Top 25 Best Horror Romance Books
Horror romance may seem like an oxymoron, but both the horror and romance genre elicit suspense, tension, excitement, and even a little bit of angst from the reader. In romance, this tension comes from the “will-they, won’t-they” drama that unfolds through the development or breakdown of a relationship and is intended to excite. In horror, the suspense comes from monsters, killers, and all of the most basic human fears, and it is intended to do just, frighten. That said, horror and romance share other similar traits as well. The monstrous vampires, for instance, are stereotypically stunning, much like heroes and heroines in romance novels. Gothic horror, too, often has romantic elements in its rich, yet remote settings and overwrought emotions. Paranormal romance, a genre which has recently grown exponentially in popularity, is a subgenre of romance that is filled with all manner of monstrous creatures taken directly from the pages of a horror novel.
So yes, despite the initial difference, horror books and romance books actually do cross over quite a bit. Indeed, we feel that some of the best romance books ever may even have some strong elements of horror
What separates horror romance from paranormal romance is the balance of horrific elements in the plot. Often, paranormal romance will focus on the development of a relationship between a human and a monstrous creature, much like the Twilight series. In horror romance, the relationship is there, but always coupled with an equally suspenseful subplot that places the characters in danger. J. Sheridan LeFanu’s Carmilla, for example, is one of the first vampire novels. Its plot involves the slow uncovering of the title character’s monstrous natures, though her developing relationship with Laura, the protagonist, is also explored.
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Horror romance is also often a blend of several different horror genre subgenres with romantic elements layered in. Undead and Unemployed by MaryJanice Davidson is an example of a horror romance that blends horror, comedy, romance and mystery. Dean Koontz's The Watchers is very different example that combines romance with suspense, science fiction, and crime thriller tropes.
Similar to paranormal romance, paramours in horror romance are often some sort of supernatural being such as a vampire or demon. In this subgenre, the monstrous nature of these creatures is rarely overlooked or romanticized. In Larissa Ione’s, Pleasure Unbound, the demons are truly evil, even the love interest must struggled to contain his demonic nature. Instead, that element is used to further increase tension and discomfort. In horror romance, monsters need not be romantic partners; sometimes, they are the creatures that keep the hero and heroine from their happily ever after, such as in Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour. Monsters, in horror romance, may even be of the human variety, as seen in The Lover by Robin Schone.
Above all, horror romance is a genre blend that balances the tensions of building and maintaining a romantic relationship with the types of suspense and horror that goes bump in the night. This balance of tension is difficult to achieve, but these 25 books strike just the right blend.
Laura is an unassuming nineteen year old girl who lives alone and friendless with her father in a castle in remote Styria. She is excited by the prospect that her father’s friend is bringing his young niece to stay with them, until the girl dies of a mysterious sickness. Later, a carriage accident brings another young girl to her doorstep, the enchanting Carmilla. Laura is desperate for a friend, and quickly becomes attached to Carmilla despite the girl’s strange habits, such as sleeping until dusk and disappearing around the castle and grounds. Carmilla, for her part, is also deeply attached to Laura, but her attentions seem to hint that she wants something stronger than friendship. When Laura has strange nightmares of being attacked by a large black cat and wakes up with puncture wounds on her chest, Carmilla’s dark nature begins to be revealed.
Why it’s on the list: Predating Dracula by about 26 years, Carmilla had a profound influence on the sexy vampire trope. There’s more than friendship that develops between the vampire and her victim. Laura is both attracted to and repulsed by Carmilla, and the two share many kisses, caresses, and steamy, for Victorian standards, gazes. In this instance, Carmilla could be read as a tale of female sexual awakening. In another light, Carmilla is truly a horror story, with scenes of the vampire sleeping in a coffin that is filled with blood, and Laura’s nightmares of a gore-covered girl who visits her. Carmilla is the perfect example, and quite possibly the genesis, of the horror romance subgenre.
Read if you like: Gothic horror, romance, vampires, Victorian language, and lesbian overtones.
The tenth book in Cole’s Immortals After Dark series gives readers some insight into the series’ most ruthless vampire, the titular Lothaire. Tortured Lothaire seeks a power that will help him finally end his centuries old vendetta. He finds the key to his victory in the unlikeliest of places, a young mortal convicted of murder. Ellie is a poor mountain girl who yearns for a better life but has a powerful and deadly force inside her. Though Lothaire rescues her from death row, Ellie knows that he’s no knight in shining armor and that a more sinister fate awaits her. When he falls for her, Lothaire must make the choice between his desire for revenge or his desire for Ellie.
Why it’s on the list: Though the pairing may seem a bit odd at first, in Cole’s capable hands, the sexual tension between the wicked debonair vampire and the hillbilly girl sizzles on the page. Seeing the go toe to toe is amusing by turns and incredibly hot. Horror elements can easily be seen in the deplorable upbringing that Lothaire has faced, and though this backstory gives incredible insight into the character, the truly terrifying aspects cannot be denied. Ellie’s power, too, provides for many of the horrific elements of the story.
Read if you like: the Immortals After Dark series, vampires, and dark magic.
The second book in the Dark Hunter series paints a much darker picture than its predecessor. Plain-Jane accountant, Amanda is the youngest, and the only one in her family, apart from her father, who doesn’t have some sort of paranormal powers. When she’s mistaken for her identical twin sister, a telepathic vampire hunter, Amanda is kidnapped and wakes up in a strange room handcuffed to a sexy stranger. It’s hard to deny her attraction to him, even when she finds that he is part of the paranormal world that she has tried so desperately to stay away from. Kyrian is a Dark Hunter on the trail of an evil Daimon who chained him to Amanda in the first place. He wants nothing to do with love, having been brutally betrayed in the past. They struggle to escape their bonds, but will they be able to escape their attraction to one another.
Why it’s on this list: Though the romance between Kyrian and Amanda is the core of the story, there is a much darker undercurrent in the world-building. Daimons, evil, soul-sucking vampires, prey upon the world, and Dark Hunters are the only ones who can stop them. Through this conflict, we see some tense, action-packed moments. Of course, as the romance aspects of the story do take center stage, there are plenty of steamy moments as well. The chemistry between the lead couple is undeniably scorching.
Read if you like: Greek mythology, vampires, unique worldbuilding, fast-paced action, and steamy paranormal romance.
The first in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series is a steamy, action-packed page turner that will get your heart racing in more ways than one. When Wrath, the leader of the Brotherhood, is asked by his Brother to protect his daughter, Beth, through her transitioning process, Wrath’s answer is an emphatic “no”. When tragedy strikes, Wrath must guide Beth in becoming a vampire and learning about herself and the deadly war they are both embroiled.
Why it’s on the list: Ward creates a dark, violent, and intriguing world in this series opener. Her vampires are not of the undead variety, but instead have a unique science-based explanation. This allows them to have all of the benefits of being a vampire with very few of the negatives. The suspense builds in the story as Beth comes to terms with her new nature, and the Lessers, the vampire slayers who are at war with the Brotherhood, are truly scary undead creatures. This violent conflict brings horror elements to the story. Of course, the horror elements are outweighed by the romance of the story. The sparks fly between Wrath and Beth, with seamlessly blended and incredibly erotic love scenes, and it’s not just Wrath that steams up the pages of the story. The rest of the Brotherhood is also smoking, and each Brother gets their own story throughout the series.
Read if you like: Vampires, leather, alpha males, creative world building, paranormal romance, and steamy love scenes.
The fourth book in the Georgina Kincaid series opens with the heroine still reeling from the tragedy that ended book three. To cope, Georgina throws herself into her work as a succubus, which should make her bosses in hell very happy, except that Georgina’s bitchy attitude has put everyone off, including her boss Jerome. As punishment, Jerome sends Georgina to the worst place imaginable… Vancouver to spy on his rival, the archdemon Cedric, and stop a cult of “satanists” from making them all look bad. Everything seems to be going according to plan, until Jerome disappears, leaving all the demons who work for him powerless. Georgina knows that she should rescue her boss, but without her powers, she is afraid to walk down the street. Plus, stripped of her ability to drain the life force of her loves, she finally has a chance at resurrecting a troubled relationship. Will she choose to save Jerome or her love life?
Why it’s on the list: The female supernatural creature is an interesting twist in the genre that is rife with hot paranormal men, and while the series does focus on Georgina’s relationships, it’s not quite a paranormal romance. This particular novel has a lot more of the feel of a horror thriller with relationships in it than a romance with horror aspects. The mystery plot plays a prominent role in the story, instead being used as a device to up the suspense of the story. With menacing villains, a fast-paced plot (even if the mystery is easily solved), and plenty of emotional angst, Succubus Heat offers a great blend of horror and romance.
Read if you like: Demons, strong heroines, steamy sex scenes, and paranormal romance.
Leader of a Lychae clan, Lachlain has been chained underground near a pit of eternal fire for centuries by his enemies, vampires. Then, one day, he senses her, his true mate, the one he had been searching for before he was captured, and nothing, not even his bonds, can keep him from her. Emma is a half-vampire/half-Valkyrie who is just learning to make her way in the world without the protection of her Valkyrie aunts. She is terrified when she is chased and kidnapped by Lachlain, and for his part, he is maddened by the fact that his true mate is part-vampire, his sworn enemy. Emma, realizing that Lachlain is Lychae, or werewolf, is even more frightened of him, having heard tales of the harsh tempers and desires of the werewolves. At the start, Lachlain lives up to every bit of his terrible reputation, and Emma is too frightened to fight back, agreeing to accompany him to his home in Scotland, but as the story progresses, the two begin to understand each other’s motivations and become closer.
Why it’s on the list: A Hunger Like No Other is the first book in the insanely popular paranormal romance series Immortals After Dark. It’s not the first story, which appeared in the anthology Playing Easy to Get. In this volume, it is obvious that there is an a relationship that develops between Lachlain and Emma, but there are some truly terrifying moments. In the prologue, Lachlain is so desperate to get to Emma that he removes his own leg in a particularly grisly scene. His behavior once he meets her is not the stuff of romance novels either, instead invoking more of a thriller aspect. Emma, who knows nothing of the world, is afraid of him, and readers are afraid for her. Gradually, the beast is tamed and Lachlain begins to see the error of his ways, but their difficult relationship is only the start of their problems as both are being stalked by enemies from their past. The addition of these conflicts ratchets up the tension and suspense far more than standard paranormal romantic fare.
Read if you like: Werewolves, vampires, demons, tortured heros, and alpha males
The first in the Sign of Seven Trilogy tells the story of three young boys who, on their tenth birthday, made a pact in blood over a stone and unwittingly unleashed a dark force upon the their hometown of Hawkins Hollow. Since that night, every seven years, the people of the town go crazy for a week, committing hideous acts of depravity that they don’t remember afterward. Every seven years, the titular blood brothers fight this evil, but it’s getting stronger. Quinn Black, a writer with an interest in the paranormal, is attracted to the town of Hawkins Hollow by stories of the atrocities that occur there. She arrives just in time for the evil to be unleashed once more and meets Cal, one of the blood brothers, who lets her in, in hopes that she will be able to help stop the evil once and for all.
Why it’s on the list: Blood Brothers is part horror, part mystery, with strong romantic elements. The horror aspect lies in the actions of the demon that terrorizes the town. There are some incredibly creepy and disturbing moments that are brought about by the demon and its powers. Much of the plot focuses on the demon, and the brothers’ efforts to rid the town of it, and there is the added element of mystery as to why the demon was trapped there in the first place, and how Quinn and her friends are connected to it. These aspects are well-drawn, and the romance between Cal and Quinn is layered on nicely throughout. There is some heat, but nothing incredibly explicit.
Read if you like: demons, mystery, strong heroines, and paranormal romance.
Travis Cornell enters the woods with his beloved dog and a pistol, intending to kill rattlesnakes, or perhaps himself. Travis feels that he has nothing to live for and that anyone who cares about him will eventually wind up dead. Something is stalking Travis in the woods, and it is his dog that saves him. In that encounter, Travis learns that his dog is preternaturally intelligent and dubs him, Einstein. Elsewhere, Nora Devon, an extremely sheltered and paranoid woman is terrified of her TV repairman. She is just as world-weary as Travis, and through Einstein’s genius, these two are brought together. Slowly, a romance develops between them even as they try to protect Einstein and each other from the evils that surround them.
Why it’s on this list: Watchers is one of Koontz’s most beloved novels, and it is a well-blended mix of several genres. The genetic research done on Einstein and the Outsider, which brings in the element of science fiction, and crime fiction scenes are introduced through the hitman, Vince Nasco. One of the strongest elements in the book is the horror element, which can be seen in the Outsider as well as Vince’s relentless pursuit of Einstein as well as the sexual predator who stalks Nora. Koontz is, after all, a thriller writer, but another strong aspect in the story is the relationship between Nora and Travis and how it is developed through their protection of Einstein. Because of these two strong elements in the story, Watchers could easily qualify as great horror romance, but it definitely has appeal across several genres.
Read if you like: Animals, science fiction, crime fiction, genetic modification, monsters, romance.
The first in Singh’s Psy-Changeling series introduces two very different races who inhabit Earth in the distant future. Psy are a cold, emotionless race of people, who undergo an intense mental training program, known as the Silence, in order to rid themselves of emotions. The volatile Changelings are their polar opposite, people who can transform into various animals. In this story, Sascha Duncan, the daughter of a prominent member of the Psy Council is sent to negotiate a housing project with Lucas Hunter, the alpha of a pack of leopard Changelings. Each has their own secrets. Sascha hides the fact that she is broken and unlike other Psy in that she feels. Lucas is on the hunt for a killer that targets Changelings and suspects the Psy. Though they begin as enemies, the two are irrefutably drawn to one another.
Why it’s on the list: Though the romance between Lucas and Sascha takes center stage, there are plenty of horror elements to be found in this series opener. The Psy, and their cold, emotionless nature are painted in decidedly sinister and eerie tones, while the Changeling with their violent natures are not much better. Tension comes in both the romantic and sexual as well as the suspenseful as readers are pulled into the mystery of the Changeling killer as well as the romance, making Slave to Sensation an enthralling, fast-paced read.
Read if you like: Shifters, science fiction, mystery, unique world building, and paranormal romance.
The first in the Lives of the Mayfair Witches trilogy is a saga that spans 500 years and 13 generations of the Mayfair family. Beginning in the 16th century Scottish highlands and sweeping through to present day, the Mayfair family has enjoyed unrivaled riches and power,but at the heart of their fortune is a mysterious, demonic spirit named Lasher who bonds with a chosen female in each generation. Unaware of her heritage, Rowan Mayfair is the latest chosen, a brilliant neurosurgeon who has the added benefit of having the psychic ability to save lives. She rescues a drowning architect named Michael Curry who also develops extrasensory powers and is somehow connected to her past. The attraction between Michael and Rowan is intense, but Lasher has other plans for the Mayfair heir. He wants to enter this world, and Rowan is the only one who can let him in.
Why it’s on the list: Anne Rice is synonymous with dark, sensual tales, and this weighty saga is no exception. Throughout the tome, Lasher is portrayed as a seductive and mysterious force who tempts each of his chosen Mayfair ladies. Adding to the heat is the passion between Michael and Rowan,whose chemistry is off the charts. The horror is brought in through the reality of Lasher and his dark machinations in the lives of the Mayfairs. This lush, gorgeous tale rambles through the ages dripping with romance and tinged with terror.
Read if you like: Demons, witches, history, paranormal romance, family sagas, rich descriptions, and the Vampire Chronicles series.
Long ago, the gods entrusted a woman, Pandora, to guard a box that was a prison to demons. Insulted that they had not been chosen, a group of warriors stole the box and released the demons, intending to recapture them and prove themselves to the gods. They failed, and as punishment, the warriors were made guardians of the demons, and each warrior was possessed by a different demon that had been released. Maddox, who held the demon of Violence, was doubly punished when his rages caused him to murder Pandora and further displease the gods. Each night, Maddox is murdered and spends the night in Hell only to awaken the next day and repeat the process. When Ashlyn, a naive young woman with a horrifying gift, seeks out the warriors to help rid her of her clairaudience, Maddox warns her away. She is undaunted, and an intense romance develops between them.
Why it’s on the list: As with most paranormal romance, the romantic relationship between Maddox and Ashlyn is the main focus of the story, and it is hot! The plot, however, contains much more than just the romance. There is the evil organization that Ashlyn works for, and the Hunters which seek to capture the warriors, and a bit of mystery thrown in as well. All this pulls together for a fierce, suspenseful read, particularly when combined with the searing romance elements, in this series opener.
Read if you like: Greek mythology, alpha males, mystery, and of course, paranormal romance.
In the Demonica series, demons exist, hidden in our world, and the Aegi, trains fighters to destroy them. Eidolon is one such demon, a type of incubus, who fears the approach of his 100th birthday and the mania that it will bring on. Only his bonded mate can protect him from abandoning his career, his family, and his entire being in his insatiable lust. The only problem is that he hasn’t found her. Tayla is a demon hunter, who works for Aegis, who has been experiencing some odd physical changes. When she is injured in a fight with a demon, both are brought to the Underground General Hospital, a hospital for demons where Eidolon is a doctor. The demons are not happy that the hunter is among them and intend to torture her for answers about a rash of demon murders that have been occurring. Eidolon, however, feels a burning need to protect her.
Why it’s on the list: Pleasure Unbound is a sizzling romance with a dark twist. The demons in Ione’s world are just that, demons, and while some are painted as heroes and brooding, readers never forget that they are also incredibly dangerous. Add to that, the mysterious subplot where demon organs are being harvested by a killer, and there are plenty of horror elements to keep the pace frantic. Eidolon and Tayla’s romance begins slowly, but blazes across the pages with intensely erotic scenes.
Read if you like: Demons, kick-ass heroines, paranormal romance, and mystery.
Tory Bodeen grew up in the small town of Progress, South Carolina with an abusive, fundamentalist father who did not understand her gift and a passive mother who did nothing to stop it. Her only consolation was her friendship with Hope. When they are eight years old, Tory has a terrifying vision of Hope’s rape and murder that turns out to all too true, but Tory is unable to help police identify the killer, leaving the police and townspeople suspicious. The Bodeen family flees Progress, and in the wake of tragedy eighteen years later, Tory returns to her hometown. She is drawn to Hope’s brother, Cade, but struggles to put aside her feelings in order to put the past behind her. Then, a school teacher is brutally murdered in a manner that reminds the people of Progress of Hope’s killer.
Why it’s on this list: Part thriller, part romance, and part Southern gothic, Roberts weaves a tense mystery and not one, but two, touching romances in this stand-alone story. The paranormal elements as well as the mystery add tense and suspenseful moments to an otherwise sweet romance, making it a much darker story.
Read if you like: Thrillers, psychics, serial killers, Southern gothic, and strong heroines.
The titular Guilty Pleasures is a vampire strip club, where Anita Blake is dragged for a bachelorette party. Anita Blake is an animator who brings the dead back to life for questioning by the FBI and also a vampire hunter. The vampires need Anita’s help to track down whoever is responsible for killing vampires in the city. In Anita’s world, vampires and lycanthropes are legal citizens with rights and can only be killed if they are found breaking the law. Under normal circumstances, Anita would refuse to help the vampires whom she considers to be monsters, but despite her innocent and childlike appearance, Nikolaos, the Master Vampire, is cunningly evil. She has a bargaining chip in Anita’s friend Catherine, who has been bespelled by the vampires. To protect Catherine, Anita agrees to help solve the mystery, but she may end up fighting for her own life before the killer is found.
Why it’s on the list: This series opener has plenty of mystery, action, and evil vampires to easily keep the reader in suspense and the pages turning. As a thriller, it’s compelling, but the romantic elements of this particular horror romance are a little more understated. There is plenty of sexual tension and attraction between Anita and the alluring vampire club owner, Jean Claude, but it doesn’t bubble over. However, as the series progresses, the romance becomes hotter.
Read if you like: Vampires, strong heroines, action.
The fifth book in the Dead End Dating series finds divalicious born vampire Lil Marchette on a life-or-death mission to save one of her few clients. The owner of the failing Dead End Dating matchmaking service, Lil had hoped to use the business to meet the vampire of her dreams. Instead, a handsome stranger kidnaps a client named Esther at an event hosted by the business. Lil finds out that the mysterious stranger is actually an evil warlock with plans to sacrifice Esther in a bid to gain immortality. Though she is warned not to interfere, Lil mounts a rescue mission, along with her personal assistant and two best friends. That mission is hindered by her mother’s plans to stop her brother and his human wife from having a baby, helping her best friend mend her broken heart, evading sinister police officers, and dealing with her oblivious boyfriend.
Why it’s on the list: There’s suspense, there’s humor, and there’s a dash of romance in this charming story. Lilianna Marchette is the perfect chick-lit heroine, despite being a vampire, with a little bit of Bridget Jones and a little bit of Stephanie Plum thrown in. This fluffy, fast-paced page turner hits just the right notes in mystery and suspense with elements of romance thrown in.
Read if you like: Vampires, chick lit, and strong heroines
This well-known vampire tale opens with solicitor Jonathan Harker visiting the Carpathian mountains in order to facilitate the real estate purchase of a client of his firm. Initially charmed by the client’s hospitality, Harker gradually realize the monstrous nature of Dracula and soon becomes the vampire’s prisoner. In England, Harker’s fiancee, Mina corresponds with her best friend Lucy, who is juggling three different marriage proposals. Mina worries about her fiance and confides her worries to her friend. The tension mounts when a Russian ship crashes near Lucy’s home, and she begins to suffer from an odd sickness that has no explanation. Mina joins forces with Lucy’s suitors to discover its cause, which may be linked to Jonathan’s mysterious client.
Why it’s on the list: Given all of the sexy vampires that populate horror and paranormal romance, it only makes sense that the one of the most popular vampire novels find itself among them. Dracula is the source of many of the tropes found in the sexy vampires of horror romance. The horror elements are undeniable as the vampire is not your typical sexy vampire but instead, an inhuman and utterly evil monster. Much of the first half of the novel builds up Jonathan Harker’s dread as he comes to realize the true nature of his employer. That said, there is also much romance in the story, namely with the love triangle surrounding the vivacious Lucy.
Read if you like: Classic stories, and of course, vampires!
In a world where vampires are out of the coffin and accepted as citizens, they are still rarely seen in the small Louisiana town of Bon Temps where Sookie Stackhouse works as a waitress. While Sookie is considered a total babe by many, she’s never had much luck in the dating department. She attributes this to her “disability” which allows her to hear the thoughts of others. It’s something that she struggles very hard to keep under control, and disrupts any type of intimacy that she’s attempted to have. That is, until she meets Bill the Vampire, whose thoughts she cannot hear. Sookie feels she can finally let her guard down around Bill, and the two begin a relationship. A string of murders targeting women who have been involved with vampires occurs, and Sookie, convinced of Bill’s innocence, uses her gift to help track down the killer.
Why it’s on the list: Dead Until Dark is the series opener for the Southern Vampire Mysteries, the series that inspired the insanely popular TV show, True Blood. The horror elements here blend nicely with the mystery and romance elements, and the story has a wonderful small town charm. Bon Temps, itself, is almost a character in the book. Though sexy, these vampires come across as horrific as well. At the beginning, Sookie is unsure if she can trust Bill, even though she is attracted to him, particularly given that the murders coincide with his arrival in the town. The mystery added a dash of suspense to Bill and Sookie’s relationship, but it was integral to the story instead of merely an added element to spice up a paranormal romance.
Read if you like: Vampires, cozy mysteries, humor, strong heroines, psychic abilities, and small Southern towns.
Betsy the Vampire Queen is back in this sequel to Undead and Unwed. She’s figured out that being queen of the vampires is not a paying gig, and sick of being a leech on her billionaire best friend, Betsy goes looking for a job, much to the dismay of her consort, the dashing Eric Sinclair. Unable to find any meaningful help at the local unemployment office, Betsy puts her designer shoe obsession to good use, finding a job as a shoe saleswoman in Macy’s. Can she juggle a full time job and her responsibilities as vampire queen, especially now when vampires are being killed and she is the killer’s next target?
Why it’s on the list: The tension between Eric and Betsy really heats up in this story. She does everything that she can to thwart and irritate him, all while not so secretly desiring him, though she can’t admit that even to herself. The increase of this tension adds a more romantic element to this genre blend of horror, humor, chick-lit, and mystery. As Betsy prepares to face the teenaged vampire slayers, the suspense is amped up, and the romance too, in this fun, fluffy page-turner.
Read if you like: Vampires, shoes, chick-lit, humor.
The titular millionaire vampire in the first book in the Love at Stake series is Roman Dragenesti, a former monk dedicated to healing his fellow beings who was so appalled by his need for blood that he developed a synthetic blood product that made him millions. An accident causes Roman to lose a fang, and desperate to have it repaired before his vampiric super-healing abilities close the wound, he visits an all-night dentist. Shanna is a dentist who is afraid of blood, hiding because of a terrible secret of her own. When she is targeted by a group of Russian vampires, Roman rescues her, and the two find themselves falling for each other.
Why it’s on the list: There’s plenty of action in the turmoil between the different vampire covens, and it is this that creates a fast-paced, suspenseful read. The romance unfolds nicely with plenty of angst and tension of its own. While the tropes of the story are well worn, this series opener never takes itself too seriously, and it is the humor of the novel that makes it such a stand out in a sea of vampire romances. It’s a light, fluffy, page turner that is completely enjoyable.
Read if you like: Vampires, humor, sweet romances, and thriller elements.
It was a rainy Monday morning when necromancer Dante Valentine, or Danny for short, was summoned by the demon, Japhrimel to appear before Lucifer in Hell. Lucifer has a job for Danny. He needs her to track down Santino, a nearly immortal demon, who has stolen a valuable artifact from Hell. If she succeeds, the devil promises her a lifetime of wealth and power, but if she fails, she’ll die horribly. It’s not the sort of job that the picky necromancer would normally choose, but you don’t refuse the prince of darkness. So, Dante reluctantly agrees. Making matters worse is that Japhrimel, or Jaf, is assigned as her backup. Living with the demon keeps Danny more than a little on edge, and the good thing about the situation is that the demon that she’s been hired to track down is one that she’s got a score to settle with.
Why it’s on the list: Unlike many of the titles on this list, this series opener does not focus on the relationship between Danny and Jaf, though the swoon-worthy demon is the stuff of paranormal romance. Danny is too prickly for that, and her dark past is only hinted at. Instead, much of the book revolves around Danny’s job tracking down Santino and figuring out how to kill the unkillable. There’s action, suspense, and surprisingly, a cyberpunk element to the novel. The unique science fiction elements make this story stand out. If you’re looking for a dark, fun, fast-paced romp, with a badass heroine, this title will not disappoint. Hints of a romance will pique your interest for later books in the series.
Read if you like: Anita Blake, demons, cyberpunk, strong heroines
Anne Aimes is a thirty six year old spinster living in Victorian England who decides that it is time to lose her virginity. She knows that she is not young anymore, and that she is plain, but she’s also incredibly wealthy. So, she seeks out retired male prostitute, Michel de Angeles because he is a man with a reputation for giving the ladies exactly what they need. Physically and emotionally scarred, Michel agrees to be Anne’s lover, only because doing so will bring him one step closer to revenge on the man responsible for his trauma. As Michel and Anne grow closer, can he justify risking her life for his vengeance? Will his need for love overcome his need for revenge?
Why it’s on the list: Part gothic thriller, part romance, part sizzling erotica, this series opener is not for the faint of heart. The mystery ratchets up the suspense in this page turner, and the sex scenes are blistering. Tortured, damaged, Michel makes a swoon-worthy and intriguing romantic hero, and Anne is a curvy, plain woman who knows what she wants. This genre blend is a great fit for fans of gothic horror who may not be fans of romance, so long as they don’t shy away from the many frank discussions and wild depictions of sexual encounters.
Read if you like: gothic horror, thriller, erotica, strong heroines, tortured heroes, and creative uses for food.
The titular Monk of the novel is Ambrosio, a charismatic monk who lives in Spain during the time of the Inquisition and is viewed as practically a saint. The main plot of the story revolves around Ambrosio and his rapid fall from grace when a woman named Matilda tempts him into breaking his vows of chastity. Two connected subplots revolve around a naive girl named Antonia whose mother censored even her Bible. A member of Ambrosio’s church, she soon becomes the object of his lust, but she falls in love with the handsome, young Lorenzo. Lorenzo’s sister, Agnes and the man she loves are also involved in this intricately woven story, which involves dark dungeons, bleeding nuns, torture, ghosts, and even demons.
Why it’s on the list: Some would say that this title would be better placed on the list of best gothic horror, and they might be right. The Monk is an excellent example of gothic horror, but there are several elements of romance that play out. There are the three couples: Matilda and Ambrosio’s intense sexual relationship, Lorenzo and Antonia’s innocent courtship, and the tragic romance of Agnes and the Marquis, and then, there is the love triangle. Ambrosio relentlessly pursues the innocent Antonia, though she is already in a relationship with Lorenzo. There are elements of horror here too, ghosts, witchcraft, and demons. The Monk is about temptation, and what it can do to a person, and if that theme doesn’t fall into horror romance with its scores of handsome vampire and demon men, what else can?
Read if you like: Gothic horror, classic literature, and demons.
The Dollangangers were the perfect family. Four children, all with doll-like blonde hair, blue eyes and pale complexions. Chris, Cathy, Carrie, and Corrie are perfectly happy with their mother Corrine and their father, Christopher. Then, a terrible accident leaves Corrine a widow. Unskilled and unable to work, Corrine knows that her only hope for survival is to return to her parents and hope for their differences to be reconciled so that she can inherit her family’s vast fortune. She convinces the children to stay in the attic of her family home, only until their grandfather dies, but as the weeks and months pass, Corrine becoems more distant and the children wonder if they’ll ever leave the attic, especially given their grandmother’s naked hatred for them.
Why it’s on the list: Flowers in the Attic is a well-known trilogy opener, and it is well known that incest is one of the central themes of the story. The fact that the romantic elements of this story take place between a brother and sister is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the creep factor of this gothic horror novel. The children’s fundamentalist grandmother’s punishments are barbaric to the point of torture, and their mother grows more and more distant from them each day.
Read if you like: Gothic horror, family sagas
The first book in the Living with the Dead series introduces Sarah and David, a couple whose marriage is hanging by a thread. When they arrive at their weekly marriage counseling meeting, their newly undead therapist attacks Sarah and tries to eat her. The couple briefly teams up to fight off the counselor, and in the heat of battle, begin to rekindle a mutual respect for one another. Then, they discover they are in the midst of the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. Deciding that staying together is their best option for staying alive, Sarah and David travel across the country, armed with knowledge from zombie movies, searching for family members and slaying zombies in their wake, but if the zombies don't kill them, this constantly bickering couple just might kill each other. Told in Sarah's sarcastic point of view, this is a quick, fun read with plenty of fast-paced zombie action, and quirky chapter headings that read like headlines from an advice column.
Why it’s on the list: Married with Zombies is a romantic comedy that blends a couple’s troubles with the end of the world and reads like a self-help manual for relationships. That alone is enough to earn this trilogy opener a spot on this list, but Sarah and David actually grow closer as they struggle to survive. Their relationship is at the core of the story, even though the world is falling apart around them. There’s romance, there’s humor, there’s an action-packed battle for survival, all told in a snarky, conversational style.
Read if you like: Zombies, Romantic Comedy, Shaun of the Dead
Theo Parker and his new wife, Lily, have just bought the Monroe House, a lovely bed and breakfast in the idyllic town of Cambria, but before they can even enjoy their new purchase, Lily is killed in a car accident. Wracked with guilt, Theo believes that Lily’s spirit is haunting him when strange things start to happen at the Monroe House, but the inn’s caretaker, Eleanor has experienced these terrible things before. As the two try to discover just who or what is haunting them, their friendship begins to develop into something more.
Why it’s on the list: The romance of the story is pretty obvious. The distraught widower and his property manager are not, on the surface, the stuff of romance novels, but their friendship grows into something much stronger as they work together to investigate the mysterious happenings at the Monroe House. The ghost story aspect is truly terrifying, and though Eleanor knows about the entity, she never tells Theo. Instead, she lets him, and by extension the reader, experience the horror firsthand.
Read if you like: Ghost stories, humor, romance