2 September 2014

Dystopian Romance Books

Hello readers,

Now if you’ve been reading romance for a while you’ve probably noticed that there are defined tropes or themes that authors and readers return to again and again. Now although this sounds like a bad thing it really isn’t and in fact one of my favourite things to do is binge on a trope. At the moment I’m obsessed with dystopian, apocalypse, zombie style romances, basically anything were society, as we know it has crumbled or broken down. Obviously this is an extremely popular style of book at the moment, particularly within the young adult genre. I blame the Hunger Games trilogy.

In this post I’m going to talk about my favourite romance novels that incorporate this theme, some of them are quite well known and if you’ve read them I loved to hear your thoughts. This is not, of course an exhaustive list as that would take forever, but instead a small selection that show the diversity of this trope. I hope that you will like the following post and now let’s get started.

I’m going to begin with the most well known book on my list, which is The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook.

Now I know some of you would be reluctant to call The Iron Duke a dystopian romance and while I agree that it does sit more comfortably in the world of steampunk, I still believe that this is a story about a society in crisis, or at least one recovering from crisis. The first novel in the extremely popular Iron Seas Series The Iron Duke introduces the reader into an England that has been destroyed by Horde control, the majority of people were enslaved and could be turned into mindless drones with little or no free-thought due to the use of nanobots. Not only is this a country recovering from Horde control it is also part of a world that is suffering from zombie infestation with most of Africa and Europe being a dangerous wasteland.

The world building is truly incredible, the amount of detail and the level of backstory within this novel are in part what make it so great and yet the author doesn’t let the romance between Rhys and Mina suffer. Both characters are extremely complex and have dark pasts; Mina in particular is an outsider in society because she was the product of a horde-organised orgy that her aristocratic mother was forced to part in. In contrast Rhys is an ex-pirate turned national hero who has just freed England from Horde control. This is a seriously amazing book and would appeal to a wide range of readers, not just romance lovers, its gritty, dark, detailed, sexy and seriously addictive.

The next book on my list is Half a Million Dead Cannibals by Kari Gregg.

As the cover suggests this is a romance involving two men, if that offends or just isn’t your cup of tea feel free to skip to the next book. If, however, like me you love a good m-m romance and see nothing wrong with reading about it listen closely. Half A Million Dead Cannibals is a short novella at about eighty pages long and follows the story of Riley and Graham as they escape from the inner city that has been taken other by zombies, feral dogs and hostile survivors to the freedom and relative safety of the mountains. I really liked this book and thought the author did a fantastic job of developing the world and characters given the length of the novel. This isn’t the most original take on the zombie theme but it suited the novel, which really was focused on Riley and Graham rather than the world around them.

Now some people may dislike this book because we don’t see the full-development of Riley and Graham’s relationship, instead the author gives us a snapshot into their lives, a crucial snapshot, but still a snapshot. When we join the story Riley and Graham have already been ‘living together’ or hiding in a basement for a couple of months, flirting and touching has happened. They’ve already bonded shall we say but they haven’t admitted or fully accepted that they’ve bonded. Both Riley and Graham are likeable characters who have completely different personalities and throughout the book the readers follows Riley slightly snarky yet loveable POV. I would recommend Half a Million Dead Cannibals if you want a short, relatively light-hearted romance that includes zombies.

The next book I’m recommending is the first one that doesn’t involve zombies, instead The Battle Lord’s Lady by Linda Mooney offers a different vision of an apocalyptic future. One involving mutants.

The reader is introduced to an earth three-hundred years in future, it is a world still recovering from the Great Collision and it is also a world defended. In this future, society have divided into two camps the mutahs or mutants and the cleaners or the normals, as they are respectively known. The hero of this story is a normal, a warlord called Yulen whose aim in life is to protect his compound and people from the mutations of the new world. Our heroine is a mutah called Atrilan a warrior and huntress who protects and defends her home from the cleaners. The world building in The Battle Lord’s Lady by Mooney was extremely well done, cleverly thought-out and helped carry the story of forbidden love. In a world divided Yulen and Atrilan must cross-untold boundaries and prejudices in their battle to be together. The only slight warning I would give about this book is it is the first in a series following the same couple and I personally dislike this style of romance, however, it does work as a stand alone novel which if how I chose to read it.

My next book is currently free on amazon.co.uk and this one of the deciding for way I purchased it. Having said that Beyond the Night by Joss Ware was an incredible book I one that I would highly recommend.

The book begins with Dr. Elliott Drake and his friend awakening from an unexplained fifty-year sleep and in that time a lot had happened cities had been destroyed, civilisation is controlled by deadly immortals and zombies roam the earth. In Beyond the Night the author combines the legend of Atlantis, zombies and the end of the world to create a truly unique vision of the future. Now this the first in a series, with each book following a different member of the sleeping men, and as such it does contain a lot of world building and occasionally this take priority over the romance between Drake and Jade, however, I still loved this book. Jade, the heroine of Beyond the Night is another complex character who has been scarred emotionally by the new dangerous world that she inhabits. Watching Jade and Drake fall in love despite all the crazy things happening around them made this book extremely enjoyable to read and the overarching story hinted at by the author makes you want to read the others in the series.

So far in this article I have given you steampunk, m-m, mutants and zombies so my final book incorporating this theme is Flesh by Kylie Scott and it involves a menage or three-way relationship. Don’t let it be said I don’t give you diversity!

This is by far the most erotic and graphic book in the list and as before if that isn’t your cup of tea you don’t need to read this description, I will not be offended. Flesh follows Ali, Daniel and Finn after the outbreak of the zombies and the collapse of civilisation; it describes how they go from being complete strangers to a loved-up threesome. Also just to clarify Dan and Finn are never romantically or sexually involved with each other, they are both solely focused on Ali. Dan and Finn are almost complete opposites and partly I think these different personalities are what make the menage work. Dan provides Ali and Finn with a much-needed positive outlook, he humorous, lovely and is always looking for the positives in life. In contrast Finn is the serious protector, a former cop who will do anything to prevent the newly formed family from coming to harm. Although Flesh is an assuming, witty and erotic take on the zombie apocalypse, the world building could be better as certain questions about the zombies were left unanswered.

These are some of my favourite romance books featuring the dystopian theme, and I hope this post has given you an insight into why I love this trope. If you’ve read any books on this theme that I haven’t mentioned please tell me in the comments or on twitter @lucy_hargrave as I’m always looking for books to read.

Happy reading and see you next time!