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…

RFS 2020 Fanart Competition

Good afternoon, lovely Shelfies!

We are going to be adding some more fun and art to our activities on the Romantic Fantasy Shelf by hosting a fanart competition!

And don’t worry if you think you lack the artistic skills. We’ve got some prizes that will take that into account, so this isn’t going to be based on just skill (though I bet you’re much better than you think!). So even if you can only draw stick figures, there’s a possibility you might win!

Who Is This For

Any member of the Romantic Fantasy Shelf who is not a member of Authors of RFS. If you are a member of the Authors of RFS, you’re more than welcome to enter but the prizes are for the readers. This is also open to non US members, though if you are not in the US, it may take us a little longer to get your prizes to you.

If you’re not already a member of the Romantic Fantasy Shelf, you can join our merry community here on Facebook. It is a closed group, so all member posts are private.

(If you are a member of Authors of RFS, you are welcome to share some of your own fanart for published stories that are not your own, but you won’t be eligible to win.)

How To Participate

Create at least one artistic depiction of your favorite moment in a published fantasy romance/romantic fantasy novel. It can be indie or traditionally published.

You can enter as many drawings or paintings as you like. Any media form is welcome. Just make sure to post them here in the group with #rfsfanart

When you submit your art, make sure you include
1) the name of the book;
2) the name of the author;
3) the names of the characters;
4) #rfsfanart

And of course feel free to share why you chose that scene or any other fun tidbits that seem appropriate.

How Long Will This Run: This competition will be open from February 19, 2020 until April 17, 2020 at 11:59 PM EST.

What Are the Categories

I am so happy you asked!

So, we’re going to have two primary categories.

Reader Darling: at the end of the entry period, all of the members of Romantic Fantasy Shelf will get to vote on their favorite depictions. There will be a first prize and a runnerup.

Luck of the Draw: at the end of the entry period, we’ll gather up all of the entries and select a winner and a runnerup at random.

What Are The Prizes

Ahhh an even better question!

Both of the first place winners will receive a $10 Amazon gift card as well as a selection of wonderful ebooks and even a couple physical books.

Both of the runnersup will receive a $5 Amazon gift card as well as a selection of amazing ebooks.

What else might you win? Well here we go. (As a head’s up, this list might be updated with additional prizes as a couple authors are still determining if they are able to contribute.)

Reader Darling Winner

  • $10 Amazon giftcard
  • Rose Crown (paperback)
  • Fae Curse (ebook)
  • Fate of Dragons (ebook)
  • Fate of Dragons bookmark
  • Queen of Cursed Things (paperback)
  • Return of the Elves Collection (paperback)
  • Beauty in Darkness (ebook)
  • Dragon’s Throne (ebook)
  • Daughter of the Wildlings Books 1 -3 (ebook)
  • An Evening’s Truce (ebook)
  • A Troubled Accord (ebook)
  • Beneath Black Sails (ebook)
  • The Flame and the Blade (ebook)
  • Land of Perpetual Night (paperback)
  • Siren Magic (paperback)
  • Siren bookmark and stickers
  • Experimental Heart Omnibus (ebook)
  • Destiny (ebook)
  • Prophecy of Convergence (ebook)
  • Taxing Courtship (ebook)
  • Princess Avenger (ebook)
  • No Man Can Tame (hardback)
  • Feast of the Mother (softcover)
  • Winter Wren (softcover)
  • The Priestess and the Dragon (paperback)
  • Identity Revealed (ebook)
  • Enemy Known (ebook)
  • Princess Reviled (ebook)

Runnerup Reader Darling

  • $5 Amazon giftcard
  • Rose Crown (ebook)
  • Queen of Cursed Things (ebook)
  • The Return of the Elves Collection (ebook)
  • Beauty in Darkness (ebook)
  • Daughter of the Wildlings Books 1 -3 (ebook)
  • A Troubled Accord (ebook)
  • Beneath Black Sails (ebook)
  • The Flame and the Blade (ebook)
  • Land of Perpetual Night (ebook)
  • Siren Magic (ebook)
  • Experimental Heart Omnibus (ebook)
  • Destiny (ebook)
  • Taxing Courtship (ebook)
  • Princess Avenger (ebook)
  • Feast of the Mother
  • Winter Wren
  • Identity Revealed (ebook)
  • Enemy Known (ebook)
  • Princess Reviled (ebook)

Luck of the Draw Winner

  • $10 Amazon giftcard
  • Rose Crown (paperback)
  • Queen of Cursed Things (paperback)
  • Return of the Elves Collection (paperback)
  • Beauty in Darkness (ebook)
  • Dragon’s Throne (ebook)
  • Daughter of the Wildlings Books 1 -3 (ebook)
  • An Evening’s Truce (ebook)
  • A Troubled Accord (ebook)
  • Destiny (ebook)
  • Prophecy of Convergence (ebook)
  • Beneath Black Sails (ebook)
  • The Flame and the Blade (ebook)
  • Land of Perpetual Night (ebook)
  • Siren Magic (ebook)
  • Taxing Courtship (ebook)
  • Princess Avenger (ebook)
  • No Man Can Tame (hardback)
  • Feast of the Mother (softcover)
  • Winter Wren (softcover)
  • The Priestess and the Dragon (paperback)
  • Identity Revealed (ebook)
  • Enemy Known (ebook)
  • Princess Reviled (ebook)

Runnerup Luck of the Draw

  • $5 Amazon gift card
  • Rose Crown (ebook)
  • Queen of Cursed Things (ebook)
  • The Return of the Elves Collection (ebook)
  • Beauty in Darkness (ebook)
  • Daughter of the Wildlings Books 1 -3 (ebook)
  • A Troubled Accord (ebook)
  • Beneath Black Sails (ebook)
  • The Flame and the Blade (ebook)
  • Land of Perpetual Night (ebook)
  • Prophecy of Convergence (ebook)
  • Destiny (ebook)
  • Taxing Courtship (ebook)
  • Princess Avenger (ebook)
  • Feast of the Mother
  • Winter Wren
  • Identity Revealed (ebook)
  • Enemy Known (ebook)
  • Princess Reviled (ebook)

What About Disney and “Fantasy Princess Movies”?

So this is me just anticipating that there may be some questions on this point, lol. Disney and the fairy tale princess genre are absolutely amazing. In fact, I think that it has contributed significantly to many of our loves for this genre. But at this time, depictions of scenes from those stories are not eligible for this competition.

Fairy tale retellings which are published books are fine though, even if they share some similarities.

So, for instance, while the classic scene of Belle curtsying as the Beast (Adam) bows on the staircase wouldn’t be eligible because that’s directly from the movie which was not based on a novel. However, a romantic meeting depiction from say a novel like No Man Can Tame or Gilded Rose would be fine because it is a novel that includes the retelling rather than just being a movie based on a fairytale. Hopefully that makes sense.

If you are looking at a story which has had a TV series or movie based off it, you can use the actors and scenes as inspiration. So, for instance, if you had a favorite scene from Outlander, it would work because it was originally based off a series of published novels.

Will You Own The Submitted Artwork

Not at all. You maintain all of the rights to your creative work. We may ask for permission to share some of your images, but they would still be yours and we will only do so with permission.

Questions?

If you have any other questions, feel free to let me know in the comments. Or shoot me or any of the other admins a message, and we’ll get back with you as soon as we can.

Looking for New Romantic Fantasies for Your eReaders?

I am tagged in this picture, and I don’t mind.

Between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the chances that you have a new device in need of some stories is fairly good. Or maybe you just like to browse the latest fantasy romances or romantic fantasies regardless of the season.

To that end, we have the perfect selection for all of you readers with a lovely assortment of tales. Have a look and see which of these beauties captures your eye.

And if you’re thinking…hmmm…I don’t know, maybe I should be reasonable and only buy new books when I have finished reading my current list, I give you the wisdom of Kermit.

Links to these books do include affiliate connections to Amazon. By shopping through our affiliate links, you are helping to support this site and our efforts with no extra cost to you, but you are not obligated to do so by any means.

For Your Reading Pleasure

Were any of your favorites on this list? How about a new discovery?

Your ereader and future you will thank you for all these delightful stories. I think I may have to do some more book shopping myself. So, off I go! Have a beautiful day, dear readers.

2019 RFS Book Raffle- Read on to Learn How to Win!

Time: 10/15 – 12/13 at 11:59 PM EST.


Books: any of the 12 books listed in this grid below attached


Goal: read as many as you can; each book and bingo gets you extra points and extra chances to win


What Can You Win:
The winners will be selected at random using the points/tickets to identify the winners.


First Prize is a $15 gift card. If in the US or UK, this will be an Amazon gift card. If not, then we’ll find a way to get you a Visa gift card or something similar. You will also receive a surprise hardcover book, which will be mailed to you.


Second Prize and Third Prize are surprise ebooks, which will be announced at the time of winning.


Is This Open Internationally:
Yes indeed! Now, if you are outside the US or the UK, it may take us a little more time to get you your prize, but we’ll get it figured out.


How Can You Win:
Winners will be selected at random from the pot of points in the raffle. No purchase is necessary. A lot of these books are available for free, KU, and also through libraries. And past books read may be entered so long as you follow the instructions.


How Do You Get Points
1) each book you read from this list + prove that you have read gets you a point that goes in the raffle


2) each bingo gets you bonus points; you get bingo by getting all the books in a single row either horizontal, vertical, or diagonal


How Do You Prove You’ve Read a Book:
1) write a review and drop a link to your review or write a review (if you use a service like Audible, take a screenshot or verify that your direct link connects


2) if you have already read and reviewed these books, you can still gain the point by sharing your review somewhere on social media and dropping a link here. Screenshots are also fine.


Important: Make sure that you post in this thread your links to your reviews/social media posts. This thread will be pinned as an announcement, and you can also find it through #RFS2019Raffle

You will have to be part of the Romantic Fantasy Shelf group, so if you aren’t, join us here.


Points:
1) 1 book equals 1 point


2) the very first reader to get a confirmed long bingo (4 books) gets 30 bonus points


3) the very first reader to get a confirmed short bingo (3 books) gets 25 bonus points


4) every subsequent reader who gets a confirmed long bingo (4 books) gets a bonus 20 points


5) every subsequent reader who gets a confirmed short bingo (3 books) gets a bonus 15 points


1 point = 1 ticket in the raffle

Eligible Books

These links are connected to the RFS Amazon affiliate account, which helps to cover costs for the website, hosting, etc.

You do not have to use these affiliate links and no purchase is necessary to participate.

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!

J.M. Butler: Review of Heart of the Fae by Emma Hamm (RFS Book Club Winner – February 2019)

For the month of February 2019, the readers of Romantic Fantasy Shelf voted for two books to read: No Man Can Tame by Miranda Honfleur and Heart of the Fae by Emma Hamm. We’ve already reviewed No Man Can Tame, and as we are wrapping up our Night of the Beasts month, today we talk about Heart of the Fae by Emma Hamm.

This story is the first book in The Otherland Series, and it is also a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. And aptly so as that was our theme for the month.

Type of Story

Heart of the Fae is a high fantasy romance that takes its time getting to the romance. Emma tackles a lot of unpleasant and difficult subjects and themes within this book, making it live up to its description as a Beauty and the Beast with more adult themes.

It too is a retelling that maintains key elements of the original fairy tale while offering its own twists and spins. Here the beast is a cursed fae prince who has been disfigured and cursed in such a way that whenever he is wounded, geodes and crystals appear where the wound was. The beauty is Sorcha, a midwife trying to save her father who runs the family brothel. She goes on a great and confusing quest in an effort to save him.

Sorcha and Eamonn’s story continues in Veins of Magic

Though comparatively, the story starts out slow, picking up substantially after the first third when our primary protagonist Sorcha reaches the island. Emma favors a more descriptive telling approach to the story throughout.

It is important to note that this is not a standalone story nor does the first book in the series end in a satisfying place. The cliffhanger makes sense for the point where it ends, and for readers invested in Sorcha’s journey, picking up the sequel will be an easy decision.

Best Parts of the Story

Without a doubt, the best scenes within the story are between Sorcha and some of the fae inhabitants such as the boggart/brownie and the pixie, Oona. It is particularly within the hag’s hovel that the story shines. It seems as if Emma has a particular affection here because there’s a special tenderness within these scenes that makes them charming and memorable.

Additionally her descriptions can be grippingly memorable and vivid. Descriptions of the castle and the grounds, for instance, were quite charming. The incorporation of the other senses makes the scenes even more compelling.

And, while I never thought I’d be saying this, I have to point to the prologue as well. It marries an old folkloric and mythic voice to a semi-modern rhythm with beautiful descriptions. The rhythm and poetry of the final lines sold me on the story. I may just have to pop back over and read it again.

Worldbuilding Overall

The best part within this story is the infusion of mythology and folklore within the world. While it is not entirely clear whether this is an actual Ireland or a uchronic Ireland, it is a fun world to imagine. I lean toward it being another place entirely, particularly given the blood beetles, which sound truly terrifying. I especially liked the appearance of Macha throughout the story and her representation. Even if one is not particularly familiar with Irish mythology or folklore, it is easy to follow along.

Additionally, Emma’s decision to give the beast such a creative disease with intense repercussions was an excellent choice. It adds to the dark mysteriousness of the story.

I applaud Emma’s desire and efforts at addressing darker subject matter. But I would have liked more nuance to lead to balanced and less confusing situations, and greater consistency within the worldbuilding and character development. Some of these issues may in fact be resolved later as the characters develop or as the world is further explained in the second book. But these elements might take away from the story’s positive elements for the reader.  

The Romance and the Characters

In a sense, The Heart of the Fae is at a disadvantage for discussing the romance because the characters do not meet until a third of the way into the book. And then they make up for lost time, reaching their first romantic connection before the first half ends. The initial meeting is terse, brusque, and aggressive, but they soon find their way to attraction and connection. The characters can sometimes feel erratic in their activities and driving forces as well as memories, but both Sorcha and Eamonn remain drawn to one another in the romantic climax that the reader is waiting for.

Bran returns in the series’ fourth book, The Faceless Woman

Other secondary characters also steal the show. Bran, in particular, takes the focus whenever he is on the page. I won’t share more about him since he goes through some rather interesting developments as a character, but he is one you’ll want to look out for. He feels like a good choice for further stories and focus. Oona and the boggart/brownie also steal the stage, and the Unseelie Queen presents an intriguing character.

Effectiveness as a Retelling

Aside from the cliffhanger ending, The Heart of the Fae does do well at hitting all the beats of a traditional Beauty and the Beast retelling while making them creatively its own. The sacrificial element here plays a needed prominent role, and there are many nods to the Disney Beauty and the Beast as well.  

For those who enjoy Beauty and the Beast retellings with a darker and grimmer edge or Irish mythical retellings, this book is likely a good match.

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 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:

Check out J.M.’s prequel to her romantic epic fantasy series the Tue-Rah Chronicles:

Dozens of children have gone missing…

Naatos, a shapeshifter, suspects a devious mindreader named Salanca of abducting children. Salanca has hidden her vicious schemes because, though the other Neyeb can read minds, she knows how to shroud her thoughts deeply.

Naatos must act swiftly and covertly to avert the murder of the stolen children even as he has been rejected yet again for receiving a Neyeb bride.

Not all is as it seems, and a wounded but cursed infant changes Naatos’s plans and life forever…
___

This is a prequel novella to The Tue-Rah Chronicles. It is not necessary to have read The Tue-Rah Chronicles, and it does not contain spoilers.

Get it on Amazon today!

J.M. Butler: Review of No Man Can Tame by Miranda Honfleur (RFS Book Club Winner – February 2019)

For the month of February 2019, the readers of Romantic Fantasy Shelf voted for two books to read: No Man Can Tame by Miranda Honfleur and Heart of the Fae by Emma Hamm. We’ll be reviewing both on the blog, and today we’re talking about No Man Can Tame.

This story is the first book the Dark-Elves of Nightbloom Series, and it retells one of my favorite fairy tales: Beauty and the Beast. Now don’t get me wrong: I do enjoy reading some of the lesser-known fairy tales retold as well as some of the other popular ones. Really, I love seeing all of them. But Beauty and the Beast is my favorite. I have read many retellings of it over the years—some I loved, others were meh, and a few I hated. But No Man Can Tame is now one of my favorite Beauty and the Beast retellings.

Type of Story

No Man Can Tame is a high-fantasy romance, and it lives up to all my expectations for a book in this genre. The romance is front and center, but there is a great deal of rich worldbuilding. The world itself is set in the same universe as Miranda’s Blade and Rose series, though unlike Blade and Rose this has an Italian rather than a French influence. The story is told through the perspectives of both Aless and Veron.

“This Cinderella is far from a victim. Much to her stepmother’s dismay, Danielle’s independence and intelligence attract the love of the prince.” – Amazon

The retelling itself maintains key elements of the original fairy tale but offers a number of original twists and spins. It is also, to a degree, a double Beauty and the Beast story. In a sense, both protagonists are beauties and beasts, both having to learn key lessons and understand how to be more selfless for this relationship to work. In a sense, this retelling reminds me also of the movie Ever After in its tone and style, as if it would be shot in a similar style.

The story reads quickly with good pacing. While it is a slow-burn romance, it does pay off, and it fits solidly within the genre expectations. Aless and Veron’s story is wrapped up in such a way that, while I wouldn’t object to more stories featuring their perspectives, I won’t feel cheated if I don’t get to read more about them.

One of My Favorite Tropes Represented

Aless, the Beast princess, must wed Veron, an Immortali and prince of the dark elves to assure peace and secure the alliance between their nations. Arranged marriages are one of my favorite tropes simply because of the guarantee of conflict and how it tends to escalate the romantic tension, along with the unknown aspects that come from being in a relationship with a stranger who may not share your same values.

Miranda plays with this trope very well, understanding the implications that arranged marriages have and their impact on individuals while still recognizing that readers want a little bit of fantasy and indulgence with these sorts of stories. So she creates a mixture of conflict and challenges with plenty of build up, attraction, and eventually consummation. More importantly, the contrasting cultures are not there simply as trappings or window dressings. There are consequences and impacts because of these beliefs on both sides.

The Most Crucial Element of a Beauty and the Beast Retelling

In my opinion, the sacrificial element is one of the most important elements of a Beauty and the Beast retelling. In some way, the beauty must sacrifice herself or some part of herself to preserve the safety or happiness of another. It offers a key element of insight into the characters and a connecting point for later events within the book as well as the concept of inner beauty.

In this case, Miranda delivers a particularly strong interpretation. While it is a little spoiler, it takes place near the beginning of the story, so I won’t feel as bad about it. Aless agrees to marry Veron to allow her sister the chance to marry the man she loves and thus preserve her sister’s happiness. This turns out to be part of a rather cunning trick on someone else’s part, but the sacrifice is still there.

Similarly other characters demonstrate sacrifice, sometimes in small ways such as Veron sharing his rations with a fellow starving soldier, despite then having nothing for himself. It is woven throughout the story and plays into the finale in a satisfying way.

The Romance Between the Characters

Aless and Veron’s chemistry is a slow build with a fair bit of tension to begin. They are kept apart not merely because they have different physical standards for beauty but because of cultural expectations and challenges that their relationship brings about. Veron is firm but calm and resolute, utterly loyal to the commands of his queen, his mother. Aless, on the other hand, is more headstrong and impetuous, determined to make the most of things and to create her own solutions even when others attempt to deny her this.

While initially she finds the dark elves’ appearances off putting and even a little frightening (Veron’s claws physically hurt her more than once), Aless in particular grows in her appreciation of the dark elves and their culture, even coming to value their standards. There’s a fascinating scene with the dark elf queen which showcases this in particular.

The romantic relationship works the traditional issues within any relationship: trust and honesty. Both characters have reasons for their particular perspectives, and their motivations and histories sometimes come into conflict, creating persuasive reasons for the delays in their consummation.

As both Veron and Aless become close and work through violations of trust and expectations (indeed some deep emotional wounds are inflicted at a few points), the attraction does develop between them until it reaches the much anticipated exploration of the romantic relationship. Miranda handles this artfully. There are sex scenes with a decent bit of heat and a strong focus on the emotions, and they do contain important information for the plot and character developments.

The Characters and Their Relationships Beyond the Romantic

In Warhammer lore, “few can match the Dark Elves in sheer cruelty, sadism and hubris.”

Another strength of this story is the breadth of the cast of characters. Veron and Aless both have families who play key roles within the story. One of my favorite relationships in this is Aless’s relationship with her sister Bianca. Both sisters are beautiful and admired, but Bianca is their father’s favorite. Yet both remain close. The impact of a third sister is also felt as well as a brother.

Veron likewise has his own family who play not only a key role in his life but in his development. One of the most intriguing is his mother, who has little screen time but is just as refreshing a change-of-pace character as Bianca. The subterranean and ferocious dark elves come from a matriarchal culture, which is reflected throughout the world building in general.

Veron’s mother herself is a strong, stern, and resolute woman, but not cruel or evil or capricious as dark elf queens are often portrayed. She keeps her confidences close, and there is much that is hinted at that suggests she could very easily have her own story. At a key point within the story, she must serve as a queen and determine appropriate consequences for direct disobedience. While she is not as kind as some might like, she is just in her determinations and provides sound reasoning for her decisions.

From Forgotten Realms, the cruel and evil Malice Do’Urden by Dwight “Arkangel” Angelito

Veron’s mother herself is a strong, stern, and resolute woman, but not cruel or evil or capricious as dark elf queens are often portrayed. She keeps her confidences close, and there is much that is hinted at that suggests she could very easily have her own story. At a key point within the story, she must serve as a queen and determine appropriate consequences for direct disobedience. While she is not as kind as some might like, she is just in her determinations and provides sound reasoning for her decisions.

Indeed, all of the secondary characters feel strong enough to carry their own stories. I am excited that there will be more stories within this series that will hopefully explore these. What makes this all the more exciting is that the characters, from the protagonists to the antagonists, are all mixtures of good and bad with understandable motivations, weaknesses, and aspirations.

Fascinating Influences Within the Story

As a fellow epic fantasy author, I find worldbuilding to be one of the most fascinating aspects of stories like this. One of the things I spotted that brought me a great deal of joy was the influence of the Eddas in Miranda’s development of the dark elf culture. Norse mythology is one of my favorites, and seeing how well it was woven in without being overbearing was a delight.

Svartálfar in Norse myth are “black elves,” who dwell in Svartalfheim or the “world of black elves.”

Additionally, at points, I recognized some allusions to William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Though “allusions” might not be as good a word as “subversions.” Aless has a formidable and indomitable spirit. Despite her mistakes, she cannot be tamed (thus, I think, the title). She and Veron are equals within their marriage, and while he does not try to keep her from being that, he does have to learn what it is for her to be who she is, just as much as she has to learn how to truly see beyond her own interests.

A Couple Minor Beauty and the Beast Elements

While certainly not essential to the Beauty and the Beast retelling, Miranda did incorporate a couple other facets of the story. The library’s inclusion and its cultivation throughout the story is one of my favorites. Not simply because I love libraries but because of what it reveals about Aless, her past, her family, and her culture.

Additionally, magic roses appear as well. They are present for only a little bit, but if my authorial senses are correct, I suspect we may see more of them in future books.

For those who enjoy Beauty and the Beast retellings or high-fantasy romance stories, I definitely recommend No Man Can Tame. It has all the appeal of both the genres beautifully woven together in a satisfying and charming package.

Have you read this one? What did you think about the spin on Beauty and the Beast? 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 recent release is Enemy Known, the second book in her romantic epic fantasy series the Tue-Rah Chronicles:

Trapped between warring forces, Amelia must own her destiny before her heart splits in two.

Although cursed to be unable to kill, Amelia must still fulfill her prophetic duty to end her unwanted husband’s march of terror. Already Naatos, a world conquering warlord, and his brothers have conquered Libysha. Her people demand she vanquish them to prove her loyalty and save them. To refuse is to lose the trust of her own family and friends, the people whom she always longed to protect.

But Amelia’s enemies aren’t only on the outside. When betrayal threatens the refuge of her allies, Amelia must return to Naatos in order to distract him from further bloodshed, all while fighting her growing affection for him and his family. Yet the more she learns of tragic history, the murkier the truth becomes. The very people Amelia defends have committed their own atrocities, including linking Amelia to a human soldier who holds half her soul in a life-threatening bond.

Attacked by her allies and cared for by her enemies, Amelia struggles on, more disillusioned with her destiny. A massive army of deadly shapeshifters looms on the other side of the Tue-Rah, an interdimensional portal. With the fate of worlds resting on her shoulders, she must walk the balance between hero and villain before she is torn in two. 

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.

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