Looking for the best dark romance novels to read? You’re going to love these top picks.
But be WARNED. They deal with subject matter that isn’t for the faint of heart. Reader discretion is definitely advised.
See our newest picks for the month in the chart below:
Author Iris Ann Hunter
After Ava’s father’s death, she becomes indebted to a man named Shayne, who is both her savior and her torturer. Shayne is determined to have all of her, both body and soul, but before she agrees to that she steals a night for herself. When it goes awry, she comes across an angry young man with gorgeous green eyes that changes her entire future. This is a very dark, intense romance that is both beautiful and disturbing, and it is one story you will never forget.
Author Stella Barcelona
Taylor lives in New Orleans and has staunch career goals. In her final days in the D.A.’s office, a murder case is assigned to her that turns her life upside down. Brandon has a thriving legal practice and is a single father to an infant. He teams up with Taylor to hunt down a killer, and even though the couple couldn’t be more different, they find out their families intersect in some pretty peculiar ways. But, they both set out to find the truth, with an ending neither is sure of.
Author Lucy Wild
When a man who lives alone discovers a beautiful woman has just moved in with a staunch enemy of his, he launches a plan to steal her away from him. The first thing he’s planning to do is rip her clothes off and give her a healthy spanking. But, when he gets her to his hideaway, he discovers that he isn’t the only one with secrets. Her secrets come in a small wooden box, and suddenly he has a decision to make – either open the box or let this sexy woman go.
This is the story of Kade and Olivia. Olivia is kidnapped and is put through things no one should ever have to go through, and Kade is a ruthless person who is determined to pluck away at Olivia until there is nothing left. He loves control and wants Olivia to do as he asks. Theirs is a tumultuous, shocking, and very dark relationship, but Olivia gets the biggest surprise of all when she learns to depend on that relationship more than she’ll ever admit.
Author Linnea May
Leonard and Liz have a dominant-submissive relationship that includes Liz being collared and chained to Leonard’s bed. Leonard is used to getting what he wants, and Liz is who he wants at the moment. She needed to be broken in his opinion, and he is convinced that he is the one to do it. But, this is a relationship that benefits both parties, and they are not likely to end it any time soon.
Author J.S. Scott
Jade teaches a survival class that Eli enrolls in. He is rich, so he buys up all the spots in the class so he can have Jade all to himself. His main goal? To bring her into the wilderness so he can have his way with her. But, Jade is just as resistant as she is attractive, and she is bound and determined not to let Eli have his way with her. Of course, some things are easier said than done.
Author Addison Cain
Arabella is the Baroness of Iliffe who is on the run. She is determined to get away and has been trekking across England trying to avoid her captors, until suddenly she meets a gorgeous, but sinister man who is cruel and greedy, but offers to do anything for her. Gregory is used to getting what he wants, and what he wants right now is Arabella. Unfortunately, making a pact with the devil is sometimes the only way to escape with your life.
Author LeTeisha Newton
Alana survived Purgatory and near death in an abandoned farm house, and her story is not going to be understood by everyone. She is brilliant and filled with angst and pain, and she ends up fueling the fire of her captor. When she escapes, he promises to get her back, but the next time he sees her she is a different woman. A gritty story that is perfect for those who like to see the bad guy win sometimes.
Author Anna Zaires
Peter is a Russian man whose family was killed, and he is out for vengeance. Sara is the one who gets caught in the crossfire, and Peter will stop at nothing to make her pay. He is a tortured soul and a terrorizing captor, and he turns Sara’s life into a living nightmare. This is an animalistic and passionate story that is not for the faint of heart, and it is one the reader will not soon forget.
Author Loki Renard
Ellis despises Mason, in part because he spanked her like a little girl many years ago on her eighteenth birthday. She does her best to avoid him, but with her brother in debt to the wrong people and her own life in danger, he is the only one she knows that can help her. Mason agrees to help, but at a high price – she has to submit her body to him however and whenever he wants, even though she isn’t thrilled about it.
Author Izzy Sweet
When a woman from a wealthy family who thinks she is untouchable gets kidnapped and put up for sale on the black market, she ends up being trapped and violated. When Jonathan is sent to buy her, she thinks her troubles will soon be over, but she has no such luck. Instead, he claims her and keeps her for himself, starting her nightmare all over again. Will it ever end for her?
Author Annabel Joseph
BDSM is nothing new at The Gallery, and when Fort and Juliet enter into a dominant-submissive relationship, she finds herself in his dungeon and at his mercy. This is supposed to be an affair with rules, but soon there are unexpected results. Juliet’s free-spirit personality and Fort’s rigid sexual lifestyle soon clash, even though both sides are experiencing emotions that are hard to explain. Take a peek into the darker side of romance, and enjoy the ride.
Author Sansa Rayne
Sibel is an artist of a different type – she is deviant and even perverse. And her performances always go viral. However, they also attract the wrong type of people. When she meets Pierce, she knows he is different. Handsome and kind, he still satisfies her very dark cravings, and the time they spend together is always intense. But, Pierce has a secret that could ruin Sibel, and he wants the truth hidden from her. Can he keep up this relationship without spilling the beans and letting Sibel in on this secret?
Author B.B. Hamel
When a man agrees to marry a woman because it is a business arrangement, he only agrees after eyeing his voluptuous stepdaughter. Soon, stepfather and stepdaughter want one another, but they know the relationship is wrong, even if the marriage is a sham. He is determined to make her call him Daddy, and eventually their relationship takes on an entirely new meaning. With steamy sex scenes and lots of dirty talk, this novel will get you aroused in more ways than one.
Author Alta Hensley
This is a dark romantic thriller that involves a woman who is forced to marry someone she doesn’t love, but who starts training her to be a dutiful and obedient wife from the very beginning. From now on, she will be his captive. She will be his. And she is trapped in a relationship that is twisted and obsessive, and one she will find impossible to leave. This is her life, but is she ready for it? And what will she do if she gets the chance to escape?
Author B.B. Hamel
When a cold-hard killer eliminates an innocent woman’s abusive father right in front of her, he has to do something he’s never done before – leave a witness alive. Instead, he takes Amelia captive, and it isn’t long before his dark sexual desires become obvious to her. He won’t stop until he can have her in the way he wants to. After all, she owes him her life, and this is the least she could do for him.
Author Winter Renshaw
When an ambitious man with eyes on the White House is advised to settle down and get married, he finds Rowan to be the perfect choice. She’s a nice girl, prim and proper, and good for his image. What the heck, he is planning to get rid of her as soon as he gets his Senate seat anyway. But, along the way something happens to make him change his mind, and very soon he’ll stop at nothing to make sure she sticks around permanently.
Author Addison Cain
Morgaine is an Omega living peacefully in her settlement, and every season the Alpha soldiers come and take crops – and women if they so desire. When Simin comes on board and sees how beautiful Morgaine is, he decides he wants her and in fact, he threatens to start a war if he is denied her. So, Morgaine is handed over to Simin, and at first she is scared. But, soon Simin is putting his best foot forward and gaining her trust one step at a time, until finally she succumbs to him completely.
Author Derek Masters
The likeable characters, Nick and Alex, are the center of this story, which tells of a man obsessed with a woman and who will do anything to make her his – anything. At first, Alex could not be any less interested, but this doesn’t stop Nick from pursuing her. When his secrets come out, she is even more determined to stay away from him, but he is determined to do whatever it takes to have her completely, both body and soul.
Author Laura Avery
Pierce is determined to get revenge on Morgan, the woman he believes is responsible for tearing his family apart. He wants her to be his, and he will stop at nothing to make that happen. And this time, she will be his forever, or so he thinks. Morgan, on the other hand, is just as independent and assertive as Pierce is, and she intends to take as much from him as he wants from her. But, this time, she promises herself she will not fall in love, even though that may be easier than she thinks.
Author Cerys du Lys
Noah can prove to anyone that there are monsters in every closet, because he is in yours. He is a man whose business involves taking someone, breaking them, and selling them to the highest bidder. He is not a nice person, and he has no intentions of changing his ways. This book is not for sensitive readers, as it depicts graphic violence and scenes that may make many readers uncomfortable, but it is an intriguing and intense story that will have you hooked from the very beginning.
Author Ally Vance
Violet is lonely, and has been for most of her life. She is waiting for someone to come and save her, until HE comes along. She hasn’t met him yet, but she just knows he’s out there waiting to save her just like she is ready to be saved. Eventually, he does come along, and he wants to drag her into his own world and make her scream in ecstasy. In fact, he is determined to do just that, regardless of how long it takes.
Author Dahlia Kent
Jenna is a woman who wants to make something of her life, but her life is nothing exciting because all she has is her job at the diner. Until she is arrested for a crime she didn’t commit. When Cole comes into her life and offers to help her, she notices how beautiful, but dangerous his eyes are, and he starts by telling her she did something bad. But, then he offers to make her a good girl again, as long as she allows him to punish her.
Author Emma James
A strong female and a fearless male make up the storyline, and it is a dark, unpredictable, and very intense novel filled with twists and turns you won’t be prepared for. A woman escapes one Hell’s bastard only to be enticed by another. It is a love story most of all, but first it is filled with danger, violence, and some very graphic scenes that are intended only for those over the age of 18.
Author Jex Lane
Matthew is a vampire who stays mostly to himself because of his “condition.” He is prepared to spend the rest of his life alone, until one day when he is taken prisoner by a seductive incubus named Tarrick. He then participates in a war between the incubi and the vampires, and he wants to go back to his own kind. However, he is unable to deny his desire for Tarrick, and the fact that she feeds off of sexual energy doesn’t make it any easier for him.
Author Ginger Talbot
Bailey AKA Natasha found out that she was kidnapped as a baby to save her from an arranged marriage, but now her true family has come back so she can marry Matteo. But, Matteo is a sadist who is intent on bruising both her body and her soul. Her life is now a living hell, but the longer she’s with Matteo, the more determined she becomes to escape. She’ll submit for now so that she can survive, but her intention is to get away from him eventually – if she can resist the charm that he is obviously hiding under his rough exterior.
Author Julia Sykes
When an FBI agent is kidnapped by a Colombian drug lord named Andres, his job is to break her and make her submit. But, she is a loner and not used to such an aggressive lifestyle. Still, the longer she is trapped the more she believes that she is not his only captive. Andres has scars that match the lines in his face, but is he really that tough? Does she even want to be saved from this man, or is he the one who needs saving?
Author Josephine Jade
When Sarah comes to Roman begging for him to forgive her brother’s debt, he immediately realizes she is unable to pay off that debt with her meager teacher’s salary, so he comes up with an arrangement. For one month, she will be his plaything, his toy. He wants her, and he wants her bad. And most importantly, he believes that she wants him just as bad. After all, both teachers and bad-boys deserve a happy ending sometimes.
Author Bianca Scardoni
Dominic and Jemma have a strange relationship, and their story is filled with vampires and paranormal occurrences, as well as other twists and turns you won’t be able to predict. With an ending that you won’t see coming, it is a dark story, but with characters you’ll be rooting for to the very last page. A great story centered on teen angst, shifters, angels, demons, and the supernatural.
Author Jennifer Bene
Lianna comes from a wealthy family and is being groomed to be her father’s successor in his business, but one thing can stand in her way. His name is David, and he wants revenge like his father wanted years earlier on this family. David has information that could tear apart her world, but when he kidnaps her and tortures her, he starts to have feelings about her that make him think he has been wrong about her since the very beginning.
Author B. Never
Jett is a dominant who is used to seducing women and giving them pleasure they never knew existed. Heck, this is what he’s good at, and he never lets the women forget it. That is, until a tall, beautiful redhead enters his life. Suddenly, he is the one who wants to submit, and in his secretive, dark world he has to think up a way to make her his. But, she has secrets, too, and those secrets could possibly tear both of their livelihoods apart and change their lives forever.
Author B. Never
Ellie once belonged to a Dominant, but is now free from him. She is living in Hawaii and trying to pick up the pieces of her life. She also decided no man will ever keep her down again, and she is becoming stronger every day. Kayne has been unable to forget about Ellie since he let her go, and he still considers her his. In fact, he is so sure of this that he has every intention of getting her back one day, regardless of what it takes to accomplish this.
Author Anita Gray
Blaire was bought and conditioned 10 years ago by a master named Maksim. She is now completely trained and does everything he wants her to do, including kill. She worships and protects Maksim, and her story is no fairy tale. Still, it is a complex tale that delves into dark areas that most people know nothing about, and it is one story you are certain to never forget.
Author Mia Ford
When a dedicated cop goes after a tough criminal, she doesn’t expect to have mixed feelings about the job she’s doing. He’s a crook, but he is also the hottest criminal this cop has ever seen, and all she wants to do is handcuff him to her bed and keep him with her as long as possible. Even though getting him into bed was part of the plan, that doesn’t mean she cannot fall in love with him. Or does it?
Author Nikki Belaire
A mafia princess who has been held captive since she was 12 years old needs more than just to be rescued. When the man hired to rescue her hears her call his name, however, he melts, and he realizes this job is no ordinary one. Can he do like he usually does – get in, get out, and get gone – or is this woman going to take more from him than he’s used to giving to his rescued victims?
Most Popular Dark Romance Tropes
Dark romance books are all the rage nowadays. Their stories may seem the same at first glance.
But did you know that you can actually categorize them according to different tropes? Allow us to share the most popular ones below.
One of the most popular tropes for dark romance books is Sexual Slavery. As we have mentioned above, this genre is not for the faint of heart. It’s not ideal for those who get easily triggered or offended by weird sexual situations either.
After all, what’s a sexual slavery story without dark sexual situations?
This trope is about the main character that gets enslaved by another. The victim doesn’t have to be submissive, but the “slave master” or enslaver should clearly be more dominant for the story to work.
A lot of these stories tell of a character that suddenly gets abducted. One moment, the main character is living a normal life, then she’ll find herself waking up in an unfamiliar bedroom in a luxurious mansion the next.
It doesn’t always have to be a kidnapping, though. There are definitely versions out there where a character gets trapped in such disturbing situations because the family sold her to another person.
Take, for instance, some of the Beauty and the Beast retellings.
There are stories where the female lead gets sold to the male lead, not just because of a debt. Sometimes, it is also due to some really dark secrets that they just desperately want to hide.
For example, the Irish mafia threatened the girl’s entire family to get her. In addition, the enslaver constantly hangs the lives of her loved ones over her to achieve control.
These dark romance books also don’t always have a dominant male. There are versions out there that feature a strong yet submissive male lead.
They’re simply trapped in these disturbing situations by a life-changing conflict. In fact, we enjoy romantic suspense books that show female-dominated sexual situations. We find that things are a little bit kinkier that way.
It also shows how trapped the guy is within the arrangement, especially when we’re talking about sexual situations that are particularly humiliating.
These stories don’t always have to show crippling fear as well. There are a lot of dark romance books out there where the characters actually enjoy the conflict. Regardless, the slave master, mistress, and the slave will eventually fall in love.
Since these books are intended to be sexy, we also prefer them to be overly detailed and descriptive as well. For instance, “dark hair,” “silky skin,” or “biker with secrets” won’t cut it. It’s more titillating to know how dark, silky, or juicy things are.
One of our favorite stories under this trope is the Twist Me series. It’s about Nora Leston, who gets kidnapped by Julian Esguerra, a beautiful and enigmatic man. It follows their love story as they descend into the darkness of cruelty.
Again, the story of Nora & Julian isn’t for everyone.
Nora & Julian’s romance deals with dubious consent and Stockholm Syndrome. We don’t recommend this for readers aged 17 and below.
Debts Versus Death
Here’s a trope that usually gets associated with Sexual Slavery. After all, Debts versus Death can also be a form of slavery. The main difference between the two, though, is that the Debts versus Death rarely has a contract.
One of the characters being indebted to the other is enough to give the latter the power they need.
Unlike the previous trope, most of these stories usually have the entire family involved from the get-go. As the name Debts versus Death suggests, either they pay what they owe back or forfeit their life.
The debt doesn’t always have to be money. There are stories out there where the debt owed is a person’s life.
Maybe the submissive accidentally killed one of the dominant’s loved ones in the past. For this reason, they are willing to subject themselves to such sexual situations regardless of how humiliating and depraved they may be?
We also find it particularly interesting that many of the dominant characters in this type of story look harmless outside their bedroom doors. Sometimes, it actually brings us a smile whenever we hear descriptions like “prim glasses” or “upstanding”.
Enough about slaves or blackmailed characters. What about possibly mind-controlled characters that suddenly find themselves in a cult? That’s what the Cult Life trope is all about. There are different approaches to the Cult Life type of story.
First, the character can be a part of the cult because of their upbringing. Maybe members of the entire family are devoted and faithful members? Then an outsider can come along to try and save the other from this hollow life. He may or may not succeed.
We’ve read stories where the outsider eventually finds himself trapped in the cult life as well 一 that or they die through human sacrifice.
In other versions of this story, the character gets forced into the cult life. Maybe they got recruited into it by a potential lover? Or just intrigued to join because of the luxurious mansion of the leader?
Some stories have the main character finding herself having a conversation with one of the members. The next moment, that character wakes up in an unfamiliar bedroom, similar to sexual slavery.
Regardless of whether one or both of the main characters willingly enter the cult life, there will always be a dark romance factor at the end of the story. This reading is enough to let your silky skin tingle.
Beware, though, that this story can also contain weird sexual situations and dubious consent.
Game of Deception
Due to triggering aspects of the previous tropes, we are not surprised that many dark contemporary romance novels fall within the Game of Deception trope.
The Game of Deception trope involves characters that fall into a dark romance motivated by passion and competition. There’s also a dark secret to be uncovered that is usually a crime of some sort.
However, we’re not saying that this kind of story doesn’t have abusive sexual situations. There are still a lot of dark contemporary romance novels that have them.
It can also be an ancient game with a deep family history. Hence, it’s not uncommon to see stories with the entire family involved.
For instance, one of our recent reads tells of a male lead inheriting a family distillery. It is then revealed that part of the agreement is to have a female human sacrifice due to an ancient curse. This practice dates back over a century, and we were truly gripped by crippling fear. Failing to find someone else to sacrifice, the family distillery heir then decides to abduct his fiance instead.
Still in love with each other, you can only imagine their crippling fear. In a bid to win this ancient game of deception, though, the couple then teams up to break the curse.
Teaming up ultimately led to the guy’s redemption and forgiveness, the couple getting the family distillery, and both getting married.
Interestingly, we’re also finding many Game of Deception stories where one of the main characters is a criminal psychologist. The criminal psychologist can either be a good or bad guy in this trope.
When you get a criminal psychologist as the bad guy, you almost always expect the other character to fall into mind-control or get hypnotized to provide dubious consent.
Meanwhile, we’ve also read stories of having the tables turned with the psychologist being victimized.
Regardless, the almost paranormal power that’s beholden them will break due to crippling fear and desperation or even true love. The game of deception usually begins at this point when the victim becomes aware of the dark situation she finds herself in.
The only question is, how will she be able to overcome it when she’s already falling in love with her dark lover? More importantly, can this guy with prim glasses but with a dark alter ego be trusted? What if the romantic feelings are part of the mind control?
What’s Your Favorite?
There are certainly other dark romance books out there for you to explore. You can even go through the different tropes one by one. We’re currently reading dark contemporary romance right now.
If you find this genre interesting, you might also want to check out Romantic Suspense. Happy reading!