The best books with a perfect blend of fantasy/adventure/romance and characters who feel so real

Who am I?

I’ll admit I’m a terribly picky reader. My specific taste doesn’t seem to fit in one genre and is sometimes hard to nail down—literary prose with genre tropes, softly-integrated worldbuilding, adventure that leaves room for reflection, and a love story subplot that’s more mental than physical. I love anti-heroes and angst and stories that get a bit dark—but not too dark. When I find it, I’m hooked and obsessed, and I feel like I’m twelve years old again, reading late into the night with a flashlight under the covers. That exprience is what I’m always hunting for, and what I attempt to recreate in my own writing. 

I wrote...


By Kay Camden,

Book cover of Unquiet

What is my book about?

In Mick’s quiet Missouri town, strangers stand out—especially mysterious women who vandalize cars in broad daylight. It’s strange, but none of Mick’s business… until he notices the woman’s busted lip. The right thing to do is offer her a ride—which is how he ends up with her knife against his throat in his own apartment.

Waapikoona has nearly reached her quota of bodies to raise her sister from the dead. But she stalls killing Mick, sensing another regret she’ll have to carry in her already dark world. She’s crossed the circle of time, made a pact with a powerful underworld demon, and angered the thunderbirds. Mick can’t escape his new calling: stop Waapikoona and the unquiet she’s dragged into his town.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

The Scribe: Irin Chronicles Book One

By Elizabeth Hunter,

Book cover of The Scribe: Irin Chronicles Book One

Why this book?

I love books that start in the world we know and gently transport the reader into the supernatural. The magic in The Scribe is ancient and the war is underground, but everything feels so natural and real. And how the hero and heroine interact—the reluctance, the tension, the life-or-death alliance. This isn’t instalove, it’s the inescapable love that connects them soul to soul. And when it’s not just the hero who’s haunted but also the heroine, there’s an added dimension to the story that feeds what I crave. The dialogue feels true to life, and the characters come alive on the page. The blend of these elements—fantasy, adventure, and romance—is perfect here, and how they play off one another is like magic.  

Song of Scarabaeus

By Sara Creasy,

Book cover of Song of Scarabaeus

Why this book?

Song of Scarabaeus is sci-fi, not fantasy, but it definitely has that perfect blend: just enough adventure, just enough sci-fi/fantasy, just enough of a love story. The relationship between the two characters, a scientist and her bodyguard, creates instant on-page tension. I can’t spoil why, but it’s an interesting life-and-death situation that kept me turning pages. With this captivating plot, great characterization, realistic dialogue, and expert worldbuilding, I wish I could erase my memory of this book and experience it all over again. 

The Gaslight Dogs

By Karin Lowachee,

Book cover of The Gaslight Dogs

Why this book?

The Gaslight Dogs is a powerful story with expert prose and characters that moved into my heart. Their troubles, their reluctant unions, how human and authentic they feel... despite at times not being very human at all... built such sympathy I had to take breaks from this book just to breathe. This is not a romance, but a different kind of human relationship—one of the most interesting I’ve ever read. The characters’ journey from the comfort of their known worlds into each other's moved me deeply. The blend of adventure in this very unique fantasy world, with these two amazing characters, makes this one of my favorite books of all time.

The Winter Witch

By Paula Brackston,

Book cover of The Winter Witch

Why this book?

A fan recommended this book to me, and after reading it I added it to my “Favorite Love Stories” list. It’s a slowly built love story integral to a larger plot, making this much more than a “will these two fall in love.” The characters feel like real people and the interesting historical setting and skillful prose pulled me in even more. It has all the pieces of the perfect blend, with an added gothic vibe that I loved.


By Pippa DaCosta,

Book cover of Betrayal

Why this book?

Unrelenting action and snappy dialogue made this book an instant fav. It contains some of the best things: betrayal, revenge, a mouthy and haunted anti-hero and heroine, spaceships, and sexual tension from page one. The way this book blends all those things—and yes, this is sci-fi, not fantasy—makes a wildly entertaining start to a perfect series. I’ve never loved characters and their banter more. This perfect team both hates and loves each other and won't stop getting up no matter how many times they're knocked down. Impossibly high stakes and a plot that pits hero against heroine until their alliance becomes the key to a universe-sized revolution. What an amazing book. I devoured the whole series and can’t wait for the finale. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in anti heros, witches, and extraterrestrial life?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about anti heros, witches, and extraterrestrial life.

Anti Heros Explore 59 books about anti heros
Witches Explore 85 books about witches
Extraterrestrial Life Explore 112 books about extraterrestrial life

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Brit, Grey, and The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever if you like this list.