Fantasy Romance

Valentine’s Day is coming up, the time for romance. I’m generally not into cutesy romances, and I’m definitely not into spicy ones, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like romantic relationships in stories altogether. I’ve put together a list of ten books and series that I’ve enjoyed that all have romantic relationships in them, with varying levels of romance. While some of them have more typically romantic relationships, two people falling for one another and eventually getting together, others have more complicated pairings, lacking the usual courtship period.

The Winner’s Trilogy
by Marie Rutkoski

Kestral & Arin begin as master and slave whose races hate one another and continue a highly complicated, slow-burn romance throughout the trilogy

The Lord of the Rings
by J.R.R. Tolkien

From Samwise and Rosie, who we don’t really get to see together, to Aragorn and Arwen, whose bond we do get to explore more, this series is the original musical rom-com, although I doubt most people think of it that way.

Six of Crows
by Leigh Bardugo

This duology has a few romances that we get to see develop over time. An enemies-to-lovers, a will-they-won’t-they, and a sweet yet subtle, I like that we get to see the lead up to each relationship, making them all feel believable.

by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Each book in this trilogy has our male heroes paired with a leading lady. The pairings feel rather obvious with a limited cast, but they’re par for the course in these types of stories. Although the romance is there, it’s not the focus, and I appreciate the fact that the women are also capable and not just a damsel in distress.

The Lunar Chronicles
by Marissa Meyer

A series of fairy tale retellings set in a sci-fi world, each installment has a more traditional romance. The female title characters always have a male counterpart that they will develop a relationship with, all under different circumstances. While the romance isn’t the center of each book, the relationships do contribute to the larger plots.

The Wheel of Time
by Robert Jordan

With a huge cast of characters and an expansive series, it’s inevitable that there would be at least a few romantic relationships. Each of our main characters finds love at some point during their journey. Some of them get married while some of them have less traditional situations.

Howl’s Moving Castle
by Diana Wynne Jones

Sophie and Howl meet and go through a magical adventure together. Their relationship is far from cutesy and romantic until they eventually realize their feelings for one another.

The Memoirs of Lady Trent
by Marie Brennan

In the first book, Isabella and Jacob get married mostly as a mutually beneficial arrangement. There’s no flirting and courtship, they just understand and respect one another, and that’s enough to get them started. Later books in the series introduce more flirtatious romances without straying too far into the romance genre.

Clocktaur War
by T. Kingfisher

This duology features a strong attraction that takes a bit to build up into anything. There’s also a related past lovers situation happening. It’s not a love triangle exactly, but it’s pretty close. The romance is pretty strong in this one, but it still takes the backseat to the main quest plot.

A Song of Ice and Fire
by George R.R. Martin

There’s nothing romantic about most of the relationships in this series, except perhaps that one relationship that probably shouldn’t even be happening. Outside of that, however, the Starks have a pretty solid family going on with parents that actually love each other. Then there’s the more complicated Daenerys situation. Although she was traded to her husband as a bargaining chip, she takes control of that situation as best she can and builds something resembling love and respect with her new husband.

Most of these may not qualify as actual romance, but they’re the kind of romance I can get behind. They’re complicated, they’re well developed, and they’re not the main point of the story.

What’s your favorite fantasy romance?