Oct 8 2012 2:30pm

Author Tina Connolly on Fantasy in Romance

Ironskin by Tina ConnollyToday, H&H welcomes author Tina Connolly to the site. Tina's new book, Ironskin, is a fey/steampunk twist on Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. Ironskin's Edward Rochart is just as autocratic and alluring as Edward Rochester. Tina's “Top 10 Reasons to get your Fantasy in your Romance” are listed below. Thanks for joining us, Tina!

(Stay tuned 'til the end of the post for an Ironskin comment sweepstakes!)

I'm an inveterate fantasy/science fiction reader, but I also like every book to have a romance in it. (Well, maybe Winnie-the-Pooh gets a pass. But everything else.) I tried to figure out why fantasy is more awesome with a romance added to it, and I came up with a list of reasons for the reverse. Or maybe it's both at once. Like chocolate and peanut butter, some things just go really well together.

10. Alphas can be literally alpha. . .

In Rhiannon Held's Silver, one of the issues for werewolf protagonist Andrew is that he has to decide where he fits within a rigid pack hierarchy. There are multiple packs around the country, and for now, he is an outsider. But in that case, he can't protect Silver, because he's not her pack leader. Not her alpha. What a great dilemma to bring to the table.

9. Or not alpha at all.

In Shari S. Tepper's The Gate to Women's Country, it's clear that the women are looking for beta mates rather than alphas. Which gives her room to show some different kinds of relationships. And in Malinda Lo's Ash, the heroine is as likely to end up with the male fairy as the female human. Lo's world is by no means a society of equality; still, when it comes to the romance, it's a level playing field. And that means the unexpected is to be expected.

8. Strange worlds put people in sexy situations. . .

Think Anne McCaffrey's Pern, with the mating flights of the dragons, and their pair-bonded owners. Lessa and F'lar in Dragonflight are stumbling towards a halting relationship. But they probably wouldn't be even that far along if their dragons weren't a matched set.

7. Also in agonizing situations.

In real life, would Katniss Everdeen have to choose between herself and her suitor for who should live? Or whether they should pretend to be in love on TV? The high stakes in Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games spike the adrenaline and kick the love story into top gear.

6. Your hero and heroine don't have to obey the “normal” rules of decorum.

If society's rules are different, then the romantic encounters can go off in wildly different directions. In Jacqueline Carey's Phedre books, the heroine works as a courtesan, and the rule she lives by is “Love as thou wilt.” Plenty of room for interesting scenes.

5. Nor does the author.

Cassie Alexander's mordant urban fantasy Nightshifted features a kickass nurse who works on a supernatural ward of a county hospital. . .and eventually ends up making out with a zombie (a pretty-well preserved one.) When the story goes somewhere unexpected, everything becomes fresh again. (No irony intended.)

4. Love triangles gain steam from long histories.

Forget the triangle between the nice guy in accounting and the hot guy in sales who've been at odds over fantasy football. If one's a vampire, and the other a werewolf, the stakes are suddenly huge. In Emma Bull's War for the Oaks, a different but lovely sort of triangle plays out when one suitor has a high-caste position in the fey world, and the other a much-lower one. Both men are on the same side of things in the war, but sometimes our similarities separate us as much as our differences.

3. Strict rules force people together. . .

Dystopia has been a great place for watching people being told to pair off, and watching them deal with the consequences. In Ally Condie's Matched, relationships are assigned—but then Cassia sees two different boys' faces come up on her screen. And in J. A. Souders's forthcoming Renegade, Evelyn Winters has a very short list of suitors to choose from in her underwater paradise, each hand-picked by her ever-watchful Mother.

2. Or mystical rules bind them.

Sharon Shinn's Samaria series is lovely for this rule. Nearly everyone on Samaria has an opal gem embedded in their arm. When you get close to your true love, they light. Shinn uses this over the course of this luscious 5-book science-fantasy series about a world of angels and humans, showing both the good and bad of this powerful signifier.

And finally. . . .

1. Love can really be eternal and for all time—magically!

Dave Duncan's four-book The Magic Casement series follows stablehand Rap and princess Inos on a pile of adventures around the kingdom, through groups of imps, fauns, goblins, and more. But as the protagonists get separated and reunited, they grow and change, until they reach a grand finale where they just might fall into a true, eternal love.

To enter for a chance to win 1 of 2 copies of Tina Connolly's Ironskin, make sure you’re a registered member of the site, and then simply leave a comment about the post below.*

*NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia, who are 18 or older. To enter, fill out entry at beginning at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) October 8, 2012. Sweepstakes ends at 2:59 p.m. ET on October 15, 2012 (the “Promotion Period”). Void outside of the 50 US and DC and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules at Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.


Tina Connolly lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son, in a house that came with a dragon in the basement and blackberry vines in the attic. Her stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Fantasy, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and the anthology Unplugged: Year's Best Online SF 2008.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. Kareni
I enjoyed reading your thoughts, Tina. I too look for romance in just about every book I read.

A dragon in your basement, eh? I hope it's a friendly one!
Maycee Majors
2. Keeyansmom04
I am a sucker for romance as well... And I have to say I enjoy the paranormal/sci fi twists too... Something a little drifferent brings spice to a book. Tina I loved reading your "reasons" and I definitely have to agree!... I am excited to read your book! And even if I don't win it, I will buy it... But I would like to win it ;o)
6. MaryC
Jane Eyre is one of my favorite novels - eager to read the fey/steampunk version.
Caity Willox
7. Heliyas
LOVE Fae romances! Very excited to read it! And thanks for the shoutout for Shinn's series. It's been one of my favorites for a long time. :)
9. wsl0612
I think this sounds like a great read, pick me please!! :-)
Katy L
10. Katy L
I think almost any genre is better with a little romance worked into it. The realationships between the characters make the plot more interesting. That said, I'm also a big fan of fantasy romance. C.L. Wilson's Tairen Soul series was an excellent example.

Your book is definitely on my TBR list - Jane Eyre in a fantast setting? Count me in. Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy.
rachel sternberg
11. rae70
i read the exerpt on h & h of ironskin and thought it was a great tease of whats to come when the book was released! would love to win a copy and thank you for the other suggestions!
12. lkayme
I'm more a romance reader, so I like that storyline to be really strong in a fantasy novel. I especially like retellings of fairy tales like Beauty from Robin McKinley.
Cinda Rickel
13. Cstone
Dying to get back into steampunk! This looks very interesting. Thanks!
Julie Holmes
14. opalstarlite
I've been wanting to read this one. It sounds great! Thanks for the great giveaway :)
Jennifer McKernan
15. jenevolves
For whatever weird reason, I tend to like versions of Jane Eyre better than I ever liked the original, so I am very eager to read this!
Kirsten Love
16. WendigoLove
Hmm. I love the list- more to add to the Reading List. Wasn't familiar with many of them.
Katy L
18. bellabunnell
Tina has a great sense of humor, lives in my home state (bonus points cuz the Pacific Northwest ROCKS!), and is just as intriguing as her book. And look at that cover! Won me over immediately!
Jackie McCabe
21. jmccabe
Would love to win a copy and add a new author to my Favorites! Romance is always good, especially when mixed with the paranormal! Can't wait to read this one.
Stacy Scudder
23. chameleon68
Ironskin sound really interesting! Thanks for your thoughts on romance.
Catherine James
24. catherinejames
I love your observations in #s 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8 Tina. (I can somewhat appreciate the romance of #5 thanks to Daniel Waters' Generation Dead series, but the actuality of gettin' busy with a reanimated corpse - no matter how, just a little too high on the squick-o-meter for my taste.
25. Kareni
I just read Rhiannon Held's Silver and the two sequels. What an enjoyable series.
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