The best fantasy books to break your heart with forbidden romance

Who am I?

I’ve always loved reading young adult fantasy books with forbidden romance and lush worldbuilding and classic fairytale elements like princesses, dancing, pretty clothes, and delicious food spreads. All these books offer fresh takes and twists, and tug at your heartstrings with the angst, the betrayals, the secrets, and the love. These are all immersive stories that transport you far away, to a different time, to a different land, which is exactly what you need sometimes to get away from this world and its craziness.


I wrote...

The Lady or the Lion

By Aamna Qureshi,

Book cover of The Lady or the Lion

What is my book about?

As crown princess of Marghazar, Durkhanai Miangul will do anything to protect her people and her land. When her grandfather, the Badshah, is blamed for a deadly assault on the summit of neighboring leaders, the tribes call for his head. To assuage cries for war, the Badshah opens Marghazar's gates to foreigners for the first time in centuries.

As Durkhanai races to solve who really orchestrated the attack, ambassadors from the neighboring tribal districts arrive at court, each with their own intentions. When a mysterious illness spreads through the villages and the imperialists push hard on her borders, Durkhanai must dig deep to become the queen her people need. To distract Durkhanai from it all is Asfandyar Afridi, the wry ambassador who tells her outright he is a spy, yet acts as though he is her friend—or maybe even something more.

The books I picked & why

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The Winner's Curse

By Marie Rutkoski,

Book cover of The Winner's Curse

Why this book?

Kestrel is a pampered society girl hoping for her father’s approval. While she doesn't know how to fight well, she can still protect herself with her wits. She is pretty and clever but also terribly lonely and a bit stifled in her life. She finds herself befriending and then falling in love with Arin, a man who is secretly plotting the demise of Kestrel’s people. The angst in this story is unparalleled, and coupled with gorgeous outfits, glittering ballrooms, and stunning prose, this book is bound to break your heart.


Cruel Beauty

By Rosamund Hodge,

Book cover of Cruel Beauty

Why this book?

Nyx will do anything to save her people, including marrying the terrible Ignifex, the evil ruler of her kingdom. But there is more to Ignifex than she initially imagined, and as Nyx falls in love with him, she fights to find a way to save both her people and her love. This book portrays such fun banter between Nyx and Ignifex and poses a truly difficult riddle that is bound to break your heart.


To Kill a Kingdom

By Alexandra Christo,

Book cover of To Kill a Kingdom

Why this book?

When Lira is banished by her mother, she will do anything to win back her mother’s favor, including killing Elian. She doesn’t expect them to become reluctant allies and friends, nor does she expect to fall in love with him against the backdrop of a story with high stakes, lush world-building, and action-packed sea adventures. With a siren princess and a human pirate prince who wishes to slay her, this book brings forth a forbidden romance that is bound to break your heart. 


The Wrath & the Dawn

By Renée Ahdieh,

Book cover of The Wrath & the Dawn

Why this book?

Shazi is a headstrong, stubborn girl who marries the ruthless caliph of her kingdom with the intention of killing him. She doesn’t expect to fall in love with him, which thwarts all of her plans. This book easily transports you to an Arabian caliphate with the gorgeous descriptions of setting, food, and clothes, and the relationship between Shazi and Khalid is wonderful to witness blossoming. This book keeps you at the edge of your seat and gives you an ending that is bound to break your heart.


These Violent Delights

By Chloe Gong,

Book cover of These Violent Delights

Why this book?

Juliette has just returned to Shanghai and there she is met with complicated politics, a strange mystery, and a forbidden romance she cannot forget. She is forced to work with her enemy, Roma, and their relationship goes from enemies to reluctant allies to friends to lovers and shifts back and forth in a truly angst-ridden novel. Juliette and Roma both are trying to solidify their standing as prince and princess of their gangs, but to do so might mean forsaking one another, the aftermath of which will break your heart. 


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in romantic love, murders, and China?

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Shadows Between Us, The Darkest Part of the Forest, and Lovely War if you like this list.