Five Books About…

5 SFF Books With Romantic Kissing Scenes

I’m going to be frank. I have a hard time starting a book if I know there’s no romance in it.

Specifically, no kissing scenes.

I live for the cycle of romantic/sexual tension and catharsis in literature, and something about the fantasy genre just makes it magical (almost literally). And so I’m pleased to bring to you five memorable kissing scenes from my reading of the genre…or at least a sampling of them.

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Paladin’s Grace by T. Kingfisher

Ah, Paladins’ Grace (2020) by T. Kingfisher—here lies a fun book. It’s plucky and follows what I consider to be non-traditional characters for fantasy novels (I say novels, because any D&D player has seen his or her share of paladins, but maybe not so many whose god has died).

The meet cute in this book is unexpected and hilarious, but our memorable kissing scene in mind happens a good deal after that. Our perfumer, Grace (yes, the title is a pun), needs to find a particular moss for one of her concoctions, and given that there are murderers about, our paladin, Stephen, tags along to offer some protection. Good news, they do find the moss. Bad news, it’s up high in a tree on a muddy hillside.

Stephen, who is trying his very best to be noble and not think illicit thoughts about the woman whom he’s very attracted to, lifts her up to get the moss, which he doesn’t realize is a very intimate act, and, well, he definitely gives in… which is good and bad. Good, because hello, lemmegetsomeofthatsexualtension. Bad, because control is very important for Stephen (read the book if you want to know why).

“We did it!” she said, beaming up at him with shared triumph

It was too much. His god had been of steel but he was only flesh and bone. “We did,” he said, and lowered his mouth to hers.

Oh, it gets better. But you’ll have to pick up the book to see how. Though I absolutely must share my favorite line of the entire scene, one that sums of Kingfisher’s fantastic sense of humor:

Grace’s mouth opened under his and all his good intentions went straight to hell.

 

The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon

Amy Harmon is a master of emotion. You can’t read a book by her and not have your heartstrings plucked, broken, and restrung over and over again. The First Girl Child (2019) is no exception. The novel tells the story of a woman scorned, who, while dying after giving birth to her illegitimate son, curses the land that abused her. If they couldn’t treat women with dignity, then they would have no more women.

And they didn’t.

Bayr, our main hero, and Alba, one of our heroines, love each other. He cared for her as a babe (seven-year age gap, and boy do I love me an age gap) and became her protector. Despite his stutter, Alba easily fell in love with him. So you can imagine her heartache when he has to move away (for reasons I won’t spoil) for seven freaking years, leaving her to pine.

And then he comes back, and the romantic and sexual tension is BOILING OVER and it’s freaking amazing.

At a swimming hole at night, Alba demands kiss(es) for her birthday gift, and Bayr is hesitant, because Alba is a princess and a token to be used however the king sees fit. But Alba insists, even offering to teach him, though she’s never kissed anyone.

…his hands were suddenly in her hair, holding her in place. He copied her small strokes—but he kept his lips soft, smoothing out the tight rosebud Ghost had taught her to make. He nipped at her top lip, pulling it gently between his own, before moving to her lower lip and repeating the caress.

[…]

“I do not need lessons, Alba.”

She was silent for several long seconds.

“I know,” she murmured. “You are a very good kisser. How silly of me to think you didn’t know how. I have been waiting for you. I thought… maybe… you have been waiting for me.”

Ugh, stab us in the heart with a rusty blade as soon as we hit some catharsis, Amy. But it’s sooooo good. EVERYONE READ THIS BOOK.

 

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

Listen. I thought I didn’t like fae books. Then I read the young-adult debut An Enchantment of Ravens (2017) by Margaret Rogerson and realized that, yes, I can 100% get on this bandwagon.

The fair folk in this book crave craft—painting, sculpting, writing, etc—because they cannot create it themselves. But our heroine, Isobel, paints human sorrow into the eyes of Rook, ruler of the Autumn Court, and it has terrible repercussions. Now she must answer to his court, but first, she must travel there. And oh no, bonding happens along the way!

Sometimes bonding leads to kissing.

The most memorable aspect about Rook and Isobel’s first kiss is the tree, in my fine opinion. I just… I love that tree.

But then Rook made a sound and parted his lips beneath mine, and I’m afraid for a time I ceased listening to my brain completely. […]

Soon I felt Rook’s palm slide down my back, and in one graceful, powerful movement he swept me up in his hands. I automatically tightened my legs around his waist and hooked arms around his neck […] He took a few steps across the clearing, and a tree’s rough bark pressed against my back.

You’re welcome.

 

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Stephenie Meyer sets up a really interesting love square in her 2008 standalone novel The Host. Melanie loves Jared. Melanie gets mind-controlled by alien-parasite Wanda. Wanda feels Melanie’s love for Jared. Wanda also likes Ian. Ian likes Wanda. Or does he just like the body she’s possessing?

It’s a beautiful mess.

The most memorable kissing scene from this book is when Jared, the “ex” boyfriend (getting enslaved by a mind-controlling alien race is hard on relationships) starts thinking there might be a little bit of his Melanie still kicking around inside her body (which Wanda now possesses). And they’re talking. And Wanda feels Melanie’s attraction for Jared. And Melanie does not want her to feel that attraction.

I knew how he would move, exactly how his lips would feel. And yet it was so new to me, a first more shocking than any other, as his mouth pressed against mine.

I think he just meant to touch his lips to mine, but to be soft, but things changed when our skin met. His mouth was abruptly hard and rough […]

The body revolted. I was no longer in control of it—it was in control of me. […]

My left hand reached for his face, his hair, to wind my fingers in it.

My right hand was faster. Was not mine.

Melanie’s fist punched his jaw, knocked his face away from mine with a blunt, low sound. Flesh against flesh, hard and angry.

Nothing like ending a kissing scene with knuckles to the face! But hey, now Jared knows his girlfriend really is still there, and she is not happy about his kissing an alien…

 

Burning Glass by Kathryn Purdie

Burning Glass (2016) is the young adult fantasy debut by Kathryn Purdie, and my favorite book of hers. The story follows Sonya, a young empath sent to work at the palace as an auraseer, intended to sense would-be assassins who have it out for the emperor. Sonya doesn’t have a full handle on her abilities yet, however, and oftentimes her emotions get confused with those of the people around her.

There’s more than one kissing scene in this book, and more than one kissing partner (ah, the beauty of love triangles), but my favorite scene in here is one with (spoiler) the emperor, made all the more interesting because of the mixing and trading of emotions between the two people. Purdie has a very eloquent way of writing and drawing you in to the tension she weaves. And, if you count all the lead-up… this is a delightfully long kiss. But alas, I will only share a sample:

Another nudge forward, and our faces were almost touching. His breath was sweet, like currant tea. […]

That longing within me—within him—built to a desperate need. It strung taught along my every muscle and pleaded for release. Unable to contain is it a moment longer, I leaned into the emperor and closed the small distance to his mouth. […]

Oh, if only they hadn’t been interrupted…

 

Charlie N. Holmberg is a Wall Street Journal and Amazon Charts bestselling author of fantasy and romance fiction, and writes contemporary romance under C.N. Holmberg. She is published in 20 languages, has been a finalist for a RITA award and multiple Whitney awards, and won the 2020 Whitney for Novel of the Year for Adult Fiction. Born in Salt Lake City, Charlie was raised a Trekkie alongside three sisters who also have boy names. She is a proud BYU alumna, plays the ukulele, and owns too many pairs of glasses. She currently lives with her family in Utah. Visit her Instagram at instagram.com/cnholmberg.

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