Ah, superhero romance. Back in the old days, it meant a man in a cape rescuing a distressed damsel and going to great lengths to hide his secret identity from the woman he supposedly loves. And you’ll still see that sometimes, but for the most part, romance in the genre has gotten a bit more complex over the years.
Pretty much every superhero movie and TV show has a romantic subplot and love interest these day. Some of them are great. Some of them are… let’s just say they’re not very well developed.
But for those of you who want a little more love with your crime-fighting exploits, there’s a whole subgenre of superhero romance novels. Granted, there’s not a lot of them. You won’t find a shelf dedicated to it at your local library, and most online retailers don’t have a category for it, but if you’re willing to search a bit, you can find some good ones.
So get ready to save the world and fall in love (or at least read about it). Here’s a short list of superhero romance novels I’ve read and enjoyed.
by Jennifer Estep
Investigative reporter Carmen Cole gets the surprise of her life on her wedding day when she discovers that her fiancé and best friend are sleeping together—and that the two of them are her town’s resident superhero and ubervillain. Shocked and hurt, Carmen reveals their secret identities and then decides to devote her life to unmasking every superhero and ubervillain who crosses her path.
A series of successful unmaskings lands Carmen a job at The Exposé, one of the biggest newspapers in Bigtime, New York, a city that’s full of superheroes and ubervillains. Carmen is in her element—until she gets kidnapped by the Terrible Triad, Bigtime’s most dangerous ubervillain team.
The Triad orders Carmen to uncover the secret identity of Striker, the leader of the Fearless Five, Bigtime’s most popular superhero team—or else they’ll drop her in a vat of radioactive goo. With that threat hanging over her, Carmen sets out to unmask Striker, but what she doesn’t count on is falling for the sexy superhero. But with the Terrible Triad lurking around, this is one story that just might be the death of her….
I’ll always have a soft spot for this book, since it was one of the first superhero novels I ever read. Back when I was a beginning writer, it made me think, “Wait, you can write a book about your own superheroes? And people will read it?” It’s probably one of the first romance novels I ever read, too.
Carmen has made it her life’s mission to unmask superheroes and supervillains, and she’s the star reporter of her newspaper until the latest superhero she exposed is found dead in a suspected suicide. Wracked with guilt and now the city’s most hated person, she’s living in a kind of limbo doing meaningless fluff pieces when she gets kidnapped by the local supervillain cabal and the plot kicks off.
Karma Girl has a funny, chic-lit tone that’s very different from Estep’s darker stuff in her later books like the Elemental Assassin novels (which is an awesome urban fantasy series you should check out, especially if you like antiheroines). It’s also not afraid to embrace popular superhero tropes. Carmen flat-out states that superheroes and their nemeses usually have some kind of connection in their civilian identities, and she uses that to uncover who they are.
Carmen is the best part of the book. She has a witty voice and a collection of funny t-shirts to match. She and Striker have one of those argumentative romances where they deny their feelings for each other for most of the story. With him being the superhero and her technically the damsel-in-distress, it would be easy for them to have an imbalanced relationship, but Carmen keeps herself on equal footing through her investigative skills and sheer force of personally.
Overall, Karma girl is a fun, sexy read, and a classic superhero romance novel.
Buy on Amazon
Comic Book Romance
By Charles Payseur
A maximum-security supervillain prison plus a new colleague with a reputation for attracting trouble. What could possibly go wrong?
Calvin Kant is what anyone would want in a reporter—an excellent typist, a dogged investigator, and an upstanding citizen. Oh, and a superhero. At least, his alter ego, Maxim, is. Fleeing a messy situation at his last job, Cal arrives in Capital City without much direction—until fellow reporter Liang Lu sweeps him into a dangerous assignment.
A supervillain prison break leaves them trapped and in peril, with Cal juggling his growing attraction to Liang with his need to protect his secret identity. And that mess Cal’s running from could catch up with him at exactly the wrong moment, leaving him vulnerable. Luckily Liang’s got more than good looks going for him, and together the two men might just save the day—and each other—and find their own comic book romance.
Despite the title, there are no comic books in this one. There is a superhero, plenty of action, and more witty lines than I could count. Comic Book Romance is a novella that took me about an hour to read—which was an hour fantastically spent. This is an extremely fun book and one I’ll definitely be going back to reread in the future.
The couple reminds me a lot of Superman and Lois Lane, and I say that as someone who considers Clark and Lois one of her all-time favorite comic book romances. Calvin really is the best kind of Superman archetype as his alter ego Maxim. He’s not ultra-aggressive with something to prove, and you won’t find him brooding on rooftops in the rain. He’s just calmly competent and gets the job done, his motivation a desire to help people, and—when he’s being honest—a draw to danger.
And Liang is like Lois when she’s being written well. He’s 80% determination, 10% snark, and 10% clever plans that outmaneuver supervillains despite his lack of powers. He and Calvin make a great couple both romantically and when it comes to crime-fighting.
I also love the premise, which is the couple getting stuck in a supervillain prison during a breakout. It makes for an awesome set piece and gives the heroes an excuse to be in close quarters. And the minor supervillains they run into are great. I wanted to quote some of their lines, but there’s way too many to choose from, so you’ll just have to read the book. The author is evidently a DC Comics fan, so there are plenty of in-jokes and homages, too.
Just read this one. You won’t regret it.
Buy on Amazon
Reconstructed: Building a Hero
by Tasha Black
Westley Worthington has it all. Piles of money, good looks, a head for business, and a seemingly limitless supply of women who want to please him. And that’s just the way he likes it. Until a brush with death causes him to rethink his priorities, and consider someone besides himself for the first time in his privileged life.
Cordelia Cross has never had it easy. Her duty to her family has her working as an assistant to a man she hates just to pay her sister’s medical bills. When her arrogant boss alienates his last true friend, she finds herself promoted from schedule-managing coffee grabber, to the newest member of West’s inner circle.
Tempers, and passions, ignite as the two start spending time together, until a shocking accident puts their newfound attraction on ice. When West is faced with the toughest trial of his life, Cordelia helps him realize that he has all the tools he needs to be a force for justice.
Together, they must turn West into the hero no one ever thought he could be.
This is an origin story, and while the hero has a showdown with one of the villains at the end, there’s a lot of intriguing plot threads being set up for later books. The female lead, Cordelia, is an engaging and sympathetic character, and honestly, I think she’s too good for Westley, who’s a selfish jerk for most of the story. Granted, rich jerks who get a wake-up call after a debilitating accident and redeem themselves via superheroism are a staple of the genre. And to be fair, by the end of the book, Westley has grown into a person I could see being a hero.
Buuuuut I still think Cordelia would be better off with Edward, who’s a caring and kind supporting character with a tragic backstory and superpowers of his own. Plus, he’s described as looking like Idris Elba, so as far as I’m concerned, that’s Edward: 1, and Westley: 0.
If you’re an Olicity fan, I bet you’ll like Reconstructed, because there’s a definite Arrow vibe. If you’re a superhero fiction reader looking for a little more romance, be aware that nothing related to superheroes happens until around the 50% mark, though the build-up and character development have enough tension to keep the pages turning. If you’re mainly a romance reader and want some superpowers mixed in with growing feelings and sexual tension, then you won’t want to miss this.
At the time of this writing, the ebook is free, so you won’t lose anything by giving it a try.
Buy on Amazon
Powerless Against You
by various authors
Love is a literal battlefield as these couples find love while trying to save—or destroy—the world.
Powerless Against You features ten larger than life romantic tales of superheroes or villains in love. Get immersed in the drama of keeping secret identities, battling against a secret love, the struggle of coming into superpowers after tragedy, and much more.
These tales tackle a wide spectrum of couplings and characters that are sure to capture readers hearts.
Introduction by Gail Simone. Authors include Elizabeth Gannon, K Orion Fray, Andrea R. Blackwell, Jacklyn Baker, Agustin Guerrero, Jade Black, Kara Costegan, Kim Strattford, ME McLaughlin and Alice Hare.
If you’re looking for superhero romance, you won’t find a better collection than this one. The stories in this anthology cover a huge range of tones, run along the heat level spectrum from sweet to spicy, and include both straight and LGBT characters. Whatever you like, you’ll find a story to enjoy in here, and there’s a good chance you’ll end up binge-reading them all.
Plus, the forward is by amazing comic book writer Gail Simone. It’s awesome and inspiring, and you should definitely read it.
Like any anthology, some stories are better than others, and not all of them are going to suit everyone’s personal tastes. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Lovesick: Chasing the Storm by Agustin Guerrero is a twisted tale of a supervillain going about his bombings and kidnappings as a warped courtship ritual with the city’s hero. It’s told in first-person point of view from the villain’s perspective, and his narration is hilarious but so very, very wrong.
- Flying Fast, Falling Hard by Kim Strattford stars two members of a big, international superhero team ala the classic Justice League. It’s the type of romance where they make each other better people through their relationship, and there’s a lot of good banter and underlying respect between them.
- Toeing the Line by K Orion Fray stars a hacker out for revenge on supervillains and superheroes alike. There’s a handsome police officer love interest and a lot of good tension. My only complaint is that it ended too soon and left me wanting an entire book series about the main character.
- I’m not sure Things We Do For Love by Andrea R. Blackwell counts as a romance since it’s so twisted and dark, but if you want to read about a messed-up relationship between two murderous supervillains, this is your story.
I definitely recommend Powerless Against You as a fun, diverse collection of short fiction. Even when I felt some stories didn’t fully develop their cool concepts, each one is packed full of creativity and feeling. This collection shows off the potential of the genre and is a great read for anyone who likes superheroes or romance.
Buy on Amazon
by Lily Cahill
Independence Falls, Colorado. 1954. It was the start of a perfect summer—until the fog rolled in and changed everything. Now these heroes will explore their newfound abilities … and each other.
Clayton Briggs has always had it easy. The pampered second son of the prestigious Briggs clan, Clayton’s back in Independence Falls poised to take over the family business. His playboy days aren’t quite over, but his mother is on a campaign to match him with a woman suitable to his station. When he meets a beautiful girl at the Firelight Festival, he’s instantly attracted—until he realizes she’s a member of the notorious Murphy family. The Murphys and Briggs have been feuding for decades, but Clayton can’t control his feelings for Cora. Will passion trump family responsibility?
Cora Murphy has always had it hard. When she isn’t scraping together pennies by baking for the town’s wealthy families, she’s all but a slave to her father and brother, who drink and gamble away most of her profits. She could run, but Cora won’t leave her sister behind. All she needs a bit of luck, but luck has never sided with the Murphys. Then her entire life changes in one moment. When Cora is caught in a mysterious purple fog at the Firelight Festival, she suddenly discovers powers beyond anything she’s ever imagined. And it seems Clayton might be the only man who understands … because he has powers of his own.
Technically, this isn’t a superhero book. In my mind, for something to qualify as “superhero fiction,” it must have characters with superpowers who use codenames and costumes to fight crime. The characters in Sparked have powers, but there are no masks or supervillain battles in sight.
That said, I couldn’t stand to leave this one off the list. It’s too good.
The novel is set in the 1950s, and the superhero origin story is straight out of a golden age comic book. During a summer festival at a small American town, a mysterious fog rolls in and hospitalizes a few dozen partying young people. It sends the quiet town into turmoil: people suspect the Russians; they want answers from the Army. And secretly, after the victims wake up, some of them develop strange powers.
The protagonists, Cora and Clayton, are two such people. They discover their powers at different times and try to work them out alone before eventually revealing their secrets to each other. But while superpowers are part of the book, this novel is 80% a small-town Romeo and Juliet story.
Cora and Clayton’s families have been feuding for years, with Clayton’s being the rich, high-society family while Cora’s is the poverty-stricken black sheep of the town. The main conflict is how and if these two can make their relationship work, and rarely have I seen a couple work so hard for their happy ending. Cora and Clayton are facing half a dozen obstacles at any given point in time, and just when it seems they’ve overcome it all to steal a happy moment together, some new threat arises. The book switches back and forth between their points of view, and the sheer emotion in it—especially on Cora’s side—is sure to suck you in.
Both of them are trapped. Clayton is weighted down by the expectations of his family and motivated by a genuine desire to please them and redeem himself after being a screw-up in his college days. But his struggles are nothing compared to Cora’s. She’s stuck with an abusive family and bullied by the people of the town. There’s a heartbreaking scene early in the book where she discovers the money she’s been saving for years to buy bus tickets for her and her little sister to start afresh has been stolen by her asshole older brother.
Both characters are extremely likeable, and I was 100% rooting for them to have a happy ending, though there were times when I didn’t see how it could be possible. They fought for it, though, and I was very satisfied with how things turned out.
Various minor characters are introduced to star in their own books later, and it looks like the series will delve more into the mystery behind the fog, which I’m definitely interested in learning. But this novel is perfectly complete on its own and doesn’t leave you on a cliffhanger or anything.
Sparked is ninety-nine cents on Amazon right now, which is a steal, so I’d grab it at that price while you can.
Buy on Amazon
Just like the superhero genre can be blended with fantasy, spy thrillers, or comedy, it works brilliantly when mixed with romance. These are just a few of the great books out there, and since I’ve finished them all, I’m looking for recommendations. 😉 Share your favorite superhero romances in the comments!