Fantasy + Romance=Bliss

kurland As a kid, I always loved the idea of a fantasy story. I liked the imagination of a world with elves and faeries where magic was possible. One would think that with this kind of an interest there would have been more than enough to keep me reading. There was the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Chronicles of Narnia. Those stories with their mythical beasts and a battle between good and evil should have been right up my alley. But no matter how hard I tried, I never enjoyed them. I could never get past the first book in each series. For a while, I figured the books were just too mature for me. I assumed that it was me who was in the wrong and that in a few years I would change, and the books would work. These books had an honored place on my bookshelves for many years just waiting for the time to be right, but all that they did was gather dust.

Eventually, in my twenties, I gave it another try. I even found some more books to add to the collection. Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series held my interest for a while and I actually got past the first book, but still there was something missing from these fantasy tales that seemed so right for my interests. What I finally realized was missing was the romance. There wasn’t any. In the Wheel of Time books, the lead character bounced around between three or four women, each his soul mate (huh?), and I just couldn’t find that appealing. That was why I eventually gave up on it. But the lure of fantasy still remained. Even though none of the books I had found were able to scratch that itch, I knew that was where my true interest was. So I just assumed that what I wanted wasn’t out there. A fantasy story with the right amount of romance.

So I turned to romance novels. As a history teacher, historical romance seemed to fill the gap. Regency romances, Tudor dramas, dashing tales of chivalrous knights fighting for their lady fair. I devoured them all and just assumed that I was the only one who felt as I did about fantasy, and that the other types of books that I had found would just have to do.

Then, this year, something magical happened. I knew that one of my favorite authors had a fantasy series in addition to the historical/time-travel romances that I loved, but having been burned before, I wasn’t willing to take that leap again. I was sure it would be like before. Lots of the fantasy, but none of the romance to keep my interest. Finally, a friend talked me into it. “Give it a try,” she said, “you’ll be surprised.” And so, with little hope of really finding what I was looking for, I took a leap of faith and read Lynn Kurland’s Star of the Morning. It was perfect! All the fantasy that I always craved mixed together with all the romance that had been missing in the past. Once I found the Nine Kingdoms series (and devoured it) I started to follow the Amazon links to other similar books. The Tairen Soul series by C.L. Wilson that starts with Lord of the Fading Lands was another great find. I even started to look into some series that are classified as Urban Fantasy, such as the Elder Races series by Thea Harrison (which starts with Dragon Bound) and the Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward (first one, Dark Lover). All of these were there waiting for me, but I just never knew it.

So the moral of the story is that the books are out there. It may have taken me a couple of decades to find them, but they do exist. Since I am sure that these aren’t the only ones, now I have a whole new world of reading to explore. I am like a kid on Christmas morning! Of course with a Kindle making it so easy, it is a little dangerous on the pocketbook, but after twenty years of waiting, I figure I deserve it! It isn’t every day that you find exactly what you’ve always been looking for!

So, what kinds of books have you been hunting for and hoping to find?

- Louise VanderVliet

16 thoughts on “Fantasy + Romance=Bliss

  1. speaking of Sharon Shinn, all of her books have a romantic theme, and her world-building is wonderful, so they’re all great to read. Troubled Waters is her latest.

  2. Sharon Shinn’s Samaria series starting with Archangel.

    Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series starting with Kushiel’s Dart

  3. Let me recommend the wonderful Liaden series by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller — terrific space opera (Pirates! Space battles! Eight-foot-tall talking Turtles!) with fantasy-of-manners gloss and swoonworthy romances.

    There are many good starting places for the series; AGENT OF CHANGE introduces the main couple, but the series following an older generation has the strongest romance elements (LOCAL CUSTOM and SCOUTS PROGRESS, collected in THE DRAGON VARIATION).

    Anyone who loves Bujold will love these.

  4. I recommend anything by Lois McMaster Bujold. Her Vorkosigan series starts with a romance and ends with a romance. Her Chalion series and Sharing Knife series also have romances in them. I second the Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey also. I love fantasy/sci-fi and romance. It the best of all worlds to me.

  5. It’s been years since I read the Pullman trilogy, but I recall the ending as separating worlds so people from different worlds couldn’t be together.
    A couple items not already recommended:
    The Cruachan and the Killane by Cristabel.
    The original Pern trilogy by Anne McCaffrey. SF with dragons.
    I have read many SF books with romantic threads, but less fantasies.
    I do highly recommend the 500 Kingdoms series by Mercedes Lackey.

  6. I’m similar to Michele! I read Romance in my teens and 20s but gave up for many (many!!) years in favor of contemporary fiction – then rediscovered in the last five all the wonderful new trends and directions romance has been going. Yippee! When I first read JR Ward having never read a vampire book before nor a PNR romance – what a treat. I love a good romantic fantasy because the world building keeps things so interesting and original and the romance makes me care about the characters.

  7. Michele – exactly! That is exactly how I feel. It was like I discovered “Lord of the Rings for Women”! And I am loving it! :)

  8. Phillip Pulman’s “His Dark Materials” is so wonderful! The audio book is incredible. Pullman narrates with a cast of actors for all 3 books. It’s Fantastic.
    Kate Forsythe’s series the “Witches of Eileann” is really good. Magical Fantasy with a feminist slant. Good Stuff. Might be hard to find, but worth it!

  9. I understand what you’re saying! Twenty years ago I loved sci fi and fantasy which were mainly written by men at the time. So of course there was always something missing for me. I read historical romance until I hit a wall, feeling I’d read everything there was and nothing new. Fast forward twenty years. I rediscover romance and discover a whole new world. Contemporary. Romantic suspence, fantastic new historicals. and, drum roll please, paranormal and sci fi!! Whoo hoo! JR Ward. Sigh. Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changling series. Kresley Cole… I have a Linnea Sinclair book on my nightstand I’m about to bite into. They’re all so wonderful, it brings a tear to my eye. The books I wanted twenty years ago finally arrived!

  10. I have read straight westerns, mysteries, political intrigue – you name it except for straight science fiction. I would picked up a book here or there but usually only made it through the first couple of chapters. Like you I found that a mixture of science fiction/fantasy with romance works for me. Except my introduction was with Jayne Ann Krentz/Castle books in the late 80′s.

    I think most romance readers prefer a hint of romance in their books no matter what genre they are reading- at least I do.

  11. I read Victoria Alexander’s “Princess and the Pea” ,and discovered that the Faerie Tale Romance was actually a series of books published by Love Spell, starting in 1996. I have managed to find the listing for all 22 books and their authors, and am now happily searching the UBS and Internet for copies. Sadly they do not seem to be in e-book format, so I am going to have to hunt them down for real not electronically.

  12. Oh there are so many great fantasy-romance reads out now (Urban Fantasy is still fantasy). If you haven’t tried Ilona Andrews’ Edge series, I highly recommend them (along with her Kate Daniels books which are heavier on the Urban Fantasy scale). Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunters is also very good. If you like more fantasy with some romantic elements, I recommend Guy Gavriel Kay.

  13. Elizabeth Vaughan’s Chronicles of the Warlands series (“Warprize” is the first) is another option.

  14. My favorite “fantasy” of all time is the Philip Pullman trilogy “His Dark Materials.” The romance in it, between Will and Lyra, builds over all three books. I re-read them every ten years or so.

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