Savanna, Associate Editor

As a lifelong period drama devotee, historical romance is probably my favorite subgenre in all of Romancelandia. But as a history nerd, I’ve never quite understood why the Regency and Victorian eras are so very, very dominant. Don’t get me wrong—I will never say no to a good bustle, and I love Austen-esque tales as much as the next romance reader. But why isn’t there an entire genre of fast-paced, witty Roaring ’20s romances? Or love affairs within the court intrigue of Tudor England? Or, you know, more romances set anywhere other than England or America? The following list is unfortunately still Anglocentric, much like the romance genre itself, but these authors offer a place to start for those looking to move beyond the Regency or Victorian romance.


After the Regency and Victorian periods, the medieval era is probably the third most common setting in historical romance. In Ye Olde Decades Past of romance, it was a super popular period but is now mainly the territory of dashing Highlanders. Which is not at all a bad thing!

Isabel Cooper
Medieval, but make it paranormal: The dashing Scottish hero of Highland Dragon Warrior is, you guessed it, a dragon shape-shifter. And if that wasn’t enough, his love interest is a Jewish alchemist. If you get hooked, Cooper also has a previous series starring the same family, centuries later.

Julie Garwood
She’s currently writing romantic suspense, but longtime romance fave Garwood has an extensive backlist of acclaimed medieval romances. Start with the Highlands’ Lairds or Lairds’ Fiancées series.

Elizabeth Kingston
If you’re looking for a realistic depiction of the period in both its cultural sophistication and near-constant violence, let me introduce you to the wonderful Elizabeth Kingston. Her deeply romantic Welsh Blades series takes place during the chaotic English conquest of Wales, and both books have a unique, utterly ferocious heroine.

Mary Wine
Wine’s book list is almost entirely medieval and early Renaissance, and she specializes in strong-willed female characters and lushly detailed depictions of Scotland and England.

Jeannie Lin
The Tang Dynasty was one of the golden ages of imperial China, and a particularly good example of how most of the world was doing just fine during what we Westerners have self-centeredly called “the Dark Ages.” Start with Butterfly Swords, where sword-wielding Princess Ai Li flees her upcoming wedding and enlists a handsome, mysterious warrior to keep her safe.





No less an authority than Terry Dresbach, the costume designer for “Outlander,” has said that the 18th century, known as the Georgian period in England, was one of the sexiest ever periods of fashion. This era comes right before the Regency but was earthier, more sex-positive and far less constrained by propriety. Which to me sounds like a recipe for a pretty great time.

Eloisa James
After writing many beloved regencies, James has moved back a few decades to give us some arch, intelligent Georgian love stories. I’m partial to her current series, the Wildes of Lindow Castle, which works in the burgeoning gossip press of the era in hilarious ways, but readers also love her Desperate Duchesses books.

Elizabeth Hoyt
Like Mary Wine and the medieval period, Hoyt has staked out a claim for herself as the happy queen of her particular era. Check out her Maiden Lane or Legend of the Four Soldiers series for a grittier take on Georgian England, or go to the Princes books for some upper-class romance.

The Gilded Age/Edwardian Era

As any reader of Edith Wharton knows, the Gilded Age is a particularly fantastic setting for romance (even if it tends to end in gut-wrenching heartbreak—I still haven’t forgiven Edith for what The House of Mirth did to me). The extraordinary wealth accumulated by the American upper class in this period put much of the European aristocracy to shame, and the Yanks compensated for their lack of noble titles by adhering to hilariously byzantine rules of social engagement. In other words, everyone was very sexually repressed and looked super hot all the time.

Joanna Shupe
Shupe has established herself as a go-to author for smart, well-researched historicals, and she does particularly great work in this era. Her superfun Knickerbocker series put her on the map, but I’d recommend starting with A Daring Arrangement, which follows an English noblewoman as she embraces the hustle and freedom of NYC and hooks up with a delicious, dashing financier.

Elizabeth Camden
Inspirational romance is often a good place to go for great work set in less popular eras, and Camden’s Empire State series is perhaps the best example of this. Camden’s romances are witty, warm and exhaustively researched. She has a particular knack for writing about the scientific advances of the era, so any readers looking for STEM heroes and heroines will be very happy.

Laura Lee Guhrke
Guhrke has series in all sorts of eras, but her Abandoned at the Altar books take place in Edwardian England. All three romances have delightfully independent ladies, all of them center around broken engagements, and characters can actually drive themselves around in cars rather than carriages! (You’ve heard of carriage love scenes—I raise you old-timey automobile love scenes.)



20th Century

You’d think with the popularity of “Mad Men,” “Downton Abbey” and every other 20th-century period drama on television, there’d be a corresponding boom of romances. Alas, no. But there are a few shining stars out there, daring to write historical romances in eras sans corsets.

Amanda Quick
The alter ego of romantic suspense icon Jayne Ann Krentz has lately started writing romances that I swear were tailor-made for yours truly—sexy mysteries set in Hollywood circa 1930. It’s like “Poirot” and the second season of “Agent Carter” had a baby and wow am I sorry for that image. So sorry. Anyway, these books are great—start with The Girl Who Knew Too Much.

Roseanna M. White
Another hidden gem of inspirational romance, the Shadows Over England series takes place during the lead-up to the Blitz. As you might expect, things are very tense, very dramatic and very British. There are spy games and refugee musicians and clockmakers and reformed criminals aplenty, making these books excellent reads to curl up with on a chilly day.

Alyssa Cole
The wonderful Cole has a fantastic backlist of historical novels and novellas written both before and after she became a total superstar with An Extraordinary Union (which is a great pick for a different historical, given its Civil War setting, but also technically still in the Victorian era). Let Us Dream is set in 1917 Harlem, and follows a romance between a cabaret owner and her chef. And Let It Shine stars a boxer and a civil rights activist who fall in love in 1961.

As a history nerd, I’ve never quite understood why the Regency and Victorian eras are so very, very dominant in romance. The following list is unfortunately still Anglocentric, much like the romance genre itself, but these authors offer a place to start for those looking to move beyond the Regency or Victorian romance.

More than any other genre, the wonderful world of romance novels has its own separate lingo. It can be overwhelming for a newcomer, but once you learn the basics, it’s much easier to find the books that will make you smile like an idiot, and avoid the ones that will make you fling them across the room in a rage.

Some fandoms would be content to simply describe themselves as “fans of [blank].” Not so the romance-loving blogosphere, who have coined this delightful term for themselves. If you’re looking to dip your toe into the romance discourse, searching the Romancelandia hashtag on Twitter is a good way to start.

Hero and heroine
The leading man and the leading lady in heterosexual romances. This may also be abbreviated to “H” for hero, and “h” for heroine. These are usually used instead of calling either character a protagonist because most romances focus equally on both halves of a central couple.

Old school romance/bodice ripper
If you’re not a romance reader, a bodice ripper is probably what you think most of the genre is—an innocent virgin, a swaggering he-man, not much subtlety, purple prose aplenty. However, those books fell out of style a few decades ago. If you pick one of them up, you’re probably going to have to deal with an uncomfortable (at the very least) lack of consent, and quite possibly any number of other discomfiting aspects—racism, homophobia, etc. “Old school romance” and “bodice ripper” function as giant you-have-been-warned signs for readers venturing down the backlist of the genre.

Insta-love and insta-lust
A trope that’s fallen somewhat out of fashion but can still be found in most subgenres, insta-love is when the hero and heroine lock eyes across a crowded room and fall madly in love right there on the spot. This works best in either high melodrama historicals or paranormal romances. Most modern authors are content to have their couple fall in insta-lust instead, which is exactly what you think it is.

Desert Island Keeper (DIK) and Keeper Shelf
A Desert Island Keeper is a book so beloved, one would take it to a hypothetical exile on a desert island. Keeper Shelf is the more practical cousin of this term and refers to the metaphorical or literal place where one’s favorite, eternally re-readable books are stored.

Book Boyfriend
If a book is a DIK for you, chances are it also contains one of your Book Boyfriends, the men you wish were real and could date you. Or make out with you. Whatever you’re looking for.

Alpha male
Speaking of men in romance, the alpha male is probably still the most common variant. This is your standard commanding, arrogant, accomplished dude. Think Mr. Darcy before Elizabeth Bennet’s rejection humbled him, and we all learned he was actually an adorable nerd who gets shy around sassy girls.

An alpha male whose bossy and/or stubborn tendencies go too far, causing the reader to imagine kicking him repeatedly instead of being wildly attracted to him.

The Grovel
Contrary to popular belief, most alpha males don’t stay bossy and commanding throughout the entire book. Usually, their lady love humbles them somehow, resulting in The Grovel. This is where the hero metaphorically or literally falls to his knees, begging forgiveness and telling the heroine how much she has changed him for the better. A good grovel may also be required for any character who lied to or tried to manipulate their true love before inevitably falling for them.

Beta male
A counterpoint to the traditional alpha male hero. Beta males are generally kinder, more nurturing and more open about their emotions and thoughts than a taciturn alpha.

Gamma male
I approach defining this term with trepidation since Romancelandia is still figuring out exactly what it means. A conclusion seems to have been reached that a gamma male is a mix of alpha and beta qualities. Usually strong and commanding, but not arrogant, a gamma male can be seen as the villain at first. He is often independent and may be indifferent to the heroine initially. Literally all of what I just wrote could change tomorrow though, so take this definition with a grain of salt.

Happily Ever After. The finale, the explosion of sparkles and rainbows, the endorphin high every romance hopes to spark in its readers. A good romance novel is nothing without a wonderfully sweeping conclusion, and if a reader says they weren’t sold on the HEA, it probably means they won’t be recommending the book to a friend.

Happy For Now. An ending that either leaves something to be desired or leaves the couple in a decent place while hinting there is more drama to come. A standalone book with a HFN is generally not desirable, although there are some fans that don’t mind. Most romance readers however, prefer a HFN if it comes at the end of a book in an ongoing series, and the author makes it clear the couple’s journey is not over yet.

An author you love and trust so much, you automatically buy their books whenever they come out.

A trope that gets you every single time. For example, some people are suckers for a good friends-to-lovers story, or a workplace romance. Most romance tropes are pretty self-explanatory, but there are a couple worth explaining.

Forced proximity
This trope is when circumstances force a couple to spend a lot of time in the same space. So, snowed into a cute cabin in a contemporary, or stuck together on a long carriage ride in a historical.

Marriage of Convenience
When somebody has to get married to avoid scandal, being betrothed to some horrible old lord, get money for an impoverished family, what have you. This is a cherished trope of historical romance because it allows for society-sanctioned sexy times (heirs aren’t going to make themselves!) while the main couple slowly falls in love.

Speaking of historical romance, I would do a whole other list of period-specific terms, (but since a good amount of them will already be known to lovers of biographies or historical fiction, I’m not going to). Ton is one of the most commonly used phrases in historical romance, and one that historical fiction readers might not know. It refers to British high society, and you’ll probably come across this word quite a bit since almost every historical takes place in Ye Olde England. Unfortunately, historical romance is even whiter than contemporary romance, but that is the subject of an entirely different article.

Another historical-specific term, a bluestocking refers to a bookish lady, probably a wallflower, probably on the road to spinsterhood. This was a derogatory term in reality, but since romance loves a smart heroine, the fictional lady in question often wears this epithet with pride.

Too Stupid To Live (TSTL)
One would think this is the direct opposite of bluestocking. But rather than refer to a lack of book smarts, a heroine described as TSTL is a person who wanders into or creates dangerous situations at an annoying rate, and thus makes sympathizing with her rather difficult. This is especially egregious in any Highlander or paranormal romances, where the stakes are often life-and-death.

The Duke of Slut
The ladies over at beloved romance website Smart Bitches, Trashy Books are responsible for this utter masterpiece of a term, which makes me laugh every single time I think about it. The Duke of Slut refers to a type of hero commonly found in historicals—the sexy aristocrat who never met an actress, dancer, courtesan or mildly attractive and consenting woman he didn’t then immediately sleep with.

More than any other genre, the wonderful world of romance novels has its own separate lingo. It can be overwhelming for a newcomer, but once you learn the basics, it’s much easier to find the books that will make you smile like an idiot, and avoid the ones that will make you fling them across the room in a rage.

You know what improves most things? Kissing. And if you, dear Private Eye July reader, would like your mysteries and thrillers to be improved by kissing, romantic suspense is here for you. A subgenre of romance that invests just as much time in high-octane action or clever whodunits as it does in its central love story, romantic suspense often comes in series that follow the adventures of a team, or track characters through their many difficult cases.

And if you’d like your mysteries or thrillers to be improved by kissing and magic, then jump to the second half of our list for an introduction to the thrills of paranormal romance.

Romantic Suspense

If you wished classic action movies focused on romance and foiling bad guys in equal measure, these are the series for you.


Black Knights Inc.
Author: Julie Ann Walker
Premise: The Black Knights are a black ops group on a mission from the government, and their cover is a motorcycle shop. These books are the literary equivalent of a delightfully ridiculous, globetrotting spy thriller.
Number of books: 12.
Where to start: Hell on Wheels, where Black Knights member Nate “Ghost” Weller risks blowing his cover when the love of his life, Ali Morgan, comes into town and needs his help.


Author: Marie Force
Premise: Did you watch “Scandal” and wish that Olivia Pope and President Fitzgerald Grant would stop going back and forth and just get their lives together? This is the series for you. Sam Holland is a brilliant police detective, and Nick Cappuano is the fling from her past. Sam solves D.C. murders, which gets progressively more complicated as Nick climbs the political ladder.
Number of books: 16 (there's also a second series starring the same characters, First Family)
Where to start: Fatal Affair—the first book of the series starts when Sam is called in to investigate the murder of Senator John O’Connor, Nick’s boss.

The O’Malleys
Author: Katee Robert
Premise: Do you want the thrills of romantic suspense without any pesky black-and-white morality? Then, my slightly scary friend, the Mafia romance is for you. This Boston-set series is outrageously sexy and features men and women of organized crime. Because feminism is for everyone.
Number of books: Six.
Where to start: The Marriage Contract, which starts when mob scion Teague O’Malley is ordered to marry Callista Sheridan in order to increase the family’s influence.



Paranormal Romance

If you’ve never read a paranormal romance, you probably think most of the genre is like Twilight for adults. But actually, the vast majority of paranormals follow the same action-packed beats of traditional romantic suspense, just with added magical intrigue.


Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter
Author: Laurell K. Hamilton
Premise: One of the founding series of urban fantasy as well as one of the longest-running paranormal series, Hamilton’s increasingly complex tales center on a vampire hunter/detective and her romantic entanglements. You’ll want to start at the very beginning with these.
Number of books: 25, with the 26th coming out this August.
Where to start: Guilty Pleasures, which sees Anita take on her very first case and get entangled with a very sexy vampire master.

Author: Lynsay Sands
Premise: A modern family of vampires battle evil and find love in this series of loosely connected romances. If you’re looking for a series that’s a little more light-hearted than some of the angstier offerings, the Argeneau books are for you.
Number of books: 27, with number 28 coming out later this year.
Where to start: A Quick Bite, whose vampire heroine faints at the sight of blood (told you these were funny) and gave the series its name.


Kate Daniels
Author: Ilona Andrews
Premise: After an apocalyptic event, magic comes in disruptive waves. One moment, technology works, the next it fails, and magic has to take its place. Kate Daniels is a mercenary in chaotic Atlanta, where magical creatures run amok.
Number of books: 10, with the final book coming out next month.
Where to start: Magic Bites, in which Kate gets caught between necromancers and shapechangers, both of which blame each other for a series of murders.


Author: Nalini Singh
Premise: Even if you don’t read romance, you’ve probably heard of Singh’s long-running series. The name comes from two races at odds, but frequently falling in Romeo and Juliet-esque love. The Psy rule the world with their frightening psychic powers, and disdain all emotion. Their rivals are the changelings, shape shifters who live in close family units.
Number of books: 17 so far.
Where to start: Slave to Sensation—a love story between Psy Sascha, who has to hide her emotions from the rest of her race, and panther shifter Lucas that blooms while their respective peoples are on the verge of war.

You know what improves most things? Kissing. And if you, dear Private Eye July reader, would like your mysteries and thrillers to be improved by kissing, romantic suspense is here for you.

Vanessa Kelly’s Clan Kendrick series continues this summer with The Highlander’s Irish Bride. After a wild youth, Grant Kendrick has become an upright citizen and successful businessman. But when he takes on the task of escorting the rebellious, irrepressible Kathleen Calvert through the Scottish countryside, Grant increasingly finds that his buttoned-up reserve is no match for Kathleen’s adventurous spirit.

The Highlander’s Irish Bride will be available from Zebra on July 27, but you can read Grant and Kathleen’s first meeting below!

The set-up: Visitors have arrived at Kendrick House in Glasgow, and Grant Kendrick is returning home from his trading offices to meet several new guests.

Grant forced himself to remain calm. Most Kendricks tended to yell when frustrated, but Grant always made a point of doing the opposite. “Now, Angus—”

The old man started up the steps. “Och, fine. Ye can sit in a corner and be yer usual gloomy self. Not that the bonny lass will have time for the likes of ye, anyway. She’ll be too busy keepin’ her wee sister in line. That one’s waitin’ to pop off like a bottle rocket, I reckon.”

“Good God, just how many people did the duchess bring with her?”

“Including the maid and the grooms?”

“You’re incredibly irritating.” Grant rapped on the door, ignoring his grandfather’s chuckle.

Will, the under-butler, answered. “Good evening, Mr. Grant. I hope you had a productive day.”

“I did, until a lunatic Highlander forced his way into my office.”

Will didn’t bat an eyelash. “The family and guests are beginning to gather in the drawing room, sir, but you and Mr. MacDonald have time to change.”

“Thank you. I’ll just be . . .”

The words died on his tongue as he caught sight of a young woman floating down the staircase. He blinked, and then blinked again.

Grant was used to living with beautiful women. His sisters-in-law were all stunners, the sort that stopped men dead in their tracks.

This girl, though? She was just a wee dab of a thing. If lost in thought, a man might pass her on the street and never notice. But with a closer look, there was something . . . something fey about her, as if she’d just stepped out of a fairy ring in a deep Highland glen.

That impression grew stronger as she reached the bottom of the stairs, her skirts seeming to drift on a mountain breeze. The gown was eccentric and charming, a confection of pink silk and white lace that skimmed over her figure. An extraordinary number of gold spangled ribbons encircled her slender waist and cascaded down the front of the gown, some gently flaring as she came toward them. As she passed under the huge chandelier of the center hall, she seemed to shimmer, as if a thousand tiny stars were embedded in the fabric of her gown.

You’re daft, man.

Girls didn’t shimmer or float, or any other stupid image his brain kicked out.

She was very bonny, just as his grandfather had said. With wide-set, pewter-gray eyes, narrow cheekbones, and a sharp little chin, her face looked more elfin than human.

Except for her mouth, which was definitely human and very lush, with a Cupid’s bow curve and a full lower lip. Set against her ethereal features, it made for an intriguing contrast.

Grant liked intriguing. He decided he liked pink gowns and spangled ribbons, too.

The young woman drifted to a halt a few feet away, her mouth tilted in a crooked half smile, as if unsure of her reception.

“You’re starin’, laddie,” Angus whispered.

Of course, what his grandfather considered a whisper could be heard half a block away.

Stop acting like a dolt.

He dredged up a smile. “I take it this is one of our guests. Perhaps you could introduce me, Grandda.”

“That would be preferable to us staring at each other like boobies,” the young lady responded.

The vinegary reply was offset by her light voice and an appealing trace of a brogue—not Scottish, but Irish. That was also intriguing.

After a fraught pause, Grant nudged his grandfather. “Angus?”

“Och, I’m forgettin’ my manners. Happens all the time, ye ken.”

When the girl smiled—a real smile, this time—Grant almost forgot his own name.

“Lady Arnprior warned me that you didn’t have any manners,” she said to Angus. “So I shouldn’t mind if you say something outrageous.”

Good God.

Angus gave her a wink. “I’ll be havin’ a wee chat with her ladyship, defamin’ me like that.”

The girl laughed. “Oh, drat. Now I’ve got us both in trouble, haven’t I?”

“Nothin’ we can’t get out of together, lass. Just follow my lead.”

She dipped him a saucy little curtsy. “I will be sure to do so, Mr. MacDonald.”

“A-hem,” Grant said.

Angus gave a fake start. “I almost forgot about ye. Miss Kathleen Calvert, allow me to introduce my grandson, Grant Kendrick.”

Grant bowed. “Miss Calvert, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Welcome to Kendrick House.”

“Thank you, sir.” She tilted her head back, studying him with a thoughtful frown. “I thought Lord Arnprior was tall, but you’re almost a giant. It’s all the clean living, I suppose, not to mention the log tossing. I’ve been told that Scots are fond of log tossing. By your size, I would say you do quite a lot of it.”

Grant’s mind blanked for a moment. “Er, is that a question?”

Miss Calvert studied him for a moment before letting out a sigh, as if disappointed. “I suppose we should go in. The others are waiting."

When she calmly walked off toward the drawing room, Grant turned to his grandfather. “What just happened?”

“Ye got rolled up, son, that’s what happened. Ye’ll have to do better than that.”

“Do better at having bizarre conversations? That’s your forte, not mine.”

Angus snorted. “At least my conversations don’t bore young lassies to death.”

With that annoying and probably truthful bon mot, his grandfather beetled over to the stairs, heading up to the family apartments.

Grant blew out a frustrated breath, then looked at Will. “Is it just me, or is my entire family insane?”

“Dinner in thirty minutes, sir,” the young man politely responded.

Shaking his head, Grant stalked up the stairs.

Read an exclusive excerpt of Vanessa Kell’s next historical romance, The Highlander’s Irish Bride!

We're delighted to reveal the stunning covers of not one but two historical romances! First up is A Yuletide Kiss, a collection of Regency Christmas romances from Madeline Hunter, Sabrina Jeffries and Mary Jo Putney that all take place at the same country inn. 

Here's the official synopsis of A Yuletide Kiss from its publisher, Kensington Books:  

The reigning queens of Regency Romance return with another delightful Christmas collection of three sparkling holiday romances, as stranded travelers find merriment, mistletoe and holiday romance waiting at a quaint country inn . . .

Jenna Waverly has closed her inn, anticipating a blissfully quiet Christmas, until a snowstorm brings the first of several strangers to her property. Lucas Avonwood, as charming as he is secretive, is on a mission to track down a scoundrel, but the inn’s lovely owner is giving him a more compelling reason to stay . . .

When Flora Younger first met Konrad Juncker, she thought she’d found her match, only to have her hopes dashed. Konrad is now a famous playwright whose plays Flora has secretly panned in reviews. But a chance meeting in a secluded inn may help them rewrite this star-crossed romance . . .

Kate McLeod is shocked to find that her fellow guest in the snowbound inn is the dashing soldier who may or may not be her husband. Daniel Faringdon barely remembers that long-ago night when he rescued her from disaster, but the desire they discover now will be impossible to forget, or to ignore . . .

A Yuletide Kiss will be available on September 28, 2021, which gives you plenty of time to pick up a copy from your local bookstore or library before Christmas! But while you wait, feast your eyes on the gorgeous cover below, which was designed by Alan Ayers. 

Also coming from Kensington Books this fall is Mary Jo Putney's Once a Laird, the sixth book in her Rogues Redeemed series. Here's the official synopsis: 

He yearns to escape his past . . .

After the death of his fiancée, Kai Ramsey left Scotland to roam distant lands. He has searched ancient ruins, collected priceless antiquities and escaped certain death after being imprisoned as a spy during the Napoleonic War. Ramsay has lived on the edge of danger for years—but everything changes the day a letter arrives for him from Scotland . . .

She’s determined to protect her future . . .

Signy Matheson has dedicated her life to the people of Scotland’s remote Thorsay Islands. With a fiery spirit and agile mind, she is a faithful ally to the aging laird. But now their leader is near death, and Signy must summon the laird's successor at once. It’s time for Kai Ramsey to come home . . .

Together, they discover ancient treasures and disturbing attraction . . .

When Ramsay returns to Thorsay, he’s shocked to find that Signy has blossomed into an alluring beauty and a force to be reckoned with. Their complicated past interferes with their unspoken desire as they work together for their people—until a wild storm sparks first passion, then unexpected danger when a treasure trove left by their ancestors comes to light . . .

You'll be able to experience Ramsay and Signy's love story on October 26, 2021, when Once a Laird is available everywhere! To tide you over, here's the beautiful cover designed by Jon Paul. 

We're delighted to reveal the stunning covers of not one but two historical romances!

Whether you want to sink in to a contemplative, magical fantasy world or be blown away by an action-packed sci-fi extravaganza, an entire galaxy of wonderful SFF books awaits you in 2021.

Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor | January 19

The visionary author behind Who Fears Death and the Binti series returns to the novella format (for which she’s previously won both a Nebula and a Hugo award) in this tale of a young girl who gains terrifying powers after encountering a mysterious object that fell from the sky.

Beneath the Keep by Erika Johansen
Dutton | February 2

Johansen wrapped up her acclaimed Tearling trilogy in 2016, but it turns out there were more stories to tell. Her prequel novel, Beneath the Keep, will reveal the backstories of some of Johansen’s most beloved characters and explore the origins of the prophecy that kick-started the events of the original series.

Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell
Tor | February 2

SFF’s embrace of romance tropes in the last couple of years has been an absolute delight, and comparisons to Red, White & Royal Blue have many readers eagerly awaiting Maxwell’s debut, in which an imperial prince enters into an arranged marriage with the ruler of one of the empire’s vassal planets. Cue conspiracies, intrigue and maybe true love?

The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec
Ace | February 9

Circe but make it Norse? This evocative debut centers on a minor character from Norse mythology: Angrboda, a witch who bore three powerful children with the trickster god, Loki. In Gornichec’s hands, Angrboda’s story becomes a meditation on fate, love and defiance.

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey
Tor | February 16

The ever-inventive Gailey switches gears yet again, going from the magic-school-meets-murder-investigation fun of Magic for Liars to The Echo Wife, which by all accounts reads like someone spliced “Orphan Black” with Gone Girl. It sounds too good to be true, but Gailey hasn’t written a bad book yet.

A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas
Bloomsbury | February 16

YA megastar Maas already moved into adult SFF with last year’s House of Earth and Blood, and the second arc of her insanely popular A Court of Thorns and Roses series will be categorized as adult as well. A Court of Silver Flames will also change protagonists, shifting the story’s focus from Feyre Archeron to her cold, frighteningly powerful sister, Nesta.

The Councillor by E.J. Beaton
DAW | March 2

The word that keeps coming up to describe this book is “Machiavellian,” which is really all we need to hear. This debut will follow Lysande, a scholar appointed Councillor after the queen of Elira dies mysteriously. She’s tasked with choosing the new ruler, but Lysande also suspects that the previous queen was murdered.

A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine
Tor | March 2

Martine’s A Memory Called Empire was that wonderful, rare thing: a highly ambitious, very complicated sci-fi novel that fulfilled reader expectations and then some. The next installment in the saga has a killer hook: an alien armada is hovering on the edge of the empire, but no one can communicate with it and no one knows why it’s there.

The Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst
Harper Voyager | March 9

SFF is a world of sprawling, multibook sagas more often than not, which makes Durst’s recent run of standalone novels all the more refreshing. The Bone Maker looks like it’s going to fit right in with the current wave of gothic genre novels; it’s set in a world where human bones can be used, illegally, for magic. 

Black Water Sister by Zen Cho
Ace | May 11

The author of the beloved Regency-era fantasy Sorcerer to the Crown will now lend her magical touch to this Malaysian-set saga of Jess, a woman drawn into her grandmother’s vendetta against a gang boss. Oh, and Jess' grandmother is dead, her ghost speaks to Jess, and she was a medium for a powerful deity that might take control of Jess’ body for good.

A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark | May 11

Clark has previously published a short story and a novella set in an otherworldly, alternate-reality Cairo and will return there for his fantasy novel debut. A Master of Djinn will introduce a whole new audience to Special Investigator Fatma el-Sha’arawi, whose department solves crimes that affect both the magical and mortal populations of the city.

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo | June 1

The best character in The Great Gatsby is Daisy’s friend Jordan Baker, full stop—we will not be taking questions at this time. So we truly cannot wait for Vo’s first novel, a magical take on the Jazz Age classic that reimagines Jordan as an Asian American immigrant and magic user.

The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
Orbit | June 10

Suri’s lovely Books of Ambha duology won rave reviews, and this start to an epic fantasy series about an imprisoned princess and a maid who’s secretly a powerful priestess might be her breakout.

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik
Del Rey | June 29

After two acclaimed, luminous standalone fantasies inspired by classic fairy tales, Novik went in the completely opposite direction and wrote A Deadly Education, a wildly dark take on the magical school trope in which the students are pretty much in mortal danger the entire time. In The Last Graduate, series protagonist El and her classmates will face the Scholomance’s deadly final ritual.

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
Tor | July 20

This historical fantasy debut will reimagine the founding of China’s Ming dynasty, creating an alternate timeline in which the founder of the dynasty, Zhu Chongba, died while still a child and his sister stole his identity.

The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig
Del Rey | July 20

Wendig’s follow-up to 2019’s highly acclaimed Wanderers is another doorstop of a book, but this time it's set in the realm of supernatural horror rather than sci-fi. Think haunted houses, creepy sculptures and even creepier little children.

Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune
Tor | September 21

It is incredibly hard to write whimsy without tipping over into saccharine, but Klune makes it look effortless. His next book, after last year’s wonderful The House in the Cerulean Sea, will follow Wallace, a man who dies, refuses to cross over into the afterlife and falls in love with Hugo, who runs a tea shop when he’s not ferrying souls to the great beyond.

Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee
Orbit | November 30

Lee’s absolutely awesome series following the clans of the island nation of Kekon, who use magical jade to enhance their bodies and fight wars among one another, will come to an end this September. So you have plenty of time to go back and read the first two books in the series, Jade City and Jade War.


ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Discover all of BookPage’s most anticipated books of 2021.

Whether you want to sink in to a contemplative, magical fantasy world or be blown away by an action-packed sci-fi extravaganza, an entire galaxy of wonderful SFF books awaits you in 2021.

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