Love is messy, but it doesn’t always need to be. What love always is… is work. No matter how long the relationship has been going on, work must be done by all partners involved to ensure its success. Whatever your relationship looks like, heterosexual, LGBTQ+, sexual or not, the connections you make take time and commitment to solidify. Polyamory relationships are no different.
While more people might be involved in a poly relationship, love and commitment aren’t any different than in a monogamous one. Poly relationships take on many forms, but respect, consent, and communication are the most important aspects. Something I think is equally as important as in any other dynamic. These types of relationships are becoming more normalized within society, and I think the book community has much to do with that.
It takes repeated exposure to something for society to change its course and begin to accept things otherwise viewed as taboo. More importantly, it is the repeated exposure to the good aspects of the lesser known that alleviates tension and opens avenues of exploration and acceptance. Thankfully, many books now highlight polyamory and not just as a side character/trope. We’ve gathered some of our favorites for you below.
Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao
This Chinese history-inspired YA Sci-Fi novel is a credit to its author! Zhao’s characters navigate a relationship that begins as a love triangle and ends in a polyamorous relationship where no one has to choose. Though it’s a small part of the overarching plot, Zhao doesn’t skirt around the relationship; they normalize it instead. Come for the beautiful sci-fi world-building, and stay for the magnificent relationship that blossoms between Zetian, Li Shimin, and Yizhi.
Zhao has done an impeccable job at developing a totally shippable polyamorous relationship.—The Strand
Indestructible Object by Mary McCoy
There is nothing quite like a book that delves into the realities of relationships and shows the messiness of both the individuals and their relationships. McCoy deep dives into all of that, never shying away from the uncomfortable, not resolving everything—as that’s just how life is. Her protagonist, Lee, finds herself struggling with familial and boyfriend troubles, the loss of her job, and the emotional pull of developing different relationships. If you want a coming-of-age novel where the protagonist is figuring out who she is, this book is for you!
Lee’s journey toward even the hardest truths plays out with stunning emotional depth. This is a layered and vulnerable examination of everything that makes a heart beat—or break.—BookPage starred review
Kushiel’s Dart by Jaqueline Carey
This novel is considered a classic in queer sci-fi/fantasy circles. Released in 2001, Carey was inspired by sections of Genesis in the Bible to produce this queer feminist polyamorous fantasy. This novel is a compelling intertwining of Christianity and Paganism that worships at the alter of the sexual experience as its heroine serves her Queen and country in times of war. A slave bought and turned into a highly educated and sought-after courtesan navigates the political minefield through secrets left in the bedchamber. If you are a lover of epic fantasy and a sensual experience, make sure to snag this classic for your TBR!
Perhaps once in a decade, if you are fortunate, you discover a debut novel as intoxicating as Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart. Part reimagined history, this sumptuous, spellbinding fantasy is kaleidoscopic in breadth, intimate in detail. It is sure to be read and talked about for years to come.—Eric Van Lustbader, Amazon Review
Lola & the Millionaires by Kathyrn Moon
This is a duology in the Sweetverse omegaverse series, and it is, *chef’s kiss*! Not only does Moon explore polyamorous relationships, but also mental health and sexual trauma. Lola is a beta, traumatized from her experiences with two alphas from a criminal motorcycle club. She finally agrees to start a new job and get out of her cousin’s apartment, only to be plagued by flashbacks and panic attacks whenever she’s too near another alpha. Follow along as she slowly heals and finds herself again with the help of a sweet beta and omega and the alphas they’re mated to. Guaranteed to give you all the feels, you’ll pick up the others in this series after you read them!
I have read a few different books by Kathryn Moon and am going on record as saying this duology is the best work she has done. In fact, right now this is sitting at the top of my favorite reads of 2020.—Liz K., Amazon Review
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
Jemisin is an accomplished sci-fi/fantasy writer who has been awarded some of the highest literary accolades there are to attain. Her approach to writing, the contemporary issues she includes in her world-building, and the humanistic emotional challenges she brings to the page are astoundingly complex.
In the Inheritance Trilogy, Jemisin explores a poly relationship between gods who are already lovers who bring in a human. Complex, messy, and emotionally gripping, this novel exudes realism in a fantastical setting by twisting together the bonds of gods and mortals, showcasing the thin line that is drawn between love and hate.
Many books are good, some are great, but few are truly important. Add to this last category The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin’s debut novel… This is the must-read fantasy of the year.―Booklist
Outside the Lines by Anna Zabo
Polyamorous relationships cannot succeed without clear and open communication, and Anna Zabo perfectly encapsulates that foundational rule. Here, Ian meets Simon, who is already married to Lydia. Initially disheartened by the loss of a potential relationship, he discovers that the couple is poly, and Lydia encourages the kindling of the men’s relationship.
Unfortunately, as their love grows and Ian becomes closer to Simon, he begins to yearn for the type of love and commitment the couple has. Rather than talk it out, he leaves, and they’re left alone in a situation where they need him the most. Pick this up to find out if they’re able to fix the mistakes made and have a HEA or if there’s too much heartache to go on.
The author does an excellent job of painting a clear picture of how it [polyamory] can be. I loved all three of these characters and the development of their relationship. The details about Ian’s work made it all the more fascinating. A sweet story. A sexy romance. A recommended read!―MetalMom, Amazon Review
The Compass Rose by Gail Dayton
This fantasy trilogy by Dayton normalizes poly-family units in its world-building. A matriarchal polyamorous society is at war against a patriarchal society that leaves women classless and at the mercy of men to be used as slaves (both sexually and physically). As this trilogy plays out, north magic-wielding naitan Kallista becomes god-marked with the purpose of defeating a great evil. She slowly adds members to her ilian (family) to aid her as they are also god-marked.
A totally unique idea of marriage leading to personal improvements set against a background of threatening evil makes for a good story You will not be sorry.―Boomer49, Amazon Review
Pay Per Heart by Grace McGinty
If you’re looking for a witty, sassy heroine, some decent spice, and a lot of exposure to “taboo” topics, look no further! McGinty’s contemporary rom-com will leave you in stitches and saying “awe” as these characters interact. Disappointed as her plans fell through and unwilling to move back home, Blake applies for a graphic design and video editing job. It turns out she’ll be working for men who show a bit of skin on the web. They thought she was a man. There are some coming to terms here that need to be addressed, and it’s not just their relationship.
Freaking loved the premise of this shy and insecure, yet talented graphic designer tripping into a house full of smexy content creators. I lost count of the number of times I laughed so hard I teared up…Love, love, love!!! Wish I could read it for the first time again. Run, don’t walk and enjoy!―Livintechnicolor, Amazon Reviewer
I love reading romance, especially diverse and realistic stories that bring lesser-known realities to life. Whether you prefer your romance contemporary, fantasy, or any other genre, you can find a poly story among them. Utilize these stories not only to open your own awareness but to bring it to others so that acceptance is just that much closer to normalizing!
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