The Pagan publishing world is a small one, making Pagan-authored and Pagan-friendly romance a niche within a niche. While urban fantasy and paranormal romance make up significant segments of those genres from mainstream publishers (in terms of number of titles and profits generated), truly Pagan-friendly books are hard to find. Sure, you can walk into any library or bookstore, or pop open a reading app, and find a paranormal romance which makes some off-hand reference to this or that Goddess or in which the characters mention Imbolc or plan a visit to Stonehenge.
But that does not make them Pagan-friendly. Just because the author refers to a Deity or holy day or sacred site does not mean that spiritual beliefs play a central role in the plot, or that the beliefs of the characters are treated respectfully. (If you thought the Marvel films made a travesty of Norse myth*, try reading some of the paranormal romance novels that are on the market.)
Below, then, are a few of the Pagan-friendly romance novels that are currently available. They vary from the short and sweet, to suspenseful, to deeply erotic. Hopefully, there is something here for every taste. And, if I missed a favorite, please don’t hesitate to recommend it in the comments. I’m always looking for new books to read.
Deborah Blake (a featured interviewee this issue) has written a number of nonfiction texts about witchcraft, but also several romance novels. Of particular note are the Baba Yaga series (which draws on Russian mythology and fae lore) and Witch Ever Way You Can. Her Veiled Magic series leans more towards urban fantasy, but also contains some romantic elements.
Stephanie Burgis has written both young adult and adult fiction. For the purposes of this list, I’m highlighting The Harwood Spellbook series. Set in an alternate, matriarchal Great Britain, the series is composed of several interlinked novels and novellas, some centered around heterosexual couples, some around same-sex couples. The world-building is excellent, the magic is well-defined, and the romances are sweet and heart-breaking (and heart-mending).
Effie Calvin‘s Tales of Inthya is one of my favorite fantasy romance series. Explicitly polytheistic, it features (mostly benevolent) Deities who are active in the lives of their mortal devotees. There are dragons, princesses, noble knights, crafty queens, assassins, unicorns, and plenty of magic. It reads like a mash-up of Greek mythology and The Chronicles of Narnia, with a star-crossed romance thrown into the mix.
KJ Charles has written several of my favorite M/M romance series (notably The Magpie Lord). But, since we’re looking at Pagan-friendly titles, the stand-out in her bibliography is Spectred Isle. Set in the immediate aftermath of the Great War, Spectred Isle draws heavily on British occultism and native folklore. It is by turns deeply creepy and deeply moving. I fell in love with the flawed and scarred main characters, and could only cheer when they got their happily ever after.
I know that I’ve recommended Rebecca Chastain in several previous articles. Whatever. She’s one of my favorite urban fantasy/romance authors. I love the world that she has created in Terra Haven, and I can’t wait to see more of it. Currently, her Gargoyle Guardian Chronicles series is complete, and the prequel and first volume of the Terra Haven Chronicles are available. Sweet romance with elemental magic, strong heroines, noble heroes, sentient gargoyles, harpies, minotaurs, and a host of other mythical species.
I stumbled across the first book in Tina Gower‘s The Outlier Prophecies several years ago, then was disappointed when I couldn’t find any of the other books. I don’t know the reason behind that (or if I was just looking in the wrong place), but — happily — the series is available once again and is now up to eight books. Set in a world analogous to the modern United States, but where various mythical species live in relative peace, The Outlier Prophecies follows the adventures and slowly budding romance between Kate (a null human whose future can’t be seen by any oracle) and Ian (a descendant of werewolves who is unable to shift). Attempted murder, political conspiracies, corporate espionage, mismatched soulmates, and more.
TJ Klune‘s The House in the Cerulean Sea has been receiving a great deal of critical praise, and deservedly so. I loved this book. I was ugly crying by the end. This is The Umbrella Academy by way of Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. There’s magic, prejudice, love, friendship, forgiveness, and — above all — the power of the individual to make the world a better place through compassion and Doing the Right Thing. Just go read it.
Calvin’s Tales of Inthya is one of my go-to antidotes for a certain queen-and-dragons fantasy series. Milla Vane‘s A Gathering of Dragons is the other. I first stumbled across Vane in a paranormal romance collection, unaware that it was a pseudonym for Meljean Brook. If you like Brook’s urban fantasy adventure/romance stories, you may or may not like Vane’s erotic epic fantasy. Emphasis on erotic. These are explicit, sex-positive books with strong and intelligent heroines and heroes who are smart enough to value the women’s strength. They are also explicitly polytheistic, with a Goddess actively gathering the heroes who will be needed to defeat a terrible evil. Three books and a novella so far, and I’m hoping for more. (Plus, did I mention dinosaurs?)
In addition to the above, I also recommend T. Thorn Coyle (especially The Witches of Portland series), Jolene Dawe (especially Igraine’s Flight), Delilah Devlin, KD Edwards (mostly urban fantasy, but with a strong romantic subplot), Rhys Ford (see Dim Sum Asylum and the Kai Gracen series), Yasmine Galenorn (author of numerous magical mysteries and paranormal romances), Jordan L. Hawk, M.A. Phillips (interviewed in this issue of ev0ke), Brooklyn Ray (notably The Port Lewis Witches series), Juli D. Revezzo (such as Antique Magic and The Stewards War), Tilly Wallace, and Alys West (a forthcoming March 2021 interviewee).
If you are looking to sample a variety of authors, check out the Charmed and Dangerous anthology; Behind the Sun, Above the Moon; and Sword and Sonnet. There’s also the witchy book review podcast, What the Smut.
If any of these titles catch your eye, look for them at the library, or your local bookstore. And, if I missed any of your favorites, please comment below!
*Personally, I really enjoyed the Marvel films. For me, they were only ever superhero fantasies. But I know other polytheists who deeply resented the films’ misappropriation of their sacred lore.
[Written by Rebecca Buchanan.]