Heat Factor: Yeah, so, we barely even know they like each other at the end of this one
Character Chemistry: I don’t know how Therin managed it, but I wanted them to touch SO BADLY even though 1) it’s dangerous and 2) they mostly snip at each other
Plot: Empaths are a persecuted group, feared for their abilities even though they have to be pacifists (and vegans) by virtue of their extreme empathy, except that there’s a triple homicide that looks suspiciously like Reece’s nightmares, and the man rumored to keep empaths in check suddenly arrives in town.
Overall: It is not actually a romance (yet), but it is SO FREAKING GOOD
I recently discovered that a niche micro-genre that I really enjoy is sapphic sci-fi romances, aka Lesbians in Space. I don’t know these books tickle my fancy so much, but whenever I see one, I immediately drop everything and read it. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many books (that I’ve found) that fit the bill; many sapphic sci-fi books are more readily classified as science fiction with romantic elements. This list therefore leans a little more smut-adjacent than most of our Saturday Smutty Sixes, but rest assured, every one of these books does have a love story and a happy ending.
It all starts when Gennie drugs Natalia in a bid to convince Natalia to find dirt on the owners of a mining company (who happen to be her terrible in-laws, but let’s not mention that bit). One thing leads to another, and Gennie and Natalia are doing some forced proximity while working undercover and exposing a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy in this space-noir romantic suspense. (Book 1 in this series also features a f-f pairing; here’s my review of Rulebreaker.)
What if humans colonized a planet but there was a virus and all the men died and then women learned how to reproduce? And then several hundred years later, an anthropologist arrives to study the new societies that have developed there? Anyways, that’s the premise. This book is primarily about Marghe’s adventures as she tries to figure out how things work, but she does find love in the process. And the sex gets weird and metaphysical since it involves an inward journey to modify the DNA in the chromosome of your partner’s egg. Note that this book was published in 1992 and that Griffith was writing with the specific project of showing women as human characters in science fiction; gender here is a binary and there are no trans people in space.
The New World series by Lily X are perhaps the most romance-y sapphic sci-fi books I’ve found. There’s a bit of adventure, but it’s used to underline the interpersonal conflict between the protagonists as they work towards their happy endings. In Stay with Me, Twyla has run away from home and thrown herself on Cedra’s mercy to get a fresh start—but the vast majority of the book is Twyla and Cedra focusing on each other as they figure out their blood mate bond. Yup, it’s a fated mates book, and yup, there’s some biting, and yup, one of them goes into heat. (If you’re interested in the series, I recommend starting with this one, the series opener, which sets some ground rules for the worldbuilding. Here’s my review of Book 2, Made for Me.)
If you’re looking for some New Adult style sci-fi adventure romance—heavy on the adventure—this might be the book for you. We’ve got kidnappings, space pirates, geneticists who are up to no good, and lots of blushing. And dragons. Can’t forget the dragons.
If you look up Goodreads reviews for this book, the number one thing that gets mentioned is that it is really weird. And, yeah, it kind of is; the premise is that humans now live as parasites in giant space beasts the size of moons, and there is therefore a lot of squish as our protagonists traipse around the beast’s spleen. The phrase “tentacle cooch” may or may not appear. But this is also a pretty straightfoward coming-of-age romance as Seske figures out her place in society—and how to make sure her best friend slash love interest from a different class is by her side. Romance readers be prepared: if you’re not down with the protagonists having secondary romantic relationships, skip this one.
Ok, technically this is bisexuals in space featuring an MMFF poly quad, BUT the two females have a long interlude with just the two of them in the shower (with a probe, no less!) (yes, that kind of probe), and Russo takes care to write their relationship as distinct from the ones our human heroine has with the two males of the group. Plus, it involves a human female/alien female pairing, which is hard to find.
This series is not romance, but it is a great deal of fun. And is about lesbian space necromancers. Plus there’s a lot of love that transcends death (see: necromancers). The last book in the series hasn’t been written yet, but it doesn’t seem like a happy ending is really on the horizon for these guys. Be prepared for some serious gore and extremely unreliable narrators and not actually knowing what’s happening—but trust me, the ride is worth it.