Preferences in fictional romances

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, from The Broke and the Bookish, is on preferences in fictional romances.

I could do a post on that, but I don’t have to, because Maureen did it for me! Her list covers exactly the points I would. #clones

What are some stories that offer romances that fit some or most of these points? Off the top of my head, I would pick, in no particular order:

FORTUNE AND FATE by Sharon Shinn


Of course Sharon Shinn mostly writes fantasy with a hefty dose or romance, or romances with fantasy settings, depending on how you look at it, I suppose. I also would suggest her TROUBLED WATERS and ARCHANGEL, both first books in series, but both stand alone, as Shinn’s books usually do.

The Sharing Knife quadrilogy by LMB. Oh, wait, also The Curse of Chalion series. And others — Maureen mentioned Miles and Ekaterin.


The Touchstone Trilogy by AKH and in fact a bunch of things by AKH.

The romance in CJC’s FORTRESS IN THE EYE OF TIME checks a bunch of Maureen’s boxes, too — especially the “not central” box, since the romance does not involve the primary protagonist.

How many author’s names do you recognize when you see a set of three initials, btw? Have I about exhausted the supply? I think SO.

Oh, except I haven’t cited DWJ yet, but do any of her books involve actual on-screen romances? At the moment I’m drawing a blank, but she does have a heck of a lot of books, of course.

Let me see, let me see. Romances that are: slow burn, not the main focus of the story, depend on developing trust, subvert tropes, not based on faaate or super-hotness. What else hits the majority of those buttons (not necessarily every single button)?

Robin Hobb sometimes does a good job with this kind of thing. I particularly liked the romance between Captain Leftrin and Alise in DRAGONKEEPER.

Anybody got other ideas for this kind of romance in fantasy? Or SF?

Update: I see Brandy also has a preferences-in-romances post up! Not for fantasy-romances especially, but any romances. However, for snarky dialogue in fantasy romances, I actually can’t think of any better example than Lindsay Buroker’s The Emperor’s Edge series. It’s definitely the dialogue that makes that whole series.

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13 thoughts on “Preferences in fictional romances”

  1. Re: DWJ–Deep Secret! One of my favorites, which far too few people know.

    There is also Sarah Rees Brennan (SRB) and Dorothy Leigh Sayers (DLS), both of whom have written excellent romances. Hmmm, is there a theme??

  2. You are right! I should have thought of Martha Wells, especially since I only just re-read The Wheel of the Infinite about a month ago.

    Obviously I need to invent a middle name for myself so I can have a three-initial identifier. Plainly that helps one write good romance subplots!

  3. Thinking of a snarky, witty F&SF book I liked, Lisa Shearin’s six-book series that starts with ‘Magic lost, trouble found’ is aways the one that springs to mind. It contains a fairly slow-developing romance (though initial attraction) as well as some nice and caring friendships, and a lot of snarky, witty narator’s voice and dialog (some of it internal). It’s listed from last to first on this page:
    I’ve got Buroker’s Emperor’s Edge in my TBR pile; maybe I should move it to the top.

  4. Lee & Miller’s first Liaden books, Val Con & Miri. Yes, they wind up married rather fast, but I like watching their relationship grow. They’ve written a couple other strong romances but I don’t like them as well.

    Maureen, I was thinking of Deep Secret!

    Morgon and Raederle. I’m not sure it qualifies as a romance, exactly, but they care about each other a lot.

    somebody Sinclair’s LIGHTBORN, DARKBORN, SHADOWBORN, has a happily married woman realizing she cares deeply for another man. (but stays with her husband.) And a strong friendship between said husband and another woman – they sort of grew up together for values of ‘together’ that don’t include seeing each other ever, just talking through a wall. See, he’s darkborn, which means light is deadly. She’s lightborn – darkness is deadly to her. Their houses shared a wall… I rather like that set for the relationships. Not romances, but good to read, especially people who care about each other but don’t fall into bed together.

  5. Darn it! I apparently lost my first attempt, and now I’ve been scooped.
    Some Liaden books
    Cold magic trilogy — Kate Elliott

  6. And one more: Barbara Hambly
    Of many successful series, my favorite is Gil/Ingold in the Darwarth Trilogy. The Dark are just a wonderful/horrible adversary, way, way scarier than demons or an Undying Wizard.

  7. Alison Sinclair, says Amazon. I will have to try a sample from her and from Lisa Shearin.

    Yes to everybody who thought of Miri and Val Con in CARPE DIEM, a really fun book.

    Pete, on of my favorite relationships in Barbara Hambly’s books is in DRAGONSBANE, where the couple is established to start with. I love how that is handled.

  8. A lot of the Liaden books have a nice dose of romance mixed in with the adventures; I like Local Custom with its cultural adjustments, though the romance may be too central in those two books they called “regency romance in space” to fit in your definition.
    Patricia Briggs has nice romantic relationships as an integral part of a lot of her books, while the action is clearly at least equally important.
    I also like Eileen Wilks’ Lupi series, though it does hit several of your dislike-points: the good-looking athletic-type men and the “it’s fate” idea of a meddlesome goddess picking out your supposedly necessary partner. On the other hand, she deals with those in a way that doesn’t irritate me: the best-looking guy is most known for his nerdy total concentration on learning magic, which is what attracts his partner; and the resistance to having a destined partner pushed on one, and how to deal with the ensuing limitations and consequences, is dealt with in a way that doesn’t trigger my aversion to angsty teenage “it’s fate” moanings.
    Still, her early writing experience is in romance, and that shows: the romance is doesn’t take a backseat but is almost as important as the adventure, to my mind.

  9. Yes, I found the Lupi books to be okay as far as the “hot guy” trope goes, mostly because the author doesn’t DWELL on the super-hotness of the men the way — for example — Laurell Hamilton does in the Anita Blake series, where every! single! guy is more beautiful than the last. I quit reading that series a long time ago, though not just for that reason. The fate thing, well, I have to admit I still didn’t like it, though it wasn’t nearly as angsty as some. I’ve only read the first two Lupi books, but eventually I will probably go on with the series.

  10. Yes, that initial immediate hit of the magic bond irritated me too, but because she concentrated more on learning to cope with the limitations it imposes from Lily’s modern point of view, it didn’t strike me as too much of a ‘special snowflake’ sort of thing. Once they both accept the partnership, it’s just like a couple in any arranged marriage (the idea is the same, after all: someone who thinks they know you and is supposed to have your best interests at heart picks out a partner for you to spend the rest of your life with – whether tbat’s your parents or some magic doesn’t really make a big difference in the outcome!), having to adjust to each other and learning to cope with their differences, while gradually building a stronger emotional bond.
    Because it is a series, she also gets enough time to look at how another couple with different characters deals with it (I really like Arjenie, the researcher, who becomes a primary focus in book 7, Blood challenge), as well as how a protagonist-couple who fall in love without the magical whammy deal with the lupi culture.

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