In these trying times, people are trying to find ways to escape reality more than ever before. While you hunker down and hibernate, you’re probably seeking out all forms of feel-good entertainment (you may have even Googled ‘How many times can a sane person watch Schitt’s Creek start to finish’?) Fortunately for you, there’s people out there like myself who spend all their free time reading escapist literature and would love nothing more than to tell you to buy more books. And these feel-good fantasies, fantasy-romances, and sci-fi romances are in abundance. I think you’ll find some of these books to be as good as watching Schitt’s Creek for the millionth time.
1. House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
Tags: m/m romance, feel-good fantasy, found family
Warnings: racism against magical children
Ever come across those rare gems of a book that make you smile and warm your heart months after reading it? House in the Cerulean Sea is one of those fantasy-romance gems.
Linus is a magical caseworker who is disillusioned with his job and his life. When he is sent to Marysas Island to supervise a caretaker of a magical orphanage, he views it as a break from the monotony. What he doesn’t bet on is that the magical children- and even the caretaker himself- will force him to question his views and open his heart to new adventures. This fantasy-romance is so sweet and hopeful, and I’ll beg each and every one of you to pick it up if I have to.
2. Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab
Tags: bisexual main characters, historical fantasy, Faustian bargains, curses, immortality, purpose of life
Warnings: toxic relationships, alcoholism, drugs, assault, suicide attempt, war
During a pandemic, it can be really hard to keep things in perspective and remember that good times will come again. This fantasy-romance helped remind me to hold onto hope and will most likely be an annual reread for the rest of my life.
Addie is terrified to realize that she is being set up in an arranged marriage she doesn’t want. Desperate, she runs to the woods on the eve of her wedding and beseeches the old gods to help her. Unbeknownst to Addie, the sun dips below the horizon, and she accidentally makes a deal with a powerful demon who grants her the gift of immortality but the curse of being forgotten by anyone she meets. However, three hundreds years into her curse, Addie stumbles upon a boy in a New York City bookstore who finally remembers her name. A boy whose past is almost as mysterious and tragic as Addie’s.
This book makes you want to leave a mark on the world desperately. It makes you want to travel, to breathe in new air in new places, to open your heart fully to people, it makes you want to dance in the rain and laugh with a stranger, it makes you want to take great big gulps of life. And perhaps most importantly, it makes you want to hold onto hope and joy, even in times of great despair. I will remember Addie Larue forever, and I know she’ll make a mark on you too.
3. This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
Tags: f/f romance, LGBTQ+ romance, time travel, secret agents, bioengineering, nature tech, letter writing, science fiction
Warnings: Blood and gore, violence
This sci-fi romance manages to pack hunger, loneliness, and desire all into one bite sized chunk of a novel.
Red is a ruthless secret agent who has been bioengineered into a time traveling killing machine. Blue is a secret agent working for the Garden, an organization that works symbiotically with plants to change the past and future. These two start a game of cat and mouse that spans millennia and worlds apart, leaving each other taunts and teases in the form of secret letters. But soon, both parties realize that they may be in over their heads. With lyrical writing that makes your heart swell and in turn tears it out with sharp teeth, I was floored by this wonderfully intricate storytelling. This one will be one of my favorites for a long time, and I think it’ll be one of yours too.
4. The Midnight Bargain by CL Polk
Tags: historical fantasy, period drama, romantic fantasy, feminist, Bridgerton vibes
This book is an enchanting feminist fantasy-romance that Bookseller Vickie LOVED. Beatrice is desperate for a way out of marriage to save her family from her father’s bad debts. Marriage and motherhood would mean losing her magic a sacrifice she is unwilling to make. When Beatrice meets the Lavan siblings, Beatrice finds a kindred spirit in Ysbeta and a man who finally sees her as an equal in Ianthe. But is he offering her everything she has always wanted, family and magic? Or does he only offer her a gilded cage?
The Midnight Bargain is fiercely feminist, and deftly tackles differences of race, class, and custom. It transcends genre by being in turns romantic, fantastical, adventurous and historical. Fans of Polk’s earlier works will be thrilled with her latest work, as will those who have yet to discover her.
5. Drowned Country by Emily Tesh
Tags: m/m romance, novella, second chance romance, LGBTQ + romance, old magic, myths
This sequel to Silver in the Wood managed to be a darkly fantastical and whimsical fantasy-romance at the same time. When we last left our stubborn forest bois, Henry Silver was tied to Greenhallow as the new guardian, while Tobias roamed free with Mrs. Silver hunting monsters. However, Henry is tasked with helping his mom and his ex take down a vampire that’s preying on young girls. Along the way, they uncover an ancient drowned wood, with ethereal fairies that have quite the murderous intent.
I think you’ll love this conclusion to the fantasy-romance Greenhallow Duology, and Tobias and Henry once again prove they are the sweetest couple.
6. The Extraordinaries by TJ Klune
Tags: best friends to lovers, LGBTQ+ romance, m/m romance, superheroes, sci-fi, ADHD rep, fanfic, cringe humor
Warning: pro-cop language (author will critically address police in remaining books of trilogy)
Have you been looking for a sci-fi romance that’s laugh out loud funny with lovable characters you can’t help but wanna be friends with? Move over Peter Parker- there’s a new hyperactive hero in town! Meet The Extraordinaries.
Nick Bell is anything but ordinary – his thoughts whirl by a million miles per minute, his mom was killed in a bank robbery, and he is seriously fixated on Nova City‘s resident superhero, Shadowstar! Some might think he’s a little extra because of his ADHD, but he has a heart of gold, a really embarrassingly long fanfic he wrote about him and Shadowstar, and a hundred terrible ideas on how to make himself into a superhero.
While Nick concocts questionable schemes to give himself powers-breaking into nuclear power plants, eating microwaved crickets, jumping into sludge filled rivers- his best friend, Seth, is mysteriously absent for all his misadventures. Seth is also hilariously awkward around Nick, for reasons Nick can’t seem to work out on his own.
However, Nick misses all these cues and more because, well, his brain was a little distracted. This sci-fi romance scratched my itch for Clueless Best Friend Crushes! Hilarious and full of diverse beautifully-flawed characters that feel like your very own best friends, this book will teach you you don’t have to have superpowers to be extraordinary.
7. Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell
Tags: slow-burn, arranged marriage, m/m romance, LGBTQ+ romance, space politics, space opera, one bed
Warnings: PTSD flashbacks, domestic abuse, emotional abuse
This sci-fi romance was basically Red White and Royal Blue but make it a space opera! And we loved every second of it. Prince Kiem, the Emperor’s most disappointing grandson is called upon to strengthen the Empire with an arranged marriage to a count from the Empire’s most problem-child vassal planet. There’s only one problem: Count Jainan is a recent widower. Both Kiem and Jainan are hesitant about the arrangement, but soon realize that with a murder investigation and possible conspiracy, shifting political alliances, and a war brewing, they’ll have to stick together for both their country’s sake and their own.
At certain points, the tension is so strong, you’ll want to yell, Just talk to each other and kiss! The slow burn romance is perfectly crafted, and fans of Emily Tesh will truly enjoy this book.