As we've already been recapping on Fangrrls, the world of sci-fi and fantasy romance is a wide-ranging one, spanning a seemingly limitless number of subgenres and a variety of options. Urban fantasy, paranormal, steampunk, dystopian, alien, high fantasy — you want it, SFF romance has it.
We've already kicked off our monthly recommendations series, but if you're diving into the genre for the first time it can be a bit overwhelming — and understandably so. Which is why we're framing this list, in particular, against some of the more popular genre franchises out there.
If you're having trouble figuring out where to start, try your hand at reading any one of the suggestions below. Some of these picks are newer books and some are older, but all of them share similar ground (and lovely tropes) with the stuff we like to fangirl over on a regular basis. This list is by no means exhaustive, so feel free to leave your own recs in the comments!
For those who watched every single season of Buffy (even season six)
If you secretly considered packing a stake and some holy water after making your way through this show about a vampire slayer (and have also pondered what it would be like to actually get bitten by a sexy vampire), the good news is that the SFF romance genre has a ton of offerings to satisfy your curiosity. Larissa Ione's Demonica series is set within a hospital run by demons in disguise (you read that right) and the slayers, werewolves, vampires, angels and more who cross their path. Stacia Kane's Downside Ghosts books are the closest thing to Buffy season six you could ever come across (in a good way); they're both super gritty and super engaging. And J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series is dark, sexy paranormal romance that follows a group of vampire warriors and the women (and men) who fall in love with them.
For the people who love Star Trek but wish there was a different “final frontier” (ahem ahem)
There are some of us who like our sci-fi with just a sprinkle or a dash of romance, and then there are some who wish that the mixture was a bit more evenhanded. I've recommended Linnea Sinclair on here before, but her blend of these elements in her novels (especially her Dock Five Universe series as well as this standalone, Games of Command) is really masterful. Additionally, Michelle Diener's Dark Horse, which pairs an alien abduction storyline with great worldbuilding and enjoyable characters, is worth checking out.
For the fans who mourn the cancellation of Firefly
Sci-fi with a plucky group of wayward souls? If you're looking for series to replace the loss of the Serenity crew in your life, there are definitely romances that fill the void (no pun intended). Ruby Lionsdrake's Mandrake Company series is full of great heroines, bounty hunter camaraderie, sexy romance and fun hijinks. In a similar vein, check out Rachel Bach's Paradox trilogy, which follows mercenary Devi Morris as she works hard and hustles even harder while falling in love along the way.
For the people who want a little more smooching on The Expanse
Let me get this out of the way first: I absolutely love The Expanse. I geek out over it every single week (and usually live via the Fangrrls Twitter account), but I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that it could definitely use a little more lip-locking (especially in the case of Naomi and Holden, c'mon show). If you want romance recs along these lines, pick up Ann Aguirre's Sirantha Jax series, which gives you a) badass ladies making tough decisions, b) relatable characters, c) a love interest that doesn't dominate the story, and d) super cool ship-jumping technology. If you're looking for something a little older, read Lois McMaster Bujold's Shards of Honor, an epic space opera that plays out for several books in the Vorkosigan Saga but is particularly good for its slow-build romance, especially in this first installment.
For those who like the worldbuilding of Game of Thrones but wish it was a little more lady-focused
Epic high fantasy series that revolves around court intrigue, spy work, manipulation, complex characters — all told from the POV of a female lead? You get all that and more in Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Universe, which comprises three trilogies, each spotlighting a different character. The first trilogy (and the one you need to start with) revolves around spy and courtesan Phèdre nó Delaunay, who often has to use her sexuality as a weapon in order to procure dangerous information and unearths a treasonous conspiracy that could threaten everything she holds dear. Come for the romance; stay for the battles, espionage, friendship and political chess games.