I don’t read a lot of paranormal or speculative fiction. Learning a new set of rules on how the universe works is too difficult, I can’t track timelines as characters jump from the past to the future, and I don’t care why one supernatural creature won’t play nice with another. Truth be told, I’m still trying to figure out the world I’m in right now.
However, I appreciate a little magic in contemporary romance fiction. Just a hint of it. A flourish, if you will. Storytellers consider this blend as “low fantasy” or “intrustive fantasy”.
Think of low fantasy as a typical day but with an unexpected sprinkle of pixie dust.
Add a touch of magic in a sexy contemporary romance, and the reader is treated to favorite tropes with a fun twist. The fantastical element can come from anything such as telekinesis to a hex.
These moments of magic are just that: moments. It might introduce the couple or temporarily disrupt their lives so they have to rely on one another. Despite the power of magic, the hero and heroine still need to find the courage to fight for their happily-ever-after.
Across the world and in all cultures, people are willing to accept any kind of help to attract a mate or find love. Most love magic is in the form of a spell (or a curse). The spell might be placed on an object, such as a talisman or an amulet.
In romance fiction, the object can be as ordinary as a item of clothing. For instance, Harlequin Temptation published the “Single in the City” miniseries about a magical miniskirt. Questioning if a skirt can really act as a man-magnet, a group of friends passed around a black miniskirt that seemed to bring good luck.
Each woman discovered they were irresistible when they wore the skirt. It created a lot of surprising and seductive escapades. The woman wearing the skirt found the man of her dreams, but what would happen when she got undressed?
This type of magic is not as common to read in romance fiction. “The point of such love magic,” according to Matthew Willis in his JSTOR Daily article, “is to enslave the targeted objection of affection, to overcome the individual’s will, to drive them crazy with desire for the potion administerer.”
That’s right. Even the Genie from Aladdin can’t make anyone fall in love. It’s all about ethics and consent.
Yet there are talented authors who know how to create a memorable and romantic story that includes this type of magic. In The Love Potion by Sandra Hill, Sylvie is a chemist who developed a love potion that directs physical and emotional attraction on a short-term basis. She never imagined that Luc would mistake it for candy and help himself to the potion.
Luc and Sylvie have been archenemies for decades. Now the crude bad boy can’t stop thinking about the refined good girl—or stop wanting her. He starts to wonder if the chemistry was always there, just waiting to catch fire. But while he understands that the potion creates a fierce wanting in him, it doesn’t explain why Sylvie desires him.
The most well-intentioned matchmakers can be invasive while causing more harm than good. Imagine the level of a chaos when the matchmakers are ghosts! Lori Foster explores this scenario in “Tangled Dreams”, which can be found in The Winston Brothers anthology.
Rose and Burke had a passionate marriage before they died. Now they’re ghosts visiting what had been their home. The house has been passed down from generation to generation, but no one has found the jewels hidden on the property. In order to find the clues, Rose and Burke’s descendant needs to have a grand passion.
Allison currently owns the family home, but she doesn’t think she can inspire any kind of interest in Chase Winston, the man she wants. With the ghosts encouragement, Allison prepares to proposition the man who stars in her hottest fantasies. But she has no idea that Rose and Burke gave Chase an ability that every man wants. He can now read Allison’s unfiltered thoughts.
This is probably the most common form of low fantasy in romance fiction because there are superstitions and traditions revolving around love and marriage. Magical thinking, according to Healthline, “refers to the idea that you can influence the outcome of specific events by doing something that has no bearing on the circumstances.”
For example, a bride will wear a veil to disguise herself from evils spirts. She also wears an item borrowed from a happily married person. It’s believed that the sympathetic magic will bring the bride good fortune within her marriage.
So how does magical thinking fall into the low fantasy category? Did they make decisions because of a superstition? If a ritual or an old wives’ tale impacted a protagonist’s action or choice, then the supernatural elements have influenced the story.
In Zain, a contemporary royal romance, a desert prince travels to the other side of the world to avoid a prophecy. Everyone in his kingdom knows that the woman a bachelor prince kisses on his thirtieth birthday is destined to become his bride. Although he’s laying low in America’s heartland, Zain is not safe from temptation.
Lauren is on a mission to kiss a prince—any prince will do. When Zain tracks her down to offer marriage after one earth-shattering kiss, he discovers that she questions everything including prophecies, fairytales and his sanity.
Want more fantasy with romance? Discover how combining romance and sci-fi fantasy brings out the best of both worlds.