In my younger years, I thought I hated romance novels. If someone told me they enjoyed writing love stories, my mind filled with images from old Lifetime movies and Hallmark holiday romances. I assumed the stories were all wholesome and sweet…and 100% not my thing.
Until I stumbled into the darker side of the romance genre.
“Dark” romance is a broad term encompassing a wide range of twisted and gritty love stories. While the levels of heat and depravity vary, the stories almost always feature an unwitting heroine who falls in love with a dark and dangerous hero. Prince Charming doesn’t swoop in to save the day in dark romance. Instead, the monstrous and often murderous hero is redeemed and saved by the heroine’s love.
If you’re looking for the traditional meet-cute and happily-ever-after, dark romance is not the genre for you. If you thought the Twilight series depicted an unhealthy and abusive relationship that should have never seen the light of day, these are not the stories for you. In my humble opinion, dark romance novels are for the girls who always fall in love with the monsters. Love isn’t always enough to redeem a monster in the real world, but dark romance novels offer the fantasy of falling in love with the ultimate bad boys without fear of heartbreak or disaster. Readers are able to experience the heroine’s fear and excitement without any physical danger. I’d never let a friend go home from the bar with one of these men, but they’re great fun to read about.
Curious? Here are five of my favorite fucked-up love stories to curl up under the covers with. Every trigger warning under the sun applies to these titles, so stay away if you’re squeamish. Otherwise, grab one today and dive into the darkness!
Captive in the Dark by CJ Roberts
I’m a fan of dark and gritty stories, but even I had to walk away from this one a few times. Captive in the Dark introduces 18-year-old Olivia, kidnapped and blindfolded by a man bent on breaking her and selling her into sexual slavery. The book ends on a massive, heart-wrenching cliffhanger as far away from “happy ever after” as you can get. It’s less of a love story and more a tale of two tortured souls who find what they need in each other.
Prisoner (Criminals & Captives) by Skye Warren and Annika Martin
Sexy and dangerous, Prisoner makes it easy to understand why Skye Warren and Annika Martin are popular names in the dark romance genre. Abby is one of the stronger heroines I’ve come across in dark romance, and her chemistry with inmate Greyson is both steamy and intimate. I found Greyson easier to fall for than some of the “alpha-holes” common in dark romance. His tragic past makes it hard not to sympathize with him, even when you don’t like him.
Tears of Tess by Pepper Winters
Pepper Winters is one of my favorite authors in the dark romance genre. Tears of Tess is everything I love in a story: a spunky heroine, a sadistic but sexy antihero, raw and complex emotions, and uncomfortably gritty scenes. This book pushes things much further than “dubious consent,” so reader beware!
Comfort Food by Kitty Thomas
If you can’t stomach torture, Comfort Food is not the book for you. The story begins with Emily already in captivity, and things only get darker from there. It’s not as gritty as some of the other books on this list, but it’s not your average boy-meets-girl love story, either. In my humble opinion, Comfort Food is a great first dark romance read.
Born Sinner by S.L. Jennings
This story has a larger cast of characters than the others on this list. Eden is easily my favorite, but it’s refreshing to find a romance novel with a large cast of flawed but lovable characters. The connection between Eden and L is sizzling, and the hot scenes are HOT.