Want Dark Academia Romance books?
Prestigious colleges, secret societies and romance. Read on for the absolute best dark academia romance books.
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Maybe it’s the academic setting. Maybe it’s all the books and libraries. Or maybe it’s the thrill of a secret society working in the shadows.
But dark academia romance books are insanely compelling.
There are tons of incredible dark academia romance books. So whether you’re after academic rivals to lovers of a thriller with a romantic subplot, I’ve got you covered.
I’ve browsed Reddit, Facebook groups and my bookshelves. And I’ve compiled 17 of the best LGBTQ+ Fantasy romance books.
I’ve read and loved every single book on this list.
Let’s discover the best Dark Academia romance books
What is the Dark Academia Aesthetic?
Dark academia is a subculture with a heavy emphasis on reading, writing and learning. It’s the romanticization of learning.
I’ve heard it described as vintage with a gothic edge.
Think tweed, oxfords and plaid skirts but also dark photos and brooding poetry.
There have been some criticisms of Dark Academia. One important criticism is the lack of diversity in Dark Academia. Many people have commented on how eurocentric and white-dominated this aesthetic is because it’s linked to old universities such as Oxford. I think it’s really important we change that stereotype of academia. Below I’ve linked some wonderful posts and creators you can look at:
Dark Academia Reading List for Black People/Allies (Including Queer Black Authors) by Persephone Anasi
How to dress Dark Academia and POC Book Recs
R C Waldrun – Incredible Youtuber who posts about Dark Academia
Golden Lanni – Has many Dark Academic related videos
The best dark academia romance books
1. If we were villains by M.I. Rio
If you're looking for a dark academia read, a secret society of a smart group of friends then you should check out If We Were Villains.
It follows Oliver Marks. He's just served ten years in jail - for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the man who put him in prison.
Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened a decade ago.
As one of seven young actors studying Shakespeare at an elite arts college, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off. But the casting changes and the secondary characters usurp the stars.
The play spills dangerously over into life and one of them is found dead.
If you enjoyed the characters in The Atlas Six, then this is the book for you. It features a secret society with pretentious members who end up doing morally questionable things.
2. Maurice by E.M Forster
Want a historical romance? Then Maurice is for you.
Maurice is a 1971 romance. It deals with LGBTQ+ romance in the early 20th Century.
It follows Maurice. A young man who is heartbroken due to unrequited love. An unrequited love which opened his heart and mind to his own sexual identity.
But he is also trapped by the oppressiveness of Edwardian Society.
In order to be true to himself, he goes against the grain of society’s often unspoken rules of class, wealth, and politics.
E.M Forster wrote this novel in 1914. But he knew it would end this career. So it sat unread in a draw. Since it's release it has been widely read. There is also an adaptation of this novel featuring Hugh Grant.
I'm a huge fan of a book with an adaptation. For a while, I was in a routine of reading a book and then watching the adaptation. If you're a fan of a book with an adaptation, then I have tons of recommendations. Check out my article on historical romance movies based on books here.
3. A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske
There is so much to love about A Marvellous Light. It's an mlm romance about magic, a mystery to solve and a secret magical society.
It follows Robin Blyth. Due to an administrative error, he is named liaison to a secret magical society. So, he is forced to contend with magic's dangers and a deadly curse while he searches for his missing predecessor.
To do this, he'll need the help of Edwin Courcey.
Edwin Courcey is his prickly magical society counterpart but he clearly wishes Robin were anyone else.
I love the secret society of magicians. And the Edwardian setting and mlm romance sets it apart from other books including secret magical societies.
If you like historical fiction or dark academia then you need to read this one. It's fantastic to read about gay men in an Edwardian setting. And the dark academia setting makes it perfect if you're looking for books like The Atlas Six.
There are so many incredible mlm books. If you're looking for books with mlm romance then I have a whole blog post full of recommendations. You can check out my blog post on mlm book here
4. We set the dark on fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
You need to check this book out if you're after LGBTQ+ Dark Academia books. It has dark academia worldbuilding and one of the best wlw enemies to lovers romances.
It's a Ya dystopian urban fantasy novel featuring a wlw romance and Latine representation.
We Set The Dark On Fire follows Daniela Vargas. She lives in a dystopian world where each man is entitled to 2 wives.
A Primera and a Segunda. The Primera is intelligent, calm and analytical. The Segunda is the mother figure.
Outside the wall, the people go hungry. Dani started life outside of the wall. And she must use her wits to survive illegally in the capital.
But she is also married to one of the most powerful men in the kingdom.
The premise was intriguing. And the main character was instantly likeable. She also grows a lot through the book.
But the romance is what makes this so perfect.
Two badass women who are married to a Straight man but fall in love with each other.
The world-building is also excellent. And the book has such dark academia vibes. It opens in a prep school for girls. But it discusses so many important issues such as immigration politics and forced marriage.
We set the Dark on Fire features an intriguing dystopian premise and a likeable, strong-minded main character. This YA LGBTQ+ Dystopian book explores immigration politics, toxic masculinity and feminism. A great choice if you're looking for fantasy books with dark academia vibes
5. Ruinsong by Julia Ember
This is yet another seriously underrated lgbt book. I don't see this recommended nearly enough online.
Ruinsong is an ya lesbian book set in a dystopian world. It has lush world-building, a twisty plot and feisty main characters.
In this world, singers have magic powers when they sing certain songs. And they are able to heal, cause pain and heat people.
Cadence is an incredibly strong mage. She was born in poverty in an orphanage and rises to success. But she works for the evil Queen Elene. And Elene forces Cadence to use her power to torture others.
But when she is reunited with her childhood friend she must make a choice. Does she take a stand or follow the queen.
This book is like a dystopian and queer phantom of the opera.
The world building is so unique. It's full of strong willed women wearing beautiful ball gowns taking down evil. It's a dark fantasy where girls take down their enemies while wearing beautiful pink ballgowns.
It also has one of the most unique magic systems with singing as a vehicle for magic. It was really well developed. And the magic system and well developed characters really hook you into this story.
6. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronté
When I think Dark Academia romance, Jane Eyre instantly comes to mind. This moody and atmospheric romance is perfect if you enjoy classics.
Jane Eyre is hired by Edward Rochester to care for his ward Adèle. When she arrives at Thornfield Hall she starts to fall in love with Rochester.
But there is a terrifying secret looming within the walls at Thornfield Hall. So what is Rochester hiding from Jane?
Jane Eyre has everything you want in a dark academia romance. A mystery, academia world building and a romance.
7. Air Awakens by Elise Kova
It follows Vhalla, a library apprentice. She lives in The Solaris Empire. They're one conquest away from uniting the continent.
Vhalla has always been taught to fear the Tower of Sorcerers - a mysterious magic society. She's been happy in her quiet world of books (same). But she unknowingly saves the life of a powerful sorcerer and the crown prince.
Vhalla discovers a powerful elemental magic lurking within her. A magic that could shift the tides of war. Now she must decide her future, embrace sorcery and leave the life she's known. Or remain as she's always been.
I can understand why book lovers enjoyed this series. It has a great enemies to lovers romance. Vhalla is a great female character and she has fantastic character development throughout the book.
8. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Leigh Bardugo can do no wrong. If you liked the dark academia elements of The Magicans then I highly recommend picking up Ninth House.
Ninth House is paranormal fantasy set in an urban, academia setting. And it's also Bardugo's first adult fantasy book.
It follows Galaxy 'Alex' Sterm. She is the most unlikely member of Yale's freshman class. Raised by a hippie mom, she dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends and dead end jobs.
By age 20, she is the only survivor of a horrific unsolved multiple murder. At her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance. Attend one of the world's most elite universities on a full ride.
But what's the catch?
Alex is tasked with monitoring the activities of Yale's secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful. From high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players.
But their occult activities are more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.
9. These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
Whether it's romance, mystery or fantasy you're after, These Violent Delights has everything you want in a dark academia romance. It's a Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai.
It's set in Shanghai in 1926. A blood feud between two gangs leaves the city helpless and in the grip of chaos. The book follows Juliette Cai, an 18 year old at the heart of all the chaos. She's a former flapper. And she's returned to assume her role as heir of the Scarlet Gang —a network of criminals far above the law.
Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.
But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows.
As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their grudges aside and work together. Otherwise there will be no city left for either to rule.
This is a captivating read.If you're after dark acaddemia romance books, then you will love this book. It's a fast paced romance with rival gangs, beautiful worldbuilding and heart-wrenching romance.
10. The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
If you're looking for a book with great characters and dark academia vibes then you should check out The Raven Boys. It has a chaotic friendship group, fantasy and dark academia worldbuilding.
The Raven Boys follows Blue. Each year in the churchyard, Blue watches her psychic mother see those who are going to die that year. Blue never actually sees them herself. Until this year. When she speaks directly to a boy.
He is called Gansey and is a student at Aglionby school. The students there are known locally as Raven Boys.
Raven Boys has such dark academia vibes. It’s set in a local private school. Gansey is also obsessed with researching Welsh mythology. And it even references Latin.
The characters are what make this book. On the surface, it seems like a quirky loner meeting rich boys. But it’s so much more than that!
The characters are all fully developed with fleshed-out (and tragic) backstories. The relationships between them are some of the best I’ve read in YA Fiction
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