The best fantasy books where the romance is as significant as the world-building

Why am I passionate about this?

As a reader, I have always been partial to fantasy—the sweeping worlds, the heroics, the adventures, and the characters. I grew up immersed in fantasy, and as I began my writing journey, I remained immersed in it. I love being transported to another world and escaping the mundane of life, exchanging it, if only briefly, for a life of excitement and magic. I am a fantasy romance writer at heart, and my writing personifies my love affair with both fantasy and romance. To me, romance is just as tantalizing as world-building. My books consist of powerful romances that weave perfectly with the magical world in which they bloom.


I wrote...

Adrift

By J.L. Jackola,

Book cover of Adrift

What is my book about?

Adrift is the sixth book in my Unbound Prophecy series. The series follows Violissa and Sinow, two powerful immortals with opposing powers. This is an enemies-to-lovers saga. Sinow is a Dark magic prince ascending to his throne while Violissa, a Light magic princess, is ascending to hers.

The two have been tied by a prophecy written by the Fates long before they were born. One that says they will marry and unite their realms which have been at war for eons. Violissa, however, is not ready to marry and convinces Sinow to wait. The Fates, seeing this as a blight, punish them. Each book is a punishment the two must face from the Fates, with Adrift being the final test of their obedience and love.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Wizard's First Rule

J.L. Jackola Why did I love this book?

Richard and Kahlan—a match made in fantasy and perfected in adversity.

If there is one book where the romance kept me reading as much as the world-building, it was each book in The Sword of Truth Series and the Richard and Kahlan novels that followed the series.

Wizard’s First Rule pairs the characters after unexpected circumstances. Danger and adventure face them as they venture through a fantasy world that is jaw-dropping in its breadth. As their journey progresses, the challenges they face become more daunting, and with them, the romance blossoms until we can’t imagine Richard without Kahlan by his side.

Terry Goodkind does a phenomenal job pulling our heartstrings, making us gasp and sometimes cringe as the couple’s relationship progresses. This love story is not for the faint of heart, but it is definitely worth the investment.

By Terry Goodkind,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Wizard's First Rule as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A beloved fantasy classic and the beginning of one of the most breathtaking adventure stories of all time

One man, Richard Cypher, holds the key to the fate of three nations and of humanity. But until he learns the Wizard's First Rule his chances of succeeding in his task are slim. And his biggest problem is admitting that magic exists at all ...

A novel of incomparable scope and brimming with atmospheric detail: in a world where heart hounds stalk the boundaries for unwary human prey, blood-sucking flies hunt on behalf of their underworld masters, and where artists can draw…


Book cover of Starcrossed

J.L. Jackola Why did I love this book?

I read a mix of adult fantasy and YA fantasy, and the Goddess series from Josephine Angelini is by far my favorite in the YA fantasy genre.

Set in the modern day, Starcrossed is a Greek mythology-inspired story involving descendants of the gods, or demi-gods. Angelini weaves a fantasy tale of Scion Houses, gods, and fated love that draws you in from the opening of the book.  

The romance between Helen and Lucas is a stormy one. They begin as enemies, then fight an undeniable attraction to one another while facing epic obstacles that repeatedly separate them. The balance between fantasy and romance is perfection.

Angelini leads us through the Underworld and back, leaves us on the edge of our seats, and has us rooting for Helen and Lucas to break the cycle that haunts their houses.

By Josephine Angelini,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Starcrossed as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

When shy, awkward Helen Hamilton sees Lucas Delos for the first time she thinks two things: the first, that he is the most ridiculously beautiful boy she has seen in her life; the second, that she wants to kill him with her bare hands.

With an ancient curse making them loathe one another, Lucas and Helen have to keep their distance. But sometimes love is stronger than hate, and not even the gods themselves can prevent what will happen . . .

The first book in Josephine Angelini's thrilling series, Starcrossed is a passionate love story that began thousands of…


Book cover of Splintered

J.L. Jackola Why did I love this book?

Splintered is an Alice in Wonderland-based story.

I don’t typically read fairytale-inspired books, but this one was so beautifully crafted that I couldn’t put it down. The fantasy world-building is reminiscent of a Tim Burton film with vivid imagery and characters.

Alyssa is the great-great-great granddaughter of Alice. She worries her fate will leave her in an institution like others in her family until she finds herself in Wonderland.

This series has two romances—one between Alyssa and Jeb, and one between Alyssa and Morpheus. Jeb is her love in the human world, but Morpheus offers his own temptation. As the series progresses, she is torn between the two men and their two worlds, both feeding different sides of her.

There is no shortage of fantasy creatures and happenings in this series, nor is there a shortage of romantic sparks.

By A. G. Howard,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Splintered as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

A descendant of Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, 16-year-old Alyssa Gardner fears she is mentally ill like her mother and predecessors until she discovers that Wonderland is real and, if she passes a series of tests to fix Alice's mistakes, she may be able to save her family from their age-old curse.


Book cover of Darling, There are Wolves in the Woods

J.L. Jackola Why did I love this book?

A more recent read for me was The Wicked Woods Chronicles by Indie author L. V. Russell.

Russell weaves a tale of faeries and love in this dark fantasy that is wickedly satisfying. Teya stumbles into the forest of the faerie and finds herself entangled with creatures ranging from monstrous to beautiful.

When she meets Laphaniel, it is not love at first sight, but as her journey into the land of the faeries continues, love blooms in unexpected ways. This love story is set in a world that is mystical and enchanting while horrifying at the same time.

The romance is prevalent throughout the series, beckoning us to read further to discover Teya and Laphaniel’s fate.

By L V Russell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Darling, There are Wolves in the Woods as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The woods are dark and wicked,
and perhaps some things would be better off staying lost…

Teya Jenkins is ten years old when her sister is taken.
Niven is never found, because no one knows where to look.
No one but Teya that is, who heard the whispers of the trees
and saw the beautiful creatures that dwelled in the shadows.

It is only after another tragedy, years later, that Teya finally dares
to enter the forest that haunts her dreams, determined to bring home
her sister and mend the fractured remains of her family.

Beneath the whispering oaks, she…


Book cover of Mirror Sight

J.L. Jackola Why did I love this book?

I must note that I read Mirror Sight almost ten years ago and never had a chance to complete the series. The final books are still on my TBR.

Even though I’ll need to re-read the series to re-immerse myself, the romance and world-building of this fifth book stayed with me. Through the first books, Karigan loves the king, Zachary, from afar. Bound to the crown, Zachary must marry royalty, and there is no possibility of anything more between them than Rider and King. 

In Mirror Sight, circumstances rip Karigan from her life and thrust her into the future, where she meets and falls in love with Cade. The love affair between the two is gripping, and one I wanted to continue not just for Karigan, who was finally getting the love she deserved, but for Cade as well.

The ending of this book was gut-wrenching, and at one point, I even remember dropping it and gasping in reaction. Regardless, for true fantasy romance lovers, it’s worth reading and navigating the waters with these star-crossed lovers.

By Kristen Britain,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mirror Sight as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Magic, danger, and adventure abound for messenger Karigan G'ladheon in the fifth book in Kristen Britain's New York Times-bestselling Green Rider fantasy series

Karigan G'ladheon is a Green Rider-a seasoned member of the elite messenger corps of King Zachary of Sacoridia. King Zachary sends Karigan and a contingent of Sacoridians beyond the edges of his nation, into the mysterious Blackveil Forest, which has been tainted with dark magic by a twisted immortal spirit named Mornhavon the Black.

In a magical confrontation against Mornhavon, Karigan is jolted out of Blackveil Forest and wakes in darkness. She's lying on smooth, cold stone,…


You might also like...

A School for Unusual Girls

By Kathleen Baldwin,

Book cover of A School for Unusual Girls

Kathleen Baldwin Author Of Sanctuary for Seers: A Stranje House Novel

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Loves God Mother to Many Wilderness Adventurer History Enthusiast

Kathleen's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

A spy school for girls amidst Jane Austen’s high society.

Daughters of the Beau Monde who don’t fit London society’s strict mold are banished to Stranje House, where the headmistress trains these unusually gifted girls to enter the dangerous world of spies in the Napoleonic wars. #1 NYT bestselling author Meg Cabot calls this exciting historical series "completely original and totally engrossing."

A School for Unusual Girls

By Kathleen Baldwin,

What is this book about?

A School for Unusual Girls is the first captivating installment in the Stranje House series for young adults by award-winning author Kathleen Baldwin. #1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot calls this romantic Regency adventure "completely original and totally engrossing."

It's 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England's dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don't fit high society's constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in curses, wizards, and Greek mythology?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about curses, wizards, and Greek mythology.

Curses Explore 74 books about curses
Wizards Explore 96 books about wizards
Greek Mythology Explore 71 books about Greek mythology