Nov 9 2016 3:00pm

12 Fantasy Romances to Take You Away

Lloyd Alexander once said that “Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It's a way of understanding it.” This autumn’s crop of fantasy novels give both a bit of escape and insight while mixing them with magic, adventure and of course, romance.

Contemporary Fantasy:

The Ferryman Institute by Colin Gigl

The Ferryman Institute by Colin Gigl has been hailed as a “stunning, fantastical debut novel.” In Greek mythology, the souls of the dead are rowed across the rivers Styx and Acheron, bodies of water that divide the world of the living from that of the beyond, by the ferryman Charon (aka Kharon). In this exciting novel, reminiscent of the comic books Rest in Peace Department by Peter M. Lenkov, Charlie Dawson is a ferryman. He helps the living cross to whatever is awaiting them on the other side. He’s the best there is but he has been at this a long, long time and is frankly burned out. Unfortunately, the afterlife doesn’t come with more career opportunities! Then Charlie keeps Alice Spiegel from killing herself and realizes that the afterlife can come complete with romance:

She interrupted him with a kiss. It wasn’t even remotely close to a good one: it was too short, she didn’t meet his mouth flush on, his eyes were still open, and his lips were still moving as he tried to speak. Frankly, she didn’t care.

There was something special about the way Charlie spoke, something Alice had trouble pinning down. Maybe it wasn’t one thing, necessarily, but some combination that when blended together exceeded the sum of its parts. There existed a spellbinding cadence in his words – yes, spellbinding, that was the right word, because what was it if not magic?- and understated rhythm that undressed the world, exposed it as nothing more than an illusion. He was the magician in reverse, the man who demonstrated with a flourish that his act was real – it was her pain and suffering, her reality that was the cheap trick she’d failed to see through.

His voice enveloped her in a tapestry of woven words while his eyes orchestrated the ebb and flow of his inflection, a conductor flicking the baton in seemingly careless strokes, yet driving a masterful symphony with them. Though doubt and fear and sadness all lingered in the back alleys of her psyche, his voice bore her back in time, back to when she was child capable of believing in impossible things. And in the dying moments of that first kiss, Alice believed in them anew.

That’s some first kiss! As Alice and Charlie battle the evil Inspector Javrouche and learn just what place they have in the Beyond, their romance lends a touch of spicy fun to their adventures. This is a not to be missed tale for fans of R.I.P.D. and similar fantasy.

What if there was a surgery that would allow you to know the feelings of your true love? That would give the two of you an empathic connection that worked to bring you closer together? And what if, somehow, that surgery went terribly wrong and connected you to another man?

Crosstalk by Connie Willis

Briddey Flannigan, from Crosstalk by Connie Willis, is delighted when her successful, Porsche driving boyfriend wants to get an EED and bond them emotionally forever. Her zany family assures her this is a huge mistake—huge —as does the hermit in the company lab, who advises her that one can never know what might happen when messing with the human mind. Determined to prove them all wrong Briddey moves forward with her plan—and finds herself telepathically linked to the wrong man! When the magic of true love trumps science, what happens? Love, naturally.

Their thoughts flowed together in an incoherent torrent of relief and joy and delight, colliding, crashing, looping in a cascade of longing and explanations and desire

A blend of science fiction, the paranormal and the fantasy (fact??) that true love always finds a way, Crosstalk is a fun, lighthearted, zany and occasionally serious look at the truth about human nature.

A Mortal Song by Megan Crewe contains one of my very favorite tropes—the human hero with immortal allies. Sora has been raised to believe she is kami, one of the spirits worshiped in the religion of Shinto. Not just any kami but the princess, savior of her people. When Mt. Fuji, where the kami palace resides, is attacked the Sage Rin delivers a terrible truth.

One child was exchanged for another in a secret trade. The true daughter has lived among humans, away from notice, ignorant of her unawakened powers— safe. Her human counterpart was raised on the mountain... But this girl is not a child of Mt. Fuji. She is not even kami.

Determined to help the people she loves even though she is not really one of them Sora, her bodyguard Takeo, her new mortal ally Keiji, and the true princess fight the evil ghosts attempting to take over the world.

I loved learning about the magic of the kami and their role in Japanese culture. A strong heroine, sweet romance and the international flavor of the tale made this YA story one of my favorite reads for this column.

Otherworld Challenger by Jane Godman

Harlequin offers up a unique look at the realm of the Fae in Otherworld Challenger by Jane Godman. The true heir to the faerie crown has been missing for hundreds of years, ever since the evil general Moncoya fermented a rebellion and destroyed the ruling family. Moncoya has been banished now but so long as the throne is empty, he remains a threat. Jethro de Loix, necromancer and mercenary is willing to find the long lost prince and solve the Otherworld Council’s problems—for a price: One million dollars will see the true king of the faerie returned to his people.

Princess Vashti, Moncoya's daughter, is livid the council has agreed to the merc’s demands. She doesn’t trust someone whose loyalty and services have to be bought so she insists on overseeing his mission. Their partnership gets off to a rocky start but then Jethro finds himself giving in to the temptation to kiss the snooty princess:

That had been the kiss. The one poets clutched their brows over and singers poured their hearts into lyrics about. That once-in-a-lifetime, perfect kiss.

Their adventures lead them to the heart of Avalon, where surprising revelations go hand in hand with a growing love between our reluctant protagonists. Part of a series but stands easily on its own!

My Wild Irish Dragon by Ashlyn Chase

Shape shifters are part of paranormal romance—unless of course they shape shift into a fantastical being like a dragon. Then they land firmly in fantasy romance land! In My Wild Irish Dragon by Ashlyn Chase dragon shifter Chloe Arish and firefighter Ryan Fierro find their romance getting off to a fiery start.  Both are applying for a job at a Boston firehouse and both are bound and determined to have it. When they first meet and realize what they are competing for, sparks fly:

“What do you have as an advantage—other than your sex?”

She gasped. “Excuse me? Are you accusing me of sleeping my way into the job?”

When funding comes through for both of them to get positions, it seems like cool water on the smoldering anger both are feeling. But what happens when their passion for their work turns into an inferno of desire? A fire they can only put out together. This sexy story is sure to be a hit with both dragon lovers and fire fighter romance fans.

Historical Fantasy:

Fans of Kristen Callihan will want to check out Burning Bright by Melissa McShane. While this book is more sweet than steamy, the world building is as excellent as that in the Darkest London series.

Elinor Pembroke has the magical power not just to start fires, but to control and extinguish them. She is an Extraordinary, a wielder of incredible magic and an incredibly rare one at that: She is the first in England to control fire in over one hundred years.

Seen as a possible weapon, she is assigned to the frigate Athena, where she serves under Captain Miles Ramsay. She turns “her fiery talent on England’s enemies, French privateers and vicious pirates preying on English ships in the Caribbean”. But what happens when the strongest flames she encounters are those she feels burning between her and the Captain?

“I love you.” She looked up at him. “I think you should kiss me.”

His eyebrows went up. “Isn’t that somewhat improper?” . . .

He laughed and ran his fingers across her skin, down her hairline and along her jaw, so gently. “I make no promises,” he said, kissing her forehead lightly, making her close her eyes with please. “But I think “he kissed her cheek, just as lightly “you will not be disappointed,” and his lips brushed against hers, the faintest pressure that made her inner fire rage with a need for more, so, impatient, she pulled his head down so she could kiss him instead.

A sweet love story amidst an action packed maritime adventure, this is sure to please historical romance lovers.

The Ill-Kept Oath by C.C. Aune

Fans of Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer will be delighted to learn of The Ill-Kept Oath by C.C. Aune. In Regency England, cousins Prudence Fairfeather and Lady Josephine Weston look forward to coming out and finding husbands. Well, perhaps not the husband hunting but Josephine is anxious to leave her quiet country life and meet people and Prudence is more or less resigned to their fate. But when Prudence is given her late mother’s ruby ring it’s not just the enchantment of true love that she discovers. There are powers at play that she knew nothing about.

Josephine’s desire for adventure is fulfilled not by a come out but by discovering her late mother’s chest in the attic. Full of mysterious clothes, weapons, and journals the trunk offers rare insight into a woman Josephine has no memory of. Unbeknownst to her, it also offers protection for those she loves in the storms currently gathering around England.

Full of magic and sorcery the real joy of the novel lies in the delightful romances of its two young protagonists. I thoroughly enjoyed Prudence’s first experience of meeting a man she might someday love. 

He watched her with his intensely green eyes, a half-smile lifted one corner of his mouth, and her heart thudded like a timpani drum. As in a dream, the rest of the room fell away; sounds faded, lights blurred, and the other occupants vanished. She was aware of only Mr. MacNeal, the first man whom she thought she might like to know better. Was it her turn to speak? What should she say, now that she sensed his longing to take her hand and kiss it. . . ?

Purveyors of Regency enchantment will not want to miss this sweet tale of love and magic.

Return to the original land of fable with Marrakesh by Graham Diamond. In the desert lies the rarest of magical jewels:

“The Eye is as ancient as the Atlas Mountains themselves. Legend claims that the ancestors of the Bedouin found it numerous centuries ago. It fell from the heavens themselves, it is said, a flaming fragment of a shooting star which crashed upon the highest peak and burned for months. The superstitious herdsmen who first found it believed it to be a gift from the gods of old who ruled the universe, and for these tribes it soon became a sacred object to be revered and worshiped. “With time, the stone cooled. No longer white-hot, it proved to be no less than a spectacular emerald-like jewel, larger than a man’s fist, engraved by the hands of the gods. Within its spectrum of color the future was laid bare for all to see, and the observer could watch the rise and fall of mighty empires, the secrets of civilizations both past and yet to be unraveled with crystal clarity. Yes, and also with this knowledge came the ability to gain great and untold riches.”

Daniel, a poet, goldsmith and dreamer will soon have to marry but he has no desire for the girls he must choose from in order to inherit his mentor’s business. He prays for guidance and that very night finds himself rescuing Siana, a beautiful young woman with a dangerous secret, from a group of ruffians. As a result, he becomes enmeshed in her adventure to find and hide the jewel before an evil villain can twist its power to his dastardly purposes. Full of action and romance, this sweet YA tale is ideal for lovers of The Arabian Nights.

Tamer of Horses by Amalia Carosella

Tamer of Horses by Amalia Carosella is a feminist retelling of the Greek myth regarding Hippodamia and her husband Pirithous. In this tale Hippodamia is raised by Centaurus, king of the centaurs. She is affianced to the king of the Lapiths, Pirithous, son of Zeus, with hopes that their union, and that the heir of that union, will form a lasting peace between their hostile people. Their first meeting doesn’t go well and results in Hippodamia’s edict that:

I must admit I do not believe myself capable of love for you, though for a moment in your megaron, I feared otherwise. My heart and my affections are my own, unclaimed, but the longer I know you, the more certain I am they will never be yours.

Their wedding is marred by battle and the two struggle to come to peace with each other, much less form a peace between their people. Their journey to joy is an epic, god’s touched romance that results in a blissful (if brief) HEA.

Continuing Series:

Melissa Giorgio offers up a romantic, otherworld experience in her new series Smoke and Mirrors. The Burning Chaos, book two in the saga, continues the adventures of Leonid and Irina (Lark). They’ve defeated the evil wizard Bantheir with the help of the dragon-god Jaegger but now must face new challenges as the magic they once thought didn’t exist becomes an increasing problem in their small city. And of course, their newly found love first discovered in The Fading Dusk, must move to the next level:

He was out of his seat and kissing me hard on my lips before I even realized he had moved. “Leonid,” I murmured as he cupped the side of my face with his hand. He tasted like pie and tea, and that combined with the intensity of his kisses made me dizzy.

Readers who enjoy feisty heroines are sure to like this fantasy adventure series.

Golden Threads by Kay Hooper

Fans of Kay Hooper know her for her eerie gothics like After Caroline and Amanda or her psychic FBI books starring the Bishop family. Before entering the realm of paranormal romance, though, she wrote a series called Once Upon a Time. These category novels are modern day retellings of classic fairy tales and this month two of them are being released for Kindle for the first time: The Glass Shoe and Golden Threads.  While any magic here is more implied than explicit, the tales still have a sweet fable feel that will appeal to fans that enjoy fairy tale romance.

Rapunzel waited in a tall tower for her prince to come but Lara Mason doesn’t have time for that. On the run from cyber criminals who murdered her father, Lara comes out of hiding to hide in plain sight by playing a princess in a local community theater production. But it looks like the men who are hunting her may just have seen through her disguise. Thankfully, a hero in the form of undercover FBI agent Devon Shane is there just when she most needs him! Golden Threads is a tale of finding your Happily Ever After somewhere you least expect it.

The costume party was meant to be an escape from life on the front page. Disguised as Cinderella, with her signature bright red hair under a wig, heiress Amanda Wilderman hopes the event will be over with quickly. She plans to tell her family she had fun and then get back to what she truly enjoys – beating business rival Ryder Foxx.  But in The Glass Shoe the boardroom meets the bedroom when Amanda and Ryder realize that their fairy tale ending will require them to work together.

Lynn Kurland continues her highly popular Nine Kingdoms series with The White Spell. He’s a bastard - literally.  Acair of Ceangail is the illegitimate offspring of the worst black mage in history and he made the unfortunate mistake of following in his father’s footsteps, leaving devastation – and some powerful enemies—in his wake. He’s spent the past year making reparations and now has only one final piece of penance left: working at a stable without the use of his magic.

Leirsinn of Saraichte leads a quiet life by choice. She’s learned unwanted attention leads to unpleasant outcomes. Determined to find a refuge for herself and her grandfather, she works hard and unobtrusively at her uncle’s stables. Until she sees the shadows. A classic fantasy quest story this romance is sure to delight Ms. Kurland’s legion of fans.

So what fantasy romance novels have captured your interest recently? 

Learn more about or order a copy of the books mentioned in this post:

The Ferryman Institute by Colin Gigl
Crosstalk by Connie Willis
A Mortal Song by Megan Crewe
Otherworld Challenger by Jane Godman
My Wild Irish Dragon by Ashlyn Chase
Burning Bright by Melissa McShane
The Ill-Kept Oath by C.C. Aune
Marrakesh by Graham Diamond
Tamer of Horses by Amalia Carosella
The Burning Chaos by Melissa Giorgio
Golden Threads by Kay Hooper
The White Spell by Lynn Kurland

H&H Editor Picks:

Fantasy Romances You Should Be Reading

Extraordinary Heroines in Sci-Fi

November 2016 Romance New Releases






Maggie Boyd, blogger, reviewer, avid reader

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. Scarlettleigh
I did like Crosstalk by Willis. I read Unquiet Lands by Sharon Shinn this past month and liked it too. Thanks for the recommendations.
2. MariaDurst
To be honest - I haven't read a fantasy book in a while - I'm in a sort of reading slump - I do love the sound of several of the books you've mentioned in this post though and will be adding them to my reading/buy list. Great post!
Lee Brewer
3. LeeB.
I wish life right now was a fantasy. Thanks for the recommendations.
Maggie Boyd
4. maggieboyd66
@Scarletleigh Thanks for the Shinn rec. Need to check that out.

@MariaDurst Make sure you are reading the Innkeeper books by Ilona Andrews. Love those!

@LeeB. It would have to be dark fantasy if it were to reflect reality but I know what you mean. I would love to wake up in a whole different reality.
6. brontëgirl
The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion for romance!!!! A separate book of the retelling of the story of Luthien and Beren will be published next year.
@3LeeB and @4maggieboyd66, I didn't agree w/ the whole platform of the person I voted for but I certainly know what y'all mean . . . under a cloud even tho' yesterday my parents celebrated their 70th "Day We Met" anniversary :) Now that's romance!
Maggie Boyd
7. maggieboyd66
@brontëgirl I love LOTR and recently did a re-watch of the whole trilogy. I really, really wish they had done more with Faramir and Eomer's romance. The extended edition DVD does some but we really needed MORE.
I never agree with the full platform of my candidate but boy I hated the platform of the other person. Guess I'll have to live with it now.
Congrats to your parents! That's terrific.
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