I love romance for the same reasons I love other genres: intriguing characters with problems, who need others’ help to find solutions.  In romance, the main romantic couple are generally the intriguing characters, and they help each other to solve the problem, whether it’s loneliness or something more complex, like thwarting that evil old uncle who’s trying to divert your inheritance to his unsavory pals.  In fantasy, there may be a couple of main characters, or there may be a larger group with more complex interrelationships.

This post is meant to provide a beginner’s guide for romance readers who’ve wanted to try fantasy but were feeling daunted by all that’s available; hopefully, those who are fantasy readers already might find something new, though I’m focusing on older, ‘classic’ books that one might not come across in casual browsing.

If you’re in search of epic fantasy, Kate Elliott has a couple of series that should appeal. Beginning with Cold Magic [2010], she created a world in which Carthage never fell, with consequent huge differences for Europe and North and South America; there’s an “opposites attract” romance as well, though not until the second volume.

An older series of Elliott’s, beginning with Jaran [1992], is actually science fiction but has a strongly fantasy feel, as most of it takes place on an isolated planet with limited technology and lots of excellent horses. The romance in the Jaran series might be especially appealing to readers of urban fantasy series, as the initial pair takes a while to end up together, and there are several additional romances between secondary characters.

Prolific author C. J. Cherryh’s Morgaine saga, which begins with Gate of Ivrel [Not available digitally as a single title – part of the series only] [1976] is also fantasy-appearing science fiction with a powerful, enigmatic heroine and a humble, loyal warrior sworn to protect her unto death. Their relationship intensifies very, very gradually until the romance is finally consummated. It’s particularly recommended if you like medieval romances.

Many romance readers already love the addictive work of Lois McMaster Bujold, either her long-running and devourable Vorkosigan science fiction series, or her more recent fantasy series, Chalion [2001] and The Sharing Knife [2006]. Bujold is known for her large casts of likeable characters who face seemingly unsurmountable challenges…until they conquer those challenges in ways you would not expect. Her series are especially fun because they reward re-reading.

Barbara Hambly primarily writes mystery these days, but is known for her fantasy as well, and is another author with a host of appealing characters. She tends to write about outsiders who discover their own strength and make families for themselves; most of her novels also have romantic elements. Vampire fans might be intrigued by her James Asher series, which focuses on a Victorian vampire hunter, his wife, and the vampire with whom they have an ambiguous relationship. That series begins with Those Who Hunt the Night [1988]. Her most romantic fantasy series is The Windrose Chronicles, set in the 1980s with a female computer programmer accidentally thrown into a fantasy world, where she meets a desperate, eccentric wizard on the run from authority. The Silent Tower [1986] is first in that series, and I confess it is my favorite of all her work.

Martha Wells seamlessly blends intriguing world-building with relatable characters, whether human or alien. Her recent Raksura series, beginning with The Cloud Roads [2011], features Moon, a winged creature separated from his own people as a child. When he’s found again, he lands in a political tangle when he’s chosen as a queen’s consort. Moon’s romantic relationship is only one part of a story about learning to make friends, fit in with a new culture, and defend one’s people from powerful invaders.

Finally, Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, beginning with His Majesty’s Dragon [2006], is tailor-made for Regency fans. This epic platonic bromance between a man and his dragon covers years of alternate history and several continents, and has been described as Pride and Prejudice meets dragons.” This series recently ended, so it’s a good time to get started!