Here’s Your List of Romantic Reads From the 2020 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO)!

If you’re a member of our Facebook group, chances are you’re familiar with self-published books. Many of the book recommendations made there are novels written by independent (“indie”) authors, who don’t go through a traditional publishing house like Penguin or Hachette, but oversee their books’ preparation and publishing on their own.

Self-published books can have a difficult time getting into book awards and being chosen for reviews by prestigious book bloggers. For the past five years, Mark Lawrence in conjunction with a group of awesome bloggers has run the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO), and this year is the sixth! From the man himself:

The SPFBO exists to shine a light on self-published fantasy. It exists to find excellent books that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. It exists to help readers select, from the enormous range of options, books that have a better chance of entertaining them than a random choice, thereby increasing reader faith in finding a quality self-published read.

The SPFBO covers fantasy, including romantic fantasy, fantasy romance, and reverse-harem fantasy! (And we have a list for you below submitted from the authors themselves. But FIRST…)

Do you want to get involved?

Join the SPFBO Facebook group! And you can find a full list of this year’s entries and which bloggers will be reading them here, a Goodreads list here, and a Google Sheet here.

There’s an official r/Fantasy 2020 Book Bingo Challenge here, and the authors specify which bingo squares their books fit here. Want to know more? From r/fantasy:

Fantasy Book Bingo is a yearly reading challenge within the r/fantasy community. Its one-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out authors and books, to boldly go where few readers have gone before….(okay, a lot of us have gone here by now, just roll with it!)

The core of this challenge is all about encouraging folks to step out of their comfort zones, discover new and amazing reads, and motivate everyone to keep up on their reading throughout the next year.

And of course, help your fellow shelfies find good books! Post your reviews, recommendations, and discussions of the romantic fantasy, fantasy romance, and reverse-harem fantasy entries in our Romantic Fantasy Shelf Facebook group!

Are you ready for your list of SPFBO fantasy books with romance?

(Note: This is a mixed list that may include romantic fantasy, fantasy romance, and reverse-harem fantasy. HEAs are *not* guaranteed, but romance is, according to the authors themselves in the SPFBO Facebook group!)

In no particular order:

1. A Wind from the Wilderness by Suzannah Rowntree

2. Frey by Melissa Wright

3. Beneath Black Sails by Clare Sager

4. Pawn by Angela J. Ford

5. Forged in Shadow by Megan Haskell

6. Feast of the Mother by Miranda Honfleur and Nicolette Andrews

 

7. Of Honey and Wildfires by Sarah Chorn

8. Shrouded Kingdom by Rachel Medhurst

9. The Fae & The Fallen by Brittni Chenelle

10. Dragon Mage by Tameri Etherton

11. Trial of Thorns by Stacey Trombley

12. Heir of the Curse by Deborah Grace White

 

13. Stray Magic by Jenny Schwartz

 

14. Æroreh by Jesikah Sundin

15. Squire Derel by Rachel Ford

16. To Target the Heart by Aldrea Alien

17. Where Shadows Lie by Allegra Pescatore

18. A Voice That Thunders by Cully Mack

19. Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater

20. Burning Embers by Fiona Jeeves

21. Star Compass by Anthea Sharp

22. Currents of Change by Darian Smith

 

23. Bloodlust by Nicole Zoltack

24. Prince of Shadow and Ash by Selina R. Gonzalez

25. Burden of Power by Caren Hahn

26. Crown of the Sundered Empire by JC Kang

 

27. Enlightened by Billie Kowalewski

28. The Edge of Nothing by Crystal Crawford

29. Sorrowfish by Anne C. Miles

 

30. Legends of the Exiles by Jesse Teller

31. The Curse of the Jenri by Stephanie Barr

 

32. Shoreseeker by Brandon M. Lindsay

33. Vampire Wars: Inescapable by Sean Harris

34. A Locket of No Particular Significance by Florien St. John

35. House Of Legions by Shan R.K

So, which ones are you reading first? Let us know in the comments!

I’m currently reading Beneath Black Sails by Clare Sager! But a new-to-me book from this list? Personally, my eye spotted a pretty shiny, and I’m reading A Wind from the Wilderness by Suzannah Rowntree next!!!

Miranda Honfleur: The Place of Romantic Fantasy

When I first started reading romantic fantasy, it wasn’t even an official genre yet. There was no separate shelf at the bookstore or library, and no Amazon category for it (and no Amazon, for that matter), but I always knew how to find it. There would almost always be a heroine on the cover, oftentimes with a hero, or maybe a flower of some kind. And definitely some mention of both characters on the back cover. But the books were always just in the Fantasy section–because that’s what they are. Fantasy novels.

Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books were (and are) my treasure. *whispers My precioussss*

Teenage me would find these books in the Fantasy section that ticked both boxes–magic and kissing, as my friend Nicole likes to say–and devour them. I’d go to conventions and forums where the perpetual opinion du jour was that romance was ruining fantasy (and science fiction, for that matter) and any books with romance didn’t belong in Fantasy. Of course I’d laugh nervously and not mention my favorite books with magic and kissing. This opinion still seems to be prevalent, although now the battlegrounds have shifted more to POC in fantasy or LGBTQ+ characters and relationships. (I recently saw a one-star review on a fantasy book I read because a character was gay. Don’t bother checking your calendar–it really is 2019 somehow.) But these books are a part of the genre–a growing part. (And my TBR pile says thank you!)

Romantic Fantasy Defined: What It Is and What It Isn’t

Romantic fantasy is a genre of fantasy novels in which the romantic subplot plays a significant role. This means the main plot is fantasy–defeat the dark lord, find the ancient artifact, or rescue the imprisoned prince (it’s not always the princess, y’all)–and a significant subplot involves a romance.

This definition is important because it differentiates romantic fantasy from a sister genre, fantasy romance, which means romance novels in which fantasy plays a significant role (setting, etc.). This means the main plot of a fantasy romance is romance–heroine and hero overcome obstacles to be together. Usually they’re standalone books, each featuring one couple, such as Laura Thalassa’s Pestilence or Nicolette Andrews’ Kitsune, while other times the couple’s story unfolds through several books–as in Grace Draven’s Wraith Kings and C.L. Wilson’s Tairen Soul. But the promise of fantasy romance is that the story is reliably:

  • A hero and heroine*
  • Who should be together but aren’t
  • Because of problems
  • That are resolved
  • Leading to an emotionally satisfying ending. (*Variations of course for M/M, F/F, and reverse harem!)

With romantic fantasy, however, that promise can vary…

The Promise of Romantic Fantasy: To Love, To Hope, To Tremble

Book 1 of Kushiel’s Legacy

If you love books with magic and kissing, then you’ve probably already read some romantic fantasy books, such as Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey or A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. The heroine doesn’t necessarily fall for the hero right away (he might be the second, third, or nth love interest!), and the big “R” Romance rules might not be followed (such as no cheating, the hero and heroine only ever sleeping with each other, and the biggest one of all, the Happily Ever After, aka HEA). You don’t really know if the man the heroine falls for will be part of her HEA, or whether she’ll have her HEA at all. And while sometimes you might want the confidence that all will end well–and you should reach for a fantasy romance, in that case!–other times you might want “to love, to hope, to tremble” (to paraphrase Rodin). You want the suffering of not knowing how things will end, but holding out hope in your heart that the heroine will save the day and get her man (or men, if you’re reading reverse harem fantasy).

Book 1 of A Court of Thorns and Roses

And this is what romantic fantasy delivers.

Fantasy in general delivers a lot of enjoyment–fascinating magic, daring sword fights, tangled politics, and mythical creatures–but for me, it’s incomplete if I don’t feel my heart gripped in a vise. If I’m not worrying and hurting for the main characters to make it through and be happy, the book hasn’t clawed its way to the core of my heart. And that’s where you’ll find my favorite books, and most of them are romantic fantasy.

What Romantic Fantasy Means To Me: More Than a Genre… A Place

Amazon actually now has a Romantic Fantasy category (although it’s often cluttered with irrelevant titles). When I first saw that, there was a part of me (maybe the teen who used to dig through the fantasy section) that breathed a sigh of relief. Like a group of us fantasy readers who’d been secretly collecting these books with romance, when it was so often panned and made fun of, were now validated by the Book Powers That Be. Romantic fantasy is fantasy, and just because there’s “feelings” in a book does not strip it of its main genre. It has as much right to be there as sword and sorcery, dark fantasy, or Arthurian–and oftentimes overlaps. (As in Claire Luana and Jesikah Sundin’s Arthurian reverse-harem fantasy, The Fifth Knight, or Nicolette Andrews’ romantic epic fantasy, The Priestess and the Dragon.)

Book 1 of the Dragon Saga

Fifteen years ago, I never could have told you Kushiel’s Dart was a romantic fantasy book. I probably would have said it was a fantasy series with a female protagonist and swoon-worthy Joscelin and lots of intrigue, pain, drama, and romance. *cries* Once a thing has a name, it’s easier for us to communicate it to one another. The more we recognize and use that name, the less differánce there is between the words we use and what we mean them to signify. Today, if we both know the term “romantic fantasy,” we can immediately understand what the book is (and then we immediately understand we’re probably going to gush about said book for several hours and end up the best of friends!!!).

As a reader, I no longer hide what I enjoy. I recommend magic-and-kissing books on social media, I display them proudly on the bookshelves, and my Goodreads has enough of them on my Want To Read list to last me lifetimes, I’m sure. And as an author, I’m happy to claim romantic fantasy (and fantasy romance, for that matter) as my genre, because if you like my books already, you’ll find a whole genre like them, and if you like the genre, you’ll know my books might be what you’re looking for.

We fans of romantic fantasy have always been around, but the book market is supplying us with more and more books we love (yay!), and we have a name for our awesome genre. I and the other authors involved with Romantic Fantasy Shelf also hope this and our Facebook group will be a place where you can engage about it, along with its sister genres of fantasy romance and reverse-harem fantasy, and find new books or share the love of those you’ve read.

What romantic fantasy book are you most looking forward to? What’s the last romantic fantasy book you’ve read? Share in the comments. 🙂

About the Author

Miranda Honfleur is a born-and-raised Chicagoan living in Indianapolis. She grew up on fantasy and science fiction novels, spending nearly as much time in Valdemar, Pern, Tortall, Narnia, and Middle Earth as in reality. 

In another life, her J.D. and M.B.A. were meant to serve a career in law, but now she gets to live her dream job: writing speculative fiction starring fierce heroines and daring heroes who make difficult choices along their adventures and intrigues, all with a generous (over)dose of romance.

When she’s not snarking, writing, or reading her Kindle, she hangs out and watches Netflix with her English-teacher husband and plays board games with her friends.

Reach her at:

Miranda’s upcoming release is the fifth book in her romantic epic fantasy Blade and Rose series, The Dragon King. The series begins with Blade & Rose:

Book 1 of the Blade and Rose series

A kingdom in turmoil or the love of her life. Which one will she save?

Elemental mage Rielle hasn’t heard from her best friend in far too long. Yet no one at the Tower of Magic seems to care about Olivia’s silence, or the curtain of secrecy surrounding the distant capital. Before Rielle can investigate, she’s assigned a strange new mission: escort a knight named Jon across the kingdom.

When whispers reveal mercenaries have killed the king, taken the capital, and that no one is coming to help, Rielle can’t leave Olivia in peril. But as infamous mages and deadly assassins hunt Jon, she can’t leave him unprotected either–especially as she finds herself falling for his strength, his passion, and his uncompromising goodness. Her past returns to haunt her, a werewolf stalks their steps, and an ancient evil is gathering, yet the restraints forbidding their love strain and snap one by one.

Saving Olivia and the kingdom means defying orders and sacrificing her every ambition, and could mean losing the man who’s become so much more to her than a mission. Which will she choose: her best friend and the kingdom, or the love of her life?

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 heart-wrenching romantic epic fantasy series.

Read Blade & Rose and 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…

You can get Blade & Rose here.

Romantic Fantasy Shelf Launch Events!

Ready to kick off 2019 with tons of fantasy romance, romantic fantasy, and reverse harem fantasy books? Win your 2019 TBR pile of ebooks, paperbacks, audiobooks, signed books, as well as bookmarks, interviews, and more!

It’s easy to enter: During the month of January, read and review any romantic fantasy, fantasy romance, or reverse harem fantasy book (by any author) on Amazon, Goodreads, Bookbub, Barnes & Noble, etc. Post your review and the link so we can all discuss and potentially discover our next read! Tag with #RFSChallenge. Indie/Self-published books count as two entries each (note this with #Indie). The reader with the most reviews wins our grand prize pack!!! And two runners-up will win ebook prize packs!!!

Also:
– Meet your favorite authors and win prizes during daily author takeover events

– Invite your friends! Unlock a new set of free books for everyone at 250 members, 500 members, 750 members and 1,000 members!

Already unlocked!
Very close! Join us to help unlock these books! https://www.facebook.com/groups/romanticfantasyshelf/

– Join #ShareRFS by sharing the group and promoting the challenge (or an author takeover, a daily giveaway, blog posts from www.romanticfantasyshelf.com in the group, etc.) on social media and/or your blog to win the blogger prize pack of 2019 new release paperbacks! Post a link to your share with #ShareRFS as one entry. You must have a book blog, bookstagram, etc. to enter, and the one with the most shares wins!

Thank you in advance for joining in on the fun and helping readers who love romantic fantasy, fantasy romance, and reverse harem fantasy find this group! You’re making a huge difference for both the readers and the authors!

Here’s the takeover schedule:

January 1: Launch Day activities
January 2: Nicolette Andrews
January 3: Miranda Honfleur
January 4: Heidi Lyn Burke
January 5: Kyra Halland
January 6: Debbie Cassidy
January 7: Jennifer Grey
January 8: Skyler Andra & Athena Grayson
January 9: Emma Hamm
January 10: Michelle Lynn
January 11: Claire Luana
January 12: Bethany Adams
January 13: CS Wilde & Bree Madelyne Lewandowski
January 14: Ines Johnson
January 15: Allyson Lindt & Jennifer R Frontera
January 16: Emily Sorenson
January 17: Jesikah Sundin
January 18: Rebecca Ethington
January 19: Karen Tomlinson
January 20: Olivia K. Moto & Elizabeth Briggs
January 21: Char Webster & Marilyn Mitchell
January 22: Kimberly Rogers
January 23: Janeen Ippolito
January 24: Cat Banks & Samantha MacLeod
January 25: Gemma Oleander & Paulina Woods
January 26: JM Butler Books & AJ Lancaster
January 27: Catharine Glen & Jessica Wayne
January 28: Kat Parrish
January 29: Shannon Pemrick
January 30: Monica Enderle Pierce
January 31: Ryan Muree & Helena Rookwood

Whose takeover are you most excited for?

Magic & Kissing: Yes, Please!

Welcome to Romantic Fantasy Shelf, a new destination for books where high fantasy meets romance. Beginning in January 2019, we’ll be featuring new releases and deals in fantasy romance, romantic fantasy, and reverse harem fantasy books, along with blog posts, a reader group on Facebook, and lots of events!

Join us for a *HUGE* 2019 month-long launch event featuring takeovers with your favorite authors, giveaways, a reading challenge, and more! (Details to follow Jan. 1st!)

https://www.facebook.com/groups/romanticfantasyshelf/

Authors: please fill out any of the Google Forms on the author page for more information on how you can participate!