Flirting With Danger: 10 Tense Survival Romance Books

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Isabelle Popp

Senior Contributor

Isabelle Popp has written all sorts of things, ranging from astrophysics research articles and math tests to crossword puzzles and poetry. These days she's writing romance. When she's not reading or writing, she's probably knitting or scouring used book stores for vintage gothic romance paperbacks. Originally from New York, she's as surprised as anyone that she lives in Bloomington, Indiana.

Reading survival romance books is simply a natural consequence of being a young reader obsessed with books like Hatchet and Island of the Blue Dolphins. I find these kinds of narratives captivating for showcasing the indomitable human spirit. When you have two or more characters trying to survive as a group, and sparks fly, it showcases the indomitable human capacity for horniness. Some people may say to these characters, conserve your energy! Sex could lead to dehydration! Don’t expose yourself to the elements like that! But I think the trope of the “danger bang” is good ol’ fashioned romantic fun. After all, some survival romance books follow people trying to endure amidst alien invasions or zombie hordes. If you want realism, check out Alive or Unbroken.

Within this list, I’ve tried to provide an array of survival romance books. Some are straight up wilderness survival. Some have apocalyptic or other sci-fi elements, and others involve outwitting baddies. There’s everything from YA books to stories that lean heavily into erotic territories. So whatever flavor of survival you’re after, I hope you find something enticing here. Go ahead and settle into your coziest reading nook if you like, but you’ll only need the edge of your seat.

cover of Radio Silence by Alyssa Cole

Radio Silence by Alyssa Cole

Alyssa Cole garnered lots of attention for her 2020 thriller When No One is Watching, so readers interested in diving into her backlist may want to start with her survival romances. In Radio Silence, the world suddenly powers down, causing Arden and her roommate John to flee to John’s family’s cabin. Then John’s brother, an intense doctor named Gabriel, shows up. Even though he saves Arden’s life, it’s going to take more than that for Arden to warm up to him. We love someone who keeps her high standards even at the end of the world. This gripping romance kicks off the Off the Grid series.

Whiteout book cover

Whiteout by Adriana Anders

Here’s a heart-pounding novel that combines wilderness survival and outrunning the baddies. Angel Smith is a chef at a research station in Antarctica, and she was not expecting murderers to show up to gain access to ice samples harboring a deadly virus. She goes on the run with Ford, one of the scientists. In Antarctica! The odds are really stacked against them out there. But is there sex in a sleeping bag? You will have to read to find out.

refuge cover

Refuge by H.L. Day

Here’s one for anyone secretly hoping aliens will finally come to wipe this planet out. The story flashes back and forth to tell the story of how Blake and Zed first met, so you can get a sense of the connection they have before the alien invasion descends. The two flee their small Yorkshire village, and learn deep truths about each other in the process of surviving danger after danger. It’s a harrowing story that is oddly hopeful at the same time.

Angelfall book cover

Angelfall by Susan Ee

What’s better than an alien invasion? An angel invasion! This YA romance pairs Penryn, desperate to find her sister who was stolen by warrior angels, with Raffe, a broken, wingless warrior. The two travel through Northern California to reach the angel stronghold of San Francisco, where they will meet their fate. While this is a somewhat older title, it’s available in Kindle Unlimited, and it’s still amazing, with rich character development and lively dialogue, so you should get into it.

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Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter

In this YA survival romance, Maddie and Logan aren’t your usual childhood friends. Logan is the president’s son and Maddie is a secret service agent’s daughter. Years after a kidnapping attempt, Maddie has become a survival expert in Alaska, where Logan gets sent as punishment. The two reunite just in time to find their supposed safe haven under attack. Let’s just say Logan is awfully lucky he’s got the badass Maddie in his corner.

a scandal to remember cover

A Scandal to Remember by Elizabeth Essex 

Are there books that combine survival romances with historical romances? Baby, you can combine any flavors of romance you want. I could have included this book on my list of cool romance jobs, because Jane Burke is a conchologist — she studies sea shells! — on the Tenacious with Lieutenant Charles Dance. He’s trying to make the most of his naval career despite his inept captain. Most of this book takes place on the ship, a great pick for those of us who love to read lots of nautical detail. But do they get stranded on an island? You know they do.

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Flower in the Desert by Lavender Parker

Here’s a really intense one. Ruby Lucas wakes up in a car trunk, left for dead in the Grand Canyon. She’s got kids to get back to, so she’s not giving up easily. While she’s doing her best to survive, the FBI has sent tracker Jase Rivers to find her. When they meet, they soon discover that they need to rely on each other to make it to safety. And if they can get over their stubbornness, maybe they’ll see that they are a perfect match. If you’re looking for a quick read, this is a novella-length survival romance.

haven book cover

Haven by Rebekah Weatherspoon

What’s interesting about Haven is that it starts with an intense survival scenario, and subsequently delves deeply into the aftermath. Claudia Cade’s camping trip is interrupted by murderers, who kill her brother. Claudia escapes to the safety of mountain recluse Shepard Olsen’s cabin. After her hospital recovery, she returns to Shepard and the two explore a BDSM relationship as a way to work through some of their trauma. This kicks off the Beards and Bondage series, which really lets you know what you’re in for. Extra bonus: there is also a big, cuddly dog!

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Lost in Paradise by Rachel Lacey 

Looking for a sapphic survival romance? I got you. Fiona and Nicole meet at the bar on a Mediterranean cruise. Nicole is reeling from a divorce, and Fiona was stood up for the cruise by her no-strings lover. Sparks fly, they kiss, and then the ship is hijacked by pirates. Can we please give it up for romance novels??? The two escape in a lifeboat. They end up stranded on a Greek island. Survival, of course, is only their first obstacle, because they also have to open their hearts to the possibility of love.

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After Sundown by Linda Howard and Linda Jones

If you want survival romances, you simply need to go through Linda Howard’s back catalog. It’s her bread and butter. In this recent title, solar storms that can take down the power grid turn out to be yet another thing we have to worry about? Can we get a break? Ben Jernigan, living off the grid near a mountain town in Tennessee, got warning in advance over ham radio, giving him enough time to notify his crush Sela, who runs the general store. While the two of them have their romance, there is also the heartening story of a community coming together to weather the (solar) storm.

If you crave the combination of romance and action, let us recommend you more romantic suspense titles. If it’s survival stories you’re after, I compiled some YA recommendations and another Rioter rounded up horror titles. That ought to keep your adrenaline pumping for a while.