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The Strangest Romance Novels

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Alison Doherty

Senior Contributor

Alison Doherty is a writing teacher and part time assistant professor living in Brooklyn, New York. She has an MFA from The New School in writing for children and teenagers. She loves writing about books on the Internet, listening to audiobooks on the subway, and reading anything with a twisty plot or a happily ever after.

This list of some of the strangest romance novels will combat the idea that romance stories are “all the same” or “too formulaic.” Now, I think these common complaints about romance are completely ridiculous. If you think all romance novels are the same, you probably don’t read a lot of romance novels. But also, if you think all romance novels are the same, you probably haven’t heard about the one where the hero is literally a front door. Or about the romance where a spaceship full of abducted human women crashes onto a planet of seven-foot-tall, blue, monogamous aliens. Or any of the romance novels on this list.

Strange might sound like a derogatory or judgmental word. But before I get to the list, I want to make it clear I don’t mean it that way at all. I tried to pick books that felt authentically unusual and surprising. But I also wanted romances that felt authentic and weren’t written just for satire. Perhaps some of them became popular because of their novelty, but I think all of these stories do have a genuine romance and hot sex scenes that are meant to be titillating and not just giggled over. Although, different readers will certainly react in different ways.

I always recommend checking trigger warnings before picking up a new romance novel, but it’s extra important with these books. Some of them definitely verge into erotic romance and dark romance. So be careful with yourself!

Without more explanations from me, let’s get weird with these wild, wacky, and totally over-the-top romance stories!

unhinged book cover

Unhinged: An Erotic Door Romance by Vera Valentine

When I first heard of this romance novella, my mind was blown. Blown. Is the door a metaphor? No…it’s a sentient front door who falls in love with the woman who lives in the apartment he’s a part of. In fact, the door is the one who narrates the whole story. He’s perfectly content keeping this relationship one way and unrequited until the woman’s super turns really creepy and begins breaking into her apartment. This motivates him to use some of his magic powers to convince her to have sex with him (while still in door form) which will turn him into a human. I don’t know if readers are picking this up for the shock and novelty, or if some are genuinely intrigued/turned on/rooting for this couple. But either way, this is one of the strangest romance novels I’ve heard of — which seems to be Vera Valentine’s thing. She also has a novella about balloon animal shifters called Squeak if you want the strangeness to continue.

Book cover of Ritual of Proof

Ritual of Proof by Dara Joy

In an alternate historical world where women hold all the money, privilege, and power while men are valued purely for their appearances and the matrimonial connections they make, Jorlan and Marquelle Green Tamryn come together through a powerful marriage. Jorlan might be able to help Marquelle survive a difficult challenge from her rival — more than Tamryn ever expected a man could. Will she go against society’s confines to accept help from a mere husband and treat him like her equal? I found this somewhat fortuitously in a box of old romance novels somewhere in college. And, I still think about it all the time. The level of detail and world-building is truly wild, as the author sets out to examine gender dynamics within the Regency romance genre through this alternate world.

To Plunder a Pirate Queen by Nina Saxena Book Cover

To Plunder a Pirate Queen by Nina Saxena

This dark, sci-fi romance is book #5 in the Dangerous Tides series, which was created on Kickstarter and literally called “Bonkers Romance.” The heroine is an alien pirate queen from a species that is prized for their reproductive abilities. The hero is a scientist studying contraception, who was kidnapped from Earth and imprisoned in an underground lab by the heroine’s sister. Together, they must fight intergalactic sex traffickers and save the heroine’s planet. There’s also some very wild polyamorous/queer sex scenes woven into the story. I know I said check your trigger warnings for all of these romances, but definitely make sure you do for this one, especially if you are new to dark romance.

Morning Glory Milking Farm Book Cover

Morning Glory Milking Farm by C.M. Nascosta

Violet is an unlucky millennial who takes on a *very* unconventional job to avoid having to move back in with her parents. The job is milking Minotaurs at Morning Glory Milking Farm, so their semen can be used in pharmaceuticals. But when one of the Minotaurs, Rourke starts requesting Violet for his sessions, things get sexual…and then romantic. Just to make this story even wilder, Rourke is also a self-made billionaire. And surprisingly, the romance between them is super sweet and he is a total cinnamon roll. I feel like this was one of the first monster romances that a lot of more mainstream romance readers learned about (at least that’s true for me!). And it remains one of the best and most bizarre in my books!

Book Cover for Her Night With Santa

Her Night with Santa by Adriana Herrera

Last year, I read a bunch of Santa Claus erotica. Maybe this is more mainstream now? But I think it still definitely feels a little strange. And maybe that’s what makes it so fun? This short F/F romance between Farnaz, a sex toy inventor, and Kristina Kringle, the first female Santa, stands out as one of my favorites. Kristina is in the Dominican Republic for a much-needed vacation after her first toy run. Farnaz is stranded after missing a flight and calls in a family favor for a place to stay (expecting Santa’s villa to be empty). When Kristina walks in on Farnaz trying out one of her own sex toys, this very sweet and sexy story gets started.

Book cover of Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

I’m heading back to the nineties for one of my all-time favorite, totally over-the-top romance novels. A lot of books by Susan Elizabeth Phillips are over-the-top, but none more than this one. Daisy Devreaux has to go to jail or marry the man her father chose for her. Alex Markov is a secret descendant of the Russian royal Romanov family and also a former circus performer. He takes her to a rundown circus where she develops a telekinetic connection with a tiger. Despite some very obviously outdated views on gender dynamics and animal rights, this one has so much going on that it’s a fun read if you can put it in the context of almost thirty years ago.

The AI Who Loved Me book cover

The A.I. Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole

This sci-fi romance started as an audiobook on Amazon. Trinity has been working from home ever since an incident at work totally overturned her life. She begins to fall for her neighbor’s weird but hot nephew Li Wei, but there are a few things about him that she just can’t understand. It all comes together when she finds out he is a “biosynthetic humanoid” who is becoming more and more human through his relationship with Trinity. This leads them down a twisty and complicated rabbit hole, both as a couple and within the larger and more dangerous context of the secrets the tech company that created Li Wei is keeping.

Queenie & the Krakens Book Cover

Queenie & the Krakens by Aleera Anaya Ceres

When mermaid Naomi Queen witnesses a murder, she must accept the protection of the dangerous and sexy Kraken Motorcycle Club. She’s vowed never to get involved with a criminal. But soon, she’s in a sexual relationship with all five mermen shifters from the gang. None of these tropes by themselves are that strange, but when you read this book, there is just so much going on. Shifters plus monsters, plus polyamory/why choose romance, plus motorcycle gang, plus even more that I won’t spoil for you. It’s a lot!

the cover of Ice Planet Barbarians

Ice Planet Barbarians by Ruby Dixon

Pretty much any romance by Ruby Dixon could be on this list, but this is the one I see so many romance readers getting excited about. Georgie is in a group of human women abducted by aliens, whose ship crash lands on an ice planet full of seven-foot-tall, blue aliens. Vektal is the leader of his alien nation. His people mate for life, but there are very few females left, so most of them expect to be alone forever. Even so, he instantly knows Georgie is meant to be his mate. A hilarious, sexy story of survival and romance unfurls between them.

Hot and Badgered by Shelly Laurenston Book Cover

Hot and Badgered by Shelly Laurenston

There are a lot of unique shifter romances out there. I was torn between listing this one as my last, or Hedging His Bets (I kid you not, a hedgehog shifter romance). But something about honey badgers seemed extra unusual to me. And, I loved that the heroine was a shifter in this one. The story starts with Charlie falling half-naked from the sky onto Berg’s hotel balcony, and it only gets kookier from there. Plus, if you want to keep going in the series, you have titles like Badger to the Bone and Born to Be Badger in your future.

I hope you enjoyed this list of the strangest romance novels. And, maybe you even found a wild, over-the-top story for yourself to read. Just be careful. What you start out reading just for giggles, might end up being one of your favorite, most engrossing reads ever. It’s happened to a lot of romance readers out there before — including me!