Kushiel's Shadowknife
December 4, 2012 2:28 PM   Subscribe

I am on a quest for awesome, intelligent, erotic fantasy romance novels. What do I want to read next?

I love:
Kushiel's Legacy by Jacqueline Carey
The Sharing Knife by Lois McMaster Bujold
The Fever series by Karen Marie Moning
The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon

I am super, super picky. My favorite reading experiences are series mainly about the lovin', but the world building and other plots are nonetheless tight and interesting and definitely not an afterthought. The series I love most take themselves seriously; these stories are intelligent and sexy, and even though they have funny moments and graphic sex scenes, they don't lose themselves in heaving bosoms or witty one-liners. I'm not interested in historical or contemporary romance.

Paranormal romance, I've found, is generally too contrived/gimmicky/poorly written/poorly plotted for my purposes. Well-done urban fantasy tends to check the box for world building and plot but leave me wanting for more romance. I'm also not interested in fantasies with romantic subplots, no matter how spectacularly written the story is; I want a romance that is central and big and definitely not sub- anything. I like these genres a lot, but there's a time and a place, and this ain't it.

So, has Jacqueline Carey ruined me forever or is there hope? Thanks.
posted by anonymous to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 86 users marked this as a favorite
Nicholson Baker : Vox and/or the Fermata. He's done some other work in that vein that i don't love as much, and he's done some work very much NOT in that vein, but those two should fit your needs pretty well i'd think. they're not ROMANCE, exactly, and they're not FANTASY, exactly, but i think you'll find something worth liking in them.
posted by radiosilents at 2:37 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

The first series I thought of was Sharing Knife, which you have already read. If you haven't read Bujold's other novels, they are excellent (including her latest, which is an SF romance-comedy-caper). Her fantasy novels mostly have romantic plots/subplots - Paladin of Souls has been a big cross-over success for her.

On the more fantasy/SF side, Jaran by Kate Elliott is a very good novel with a romance at the heart of its plot (it's SF, but of the lost colony type, so the setting is pre-technological).
posted by jb at 2:44 PM on December 4, 2012

My SO thanks you for asking this question but feels that Jacqueline Carey ruined her for all other authors. She loves historical and counter historical stories combined with strong female characters.

casting your net a little bit wider, she's loved Guy Gavriel Kay's work and The Merry Gentry Series from Laurell K Hamilton.

Not so intelligent and historical but kick-ass (she's sitting here next to me) is the Psi-changeling series by Nalini Singh and the character of Fayth Sanders in the Pride series

now we get to go to bed!
posted by kairab at 3:00 PM on December 4, 2012

I wouldn't explicitly call it romance or erotica, but there's some sex in both Swordspoint and its sequel, Privilege of the Sword and the large casts of both novels are fantastic. Both are queer novels. It's sort of snarky political drama and manipulation and sexy swashbuckling rolled up with some sex and drugs; Privilege has the romance much more as a subplot than Swordspoint and is more coming-of-age-y. I'm not sure if they would fit your criteria for erotica, but I liked them for similar good characters/interesting world reasons as the Kushiel series.

Steam Powered has some romance, some erotica in its collection, but it's worth picking up. (It's obviously a small press thing and has some sorta terrible editing decisions and layout stuff that makes it look really unprofessional, but the stories are GREAT.)

Oh, and if you've done the main 6 Kushiels but haven't done the Naamah ones, check those out. She gets a little ridiculous with inserting descendants of the main Kushiel series, but the extended worldbuilding is fun (China! India! The Americas! Seriously, she's covered everything but Africa and Australia by this point.).

I could've asked this question too-- Carey's books are really good and there's not a lot out there like them :(
posted by NoraReed at 3:08 PM on December 4, 2012

Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente might be what you're looking for. Not a series, but it's a really lovely urban fantasy novel with lots of well-written sex; the central conceit is an alternate world that you can only enter by sleeping with someone who's already visited. Alternating points of view from four characters scattered about the globe, all of them unforgettable.
posted by jeudi at 3:30 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin is exactly what you are looking for. Great worldbuilding, excellent writing, and a romance that's at the center of the plot. The two sequels are excellent as well if you like the first.

The Dante Valentine series by Lilith Saintcrow is urban fantasy, but the romantic plot is central to the arc of the series. The first book is Working for the Devil and I liked it a lot, though the quality fell off a lot on the fourth and fifth in the series.
posted by psycheslamp at 5:04 PM on December 4, 2012

I would like to recommend the romance author (no, wait! Come back!) Jennifer Crusie. In particular, Bet Me, Faking It, and Agnes and the Hitman were favourites of mine. She has a webpage with links to relevant onine stores, and sample chapters.
posted by The River Ivel at 5:09 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

My favorite series to satisfy your requirement is The Twelve Houses by Sharon Shinn. It's a bit light on the erotica requirement, but has a romance-driven plot on a backdrop of a well-built world with lots of political intrigue. Her Samaria books are also good, but their political intrigue to romance ratio probably wouldn't qualify them for this.

I recently read Heart's Blood by Juliet Marilliet and loved it. I haven't tried any of her other works, however I recall a friend telling me she found them "enjoyable, although a bit on the trashy side".

Seconding that The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is fantastic, although the sequels had some moments that were a little dark for me. I'm currently in the middle of a Jennifer Crusie novel (alas, I've almost read them all!), and I agree that Bet Me and Agnes and the Hitman are some of her best.
posted by copperdrake at 5:30 PM on December 4, 2012

Her stuff is shelved under "Romance" but if you're willing to deal with that, Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick/Jayne Castle has some you might like. The Arcane Society books are "romantic-suspense with a psychic twist" — the ones published as Amanda Quick are historicals (mostly Regency-era, I think); the ones published as Jayne Ann Krentz are set present-day. The Harmony books, published as Jayne Castle, have a futuristic setting.

Some are better than others. I haven't disliked any of them enough to stop reading/stop listening to the audiobook, and I tend to be fairly picky that way. (I'm quick to follow Dorothy Parker's suggestion about bad books: "This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.")
posted by Lexica at 6:38 PM on December 4, 2012

If you like Gabaldon, you should like Deborah Harkness' work. A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night aren't plot-wise very similar, but they read the same to me at least.
posted by clerestory at 7:14 PM on December 4, 2012

You may like the Black Jewels series by Anne Bishop.
posted by xyzzy at 11:23 PM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding N.K. Jemisin and Deborah Harkness, both of whom write intelligent, sexy fantasies. Jemisin's Hundred Thousand Kingdoms series is fantastic for world-building too.

As a side note, I adore Guy Gavriel Kay to death, but romance is really not the first thing I think of for him. If you're looking for amazing historical fantasy, by all means read his books, but don't go looking for much in the way of sexy-times.
posted by ashirys at 7:56 AM on December 5, 2012

You mentioned Karen Marie Moning, so you may already be familiar with it, but I would recommend her Highlander series. Although it kind of historical, it's a mix of time-travel, magic, and highlanders. They are stand alone books, and towards the end of the series she gets more into the fey elements. (it's sort of her precursor to developing the Fever series).

I would also strongly suggest Kresley Cole's Highlander After Dark series. Excellent world building, really witty, and pretty sexy. Contains demons, valkaries, vampires, werewolves, witches, and other fantastical creatures that rarely get published in romance.

Second Nalini Singh's books. She has the one series mentioned above (Psy-changling), but a separate Guild Hunter series focused on a world with Vampires and Archangels.
posted by smock smock smock at 12:19 AM on December 6, 2012

Seconding the recommendation for Swordspoint and The Privilege of the Sword, though if you're going to read those two you probably should read the one in the middle, The Fall of the Kings, which is co-authored by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman and, imho, is not as strong as the other two. Fall of the Kings comes after Privilege of the Sword chronologically, but was written first, and there are things in Privilege that are much richer for having read Fall of the Kings. All three have marvelous world-building and are what I think of as "effortlessly queer" - the non-heteronormativity is, well, normative in that world.

Also seconding ashirys on Guy Gavriel Kay: he's astounding, but romance is definitely not his thing.

Two you might want to look into: The War for the Oaks by Emma Bull, which is urban fantasy, set very much in Minneapolis (have a street map handy) around a faerie theme, and has some lovely bits including one of the best "you know they're gonna do it, it's just a matter of when" scenes I've ever read. Also Freedom and Necessity by Emma Bull and Steven Brust, which isn't precisely fantasy but reads a lot like it; technically I guess it's historical fiction. There's not a lot of sexytimes in it, but they're really good.
posted by spamloaf at 5:56 PM on December 6, 2012

Seconding the Black Jewels trilogy. I have read and reread those books many times.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 11:45 PM on April 4, 2013

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