Are you craving the thrill of enthralling love stories that go into the depths of passion and power? Dive into the world of dark romance books, where desire and dominance take center stage.

In this article, we've handpicked the some of the most worthy dark romance books from the recent years that will leave you breathless, captivated, and yearning for more. From seductive villains to twisted love affairs, these novels will take you on a journey through the shadowy side of romance, where love knows no boundaries.

Whether you’re not a big fan of pure romance or you like it with a bit of a twist, here are some of the best (straight) dark romance books out there.

In order to better understand the complex and captivating nature of each dark romance novel, I sought to collect and identify the key dark romance elements present in each story. This way readers can gain a clearer picture of the unique aspects that make these books so enthralling. From the exploration of BDSM and power dynamics to themes of obsession, manipulation, and forbidden love.

These elements push the boundaries of traditional romance and show the shadowy side of love and desire.

What Are the Must-read Dark Romance Books?


Obedience, by Liza Snow and Mads Arlow (2023)

Dark romance elements: circus setting, manipulation, forbidden love, unexpected twists, fate's plan

There are plenty of twists in this book, but I guess that’s what makes it one of my favorites. It’s also the first book in the Ties That Bind series, so you’ll want to start with it.

Anyway, meet Cassandra. Her parents passed away, but before that, they took her to Chandler Moreau’s circus. She knew that’s what she wanted to do in the future… Be there with the circus, be there with him.

She had her own vision of him, of course, but she didn’t realize that people are often different.

Chandler has always wanted an apprentice, someone to teach and share his experience with.

He never imagined that he could fall in love with a student, but there are times when fate has a completely different plan in mind

And like his grandfather always used to say, you’ll have to adapt and survive. Despite all of his demons, he’ll have to do it.

I love how two different stories twist one around the other until they become one, it’s an excellent book with a surprising end.


The Butterfly Garden, by Dot Hutchison (2016)

Dark romance elements: kidnapping, tattoo obsession, survivor's secrets

I love book series, in case you haven't noticed yet. That's because I often fall in love with a story, and then it ends. I want some continuity, hence my passion for the series.

The Butterfly Garden is the first book in The Collector series and one of the most intriguing dark romance books out there.

Imagine an isolated mansion in the middle of nowhere. It’s not great looking, but the garden around it stands out. The special butterflies in this garden make it different because they’re not insects, but women who have been kidnapped and forcefully tattooed.

The Gardener is obsessed with his work and his collection. Until one day, when the garden is discovered, and the FBI comes into play. One survivor, Maya, is ready to reveal everything, but the two FBI agents investigating will soon realize that she’s also a puzzle herself.

Her story turns and twists as we learn more about her and her old grudges… And just when you think you understand what's going on, the whole story changes again. Trust me, you'll love the outcome, and you'll crave for the second book.


Beautiful Graves, by L.J. Shen (2022)

Dark romance elements: heartbreak, death, isolation, internal struggle between heart and mind

I dare to say this is L.J. Shen’s best book and one of my favorite dark romance books. I like its realistic approach and how it describes an internal battle between brain and heart, something most of us have to go through at some point.

It’s said your first love is the end of your innocence, but for Everlynne, it seems to be the beginning of a nightmare. She ended up with her heart broken, not to mention death surrounding her wherever she goes.

She’s lost everything and decides to isolate herself and start all over… Until Dominic shows up.

Dominic is everything she's ever wanted in a man. He's adventurous, but he's also full of life. He's passionate, and lust inevitably takes her over.

She’s trying her best to get back on her feet and reinvent herself, but her heart tells her to go for Dominic… That’s what I meant when I said there’s always a struggle when your heart fights your brain.

She ends up being in love with two men. One of them makes sense, the other one is pure lust. What’s she going to choose?


Haunting Adeline, by H. D. Carlton (2022)

Dark romance elements: emotional manipulation, control, shadowy figure

You won’t be able to put this book down once you start reading it, mark my words. It goes in two different directions.

First, you have the manipulator, who’s great at controlling everyone’s emotions. The manipulator can make you cry or laugh, whatever they’re up to. The manipulator is a person you hate, but somehow, you want him to be there too. That’s why they’re doing such a good job…

Then, you have the shadow. The shadow fell in love, and everything changed. Everything is about her, and nothing will make it go away.

I’ll leave you here, I won’t go into too many details. I know it doesn’t make too much sense, but as you grab the book, you’ll know exactly what’s going on.

The bad part about it is the ending is somewhere in the air. I’m not sure if the author wants you to imagine it or another book might be on the way…


Tell Me to Stop, by Charlotte Byrd (2019)

Dark romance elements: debt repayment, servitude, power dynamic, desire, dominance

This book is part of the Tell Me series, and it won't let you down. She owes him a debt, but it's not about money. It's the type of debt that requires a more physical approach.

Now, he wants something different. He wants her, and he makes it pretty obvious. Not forever, but just for a year. She finds the proposal intriguing, especially since she has no idea who he actually is.

He wants 365 days with her as a slave, meaning she has to do whatever he wants. But she says she'll never sleep with him, and he always finds it funny.

He doesn’t want to force her, but he makes a promise. By the time this year is up, she’ll beg him to sleep with her. Will he manage to stimulate her senses and make her go for it? Only one way to find out…

Bottom line

Since we are speaking dark romance stories some themes and elements are problematic or “non-ok” in dark romance books. Mentioning some of the most important themes, that we should certainly avoid as a reader: non-consensual acts, excessive violence, emotional abuse, glorification of toxic relationships, dubious consent, and the romanticization of stalking or harassment.

It is crucial for readers to be aware of their personal boundaries and comfort levels when exploring dark romance novels, and to research potential trigger warnings or content advisories before jumping into a story.

There are plenty of dark romance books out there, but I’ve noticed many authors tend to go in the same direction. I wouldn’t always call it romance, but more like erotica.

The above mentioned titles go in a different direction. Sure, you have the erotic element too, but romance is a completely different kettle of fish, at least to me.

If you are looking for more dark romance reads, check out our previous favorites in dark romance books.