Back when I was a baby romance reader, one of the very first books I read was The Magpie Lord by KJ Charles. I don’t remember where I heard about it. I didn’t know who KJ Charles was back then! (I’ve now read all of her books, some of them many times.) I do remember that I checked it out of my library. I read it, and then I read the next one in the series, and then I was hooked.
So, while I now love all kinds of romance, from contemporary to historical, I still have a soft spot in my heart for queer historical romantasy. I read romance for the joy of it, and it doesn’t get much more joyful than queer people throughout history getting Happily Ever Afters + magic. Can you think of a better escape? I can’t.
Here are eight excellent M/M historical fantasies that will transport you through time (and sometimes into alternate universes). You’ll find cursed rings, magical families with dangerous secrets, talking clocks, a retelling of Peter Pan, and more. The worlds these authors build are all unique, as are the kinds of magic the characters encounter. And though not every book here is a classic romance — some are more adventure-heavy, and others are more mystery-heavy — they all have HEAs (or, at least, they will — some of these books are the first in their series).
Spellbound by Allie Therin
This is the first book in an absolutely lovely trilogy set in 1920s New York. It features a fascinating magic system, a crew of supernatural characters with various magical abilities, and two men with very different personalities and life experiences who can’t seem to stop running into each other — until they start doing it on purpose. If you like magical mysteries with a side of romance, lots of character growth, found family, and speakeasies, this is your book.
A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske
A few months ago, in the mood for some fun fantasy, I asked on Instagram for recommendations for books that had “sexy vibes + magic.” Someone suggested this, and it’s perfect. Set in a magical version of Edwardian England, it follows Robin Blyth, whose new government job is much more than he bargained for. His predecessor, he soon learns, is dead, and he is now responsible for liaising with the secret magical community of England. Also, he’s cursed. Also, he’s sort of maybe hopefully not falling in love with the infuriating magician Edwin Courcey. The whole thing is a delight from start to finish.
The Magpie Lord by KJ Charles
I couldn’t make this list without including the book that got me hooked on historical fantasy romances in the first place. This is the first book in a series that follows the same couple through various adventures, although there are several excellent standalone novels set in the same world as well. Set in an alt-Victorian London, it’s about Lucien Crane, an aristocrat who returns home from 20 years away after his father dies and leaves him with a whole lot of inherited magical trouble. Crane calls on magical investigator Stephen Day for help, and, well, you can guess what happens. Between them, at least. You probably can’t guess what happens with the magpies.
A Matter of Disagreement by EE Ottoman
If you’re looking for fantastic, gentle, and beautifully nuanced historical romances starring trans and queer characters, EE Ottoman is your author! This novella is part of his Mechanical Universe series, set in a steampunk-ish version of 19th century America. Andrea, a magician and scholar, is extremely dubious of a new animation science taking the world by storm — and he’s not afraid to speak out about it. But then he meets the founder of the science, Marquis de la Marche, and he isn’t at all what Andrea imagined. Ottoman has a talent for building rich and vivid worlds in very few pages — this is a quick but impactful read.
Witchmark by C.L. Polk
This novel takes place in a different world to ours, though it’s inspired by Edwardian England. It’s first and foremost a fantasy adventure/murder mystery, but the romantic element is strong (and satisfying)! Miles Singer is a doctor who hides his magical abilities to avoid being found by his powerful family. When a man dies mysteriously at the hospital where he works, it threatens Miles’s secret — and puts him in the path of Tristan, who has secrets of his own. The whole novel is as atmospheric as the cover; the world-building is top-notch.
Peter Darling by S. A. Chant
This is possibly my favorite historical fantasy romance ever, and it’s definitely my favorite Peter Pan retelling. In Chant’s brilliant reimagining, Peter Pan is a trans man who found his way to Neverland as a kid to escape his transphobic family, the Darlings. Now a young adult, after a disastrous few years trying to live as Wendy Darling again, he returns to Neverland, where he encounters his old nemesis, Hook. Sparks fly. Adventures are had. There’s so much good banter and high-stakes action. But underneath all that, there’s a very tender and moving romance about letting yourself be seen and be seen by the person you love.
Timekeeper by Tara Sim
This is a very fun and creative YA novel set in an alt-Victorian universe where clocks directly control how time actually works. If a clock tower breaks or stops working, so does time. Danny is a clock mechanic who gets mixed up in some various dangerous business when something goes wrong with the clock tower he maintains. He ends up falling in love with a mysterious boy who haunts the tower — but that’s only the beginning. Their adventures continue through two more books, but don’t worry: there is a HEA at the end!
A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson (Bonus!)
This is not a traditional romance, but it is a historical fantasy set in a fascinating and detailed world, and a beautiful love story. Aqib bgm Sadiq, a young man who runs the Royal Menariage, finds his life is forever changed when he falls in love with Lucrio, a soldier stationed for a time in his city. Defying his family and everything he was taught as a child, Aqib decides to risk his current position and future safety for a chance at love. Don’t expect this to hit all the beats of a romance novel, but do expect to be swept up in its magic and adventure.
If you’re hungry for more queer fantasy, historical fantasy, and fantasy romance, we’ve got you covered! Check out these queer historical romances, these swoony romantasy books, and these queer SFF romance books.