Queer fantasy romances offer the best of all possible worlds. For one, we celebrate romance as the genre of hope, the one that proves love is worth fighting for. Romance reminds us that no matter the circumstances, people can come together and create a loving life for themselves. Now we interweave that hope with queerness and fantasy.
Many readers turn to romance for escape, and fantasy romance offers a double shot of that potent elixir. Fantasy realms allow readers to travel through the wildest imaginings authors can conjure. Whether it’s magic, inventive geography, or supernatural lifeforms, there are wonders at every turn. That blend of fantasy and romance lets us know that even if the obstacles are fierce beasts or oppressive politics, things will be okay for our characters.
Layering queerness onto fantasy romances creates even new possibilities. Actual queer lives often involve some amount of worldbuilding, because the heteronormative vision we’re all presented isn’t a viable option. Found families, diverse relationship structures, and radical ways of loving can all enter into the equation.
So I’ve curated some queer fantasy romances for you. I’ve focused on books for adults, and ones that tend to be romance-forward rather than fantasy with romantic elements. We also have some great lists of LGBTQ fantasy and fantasy romance, and I wanted to avoid overlap. (Check out those lists, though!) There’s a lot to appreciate in this little collection, from sweet slice of life romances to epic quests to dark mythological retellings. I hope you can find a book among them that makes your heart happy.
Drag Me Up by R.M. Virtues
This book kicks off the Gods of Hunger series, all dark fantasy retellings of mythological tales. Drag Me Up is a Hades and Persephone reimagining. Hades is a casino owner who prefers his dark enclave. Persephone, a Black trans woman, is an aerialist, hired for a residency in the casino. The two of them meet and find themselves inextricably entangled. Their relationship is sweetly supportive and intensely erotic, but Zeus stands in the way of their happiness. It’s a great pick if you’re looking for a fresh and sexy mythological retelling.
Foxen Bloom by Parker Foye
This beguiling fantasy follows the relationship between Prior, a human, and Fenton, the god of the forest. Prior is seeking Fenton’s help in healing his sister from a magical illness infecting the land, and Fenton offers him a deal. Prior’s sister’s life in exchange for Fenton’s sibling. These personal stakes make the relationship that much more meaningful and give the romance an interesting space in which to develop. It’s a wonderful book that is at turns horrifying and beautiful.
Heart of Stone by Johannes T. Evans
It might be cheating a little bit to call this a fantasy romance because where exactly do vampires belong, genre-wise? But the author refers to himself as a writer of fantasy fiction, so I’ll take him at his word. This historical romance, set in 1764, starts with the vampire Henry Coffey employing a personal secretary named Theophilus Essex. In a tantalizing slow burn, the two fall for each other. It’s a delicate love story between two neurodivergent characters, and a treat if you’re looking for a slice of life romance.
A Little Bit of Love’s Magic by Bambo Deen
A love charm is a tried and true romance trope. Set in Nigeria, A Little Bit of Love’s Magic follows Noura, who seeks out a babalawo for a love charm after losing a bet. The charm promises that the first person encountered upon invoking the charm will be the user’s true love. But we also know charms never quite work the way people expect. Noura, who thought the charm could help her fall in love with the boyfriend she’s meant to marry, instead encounters Bewaji, a beautiful woman back in Nigeria after a decade in the UK. These charms always make things work out for the best, don’t they?
Briarley by Aster Glenn Gray
This book rules. I should probably tell you more. Set during the Second World War, Briarley starts with an English country parson taking refuge in a strange house. Inside a great feast stretches before him, stunning this man used to wartime rations and shortages. Unsettled, he leaves, but not before taking a rose for his daughter. Did you catch that? Yes, it’s a Beauty and the Beast retelling, but Belle is not the star of the show. Oh, and the beast is a dragon. Did I mention this book rules?
The Aurora Circus by Viano Oniomoh
Magical circuses, amirite? Ember Quinn responds to a strange plea for help that leads him to the Aurora Circus. There he meets a performer named Pyro and gets swept off his feet. As with anyone who runs away to the circus, Ember has to decide what he really wants out of life and fight for it. If you want a warm romance with dazzling worldbuilding and lovable characters, here you go. Just don’t hold me responsible if you run off to join the circus yourself.
Dithered Hearts by Chace Verity
A list of queer fantasy romances needs a little polyamory, right? Dithered Hearts is a fairytale retelling with a unique twist: what if Cinderella fell in love with her stepsisters? And what if Cinderella were a nonbinary farmer seeking the prince’s hand to save the family farm? Oh, and did I mention a trans fairy godfather? This book is at turns heartwrenching and hilarious, full of characters to fall in love with.
Spellbound by Allie Therin
If you’re like me, you hear that there’s a romance that centers around a dangerous and supernaturally powerful artifact and you’re already sold. But if I also tell you that romance takes place in a dazzling Jazz Age New York, populated by lively characters with awesome powers, that should sweeten the deal. Top it off with a lovely romance between Rory and Arthur, the two men trying to protect the world from said dangerous artifact, and it’s a confection too delicious to resist.
Thornfruit by Felicia Davin
Thornfruit is the first book in the Gardener’s Hand trilogy. The series has a polyamorous romance at its heart, between two cis women and a genderfluid man, and you have to complete the trilogy to get the full story. But start with Thornfruit, which focuses on the relationship between the two women. Alizhan is a woman who grew up in isolation because of her mind-reading powers. Evreyet is an aspiring hero looking for a cause. The two of them meet, Ev finally finds the adventure she seeks in Alizhan, and the two of them set off to uncover a vast conspiracy.
The Devotion of Delflenor by R. Cooper
Say what you will about Daenerys Targaryen, her list of titles was rad. So if a book’s protagonist is Prityal of Ters, Knight of the Seat, Tyrant-slayer, the Hope of Ainle, I’m probably pledging my sword to her. Prityal has been staving off catastrophe for her country for a while now. She embarks on a desperate mission, taking self-deprecating Delf along as a squire. But Delf has secretly loved Prityal for ages, and I’m here for that pining! I’m also here for fantasy romances that pit duty against love.
Let’s focus on those happy endings, shall we? Whether they’re queer fantasy romances or not, we love queer books with happy endings. To anyone who decries romance as unrealistic wish fulfillment? I say, I’m doubling down! Give me actual love charms that fulfill wishes for romance. Give me characters who, in the most unrealistic settings possible, create a loving world for themselves. I’m pledging my sword to unrealistic wish fulfillment.