I love reading science fiction and fantasy with romantic elements, but I don’t like romance novels per say. As such, I’m always on the lookout for books and series that strike the perfect balance–a badass SFF story that explores love.
In direct opposition to those warm and fuzzy feelings, many of us are seeing fewer people and avoiding even a simple hug between friends. Let these books give you a lift during this time of social distancing, isolation, and quarantine.
Whether you want to fall into a long, sweeping saga, want to visit the romance world for just one book, or are looking for something unusual, you’ll find 9 great suggestions here.
Long, Sweeping Sagas
Summary: Saga is an epic space opera that begins to follow Alana and Marko at the birth of their daughter. Where most love stories leave off, writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples pick up. Alana and Marko are on opposite sides of a galactic war and the mere existence of their daughter is a propaganda nightmare for the powers that be.
I’m never, like, not going to put Saga on a list of awesome lit. It’s one of the most creative, emotional, and compelling things I’ve ever read. Saga is a graphic novel series currently on hiatus, but with 54 issues out, you have plenty to catch up on.
TAGS: parenthood, graphic novel, fantasy vs. science fiction
Summary: Hades, god of the underworld, is stood up yet again by his nymph girlfriend Minthe, so he has no choice but to attend Zeus’s party stag. Fortunately for Hades, Persephone, the goddess of spring, is new in town from the mortal world.
Lore Olympus is the most popular comic on Webtoons.com and it’s free to read. The artwork is superb and it’s got an oh-so-romantic slow burn. Even if none of the words I said above got you excited, I suggest you click on this link anyway. I heard about this series for months and months before I finally checked it out and understood what all the hype was about.
TAGS: comic, Greek mythology, slow burn romance
Summary: English nurse Claire and her husband take a trip to Scotland to reconnect after having been separated during World War II. While exploring the hills, Claire time travels through mystical standing stones back to 1743. A handsome highlander rescues her from a British attack and Claire must question where her real destiny lies.
This unfinished historical series is already eight hefty novels long, and has been made into a TV series on Starz. I read the first book on a whim and enjoyed it enough to continue, but it wasn’t until book four that I fell in love with the series. If you want to know more, check out my blog post Outlander: How I finally read a romance series.
TAGS: book to TV, historical fiction, time travel
Stand Alone Books
The Vanished Birds (2020)
Summary: A ship captain making deliveries throughout space is isolated from everyone she knows. A simple journey for her is years gone for her friends and family. To weather these changes, she pushes emotion and attachment aside until a mysterious boy falls into her life. Their story is irrevocably impacted by two women who fell in love in another corner of space long, long ago.
Out just this year, The Vanished Birds is true book magic and explores themes of love, family, and belonging within a setting of epic science fiction. Nicole and I reviewed this earlier this year and you can watch the video here.
TAGS: climate change, space, theory of relativity
The Night Circus (2011)
Summary: Celia and Marco are pitted against each other in a years-long, magical competition. The setting: A black and white circus full of the extraordinary. The stakes: life or death. Celia and Marco fall in love, but nothing will stop the magical bond that compels them to battle until the end.
Even if you’ve read this contemporary fantasy classic, it’s a good one to come back to. The world building is so rich, it will carry you away to romance, magic, and a time when large, social events like the circus were encouraged.
TAGS: the circus, spells, fate
The Time Traveler’s Wife (2003)
Summary: Henry time travels spontaneously. One minute is he is here, the next he’s suddenly transported to an old neighborhood haunt, a museum or library at night, or the meadow outside his future wife’s home. Claire meets Henry as a child. For her, time unravels steadily, always keeping her from Henry.
The Time Traveler’s Wife is one of the best romances of our time and never ceases to make us examine love and loss. I love the midwestern setting and punk culture references, and the book transitions effortlessly between years.
TAGS: time travel, Michigan, Chicago
Axiom’s End (2020)
Summary: Cora’s life is overshadowed by her father’s. He’s a famous whistle blower that claims the US government has been in contact with intelligent extraterrestrial life for decades. Cora avoids having anything to do with him or the story, but when something comes looking for her, she begins to question everything.
This is a brand new novel by YouTuber Lindsay Ellis. I’m including it on this list because it speaks to the bonds between beings of all kinds, however unexpected. You can watch my video review of the novel here.
TAGS: YouTube, first contact, US Government
Summary: Ayla is five-years-old when she’s separated from her family and rescued by a tribe of Neanderthals. They raise her up as her own, but she doesn’t fit in. She looks different–weaker, yet towering over even the men–but it’s that she is inherently different inside that scares her so much. Ayla must decide what determines family in a world that is ever shifting.
This one too focuses on the bonds between different beings. Earth’s Children is a long series and if you’re looking for lots of romance, it gets spicy in book two and three.
TAGS: Prehistoric history, Clan of the Cave Bear, Neanderthals
Gideon the Ninth (2019)
Summary: Gideon is a swordswoman who wants nothing more than to escape the Ninth House. She nearly achieves her life dream when the Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House, Harrowhark, temps (and ensnares) her into traveling to the Emperor’s planet for a competition among all of the Houses.
Gideon the Ninth, marketed as science fantasy, was a dark horse last year. The relationship between Gideon and Harrowhark grows over the course of the book from all out hate to something completely different. Nicole and I reviewed the book here and I’m looking forward to reading the middle book in this trilogy when it comes out August 2020.
TAGS: Necromancy, science fantasy, swordswoman
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Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing during this long pandemic, good books and romantic tingles to you!