Revealing the Sadistically Seductive World of Sapphic Dark Romance

This week’s edition of Crazy Book Genres takes a look at sapphic dark romance. Let’s turn up the heat with these sensual tales of sapphic love.

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Contract Bound cover by Elle Mae, Captive in the Underworld cover by Lianyu Tan, and The Mad House cover by Liza James next to two women embracing.

Debauchery, dominance, and depravity. This week’s edition of Crazy Book Genres has it all. From possessive mafia bosses to obsessive vampire lovers, sapphic dark romance delivers on every kind of delightfully deviant fantasy. Prepare yourself for a wickedly good time because this genre isn’t for the faint of heart. Keep reading to learn more about the alluring world of sapphic dark romance.

History of Sapphic Dark Romance

Sapphic dark romance is a subgenre of dark romance, which is characterized by themes of dominance, submission, and power dynamics in romantic relationships. In contrast to more traditional romance stories, dark romance tends to include taboo topics like violence and non-consensual sex. Thus, sapphic dark romance explores a lot of these same ideas with female-female pairings instead of heterosexual couplings.

Daughters of Darkness cover by Pam Keesey, two female vampires baring their teeth at each other.

Sapphic literature can be traced back as far as the European Middle Ages, while the genre of dark romance has its roots in the Dark Romanticism movement, which arose in the mid-1800s during the American Renaissance. The origins of the sapphic dark romance subgenre aren’t well documented, but initial additions to the genre began circulating by the late 1990s. One such early title is Pam Keesey’s Daughters of Darkness: Lesbian Vampire Tales, a 1993 anthology of erotic stories about sexy sapphic bloodsuckers.

The genre has seen a surge in popularity in recent years, likely due to the traction dark romance as a whole has garnered on BookTok. Popular sapphic dark romance authors include Lianyu Tan, Liza James, and Elle Mae (also known as Eden Emory).

Common Tropes, Plots, and Themes

Sapphic dark romance shares many tropes, plots, and themes with its parent genre. For example, dark romance and sapphic dark romance are both known for tropes like enemies to lovers, stalking, kidnapping, dubious consent, non-consensual sex, BDSM, possessiveness, power imbalance, and domestic violence.

Contract Bound cover by Elle Mae, a golden dagger impaling a blood-red rose.

Plotlines often featured in dark romance include one love interest being kidnapped by the other, arranged marriages, and the leads falling in love despite being a part of warring mafia families or rival gangs. Some common themes in sapphic dark romance novels are passion, love, obsession, moral ambiguity, trauma, and psychological turmoil.


Trigger Warning: The following books contain content that may be triggering to some readers, including non-consensual sex, graphic violence, domestic abuse, and other sensitive topics. Please exercise caution when reading.

The Mad House by Liza James

The Mad House cover by Liza James, a decrepit house stitched to half of a bloody skull.

The Mad House is a Lizzie Borden–inspired romance about two step sisters who risk damnation to feed their dark desires. Ophelia McCammon lives chained in her basement, held captive by her hyper-religious parents. That is until her long-lost step-sister Cedar Lewis returns to take over Ophelia’s care. As she descends into madness, Ophelia finds herself tempted by carnal sins for which she can never be forgiven.

Visit the author’s website for more detailed trigger warnings.

The Ties That Bind Us by Eden Emory

The Ties That Bind Us cover by Eden Emory, a woman wearing all black holding a red rose in front of her chest.

The Ties That Bind Us is a sexy second-chance romance about a toxic love affair between two morally gray characters. When Jean sees Shae three years after their devastating breakup, she is bombarded by long-buried attraction. Although she has since entered into a new relationship, Jean can’t help but feel drawn to Shae all over again. And she just might do anything to get her back.

Visit the author’s website for more detailed trigger warnings.

Captive in the Underworld by Lianyu Tan

Captive in the Underworld cover by Lianyu Tan, broken pomegranates in a dark room.

Captive in the Underworld is a spicy sapphic Hades and Persephone retelling about the queen of the dead and the goddess of springtime. Daughter of the mercurial goddess Demeter, Persephone suffers constant cruelty. But when Queen Hades drags her away to the underworld, Persephone longs to return to her previous life, however stifling. As Hades’s captive, Persephone has no choice but to submit to the queen’s whims, or else she’ll pay a heavy price.

Visit the author’s website for more detailed trigger warnings.

Iron & Velvet by Alexis Hall

Iron & Velvet cover by Alexis Hall, the city of London on its side.

Iron & Velvet is a sultry supernatural dark romance about a paranormal private investigator who falls for a vampire. When she takes a job investigating the mysterious death of a werewolf, Kate Kane isn’t expecting to get caught up in an age-old supernatural war between vampire royalty Julian Saint-Germain and a werewolf pack. But she should’ve known better. Now, Kate has to defend both her life and her heart against Julian’s seductive wiles.

Visit the author’s website for more detailed trigger warnings.

Want even more sapphic dark romance? Check out these titles:

These tantalizing recommendations take you into the world of steamy sapphic love, where taboos are tested and the darkest fantasies come to life. If this sounds like exactly what you’re looking for, don’t be afraid to delve into the sapphic dark romance genre.

For more Crazy Book Genres, check out some of our past entries here and here.

Browse our Dark Romance shelf on Bookshop for more recommendations!