawn and Dusk bangs some trope nails square on the head. This prequel novel sets the stage for the main series, introducing a fae realm of magic, rivalry, and powers vying for resources and survival, with tons of steam! Zella and Keryth may be fated mates, but her father is determined to keep them apart, what with Keryth, the Night Realm King, being his greatest enemy and all. When these two eventually come together, the very air sizzles with the heat of their romance. You’ll enjoy the spice, and you won’t have to be sad to leave Zella and Keryth’s world, because there are more books in this series, continuing with The Fae King’s Curse.
If you’ve heard of Omegaverse and wondered what it was about, A Savage Debt could be just the introduction for you. When the notorious outlaw Maddoc demands payment of a debt, he doesn’t want coins. No, he wants three nights with his debtor’s daughter—Princess Ana. With that set-up, it’s no surprise that this book doesn’t just smoulder, it burns. But romance blooms amongst their dark passion, and even Ana cannot resist its siren song. This first half of the Beholden Duet explores themes of punishment, justice, and power. (There are some darker themes in the book that might be triggering to some.)
Which of these spicy reads is your favorite? Which is new to you but now on your TBR? Let us know in the comments!