Speculative romance has been flying off the shelves and into the hands of readers now more than ever, thanks to BookTok and the new interactive reader experience it’s created. But what is it, really?
Speculative romance is a collection of many subgenres: fantasy, sci-fi, dystopian, paranormal, and the like. The catch: the budding romance between protagonists is as important, if not more so than the plot. From faeries to aliens to post-apocalyptic humans trying to survive in a world unimaginable to today’s people, so long as there is a healthy dash of smexy time along the way, it counts as a speculative romance.
With such a collection of varying subgenres, it could be difficult to decide where to start. Below are recommendations for each category we think you’ll enjoy.
Popular and for good reason, Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thornes and Roses series pairs a Beauty and the Beast retelling and fae mythology. Filled with romantic plot twists for the protagonists and plenty of action, it checks all the boxes a reader wants in a fantasy romance. Amelia Hutchins’s Fighting Destiny is an enemies-to-lovers Celtic mythology-inspired novel that has tension, action, and plenty of steam.
Speculative Sci-Fi Romance
Science, aliens, and attraction…oh my! Invaders from another planet, dwindling races that need human women to survive, and abductions are just a few of the often employed tropes in these smutty collections.
Presley Hall’s first book in her Warrior Mates of Zivon series, Captured by the Alien, features an abducted female main character who escapes her alien captor and falls into the hands of her fated mate. Upping the ante on the genre-bending is Desire in His Blood by Zoey Draven, a vampire-alien hybrid enemies-to-lovers romance that will have your libido soaring and your emotions rolling.
I know what you’re thinking: how is paranormal romance different from fantasy romance? Paranormal romance is far more about the romance rather than the plot. Whereas fantasy romance tends to build the world the plot is happening in, paranormal puts more emphasis on the romance element. Paranormal romances also tend to have supernatural creatures we’re familiar with, like shifters, vampires, and demons.
A popular book series and soon-to-be Passionflix production, J.R. Ward’s vampire series, The Black Dagger Brotherhood, will send shivers down your spine in the best ways possible. You might want to make sure no one is reading over your shoulder while you devour this rejected mates shifter paranormal romance by Jaymin Eve, Rejected. The Shadow Beast Shifters novel is book one of six, and the male main character is a shifter God.
Speculative Dystopian Romance
This subgenre can have elements of the others previously mentioned, however, they all come down to one truth: the world as we know it has ended and a new reality has taken its place. These novels tend to be a bit more on the slow-burn side of spice level, but the tension is high and that keeps us hooked for more. Taherah Mafi’s Shatter Me features a world ravaged by extreme weather and explores the idea of supernatural powers in humans known as “omegas”.
Speculative Urban Fantasy Romance
Urban fantasy is a subgenre that specifically happens within the confines of a contemporary cityscape. New York, Seattle, and London are the usual settings for these novels that incorporate supernatural creatures and magic.
Set in New York, Angel’s Blood by Nalini Singh is the first in a 15-book series following Guild Hunter Elena Deveraux, Archangel Raphael, and their closest friends and allies. What starts as a contentious, grudgingly accepted job turns into a steamy speculative romance that crosses the globe. This series is unputdownable and will make you fall in love with each character.
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