Bodice Rippers in Space: A Rec List For Your Romantic Holiday Needs

As you might have noticed, this month is February. And if you’ve been in a store or anywhere in public, you’ve also noticed today is a special day. That special day is Valentine’s Day. For once, I’ve decided not to ignore this holiday and am, in fact, dedicating my post this month to a list of some of my favorite speculative fiction romances. 

So if your interest falls more in the fantasy/sci fi first with romance in the background, these suggestions are for you:

summersatcastleauburnFirst: Sharon Shinn. Like. All of Sharon Shinn. There’s always a sweet, perfect romance happening in the background of every book she writes, and they’re always amazing and satisfying. If you need a place to start, pick up Summers at Castle Auburn. A young woman, the illegitimate daughter of a king and half-sister to the woman affianced to the prince, grows up with one foot in court and one foot in her home village until one fateful summer when everything falls apart. Also highly recommended: the Safe-Keeper’s series and the Elementals series. And everything. Seriously, I love everything. 

Beauty by Robin McKinley is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast without the Gaston figure. If you love the story and have always wanted something that focuses more on the internal conflicts of the characters, this book is for you. She actually has two twists on this classic fairy tale, so also check out Rose Daughter, the ending of which prompted one grown woman on goodreads to post “I feel dirty…and not in a good way” in her review.

Last year, Speculative Chic posted a Sound Off! reaction to When the Moon Was Ours by Anna Marie McLemore. You can read what we all thought about it here. I really liked the dreamy feel of it, mired as it was in magic realism, and the fact that it featured a trans character as one of its two leads.  

killashandraI’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Anne McCaffrey, who has written some of my favorite books in the genre. There are several to choose from here but the ones I went back to a lot, especially as a young, impressionable teen, were Crystal Singer and its sequels Killashandra and Crystal Line. In the first, choral student Killashandra Ree discovers a flaw in her voice will never allow her to be a soloist as she’d always desired, but she is able to move to some remote planet and mine for crystals because she has perfect pitch. (You can only mine the crystals by singing to them, they vibrate back to you, it’s a whole thing.) But basically here you just have to read the first to get to the second, where she is sent off on an assignment to some tropical planet where she falls in love and helps lead a revolution. Kind of in that order.

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater is next on my list. It’s a young adult series about four boys who are trying to find the sleeping Welsh king of Glendower. I really don’t want to spoil a single thing about them, but there’s some delightful romance, including gay characters, that truly made this series delightful.

If you’re interested in delving into books that are actually romance novels happening in a speculative fiction world, these suggestions are for you.

fairytaleWhen I first started reading romance novels in high school, I stumbled across a Maggie Shayne book in the library, and was blown away that romance novels came in flavors I recognized and not just, like, Victorian ladies in drawing rooms. (Not that Victorian ladies in drawing rooms are bad, just, I was really surprised to discover fantasy romance novels. Game changer.) So I picked up Fairytale and its sequel Forever Enchanted at the library, and I liked them so much I never turned Fairytale back in. I paid the fine instead. In retrospect, there were probably cheaper ways to do that.

Anyway, they’re a pair of stories about a half-fairy woman looking to get back to her home with the help of the human man she falls in love with. I’m also a huge fan of her Immortals series, starting with Eternity. There’s witches and reincarnation and true love. And probably miracles. She’s also written an extensive vampire series that I have not read all of, but I’m sure it’s also great.

For some reason, there are a wealth of vampire romance novels, and this is not where I start recommending Twilight to you, I swear. There are so many vampire romance novels that they have to also be about something else, there’s roughly a million different KINDS of vampire now. So when I say this next one is a vampire romance, it’s only, like, KIND of a vampire romance.

dark loverI haven’t read the entire series, only the first 8 or so, and I really only can highly recommend the first four. The series is the Black Dagger Brotherhood by JR Ward, starting with Dark Lover. So these vampires don’t feed on humans because human blood can’t sustain them. They’re born as vampires and can only feed on each other. There’s a king of the vampires, who is the hero of the first one, and he’s got this band of warriors he fights their enemies with, the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Look, they’re pretty cheesy but I find them compelling despite that. And what is Valentine’s Day for if not an excess of cheese?

And, if you’re interested in going full cheese, Sherrilyn Kenyon has written a series of about thirty books or so by this point with just about everything on the speculative fiction table. The first book is pretty firmly about Greek gods and goddesses, but then the second one introduces these vampire-like creatures but they’re MADE by Artemis, so they’re not actually vampires. There are also werewolves but also, like, were-bears and were-dragons and were-everything. And still Greek gods and goddesses. Oh and at some point the Lost City of Atlantis, so you have Atlantean gods. The first one is Fantasy Lover. You could try jumping in the middle, but it might confuse you.

lord of the stormI promised bodice rippers in space with my title, and I actually do have a couple. The first is Lord of the Storm by Justine Davis and I recommend this with the caveat that the cover art makes it look like a piece of trash, but it actually isn’t. It also has a sequel called The Skypirate that has an enemies-to-lovers story line that I particularly love. Also along these lines, Susan Krinard wrote Star Crossed, which is also kind of like pirates in space the way Justine Davis’s books are. Caveat for that cover as well as this book was published in 1995, and the cover looks like it.

If you like Star Crossed (it is also listed some places as Starcrossed so I’m actually not sure which is correct now), Susan Krinard is actually a super prolific author in the genre and has werewolves and vampires also to her name. And she doesn’t bring literally everything to the buffet the way that Sherrilyn Kenyon does.

If you’re looking for a good romantic movie, I’ve got a few of those too.

In my mind, the Wachowskis can do no wrong, and that includes their most recent big screen release, Jupiter Ascending. The story of one immigrant house cleaner who is actually royalty and has inherited ownership of the Earth. It’s a rollercoaster and I love it, and Channing Tatum is perfect for Mila Kunis to fall in love with.

practical magicWhen I lived with my parents after graduating college, my mother and I spent a lot of evenings while my dad was out of town watching Practical Magic over and over and over again. The thing I love about this movie? Sally Owens does fall in love. She falls in love twice, actually. But, without spoiling too much, the love that ends up saving the day is her love for her sister. Celebrate all kind of love this holiday, friends!

And finally, I highly recommend Stardust for all your melt-into-your-couch-at-the-romance-of-it-all needs. It’s an amazing book by Neil Gaiman, but I almost like it better as a movie? Blasphemous, I know, but the book doesn’t have Robert DeNiro as a cross-dressing pirate, so it kind of misses out. It’s classic fantasy quest fare, guy wants to prove himself to lady love, with Neil Gaiman quirks throughout.

This list is by no means comprehensive, and if you’d like some more specific recommendations, please let me know. I’ve read and watched a lot of romantic fantasy/sci-fi! Also, please let me know what some of your favorites are in the comments!


  • Merrin February 14, 2018 at 8:45 am

    This didn’t fit in the post, but I also asked twitter for some recommendations, and they had these:

    In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan
    The Tiger’s Daughter by K Arsenault Rivera
    The Novels of Jaran by Kate Elliott
    The Beautiful Ones by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia
    Sevenwaters Trilogy by Juliet Marillier
    Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
    The Glamourist Histories by Mary Robinette Kowal
    The Long way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
    The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee
    The Hidden Legacy trilogy by Ilona Andrews
    Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo
    Saga by Brian K. Vaughan
    The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
    The Court of Thorn and Roses
    Ephemera Series and Black Jewels series by Anne Bishop
    Kushiel books by Jacqueline Carey
    Walking on Water by Matthew J Metzger
    Miles in Love & Sharing Knife books by Lois McMaster Bujold
    To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
    Dessa Lux (author)
    Zoe Chant (author)
    Liaden series by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
    The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember
    Call of Crows series by Shelly Laurenston
    A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

    In Your Eyes – movie
    Alex + Ada – comic

  • Shara White February 14, 2018 at 12:53 pm

    I’ve got quite a bit I can recommend, but some of it I’d have to browse through my bookshelves. Off the top of my head:

    1) HELL YES to the Hidden Legacy series. The covers are atrocious, but they’re so damn good with AMAZING worldbuilding.

    2) Barbara Ashford: Spellcast and Spellcrossed respectively (it’s a dulogy).

    3) Ann Aguirre: I loved her GRIMSPACE series (complete, and starts with Grimspace), but her urban fantasy was satisfying as well, starting with Blue Diablo. She writes some paranormal romance too, but I haven’t delved much into her more straight-forward romance (and paranormal romance) titles.

    Have you ever read Maria V. Snyder? Jeanine Frost?

    • Merrin February 14, 2018 at 5:06 pm

      I’ve read two series by Maria Snyder and I absolutely hated the second one. Like hate read them, I hated them so much. I’m kind of afraid to revisit the first series to see if they’re as bad as that, I read them about a decade ago. I don’t think I’ve read any Jeanine Frost though, I’ll add her to my list.

      • Shara White February 15, 2018 at 12:58 pm

        Frost started out as one of my favorite paranormanal romances. But she was an early PNR for me too. I think her debut was Halfway to the Grave.

        Do you remember which series of Snyder’s you read?

        • Merrin February 15, 2018 at 10:23 pm

          Poison Study was the one I read a while ago, I recently read the Healer series. I wrote reviews for the Healer series on goodreads if you want to read exactly why I hated them. I got pretty long winded, as you might imagine.

  • Erin Bales February 14, 2018 at 6:04 pm

    SHARON SHINN! All the yes. She writes amazing romances and doesn’t get nearly enough credit for her superb worldbuilding skills.

    • Merrin February 14, 2018 at 7:15 pm

      I completely agree, so underrated but so good!!! I love the worlds and characters she creates.

  • Nancy O'Toole Meservier February 15, 2018 at 8:11 am

    Ah! So this is why you were asking about romantic spec fic on twitter. Good stuff here 🙂

    • Merrin February 15, 2018 at 8:32 am

      Haha, yep! This is why! And thank you! 🙂

  • Shara White February 15, 2018 at 1:05 pm

    Oh, this short story (which I think you can still find for free in its entirety on is a favorite of mine:


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