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BooksJanuary 16, 2024

Your guide to New Zealand fantasy romance novels coming in 2024


If you like a side of magic with your romance, this round-up of homegrown fantasy romance books out this year is for you.

Fantasy romance is an umbrella term for any fiction book that features a strong romance plot and fantasy elements such as magic and non-human characters and creatures. It can be set in a world like ours or one totally imagined, in a contemporary time or historic, and can range from fingers brushing and sweet kisses through to scorching graphic sex. The one defining characteristic of a romance is that the characters are happily in a relationship with each other by the end of the book. The one defining characteristic of a fantasy is a little trickier, but is essentially that the story involves something that does not exist in the world as we know it that cannot be explained through (real or imagined) science.

Fantasy romance is huge in the publishing world and our local authors are shining in the genre. Nalini Singh has been huge in paranormal romance internationally for over a decade, and Aotearoa romantic fantasy author Chloe Gong made it onto the Forbes 30 under 30 list for 2024 (not at all surprising given how much time she’s spent on the New York Times Bestsellers list).

While Gong might be one of our biggest successes right now, she is one of many fantasy romance authors from Aotearoa doing awesome things on the world stage proving that it is past time to abandon our cultural (and romantic) cringe and embrace the amazing talent coming from our shores.

Chloe Gong was names one of Forbes 30 under 30 for 2024. (Photo: One Grid Studio / Supplied)

As Lani Wendt Young (another Aotearoa fantasy romance author) pointed out in her inspiring 2019 ReadNZ lecture Adapt or Die, the advent of self-publishing means that the power of which books succeed is now in the hands of readers instead of publishing houses. We are seeing increasing numbers of high quality and diverse fiction because that’s what readers actually want. For smaller countries like Aotearoa, that means we now have access to some amazing books that might not have been able to be picked up by our local publishers. Not only do we get to read books grounded here at home, but our local authors get to build wealth from exporting that to the world. Romance and fantasy books are consistently in the highest earning fiction genres (with romance earning over $1.4 billion annually) and the future is looking bright as they continue to grow and evolve. 

Alongside the growth in independent publishing, we’re also seeing a delightful growth in romance-focused local independent bookstores. Chapter Book and Tea Shop in Auckland has been operating since 1995. Recently, Mystique bookstore has opened in Waimate with the tagline “Not Your Grandmother’s Bookstore” and online bookstore Morally Grey is opening soon.

The following list of fantasy romance books by local authors has something for every flavour. And if that whets your appetite, why not head on over to the Fantasy Romance February website in the first couple of weeks of Feb? It’s an annual international event for all things fantasy romance, including promotions, giveaways, games and panel discussions.

High/Epic fantasy romance: set in an imagined secondary world

The Amethyst Kingdom: The Five Crowns of Okrith Book Five by A.K. Mulford, coming in May 2024

A.K. Mulford is a bestselling fantasy author and former wildlife biologist who swapped rehabilitating monkeys for writing novels. They spent years living on the Kāpiti Coast but have recently moved across the ditch to Australia. Their Five Crowns of Okrith series took TikTok by storm when they self-published the first two books in 2021 and resulted in Harper Voyager acquiring eight (eight!!!) of their books, including the series. The Amethyst Kingdom is the fifth and final book in this series. A young fae warrior is hellbent on winning the Eastern Court crown, but when her fated lover — and hated nemesis — Ersan enters the trials she struggles to balance the competition and the chance at love. The crown is calling her name, but can her head bear the weight when passion sets her heart racing?

A Queen This Fierce and Deadly: Kingdom of Lies Book Four by Stacia Stark, coming in May 2024

Like Chloe Gong, Stacia Stark is another local author now living in the States. Originally self-published, the four-book Kingdom of Lies series was recently acquired by Penguin Michael Joseph. A villager fleeing for her life must ally with a ruthless mercenary who forces her to confront truths about herself — and her hidden magic — that could reshape the future of her kingdom.

Stark also has an impressive back catalogue of paranormal urban fantasy romance. 

Paranormal/Urban fantasy romance: set in our world but with fantasy elements

Archangel’s Lineage: A Guild Hunter Novel Book 16 by Nalini Singh, coming April 2024

Primal Mirror: Psy-Changeling Trinity Book 8 by Nalini Singh, coming July 2024

Nalini Singh is New Zealand’s Queen of paranormal romance. Her Guild Hunter and Psy-changeling series have been coming out since 2010 and she’s featured on the New York Times Bestseller list and won all sorts of awards ever since. Honestly, I can’t even attempt to summarise her amazing achievements. She is a BIG DEAL overseas. Go check out her website to see how awesome she is. 

If you haven’t read these series yet, you are in for two indulgently long treats. Don’t let Book Eight of the psy-changeling trinity series fool you. The earlier psy-changeling series is complete at 15 books, so it’s more like Book 23! For sexy winged angels and a cool take on vampires, head to Guild Hunter. For a world of humans, animal shifters, and people with psychic abilities head to Psy-changeling. Either way you will get the benefit of Singh’s impressively complex worldbuilding and intriguing interspecies politics.

Other paranormal romance authors to look out for with 2024 releases include: Iris Beaglehole’s third book in her Myrtlewood Crones series The Crone of Elders Blaze releasing in April, the second book in Karen Healey’s Movie Magic series Savory & Supernatural also releasing in April, Rachael Scotte’s debut Untraced Magic releasing in June, Sherilee Gray’s sixth book in her Thornheart Trials series A Bond in Flames releasing in August, and my own Echoes of Earthshine releasing in October.

Historical fantasy romance: set in our world in the past

The Ornithologist’s Fieldguide to Love by India Holton, coming July 2024

You should grab this for the title alone! It’s a new enemies-to-lovers historical fantasy novel from the international bestselling author of the Dangerous Damsels series. In a Victorian world of magical birds and gallivanting professors, two rival ornithologists race across France and England in a competition to win Birder of the Year, but may end up losing their hearts along the way. 

I can’t describe Holton better than her own website, so: “Her books are satirical romantic comedies featuring unconventional women and charming rogues. All have been Indie bestsellers, Amazon Editors Picks, and featured on several Best Of lists. The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels was a New York Times Notable Book of 2021. India is autistic and so are many of her characters.”

The sequel to Chloe Gong’s Immortal Longings is also slated for release in 2024 and you should keep an eye out for AJ Lancaster as well.

Why Choose / Reverse Harem: a romance with multiple love interests who all end up together

Not a Mourning Person: A Kooky Spooky Cosy Fantasy (Grimdale Graveyard Mysteries Book 4) by Steffanie Holmes coming March 2024

Plot and Bothered: A Cozy Fantasy with Spice (Nevermore Bookshop Mysteries Book 9) by Steffanie Holmes coming April 2024

If Nalini Singh is the Queen of paranormal romance, Steffanie Holmes is definitely our Queen of Why Choose. She’s also the current president of the Romance Writers of New Zealand. She is a USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of the paranormal, gothic, dark, and fantastical. The Grimdale Graveyard Mysteries is a darkly humorous paranormal romance series featuring a sarcastic heroine and three hot possessive ghosts. The Nevermore Bookshop Mysteries are what you get when all your book boyfriends come to life. The love interests are famous villains from literature: Heathcliffe, Moriarty, and Quoth. Holmes is blind and the series features disabled rep close to her heart.

Gemini Blessed by Nova Blake, coming May 2024

I’ll be honest. I’d read anything by Nova Blake aka Cassie Hart. She’s an awesome writer and all-round brilliant human. Gemini Blessed is part of a shared world multi-author collaboration — Dawn of the Zodiacs. Blake’s back catalogue also includes paranormal romance and monster romance.

Monster romance: featuring love interests that are decidedly not human … with the anatomy to match

Avaritia: Shades of Sin Book Four by Colette Rhodes, coming April 2024

I haven’t read this series but book one has almost 5,000 ratings on Amazon and 9,000 on Goodreads, which is pretty damn amazing. The blurb isn’t up for book four yet, but I’m sure it will be by the time you catch up on the series if you haven’t read it yet. If you’re new to monster romance, always check the content warnings. 

A Ride With a Dragon: Unravelling Monsters Universe by Allegra Hall, coming April 2024

Hall is a Māori writer whose debut monster romance came out last year and who I will not be surprised at all if she becomes wildly successful. Her first book featured a female lead of mixed pākeha/Māori/magical descent and is beautifully grounded in the Aotearoa setting, Te Ao Māori, and exploring identity. Like book one, A Ride With a Dragon is set in the island of Motuwai. These books are high on steam and you should check the content warnings on the author’s website.

Queer fantasy romance: featuring LGBTTQIA+ protagonists

Definitely check out A.K. Mulford’s work if you’re looking for queer fantasy romance, but as I’ve already mentioned them earlier, here are some other 2024 releases to look out for.

Honeybloods by I.S. Belle coming January 2024

I.S. Belle writes dark LGBT+ Young Adult fiction with happy endings. Her debut Zombabe was described as “Heartstopper meets Stephen King” by Camri Kohler. Honeybloods is a sapphic (women loving women) vampire romance novella. From the blurb: “Twilight meets Jennifer’s Body in this bite-sized sapphic vampire romance full of sweetness, snark, gore, and only one motel bed.”

Peregrine Seas by R.C. Ballad coming July 2024.

Peregrine Seas is a swashbuckling m/m (men loving men) romance between a merman pirate and a runaway prince, full of queer joy and perfect for fans of Our Flag Means Death. 

Other queer fantasy romance books to look out for in 2024: the third and final book in Marie Cardno’s NZ Indie bestselling Monster Girlfriend sapphic series will be forthcoming this year — How to Get the Girl (And Not Destroy the World). Drake LaMarque, author of steamy paranormal queer fiction, will be releasing Intimate Night around January and The End of the World in October.

Keep going!