The fair folk have a long history of entangling themselves in the love lives of mortals. Shakespeare made use of this trope in A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Disney gave us a plethora of fairy godmothers, as well as a jealous Tinker Bell, in the adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, and many readers talk about wanting a fairy tale element in their romance reading.
In Beyond the Highland Mist, Karen Marie Moning introduced faeries, characters who are now on their third novel series, as the Highlander romance series begat the Fever urban fantasy series, which now spins off into Iced and its upcoming sequels. Romance mainstays Barbara Samuel, Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley and Karen Harbaugh teamed up for the memorable Fairy Magic anthology some years ago, and even historical favorite Edith Layton treated her readers to a fairy hero in Bride Enchanted. Susan Krinard’s Fane series starts off in Regency times with the forest fairy hero who’s anything but flighty in The Forest Lord. Fairies get up to mischief and down to business in multiple urban fantasy series, both adult and YA, with varying levels of romance, and the trend shows no sign of stopping.
What’s the appeal? There’s the glamour, both literally and figuratively. They can bend perceptions in their favor, and they look good doing it. They can deliver a human’s fondest desires, but they’re going to want something back. They can be clever, those fairies, bound by truth but creative in how they tell it.
For those who like a romance to sweep them away to another world, the faerie realm provides a place like no other. The very rules of existence are going to vary from the world our hero or heroine has known, and if their otherworldly love’s kith and kin don’t take kindly to a mortal lover, that’s one big conflict to overcome. A true hero or heroine, though, is more than up to the challenge.
Fairies play into many classic romance tropes. Secret baby? Try changelings, either a fairy child swapped for a human or the other way around. Bride stealing—or groom stealing, to keep things equal—could also work, coercing or abducting a mortal mate who may or may not decide to stay. Could the right author turn that around and have a human entrap a fairy spouse? Enchantments, curses only true love can break, power struggles between opposing fairy courts provide that otherworldly something extra to romance plots both classic and new.
Maybe that’s exactly what the fairies intended, hooking us early with age-old folk tales early on. Well played, fairies. Well played.
Anna C. Bowling considers writing historical romance the best way to travel through time and make the voices in her head pay rent. She welcomes visitors to her blog, Typing with Wet Nails and to follow her at Twitter.