16 Best Fantasy Romance Books That Will Get Your Heart Racing
Get ready to be seduced and swept away to magical lands by these fantasy romance books
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The best fantasy romance books
Enigmatic witches, ethereal fairy kings, dangerously enticing vampires and celestial beings. While romance is an entertaining book genre of its own, combining it with fantastical settings makes for even more thrilling storytelling—and alluring love interests. Fantasy romance books are the perfect form of escapism, taking readers on epic journeys infused with passion and heart.
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What are fantasy romance books?
The fantasy romance genre is steadily gaining literary respect as readers of all ages, genders and walks of life gobble it up, proving this addictive and bestselling subgenre is here to stay. While the central plot of these stories is driven by romance, fantasy elements act as exciting plot devices, providing a rich backdrop for the characters to inevitably fall in love. These stories could be high fantasy epics, set in entirely magical alternate worlds, or they could be low fantasy tales closer to the world as we know it, with fantastical elements bleeding deliciously into reality.
Either way, they absolutely raise the bar on how to be romantic. And while romance can get a bad rap for being trope-y—think forbidden lovers or enemies-to-lovers books—the best books also add intricate world building, fully developed characters and compelling conflicts so that they feel fresh and inspiring.
That said, there are a lot of fantasy romance books out there (with similar titles and book covers at that), so it can be tricky to find the ones that truly rise above the rest in terms of originality and quality writing. That’s where this list comes in. We’ve rounded up the fantasy romance books every bookworm—whether a fan of romance novels, fantasy books or both—should have on their bookshelf. From bestsellers to award-winners to the most-anticipated books of the year, these fantasy romance books will be sure to get your heart racing.
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1. The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Not everyone knows that the 1987 cult romantic comedy featuring the beautiful Buttercup and swashbuckling Westley is based on a classic 1973 fantasy romance book—and that its original title is actually The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure, the “Good Parts” Version. Filled with sword fighting, love quotes and a fictional narrator’s hilarious and clever commentary, this metafictional book will make you belly laugh and swoon in the same breath. And if you haven’t already, make sure to watch the film, arguably one of the truest (and best) book-to-movie adaptations to date. In the mood for love?
2. The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon
Featuring exquisite prose, a strong-willed heroine and a truly hunky king, Amy Harmon’s The Bird and the Sword (2016) is a heart-wrenching yet empowering must-read for fans of medieval fantasy romance books. When Lark’s mother is killed for practicing witchcraft, she curses the royal family and renders young Lark mute for her own protection. Many years later, Lark is whisked away to the royal castle as collateral, and she must literally find her voice to navigate magical persecution, political intrigue, war and her budding attraction to her royal captor, who has a dark secret of his own. If you’re a fan of high fantasy like the Witcher books, you’ll read this in a single sitting!
3. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
The Throne of Glass YA book series established Sarah J. Maas as a go-to for fantasy romance. But her steamier adult fantasy book series is even more popular, with titles going viral on the TikTok subcommunity known as BookTok. Maas perfected the steamy enemies-to-lovers plot in 2015’s A Court of Thorns and Roses, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. After accidentally killing a fae in disguise, huntress Feyre is taken to mysterious Faerie lands by her mysterious captor, Tamlin. Prepare yourself for love triangles, plot twists and some spicy scenes.
Read this one before it hits the small screen. It’s being adapted into a Hulu television series, but in the meantime, you can fan yourself over the sexiest movies on Netflix.
4. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Beloved fantasy author Neil Gaiman’s Stardust (1999) is a sweet and epic romance between fallen star Yvaine and half-fae, half-human Tristran. Set in rural England, where a wall divides faerie from mortals, Tristran promises to retrieve the fallen star for the beautiful but simple-minded Victoria. But when he meets Yvaine, he gets swept up in a murder plot between brothers, the schemes of wicked witches and a wild adventure. Winner of the 1999 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature and Alex Award from the American Library Association, Stardust is filled with Gaiman’s legendary wit and whimsy. It’s like a fairy-tale story for adults, in the best possible way.
5. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Perhaps one of the best fantasy romance books of all time, Outlander has everything you can ask for: a historical setting, adventure, time travel, magic and brooding Scots. Brilliant nurse Claire Randall time-travels from 1946 England to 1743 Scotland, where she falls in love with fiery highlander Jamie Fraser. It’s no wonder the book won the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award! Though the book was published in 1999, its adaptation into a Starz TV series has renewed interest in the tale of the star-crossed lovers. The Outlander series is absolutely worth investing in—both the show and the books behind the TV show.
6. The Last Tale of the Flower Bride by Roshani Chokshi
Filipino Indian American author Roshani Chokshi made a name for herself with her New York Times bestselling YA books—both The Star-Touched Queen and The Gilded Wolves series are must-reads. Chokshi is back with an adult gothic fairy tale infused with her enchanting lyricism and folklore from around the world. Alternating between the past and present, The Last Tale of the Flower Bride follows the Bridegroom and his heiress wife, Indigo, as they venture to her childhood home and unearth her darkest secrets. But it’s also very much a story about Indigo and her childhood friend Azure, who mysteriously disappeared many years ago. Releasing on Feb. 14, this is one of the most-anticipated books of 2023, so be sure to pre-order this unconventional romance now.
7. These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
Imagine Romeo and Juliet set in 1920s Shanghai, then add monsters, gangsters and anti-colonialism. You’ve got Chloe Gong’s debut YA novel, which quickly became a New York Times bestseller when it published in 2020. As you can guess from the title, this one is a bit gory, but it’s worth the read for the angst and yearning between these star-crossed lovers from rival gangs. Plus, it’s refreshing to see a femme fatale flapper interpretation of Juliet! After These Violent Delights (the title a nod to the Bard’s original), make sure to read these other books by Asian American authors.
8. From Blood and Ash by Jennifer Armentrout
Named Best Romance Book in the 2020 Goodreads Choice Awards, Jennifer Armentrout’s From Blood and Ash topped the New York Times bestseller list with its sexy angst and intense world building. Its protagonist, Poppy, is a Maiden reluctantly preparing for Ascension, burdened since birth by duty, the will of the gods and the future of the kingdom. Be prepared for some info dumps at the beginning of the book, but the context is necessary as the story picks up with fast-paced action and slow-burning forbidden desire between Poppy and her personal golden-eyed guard, Hawke. If you love angsty, forbidden-romance vampire books like Twilight, you’ll devour the From Blood and Ash series.
9. The Stolen Heir by Holly Black
Award-winning, No. 1 New York Times bestselling author Holly Black has been dominating the YA fantasy genre for more than two decades. She wrote the acclaimed Spiderwick Chronicles children’s book series as well as some of the best books for teens, including Tithe, The Darkest Part of the Forest and the Folk of the Air series, the latter of which gave birth to this spinoff duology. The first in the two-book series, The Stolen Heir, released on Jan. 3, 2023, is already getting rave reviews and topping the bestseller list. Suren, a changeling child queen of the Court of Teeth, must venture back into the world of Faerie and team up with Prince Oak, heir to Elfhame and Jude’s little brother from The Cruel Prince, to save their respective kingdoms. The Stolen Heir is filled with dark fairy-tale elements, teen angst and beautiful prose: a must-read for 2023 even if you haven’t read her other works (although you really should!).
10. The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
The list of accolades TJ Klune received for his 2021 New York Times bestselling The House on the Cerulean Sea could be its own entire paragraph, and it is absolutely well deserved. Set in an alternate magical world, the story follows protagonist Linus as he goes about his days as a caseworker at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth with self-deprecating humor—until he finds himself at a seaside orphanage where he tries his darnedest not to fall in love with the charming director and his chaotic magical found family. While it isn’t an epic tale of war and forbidden love, The House on the Cerulean Sea offers sanctuary and acceptance, like sitting in front of a cozy fireplace with a cat and soft blanket on your lap. This feel-good LGBTQ fantasy romance is a fluffy, heartwarming comfort read bound to make you see magic in your own life.
11. Song of Blood & Stone by L. Penelope
The first book in L. Penelope’s severely underrated Earthsinger Chronicles series, Song of Blood & Stone (2018) tells of a war between two tribes. While it’s a story about racism, prejudice and refugee crises, Song of Blood & Stone doesn’t beat you over the head with lessons about bigotry. Instead, Penelope paints the struggles of a budding interracial relationship through Jasminda, a young biracial outcast with healing powers, and Jack, a white soldier from the enemy tribe, as they prove just how much love can overcome. When you’re done, check out these other books by Black authors.
12. The Awakening by Nora Roberts
No romance book compilation would be complete without Nora Roberts, the bestselling author of nearly 250 romance novels, who has been deemed “America’s favorite novelist” by the New Yorker. The first of the Dragon Heart Legacy series, The Awakening (2020) is about a mortal woman who travels to Ireland and finds herself transported to an ancient, magical world of witches, mermaids, fae and, most important, handsome warriors. If you don’t love overly complex narratives and are looking for easy fantasy romance books to give you butterflies, make sure to add Nora Roberts to your reading list!
13. The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh
A retelling of the famous Korean folktale of Shim Cheong, 2022’s The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea is an epic teen novel about young Mina, who throws herself into the sea as a sacrifice to the Sea God to save her family and her village. If you love Hayao Miyazaki films like Spirited Away, you’ll want to snap up this book. The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea follows the same theme of a courageous mortal girl navigating a lush spirit realm of mythical gods and complex power struggles. Add gorgeous underwater scenery, and the romance between Mina and the mysterious Lord Shin becomes even more ethereal.
14. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Master of lush, evocative storytelling, Laini Taylor raised the YA urban fantasy bar when she published Daughter of Smoke and Bone in 2011. The book has been lauded by critics and readers alike, and it’s no wonder why: There’s complex world building, a deep and heartfelt romance, plenty of humor and an epic tale of angels, demons and everything in between. Our blue-haired, 17-year-old protagonist is a mortal art student by day, a pseudo tooth fairy by night who travels to Elsewhere at the bidding of her adoptive not-at-all-human father and ends up getting caught up in a war between her two worlds—and in a smoldering, anguishing romance with an angel.
15. Witchmark by C.L. Polk
You’ll wish you could teleport into C.L. Polk’s magical alternate-history Edwardian England after you read Witchmark, in which witchcraft raises the stakes of war. Despite the murder mystery, class conflict and psychological trauma that drive the plot, make no mistake: This is truly a sugary-sweet queer romance between our protagonist doctor (who is secretly a witch) and the dazzling man he partners up with to solve the murder. Winner of the 2019 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel and finalist for the 2019 Nebula Award for Best Novel, Witchmark is an LGBTQ-friendly fantasy romance book that will have you squealing with delight.
16. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Based on Polish folklore, Uprooted may have plenty of awards to its name—it won the 2015 Nebula Award for Best Novel and the 2016 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, and it was nominated for the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Novel—but that’s hardly why readers love it so. Naomi Novik’s celebrated dark fantasy continues to wow readers with its enchanting prose and romantic tension between Agnieszka, an ordinary human girl, and the taciturn wizard known as Dragon, who whisks her away as payment in return for protecting her village from the terrifyingly murderous Wood. When Agnieszka discovers she is actually capable of magic as well, Dragon must train her in preparation for the fight against evil. As timeless as a fairy tale, Uprooted is the sort of book you’ll want to read again and again.
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