Fantasy is the Little Black Dress of the genres. It goes with everything – science, romance, history, horror – and usually makes a good thing even better. I love writing in it, and combining it with other genres for the best effect.
The addition of fantasy elements to a romance has to be done carefully. They can’t be wallpaper, because readers expect good world building. And they have to be internally consistent. A land where bride abduction is common is unlikely to be one with a strongly matriarchal culture.
But when the fantasy part of a story is built up well, it intensifies the romance in several ways. For instance, only in fantasy (and science fiction) can the characters come from different species altogether. This can create insurmountable problems, since people can’t usually alter their biology even for those they love.
The classic examples are paranormal romances where one person is a vampire or werewolf, but anything’s possible along these lines. In my world of Eden, people from Iternum are infertile with anyone from other lands. So even though the law in Iternum can be cruel and arbitrary, its people don’t often leave, because there’s only one place in all of Eden where they can have children and put down roots.
Strange customs – which of course require or result in our main characters becoming involved – can be easier to buy in a fantasy land. Arranged marriages aren’t taken for granted in First World countries, but they might be the norm in a medieval land. Ditto for menages and BDSM. Although Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series isn’t romance, it’s a good example of this – the heroine is an anguisette, someone who derives sexual pleasure from pain.
Legalized prostitution is another way a created world can differ from ours. In many such worlds, prostitution is made far more respectable – the Companions of Firefly are gracious and well-educated geishas/courtesans.
In some, though, the profession might be even more despised. Alex, the heroine of my debut novel Before the Storm is a mare, a woman kept for the use of the Dagran nobility. As a result, she’s intelligent and strong as well as charming. But she’s held in contempt, because she’s owned by one man and loaned to others, and because those men know that any secrets she coaxes from them may be relayed to her owner.
What’s unusual here is de rigeur in Dagre, which is like Victorian England reflected in a fairground mirror – the kind which distorts images.
The background of a fantasy world can also intensify a romance. Set a love story in a contemporary town or city and it becomes familiar and accessible. But when it’s in a strange land, that lends the romance the allure of the exotic. A name alone can do this, if it’s evocative enough.
The name “Eden” always reminds me of the beautiful but doomed garden, even though it suggests romance too. There couldn’t be a better setting for Alex’s relationship with the first man who loves her despite her being a mare, and even though she knows they have no future together.
Magic can cause out-of-body experiences and sensory perceptions that deepen sex scenes as well. That’s why I love writing fantasy – it opens up possibilities, making worlds as wide as an imagination. Which is to say, limitless.
What novels have you enjoyed that combined fantasy and romance?
Bio: Marian Perera is the author of Before the Storm, a romantic fantasy where psychic magic and steam engines clash on the battlefield. When she’s not writing, she studies medical laboratory technology (one more year of college to go!).
She has a website and a blog where she discusses writing and publication. Comments always welcome!
Thanks to Marian I have a copy Before the Storm (e-book) to giveaway to one lucky winner. Here's what you need to do to enter:
- Leave a comment along with you email address. Also make sure to answer the question that Marian asks at the end of her post.
- Open to Everyone
- Winner will be announced on May 12th
Before the Storm -- Out Now
By: Marian Perera
Book Summary: Whore…gift…and unexpected ally.
Eden Trilogy, Book 1
In Dagran society, Alex is the lowest of the low—a “mare”, an object to be used by the nobility. When her owner, Stephen Garnath, gifts her to his greatest rival, she begins plotting her path to freedom. Nothing and no one will ever control her again. Not her degrading past, and certainly not her growing attraction to a man reputed to be an even crueler master than Garnath.
Robert Demeresna is instantly suspicious of such a generous gift. Yet she comes to him armed with only her sharp mind—a potent weapon he can use to defend his people from the enemy. And underneath, an unbreakable spirit that besieges the walls of his heart.
Slowly, Robert chips away at Alex’s defenses, striking sparks that make her begin to believe even a lowly whore like her could be worthy of him. Until Garnath springs a trap so cleverly hidden, war is unleashed before either of them sees it coming. A new kind of war fought with steam engines, explosives—and magic with a killing edge…
Warning: Contains violence, steam engines, steamier sex and multiple explosions of the unstable chemical variety.