I grew up on Star Wars, so you can imagine that science fiction, space fantasy, and science fiction romance have a special place in my heart. After all, what is Star Wars if not an epic science fiction love story? (Don’t try to fight me on this.) There’s just something about the combination of science fiction elements — you know, epic space battles, intergalactic political intrigue — and romance that work together to create the sense of a love story of epic proportions. Maybe it’s the grand scale of space or the stakes that are so often involved, with entire planets and civilizations dependent on the hero’s actions. Either way, I just can’t get enough.
But it seems like finding really good science fiction romance isn’t always as easy. Maybe it’s because I’m looking for that Han and Leia tier romance (see The Princess and the Scoundrel below) full of banter and complicated feelings and the highest of high stakes. When that’s your standard, it’s no wonder a lot of love stories fall short. But these 10 science fiction romance books (Han and Leia included) deliver on the feels in a big way, even if the stakes aren’t always quite as high as battling an evil empire.
The Red Scholar’s Wake by Aliette de Bodard
A pirate and a captured scavenger enter into a marriage of convenience in this gorgeous sci-fi romance. For Xích Si, this marriage will offer her the protection of the Red Banner, and in return, she agrees to help the mindship Rice Fish uncover who was behind the murder of her late wife, the Red Scholar. But though they both enter into this as nothing more than a business arrangement, their feelings for each other soon grow. As threats from both inside and outside of the pirate banners begin to circle, they must decide just how much they’re willing to give up to be with the ones who matter most.
The Red Scholar’s Wake is set in Aliette de Bodard’s Xuya universe, and while it can absolutely be read as a standalone, you might also enjoy the many other novellas, short stories, and novels set in this world of mind ships and vibrant Vietnamese and Chinese inspired cultures.
The Stars Undying by Emery Robin
Inspired by the lives of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar, The Stars Undying tells the story of a princess who has lost everything to a civil war and the commander of an interstellar empire. If Gracia can win over Commander Matheus Ceirran and his right-hand officer, Anita, she might just be able to win back the throne and the computer containing the soul of the planet’s immortal god. But attempting to bed an Imperial commander is as dangerous as any battle, and if Gracia wants to regain her planet, she’ll have to become a queen the likes of which the universe has never seen before.
Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell
Red, White and Royal Blue in space? Well, don’t mind if I do. When the Imperial prince of the Iskat Empire dies, his newly widowed husband is rushed into another marriage to keep the alliance between the planet of Thea and Iskat alive. The prince’s cousin, Kiem, has a notoriously bad reputation, and Jainan has no choice. But when evidence comes to light that the prince’s death might not have been an accident and suspicion falls on Jainan, the two newlyweds must work together in order to survive the perils of court life, solve a murder, and prevent all-out war. And if they can learn to trust each other, maybe, just maybe, they’ll get the chance to have a long and happily married life.
This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
Two competing time agents battle it out through the ages, but a series of notes left behind on the battlefield begin to flip the script. Are they really enemies? Or do they have more in common than they think? And, perhaps more importantly, how on — or off — earth are they going to find a way to be together when the factions they work for are mortal enemies trying to change the timestream for their benefit?
Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki
This book is a little bit sci-fi, a little bit fantasy, and a whole lot of family and found-family feels. Shizuka Satomi is a renowned violin instructor looking for the seventh and final soul of a musical prodigy to trade with the devil — and she thinks she’s just found the perfect pick in Katrina Nguyen. Lan Tam is a former spaceship captain fleeing a violent interstellar conflict. Now, she and her family pose as immigrants running a donut shop. When the lives of these three women intersect, it becomes clear that nothing about their futures will ever be the same.
The Princess and the Scoundrel by Beth Revis
Is there any more iconic sci-fi romance than that of Han Solo and Leia Organa? I don’t think so. And after the fall of the Death Star and the death of Darth Vader, Han and Leia finally get their chance at a happily ever after. But with the remnants of the Empire still scrambling against defeat, two newlywed leaders of the Rebellion on their honeymoon are an all too enticing target. Han and Leia have always fought their best battles side by side, and now they will have to do so once more, not as Rebels but as husband and wife.
The Darkness Outside Us by Eliot Schrefer
Two teens from enemy countries trapped on a spaceship together must find some way to work together in order to pull off an unlikely rescue mission. There’s only one problem: Ambrose doesn’t have any memory of the launch. And it seems their ship has been tampered with. Also, his shipmate, Kodiak, has barricaded himself in his quarters. Okay, maybe there are a lot of problems. But with his sister on the other side of that rescue beacon, Ambrose is determined to succeed in spite of it all. And if that means falling for the enemy along the way, well, so be it.
The A.I. Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole
Trinity Jordan is still trying to rebuild her life after a world-shattering incident, working for a government research center and managing to get by. But when her next door neighbor’s nephew moves in, her life is flipped upside down. Not only do mishaps seem to follow him around, Li Wei is unbearably strange and sexy. Turns out, there’s a reason for that: Li Wei is an incredibly advanced AI. So advanced, he’s almost human. He wants Trinity’s help to become even more human, but is he real enough to feel the most confounding human thing of all: love?
Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik
A space princess taken prisoner by the family she ran away from strikes up a deal with a dangerous outlaw in order to escape capture from the rival house she was meant to marry into. In exchange for his help, Ada promises Marcus Loch a small fortune. But making a deal with an altogether too attractive outlaw soldier is a risky move, especially if either of them begin to catch feelings.
City of Shattered Light by Claire Winn
Heiress to a tech empire, Asa Almeida, wants to prove she’s more than just her father’s shadow. So when he uploads her sister’s mind to an artificial brain, Asa flees with her sister in tow, determined to save her from reprogramming. Except then she crash lands in the worst place imaginable: the outlaw paradise of Requiem. Riven, an outlaw determined to climb up Requiem’s hierarchy, knows she’s found a captive with just the bounty she needs to get ahead. But when a rogue AI infects the city in Asa’s wake, she and Riven will have to team up with their tech and fighting skills in order to save the underworld — and Asa’s sister — from being wiped out.