Monster Romance has been quietly gaining traction and quietly evolving within the Romance genre for years. But before we dive into the history, let’s define our genre a bit. Monster Romance encompasses any romance that features a main character/love interest that is decidedly not human. They can be an alien, mythical creature, dinosaur, cryptid, etc, but they are not and cannot pass as human. They can be set on earth another galaxy another fantasy world or alternate universe. But they (usually) contain a human falling in love with a being that is decidedly not. **Two notes: 1) these monsters have beast like qualities/resemble animals, but they are fully sentient, consenting beings. 2) This subgenre tends to be high steam/spice aka lots of explicit sexual content.** You can catch glimpses of the origins of this subgenre throughout literary history: Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the minotaur in the labyrinth– a staple of Greek mythology. The fascination with monsters may be one of our most human traits. But how did this go from fascination for the macabre to the swoon? I’d argue that there’s always been a little bit of romance for monsters, but you can really start to see it emerge as a modern Romance subgenre in the 90s and early 00s.
During this time there was a huge explosion of urban fantasy books which contained a lot of falling in love or grappling with your love/hate relationship with your most typical, human passing monsters: Vampires, Werewolves, Fae. You get Buffy the Vampire Slayer on TV, Sookie Stackhouse– novels that were later adapted into the show True Blood and then, of course, the YA megahit that became the Twilight franchise (also books + movies). Christine Feehan (vampires + shapeshifters), Nalini Singh (shapeshifters), Karen Marie Moning (fae) all exploded with popularity in the early 00s and are still publishing best sellers today. These books melded together the monster with the romance, but, for the most part, these are still fairly human passing love interests. They may have fangs that pop out when they are hungry or turn into a wolf at the full moon (or at will), but they are still very notably human.
Then in the late 2010s, Monster Romance emerges from the depths of the internet as a veritable powerhouse of the Romance subgenres. No more cute teenage vampires. Monster Romance breaks from its urban fantasy roots to full out falling in love with Bigfoot. With the proliferation of fan fiction, Kindle Unlimited, and Tumblr, authors and writers were able to reach vast audiences without having to sell a truly wild concept to a publisher: “so the protagonist is a millennial who needs to pay her bills. She starts working at a pharmaceutical company to extract semen from minotaurs so it can be used in semi-magical viagra. Also she falls in love with one minotaur who comes every week.” I’m not sure any of the major publishing houses would have let CM Nascosta finish that pitch let alone published her novel, but it became an overnight sensation on Kindle Unlimited and now we all get to read quite possibly one of the cutest romances ever: Morning Glory Milking Farm.
What I love about the genre is just how willing it is to be completely bonkers. Do you get abducted by aliens and fall in love with an alien who rescues you? Sure. Read Ice Planet Barbarians. Ever wondered what it might be like to be in Victorian England but there just happened to be monsters, but you’re also a feisty sex worker who just can’t choose? Read A Lady of Rooksgrave Manor. Looking for a meet cute between a gym owning wolven and bakery owner who wants to get back in shape? Sure! Try Muscles & Monsters. Plus while the bulk of this genre is fairly hetero (pairing females with males), there is quite a bit more exploration of queerness and sexuality than most of the Romance subgenres. Nonbinary love interests, romances between characters of the same sex, inclusion of kinks/fetishes are all fairly typical and widely present in the genre.
It may not be for everyone, but Monster Romance is one of my favorite finds in the last few years and my favorite Romance subgenre to read in. Plus it’s becoming less and less niche every day with large publishing houses picking up titles for wider distribution (Ice Planet Barbarians picked up by Berkley) and mainstream authors writing their very own Monster Romances (Katee Robert and Sierra Simone to name a couple). There’s truly something for everyone in Monster Romance. If I haven’t given you enough to look up and check out, I’ve included a few more of my favorites below. Happy Monster Romance Reading!