Guest Post: Romance in Fantasy by Amy Rose Davis

I’d like to welcome fantasy author Amy Rose Davis to The Variety Pages today – thanks so much for being here, Amy! Pull up a chair, grab a cuppa and settle in for a chat. And stay tuned after for a chance to win a copy of Ravenmarked, Amy’s recently released novel…

I don’t consider myself a romance writer. And to be completely honest, I don’t consider myself a romance reader. I don’t have anything against them, and the ones I’ve read, I’ve mostly enjoyed. I just don’t really seek them out.

But the strangest thing happens when I sit down to write: Romance shows up.

I write fantasy, and I think it’s completely possible (and sometimes expected) to write a compelling fantasy novel without a shred of romance in it. Fantasy has enough tropes and conventions to fill a small castle library, so finding ways to move plot forward and develop characters is not a difficult thing. There’s really no need to weave in romantic story lines. And yet, I do. Almost every time.

I see romance all over the place. Romance, love, sex, lust, and passion are deeply entwined with life. If I write about humans (or fairy/human hybrids, or angelic creatures with human characteristics, or soul vampires, or whatever), those primitive drives and desires are going to show up.

Jennifer Roberson introduced me to true romantic themes in fantasy way back when I read her Chronicles of the Cheysuli series. The entire series was a dynastic epic with strong romantic overtones, because the whole arc involved marriages and offspring that would fulfill prophecies. Some characters got their HEAs, some didn’t. Some married and had children, but kept their true loves on the side as paramours. Some fell in love where they least expected it. The whole series was brilliant in weaving romance, love, lust, and desire with the overall arc of fulfilling prophecy.

Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series had a strong romantic theme as well, and at least in the first few books, it worked really well. Goodkind carried it to the nth level, in fact; the main character’s undying devotion to the woman he loved actually saved the world from a tyrant in Wizard’s First Rule.

George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire books have plenty of sex, but not so much true romance. Where romance and love do occur, Martin is the master of keeping his characters from their HEAs. I can’t think of a single couple who is living “happily ever after” in his world at this point. I don’t think every couple in fantasy should have a “happily ever after,” but it would be nice if a few in Martin’s world could.

Which leads me to my perspective on romantic fantasy… I don’t automatically write happily ever afters for my characters. I write a lot of “happy for nows” or “happy-ish, but we’ve got some issues.” In Ravenmarked, of the three main couples, only one gets anything close to a “happily ever after,” and that’s a minor couple. But as I said, at least someone is happy. And I won’t say much except that I think it will work out for them. He’s a decent guy who doesn’t mind all her nonsense and thinks a woman with power is sexy.

But I do think that the overtones of romance are as important in epic fantasy as they are in romantic suspense or paranormal romance or any of a variety of genres. And I think that romance in any genre should be true to life—that is, give some people a happily ever after, some a happy for now, and some a… well, whatever other option there is.

I’ve read fantasy novels that seem to try to avoid romance and even sex altogether. Not even YA fantasies—just fantasies where it seems the author preferred not to think about that. And I’ve read fantasies where romances went from zero to married in an eyeblink, and I thought, “wait—what?” Unless the marriage is arranged, show me how they got from A to Z, please. I want to know why they care about each other.

So when romance emerges in my fantasy, I don’t avoid it. I embrace it. When my hero Connor realizes that the irritating little church girl is actually quite pretty and has a stubborn streak that he finds oddly appealing, I want to share that with readers. When my heroine Mairead sees that Connor is a rake, but a damn sexy rake, I want to show readers how conflicted she feels about her chastity and upbringing when this really amazing guy starts getting a little closer to her. And when Connor gives Mairead her very first kiss ever, I want to show readers that even though nothing much happens, for Mairead, everything changes. When Mairead lies very still trying to quiet her thumping heart, I want readers to fan themselves and say, “Wow. That’s romance.”

It doesn’t matter so much whether the hero swings a sword or runs a corporation or works as a personal trainer. It doesn’t matter if the heroine is a woman with a past or a destiny. Put people in their natural environments, and romance will show up.

Amy Rose Davis is an independent epic fantasy author. She lives in Oregon with her husband, Bryce, and their four children. Bryce provides comic relief, editing, and inspiration, and regularly talks her off the various ledges she climbs onto.

Amy is an unapologetic coffee addict, but her other vices include chocolate, margaritas, and whiskey. She prefers cats to dogs (but houses both), loves the color green, and enjoys the smell of new pencils and crayons. She has eclectic tastes in friends, music, and books, and is as likely to watch 300 as Becoming Jane.

Amy has generously agreed to give away *three* digital copies of Ravenmarked to one lucky commenter each. Simply leave a comment below before midnight tonight, and I’ll announce the winners here tomorrow morning. Please make sure you leave a valid email with your comment (it won’t show up in the comment itself) so I can get a hold of you if you win. 

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19 comments on “Guest Post: Romance in Fantasy by Amy Rose Davis

  1. Anna DeStefano

    This is a topic near and dear to my heart, since I’ve discovered that what I thought I was writing in my Legacy Series was paranormal romance was in fact contemporary sci-fi/fantasy with a stron relationship arc.

    I’m writing heavy contemporary world building–a now where parapsychology and dream theory and metaphysics is possible and happing all around us and threatening everyone’s safety. But it’s not high fantasy. And I’m a romance writer, so that should be my mainstream audience, but my stories fast-paced, highly scientific series frustrates the reader looking for a relationship-heavy story. And I’m not writing the vampire/wolf/zombie/grrrrr… alpha-male centered stuff of urban fantasy (the edgier of the paranormal romance suspesne/thriller books). Meanwhile, sci-fi/fantasy readers who loved Inception were eating up my surprise ending and not-so-happily ever after resolution and begging for more.

    Great post! Yes, there’s relationship in all our favorite stories, and romance is blending/bending more genre boundaries by the day. It’s been great to spread my wings and to see so many others taking this leap.

    Next–we’ll conquer the world ;o)

  2. Amy Rose Davis

    Anna, that sounds like a cool setting and premise… Have you read “The Lathe of Heaven” by Ursula Le Guin? It’s a complete trip, but kind of delves into that area of dream theory and such.

    I think there’s so much room in speculative fiction for romance without making it central to the stories, you know? Nothing wrong with romance for romance’s sake AT ALL, but I think a lot of science fiction and fantasy writers try to avoid it completely because they are afraid of the “romance” label. I figure, mine is romantic fantasy–it just is, and there’s no way around it.

    I have had some validation in that a few men have really enjoyed my book, so maybe there’s enough blood and magic and gore to satisfy the guys as well as the girls…. 😉

    Thank you for your comment!


  3. Amy Rose Davis

    Hey Jamie–thanks so much for having me on your blog! I really appreciate your support! 🙂


  4. Ruth Fanshaw

    Nice post, Amy 🙂

    I agree that ‘romance’ is likely to occur in some form wherever humans (or indeed other sentient species) are interacting closely. People have feelings. It’s part of life.

    My stories always seem to end up with at least one romance thread, even when I didn’t intend them to! 😀

  5. Pippa Jay

    Great post. I never intended any romance in my scifi story and it took several people mentioning the fact before I actually saw it myself. The fact that it just happened rather than something that was planned just made it more natural I think – I don’t know if I could do it deliberately. 🙂

  6. Amy Rose Davs

    “Other sentient species…” LOL. Too true, Ruth. And indeed, inter-species relationships are some of the most interesting, aren’t they? So many possibilities… 🙂

    There was a point when I tried to take out all of the romantic threads (long story about why), and I just couldn’t do it. It was like unraveling a sweater very, very slowly and watching the changes cascade through the whole thing. I would have written an entirely different novel.

    I never intended to write a romantic fantasy, but now that it’s done, I think it’s true to life and I’m happy with it. Thanks for your comment! 🙂

  7. Amy Rose Davis

    Pippa, that’s funny that it had to be pointed out to you! I think you’re right–it does make it more natural.

    I wrote a short story for an anthology of speculative fiction by independent authors. I knew it had a romantic thread, but I didn’t really think of it as a romance until one of the other authors called it a romance. I thought, “but I don’t write romance!” But then I decided, why fight it? If I write good romantic threads and stories with a fantasy bent, then I’m probably meeting some kind of market need somewhere. I’m sure there are folks like me who love to read these kinds of stories!

    Thanks for your comment!

  8. Brooklyn Ann

    I LOVE fantasy and romance. There was some in the Dragonlance novels though most were tragic and David Eddings had some in his books.

    I think sorcerers are sexy and I have a few in my head that will be popping up in my series.

  9. Dolly

    I completely agree with Amy. I don’t consider myself a romance reader, and yet I love romance in books. In my books, it is almost guarantee that there will be romance. It’s just natural I think – most normal people are either attracted to someone, in love with someone, or looking for someone. So why wouldn’t our characters want that?

    Great post. Thanks Amy and Jamie.

  10. Amy Rose Davis

    Brooklyn Ann, that’s true about Eddings… I tend to think of his romantic storylines as being a little off-screen, because with the exception of Garion and C’Nedra, you never really realized anyone loved anyone else until there was a dramatic kiss or a wedding. But on the other hand, Polgara and Durnik were kind of inevitable… It was pretty obvious how he felt about her from the first page… 🙂 And the fact that the romantic leanings in Eddings are so tame makes me feel comfortable about letting my kids read them. It’s all pretty clean. 🙂

    My protagonist, Connor, isn’t really a sorcerer, but the heroine finds the aura of his blood magic really kind of sexy. Plus, there’s something really sexy about a hero who just knows how awesome he is…. 🙂

    Thanks for your comment!

  11. Amy Rose Davis

    Dolly, I think you’re right–it’s just part of life. Plus, I put the hero and heroine on a long journey together, alone… And you would think it would be somewhat natural for a man and a woman alone for that long to develop some kind of feelings for each other. I mean, it could have gone the other way, I suppose–they could have been adversaries. But that would have made it a book I wouldn’t have enjoyed reading… 🙂

    Thanks for your comment!

  12. Jamie DeBree

    You’re welcome Amy – thanks for the wonderfully insightful post! 🙂

  13. Jamie DeBree

    Way back when I started writing, I never intended to put romance in my books. But like so many of us, it just kept creeping in and I eventually just gave up fighting it. I do have a bit better control of it now though…my thriller draft is keeping it very subtle, which is good for that genre.

    Ironically, my readers are somewhat divided as to whether my romantic suspense books are “romantic” or not…and I can’t blame them, since I can’t decide either. 😉

  14. Shay Fabbro

    What a great post Amy!! 😀 When I first started the synopses for my Portals of Destiny series, I has a few romances planned. But as I have written more and more, I am surprised that the characters seem to be falling in love on me! LOL I try to rein them in but they have minds of their own 😉

  15. Amy Rose Davis

    I think that’s sort of what I’ve done, Jamie–just gave up fighting it. Although, I’m going to try REALLY HARD to keep all the romance out of the serial I’m starting next week, mainly because I have a plan for the main character (Ian Mac Roy), and he is not allowed to fall for any girls on his sea voyages because they do NOT fit into the plan! 🙂

    Interesting that you say you have better control of it… I think I’m getting there. I hope. If not, I guess I’ll have to rethink the plan for poor Ian!

  16. Amy Rose Davis

    That’s what usually happens with me, Shay–those dang characters go and act like… Well, people! 🙂 Love can bloom anywhere, I suppose…

    Thanks for your comment!

  17. India Drummond

    I completely agree. Love and sex are naturaly for human beings, and a part of most people’s lives, so it makes sense to include something about it with fully developed characters. I like the flexibility of fantasy, in that you don’t have to play by the HEA rules if you don’t want to.

  18. Amy Rose Davis

    India, yes, I love that I don’t have to play by the HEA rules. I think fantasy readers start to roll their eyes if everyone ends up happy. There’s something a little twisted about us… 😉

    Thanks for your comment!

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