Science fiction is a terrific genre for exploring concepts and ideas that may change our lives. Romance is a terrific genre for exploring our inner, emotional selves and our quest for community. SF is great at “what if” and romance is great at creating memorable characters we fall in love with.
Of course, these are generalizations with individual exceptions, but the point is that a meld of these genres should be ideal, because where each one can be weak, the other is strong.
Unfortunately, it can be hard to convince SF readers to read romance, and many romance readers avoid SF. However, many classic science fiction books have strong romance concepts built in, from Robert Heinlein’s Friday, to Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern, and, more recently, Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series, particularly Cordelia’s Honor and A Civil Campaign. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Liaden Universe books often read like an amazing blend of Star Trek and Regency romance.
Those writing in the “SF Romance” genre can have a difficult time marketing their work thanks to this distrust at both ends of the spectrum, but there are ways to find great examples of these types of stories. First, there’s The Galaxy Express, the Science Fiction Romance Brigade, and SF Romance Station, not to mention the winners of the Galaxy Awards, announced here on the blog in February.
All of these sites provide reviews and excepts to help readers decide on books.
In the spirit of offering specific recommendations, I read over 20 SF Romance books and, depending on your taste, can recommend these titles, divided by category.
The works of Linnea Sinclair
Especially the award-winning Gabriel’s Ghost, Hope’s Folly, and Finder Keepers, among others. Pacing like Heinlein, characters to love, and worldbuilding equal to SF. The gold standard for SF Romance. SF/Romance in equal measure.
Christie Meierz (The Fall, Daughters of Suralia, and Farryn’s War)
A series based on a newly discovered planet that is forced to integrate into the wider world. The latest book, Farryn’s War, features an anti-hero struggling to survive after he’s lost power and spans several worlds, with enough complicated world building to satisfy any SF reader. SF more than romance.
Veronica Scott (Wreck of the Nebula Dream, Star Cruise: Marooned)
Great SF adventures, with the first dealing with a Titanic-style disaster. The author is a winner of the NASA Exceptional Service Medal. (Though not for her fiction.) SF/Romance equally.
Keir, by Pippa Jay
A intriguing mix of a medieval world that believes in demons with technology that allows at least one person to cross time and space. In some ways, it’s a romantic version of Doctor Who, in the best way. SF/Romance equally.
Overload Flux, by Carol Van Natta
A gritty space-based murder mystery, as a night-guard who is more than she seems is thrown into a conspiracy involving Big Pharma and must partner with a mysterious investigator who has his own mental talents. SF more than romance.
Saronna’s Gift, by Carmen Webster Buxton
An intimate story of a woman marginalized on her homeworld, where it’s still permissible for fathers to sell their daughters. This story reminded me of some classic McCaffrey short stories in which women had to push past their social programming to become their own best self. Romance more than SF.
Dark Horse, by Michelle Diener
An intense tale of an escapee, Rose McKenzie, who’s aided by an artificial intelligence that she’s not certain she can trust because he’s put her in the middle of the war, and a rescuer who has no idea what to do with either of them. SF/Romance equally.
My Name is A’yen, by Rachel Leigh Smith
An intensely emotional tale of A’yen, a slave who’d fallen in love with his master, was trained in his craft, lost everything, and is trying to find his way back to trusting life, people, and one person in particular who may be the key to his freedom. Romance more than SF.
Her Cyborg Awakes, by Melissa Aires
A young woman is given over by her planet as tribute to a galactic warlord. She escapes destruction from a coup due the help of her Cyborg, who’s slowly throwing off his programming to remember his human life. Romance more than SF.
Alien Abduction Stories
Captive, by K.M. Fawcett
This book is like a gender-flipped John Carter, with Addy Dawson being transported to a far away world where aliens use humans for sport and entertainment, and she must escape with the help of a longtime slave gladiator across a hostile world. SF more than romance, a great adventure story.
Unchained Memory, by Donna S. Frelick
An unusual story in that it begins on Earth and explores the ramifications of the main characters missing hours, which ended in a tragedy that haunts her for years. Very X-Files-like, SF/thriller and romance.
Future Earth Stories
Bannockburn Binding, by Tracy Cooper-Posey
Vampires, time travel, and Scottish romance should be an uneasy mix, but the ‘future vampires traveling to the distant past’ makes for a great contrast, and involves a romance that spans centuries. It’s also a menage story where the trio needs to find a happy ending. Romance more than SF.
After the Garden, by Michelle Brown and Kit Foster
A past life and lost memories drive a young woman to leave a safe haven in this dystopian future and discover not only answers but others like her who are a threat to the new powers in this world. SF more than romance.
The Felig Chronicles, by P.J. Dean
Aliens have invaded the world, leaving one woman to take care of her elderly aging mother in the middle of a dystopian world. When they take away her mother, Tina is determined to find help to get her back. An intense story, with a great deal of loss but an eventually satisfying ending. Romance more than SF.
Removed, by S.J. Pagonas
A dystopian future that uses Japanese culture (reminding me of my son’s favorite manga stories) in which a young woman, ordered to spy in her city, ends up overcoming all the odds.
Fabric of Reality, by Benjamin Kelly
A future Earth story in which women are commodities to be sold off to the rich, and a young woman’s escape from that fate. Romance more than SF.
What SF romances do you recommend?