My favorite saying as Spring begins to bloom is “Winter is Coming.” That’s because the small-screen Game of Thrones returns to television for its sixth season on Sunday, April 24th. Known for gory, no-holds-barred battle scenes as characters vie for the Iron Throne, there’s also a ton of romance to be found in both the television and book versions of the series—however short-lived those rendezvous might be. (I miss you, Ygritte!) Looking for a book to grip your heart as tightly as the series that has captured millions of viewers? Check out the list below.
Kushiel’s Dart, by Jacqueline Carey
What do many of the characters on Game of Thrones have in common? They’ve been chosen; tasked with a destiny to fulfill or a prophecy to bring to life before their enemies can seize the throne instead. Phedre, the main character of Jacqueline Carey’s scintillating Kushiel’s Dart, has also been chosen. She has been brought up in service to the angel Naamah, living as a courtesan, trapped until she can repay her debt to her owners. But Phedre is no ordinary courtesan: she has been marked by a blood red spot on her eye, blessed (or cursed) to experience pain as pleasure. When a mysterious noble named Anafiel Delaunay purchases her bond from the Night Court, she is inducted into a world of conspiracy, power, and lust beyond her imagination. Tasked with using her talent to spy on the hearts and minds of dangerous men and women, Phedre soon realizes that the security of her kingdom may not lie in the wars waged by kings and queens, but in the kiss of a simple indentured servant. The first book in the Kushiel’s Universe series has all the eroticism of a tantalizing romance—with the conflict and worldbuilding of an epic fantasy.
The White Queen, by Philippa Gregory
Did you know that George R.R. Martin based A Song of Ice and Fire on the War of the Roses, a real series of wars fought for the English throne by two powerful families, the Yorks and the Lancasters? Whether you’re Team Stark or Team Lannister (coincidence how similar those two names sound to the original English families? I think not!), you should definitely read The White Queen by Philippa Gregory. When Elizabeth Woodville is widowed, her family is shamed into obscurity for supporting the Lancaster claim to the throne. But Elizabeth is not content to remain lost to the history books; her family comes from a long line of myth-weavers and sorceresses, including her mother, who convinces Elizabeth that she will rise again in status. Which she does, when she wins the heart of King Edward IV, the York claimant to the English throne—the man her first husband died trying to defeat. Elizabeth and Edward fall in love and marry in secret, but soon her ambitions become weighted with the obligations and fears of a Queen in a kingdom constantly on the brink of war. Passionate, mysterious and with a hint of magic, Phillipa Gregory’s The White Queen will delight any Game of Thrones fan who wants the women to win it all.
Dragon Bound, by Thea Harrison
Speaking of women who should win it all, Game of Thrones fans have been waiting for Daenerys Targaryen to fly her dragons across the narrow sea and conquer Westeros—but also, since her first husband Drogo died, she hasn’t really had any romance. (To be fair, she’s had a lot of other things on her mind, such as, you know, her untamable dragons and also reclaiming the Iron Throne.) But if Dany happens to start an OKCupid profile looking for her next boyfriend, she should consider Dragos Cuelebre, the love interest in Thea Harrison’s Elder Races series. A dragon shifter, Dragos is the ultimate paranormal hero: possessive, powerful, and passionate. The object of all these things is his mate, Pia, whom he meets in the first book, Dragon Bound.
Dragon Bound begins with Pia, a half-human half-wyr living under the radar and trying to stay out of trouble. That is, until she is blackmailed into stealing a precious relic from a powerful dragon—and when she gets caught, in exchange for her life, Dragos claims her as his. The steamy scenes in this book will make the time between Game of Thrones episodes fly by! (Get it? Fly, because dragons.)
Paperback $15.50 | $17.00
The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, by A.N. Roquelaire
The relationships on Game of Thrones—even the non-romantic ones—are often charged with sexual energy. That’s because most relationships are about power: who has it, who fears losing it, who seeks it. The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by A.N. Roquelaure (aka Anne Rice, a venerable force in the romance and fantasy genres) is a retelling of a classic fairy tale that we all know and love—but instead of waking to a happily ever after, Beauty wakes to find herself the pawn in an illicit game. A Dominant Prince has made her his slave and decrees that he is taking her back to his kingdom as payment for peace. This read is heavy on the BDSM and not for the faint of heart, as Roquelaure focuses less on describing the beautiful fantasy world and more on describing the devious activities Beauty and her Prince participate in. Taught the art of servitude by using her flesh as a canvas for her Prince’s contentment, Beauty is brought from innocence to awakening. As you read, I bet you will be, too.
Hardcover $35.99 | $40.00
Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
Last, but certainly not least, I recommend Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, a romantic adventure of a woman caught between time and space—and the love of two men. When Claire Randall reunites with her soldier husband following a long separation during World War II, they visit the Scottish Highlands on a trip, both hoping to make up for lost time. Instead, the magical stones of Craigh na Dun cause Claire to travel back through time to the Highlands of the 1700’s—a time of warring clans and tension with the English crown. When she meets Jamie Fraser, a Scots soldier with a bounty on his head, she does not expect to fall in love…and yet over time, her desperation to return to her own time transforms into a certainty that she belongs nowhere else but in Jamie’s arms. Game of Thrones fans will appreciate the depth of historical detail, hint of magic, and breakneck pace in Gabaldon’s series—and when you’re done with all the books and Game of Thrones season 6 ends, there’s another gorgeous TV series you can get hooked on!