The Best Dark Romance Book Series by Trope
September 14, 2023
Online searches for “dark romance” have more than doubled over the past year. With authors like Penelope Douglas and Jennifer L. Armentrout releasing both contemporary and fantasy romance standouts featuring morally gray and wickedly violent main characters, there’s no question why the subgenre is on the rise.
Women are powerful and willing to embrace their sexuality and sensual desires through the often taboo and downright sinful actions of these fictional characters. Dark romance allows you to live your fantasies and explore your curiosities and I am more than willing to help you on your journey with this list of the best dark romance book series, broken out by trope. Skip to your favorite section, or browse the full list to find your next viciously sweet read.
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The Mind of a Killer
Murder is unforgivable, and serial killers are the worst of them all … right?
The Mindfuck Series
By S.T. Abby
Ten years ago, they took from me. They left me for dead. They should have made sure I stayed dead.
Now I'm taking from them.One name at a time. I've trained for too long. I've been patient. I can't stop now. Revenge is best served cold...
They never see me coming, until I paint their walls red.
Logan doesn't know how they hurt me. He doesn't know about the screams they ignored. He doesn't know how twisted that town really is. He just knows people are dying. He doesn't know he's in love with their killer.
No one suspects a dead girl. And Logan doesn't suspect the girl in his bed.
This series is brutal, shocking, heartbreaking, and addicting. Broken into five short novels, the story will rip your heart out and have you questioning your morals as you dive into the mind of a serial killer. Lana has reasons for what she’s doing, and it’s wild to find yourself rooting for a killer, but the ending is incredible. Be sure to check the trigger warnings before you read. There are some pretty graphic scenes that may not be suitable for all readers.
There Are No Saints (Saints and Sinners Duet)
By Sophie Lark
I loathe Alastor Shaw. The city of San Francisco thinks we’re rival artists. In truth, we’re predators battling for hunting ground. We never chased the same prey. Until the night we both laid eyes on Mara Eldritch.
Shaw wants to use her as a pawn in his twisted game. I’m fixated on her for a different reason…
She makes me feel things I never thought I could feel. Want things I never wanted. Only she can make me lose control. I don’t know if I should protect her at all costs… or destroy her before she ruins me.
Mara knows I’m no saint. But she has no idea she’s dancing with the devil…
Sophie Lark creates a jaw-dropping story about a woman that falls for a serial killer. She said that writing from the perspective of a killer created a new challenge for her as she explored the emotions and morally gray ethics that motivate a person like that. A dark and stormy ride, the Saints and Sinners duet is sure to take you on a roller coaster you’ll never expect.
Most dark romance books already seem wildly far-fetched. So why not put the characters in high school or college to make it more believable? Here are our favorite dark romances set in college and high school.
Cross My Heart (The Oxford Legacy)
By Roxy Sloane
Anthony St Clair. The future Duke of Ashford. A reckless enigma… and my greatest temptation.
I came here on a mission, to uncover the truth about what happened to my sister - no matter the cost. Until I meet him.
Saint is my passport to a sensual world of wealth and privilege, but something wicked is lurking behind these ivy covered walls. Secrets these people will kill to protect.
Loyalty is everything to them… but will it be my ruin?
This dark academia romance is perfect for fans of Emily McIntire, Ana Huang and Lauren Asher. Set in Oxford, England, the college romance centers around a professor and a grad student, and an MMC with a dirty mouth. This series is not very well known, so give it a try before it goes viral.
Sick Boys (Spine Ridge University)
By Clarissa Wild
The night my sister died, a piece of me died with her, so I made a vow.
I'm going to enroll at Spine Ridge University just like her, find the person responsible … and make them pay. Until I meet three sick boys of the Skull & Serpent Society: Felix, Dylan, Alistair. Rude, heartless, vicious guys who are obsessed with making me regret I ever stepped foot on campus.
They make me a deal: My body in exchange for a glimpse at their violence.
Refusing them is impossible, denying them is insane. They're rough, greedy, and every second with them is filled with depravity. Their venom is jabbed straight into my heart and I’m sucked into their world. All for the sake of revenge.
Until it becomes something more.
Something all four of us would kill for.
This reverse harem dark romantic thriller is not my cup of tea, but it’s perfect for fans of Den of Vipers. Murder mysteries, mayhem, madness, and sick boys set with a backdrop of criminal families and secret societies. There are currently two books with a third book set to release on February 29, 2024.
The Dark Legacy Series
By Jamin Eve and Tate James
They rule my new town, my school, and with more money than God, there’s very little out of their reach. Four gorgeous, perfect, scary boys. There used to be five, but one of them died, leaving a fifth position that I now fill.
I didn't ask for this. I didn't want to be part of this billionaire-boys-club. But no one cares about what I want.
Sebastian Beckett is the worst of them. Their leader. He draws me in, and strips me of every defense I have. He calls me Butterfly, but it's not a pet name, it's a threat. Beck wants nothing more than to break my wings, pin me to a board and watch me writhe.
He wants to see me broken. Body, heart and soul. And what these elite want, they get.
Only they've never met Riley Jameson.
Let the battle begin.
I loved this series. It’s not a reverse harem, and I loved the friendships Riley creates with the four boys, including the dark and seductive relationship with Sebastian. This one is set in college, which makes an already unbelievable premise even more wild, but I absolutely loved it. The suspense and action throughout the 3-book series keeps you guessing the entire time, and sucks you into the whirlwind romance. There’s somebody out there that’s trying to kill her, the Delta corporation is full of snakes and lies, and they need to work together to uncover the truth before someone else winds up dead.
Billionaire Boys and Secret Societies
The section title pretty much sums it up here. Just a bunch of high-stakes, rich and deadly frat boy situations.
The Crowned Crows of Thorne Point (Crowned Crows)
By Veronica Eden
I enrolled at Thorne Point University to be closer to my brother.
Now my world is falling apart.
Ethan is missing.
It plays on repeat in my head every day I can’t find him.
The search for answers turns up nothing. My hope is cracking and I’m running out of options.
But there’s a rumor on campus.
And I’m desperate enough to seek out the Crows as my last resort.
Wren Thorne’s reputation precedes him, but I won’t take no for an answer.
The night belongs to us.
We run this town.
Wear the rumors like crowns.
But after losing the most important thing, my brothers are all I have left.
Our bond runs deeper than blood.
When Rowan comes looking for our help, I do one thing I shouldn’t: break all my rules.
She asked for monsters? I’ll show her one.
The Crowned Crows is an incredibly dark romance series about powerful and wealthy men, and the courageous women who stand up to them. Though each book centers on a new couple, the overall plot carries through the series. This is one of my favorite dark romance plots - the parents in this book are corrupt, and they aren’t above selling their kids out to further their agenda. I love watching the Crows and their women fight against them, standing up for themselves and what they know is right. The fourth book is coming soon, rumored for release in December 2023.
The Ritual (L.O.R.D.s Series)
By Shantel Tessier
Barrington University is home of the Lords, a secret society that requires their blood in payment. They are above all—the most powerful men in the world. They devote their lives to violence in exchange for power. And during their senior year, they are offered a chosen one.
People think growing up with money is freeing, but I promise you, it’s not. My entire life has been planned out for me. I never got the chance to do what I wanted until Ryat Alexander Archer came along and gave me an option for a better life. He offered me what no one else ever had—freedom.
I chose to be his. He made me believe that anyway, but it was just another lie. A way that the Lords manipulate you into doing what they want.
After being sucked into the dark, twisted world of the Lords, I embraced my new role and allowed Ryat to parade me around like the trophy I was to him. But like all things, what started out as a game soon became a fight for survival. And the only way out was death.
This is not one of my favorites, but it’s a popular series so I wanted to include it on the list. The FMC in this book is treated like property, there are very misogynistic undertones, and some of the spicy scenes are too graphic for my taste, but it does have some good action. The L.O.R.Ds series is extremely dark, featuring violence and mature sexual situations. It may not be suitable for all readers, but if you are looking for an erotic series with powerful MMCs, this could be a good option.
Rival (Briarcliff Society)
By Ketley Allison
We come from high society, but the grooming process starts in high school.
And we always recruit in the dark.
As a result, our messes are rarely clean and never brought to light.
Money's not an issue, and usually, neither are our members.
Until one decides to betray us.
Let this be a lesson to our initiates: Never choose love over loyalty.
And a word to Chase Stone, Briarcliff’s most sought-after student—if you tell the new girl we exist, it won't just be you that pays the price.
Me, the New Girl:
Ketley Allison creates a dark romantic suspense series featuring enemies to lovers and bullying with a plot that continues through each book in the series. Though they cannot be read as standalones, each book ends with a “happy for now” and the series will finish with a HEA. Set in college, this series of secret societies and powerful men is full of spice and kink. As always, check trigger warnings before reading.
King of Wrath
By Ana Huang
Ruthless. Meticulous. Arrogant. Dante Russo thrives on control, both personally and professionally. The billionaire CEO never planned to marry - until the threat of blackmail forces him into an engagement with a woman he barely knows.
Vivian Lau, jewelry heiress and daughter of his newest enemy. It doesn’t matter how beautiful or charming she is. He'll do everything in his power to destroy the evidence and their betrothal. There’s only one problem: now that he has her...he can't bring himself to let her go.
Elegant. Ambitious. Well-mannered.Vivian Lau is the perfect daughter and her family’s ticket into the highest echelons of high society. Marrying a blue-blooded Russo means opening doors that would otherwise remain closed to her new-money family. While the rude, elusive Dante isn't her idea of a dream partner, she agrees to their arranged marriage out of duty. Craving his touch was never part of the plan. Neither was the worst thing she could possibly do: fall in love with her future husband.
Fairy Tales and Mythical Retellings
What would happen if the villain got the girl? Bad boys deserve a happily ever after too.
My Dark Romeo (Dark Prince Road)
By Parker S. Huntington and L.J. Shen
It was supposed to be a harmless kiss at a lavish debutante ball.
A clandestine moment with a handsome stranger.
But unlike his namesake, my Romeo isn't driven by love.
He's fueled by revenge.
To him, I'm a chess piece. Leverage.
His rival's betrothed.
To me, he is a man deserving of poison.
A dark prince I refuse to marry.
He thinks I'll accept my fate.
Well, I plan to rewrite it.
And in my story, Juliet doesn't die.
But Romeo? He perishes.
Shakespeare is no stranger to tragedy, but this dark and twisted retelling brings new life to the old tale of two starcrossed lovers. This Romeo is no gentleman, and it's not devotion that will be their downfall. It will be revenge. Romeo is a dark prince, and she doesn't want to die for him.
Neon Gods (Dark Olympus)
By Katee Robert
Society darling Persephone Dimitriou plans to flee the ultra-modern city of Olympus and start over far from the backstabbing politics of the Thirteen Houses. But all that’s ripped away when her mother ambushes her with an engagement to Zeus, the dangerous power behind their glittering city’s dark facade.
With no options left, Persephone flees to the forbidden undercity and makes a devil’s bargain with a man she once believed a myth... a man who awakens her to a world she never knew existed.
Hades has spent his life in the shadows, and he has no intention of stepping into the light. But when he finds that Persephone can offer a little slice of the revenge he’s spent years craving, it’s all the excuse he needs to help her—for a price. Yet every breathless night spent tangled together has given Hades a taste for Persephone, and he’ll go to war with Olympus itself to keep her close…
Nominee for Best Romance (2021) in the Goodreads Choice Award, Neon Gods marks the first installment in a dark mythological reimagining set in the modern world. Katee Robert is known for her spicy retellings, bringing familiar stories an entirely new life. Sinful and sweet, Katee Robert has a large collection of dark romance books to keep readers busy.
Hooked (Never After)
By Emily McIntire
He wants revenge, but he wants her more…
James has always had one agenda: destroy his enemy, Peter Michaels. When Peter’s twenty-year-old daughter Wendy shows up in James’s bar, he sees his way in. Seduce the girl and use her for his revenge. It’s the perfect plan, until things in James’s organization begin to crumble. Suddenly, he has to find the traitor in his midst, and his plan for revenge gets murkier as James starts to see Wendy as more than just a pawn in his game.
Wendy has been cloistered away most of her life by her wealthy cold father, but a spontaneous night out with friends turns into an intense and addictive love affair with the dark and brooding James. As much as she knows James is dangerous, Wendy can’t seem to shake her desire for him. But as their relationship grows more heated and she learns more about the world he moves in, she finds herself unsure if she’s falling for the man known as James or the monster known as Hook.
Emily McIntire created a series of dark fairytale retellings based on popular stories, starting with a gritty reimagining of Peter Pan. The Never After series creates a world where the villain gets the girl and the happily ever after. This dark and twisted series is perfect for fans of Katie Robert.
Made Men and the Mafia
Bad men doing bad things is despicable. But bad men doing bad things for his women? I'll read that.
The Sweetest Oblivion (Made Series)
By Danielle Lori
In the murky waters of New York’s underworld, Elena’s sister is arranged to marry Nicolas Russo. A Made Man, a boss, a cheat—even measured against mafia standards. His reputation stretches far and wide and is darker than his black suits and ties. After his and Elena’s first encounter ends with an accidental glare on her part, she realizes he’s just as rude as he is handsome. She doesn’t like the man or anything he stands for, though that doesn’t stop her heart from pattering like rain against glass when he’s near, nor the shiver that ghosts down her spine at the sound of his voice. And he’s always near. Telling her what to do. Making her feel hotter than any future brother-in-law should. Elena may be the Sweet Abelli on the outside, but she’s beginning to learn she has a taste for the darkness, for rough hands, cigarettes, and whiskey-colored eyes. Having already escaped one scandal, however, she can hardly afford to be swept up in another. Besides, even if he were hers, everyone knows you don’t fall in love with a Made Man... Right?
I didn’t particularly love this book, but it has a ton of rave reviews. It’s a dark mafia romance with an arranged marriage dynamic, but I found the writing and plot to be awkward and straightforward. We don’t get much insight into the emotions of the main characters, and it falls pretty to the “tell not show” trap. Still, it’s a quick and fun read if you like the dark underbelly of mob families and drama. I’ve heard that the second book is better, but I haven’t read it to be sure. Let us know on twitter what you think!
The Predator (Dark Verse Series)
In the dark underbelly of the mob, Tristan Caine has been an anomaly. As the only non-blooded member in the high circle of the Tenebrae Outfit, he is an enigma to all - his skills unparalleled, his morality questionable, and his motives unknown. He is lethal and he knows it.
As does Morana Vitalio, the genius extraordinaire daughter of the rival family. What Caine does with weapons, Morana does with computers. When a twenty-year old mystery resurfaces, Morana infiltrates Caine's house, intent on killing him, unaware of a tie that binds them together. Hate, heat, and history clash together with unexpected sparks.
But something bigger, something worse is happening in their world. And despite their animosity, only they can fight it down.
Unlike most dark mafia romances, this story has two powerful members. Caine is deadly, but Morana is a genius. As they work together throughout the book, their connection grows, and it’s different from some of the very submissive stories on this list. With tons of great reviews from readers, this is a series you won’t want to miss.
Blood Sky (Broken Mercenaries Series)
By S. Massery
Jackson Skye is a means to an end.
A way to escape the people hunting me.
But he surprises me at every turn.
Fights ruthlessly to protect me, even if I don’t deserve it.
The stand-up citizen I thought he was slips away,
Leaving a dangerous man in his place.
A former mercenary and a mafia princess.
Oh, what a fitting pair we make.
Darkness holds both of us, but I lean into it.
Jackson wants nothing more than to be good.
Unfortunately for him, good won’t save us.
And the people who want me dead will learn why he’s called Blood Sky.
This book follows a mafia princess and the former mercenary who’s ruthlessly fighting to protect her. You’ll side of action with your mafia style romance, and sizzling chemistry between the main characters. Each book in the Broken Mercenaries series can be read as a standalone. There are currently three books, but the fourth and final installment has been on hold for a few years. Good thing they’re standalones!
Ride Hard (Raven Riders Series)
By Laura Kaye
Brotherhood. Club. Family. They live and ride by their own rules. These are the Raven Riders . . .
Raven Riders Motorcycle Club President Dare Kenyon rides hard and values loyalty above all else. He’ll do anything to protect the brotherhood of bikers—the only family he’s got—as well as those who can’t defend themselves. So when mistrustful Haven Randall lands on the club’s doorstep scared that she’s being hunted, Dare takes her in, swears to keep her safe, and pushes to learn the secrets overshadowing her pretty smile.
Haven fled from years of abuse at the hands of her criminal father and is suspicious of any man’s promises, including those of the darkly sexy and overwhelmingly intense Ravens’ leader. But as the powerful attraction between them flares to life, Dare pushes her boundaries and tempts her to want things she never thought she could.
The past never dies without a fight, but Dare Kenyon’s never backed down before . .
A thrilling and suspenseful series about a motorcycle club, perfect for fans of the tv show, Sons of Anarchy. Though their club is not exactly the mafia, I included it here because they are still a club that would do anything to help their own. Each book follows a new couple with different plots, so they can technically be read as standalone novels. There are multiple crossovers with Laura Kaye’s other series, so if you like it, you’ll have a lot to check out!
Dark Side of Hockey
Why exactly is there a full hockey subcategory in the dark romance genre? I have no idea. But I’m not upset about it.
Until I Get You
By Claire Contreras
My reputation at Fairview University preceded me. I was the projected number-one pick in the NHL draft and the fan favorite at the rink. People wanted to be me or be with me. Except for Lyla James Marichal.
She didn't look at me like I was her next meal. She eyed me with disdain.
Instead of vying for my attention, she ignored me and pushed me away. She was completely unattainable, and I became obsessed with her. When I finally got her, it felt like I was on top of the world. I was going to help the team win another championship, going into the draft, and had Lyla by my side.
And then, without warning, she left me. Vanished. It took me three bitter, angry, long years to find her, but I did, and now she owes me a lot more than just an explanation.
Three years ago, she ruined my life. Now, I was going to become her worst nightmare.
This second-chance, enemies to lovers dark hockey romance follows an NHL player who fell in love with the one woman that didn’t fawn over him. She was supposed to be his everything, but now he wants to take everything from her in revenge. If you’re a fan of dark romance and sports romance, this dark combination is perfect for you.
Bad Intentions (Hellions of Hade Harbor Series)
By Mila Kane
His name was Cayden, and he was a golden boy, an instant hit with everyone I knew. But the mask chipped and cracked in front of me, and I saw underneath. If I hadn’t, maybe everything would have been different. Maybe he would have let me go. I guess I’ll never know. I saw him, and I can never change that. Most importantly…. he saw me. Now, the Coach says he’s staying with us for the season, in the room right next to mine… I’m locked inside with my bully, and he’s watching my every move.
It started with needing to make the coach’s daughter keep her pretty little mouth shut. It ended with an obsession… mine. I’m burning…. consumed - and she’s the reason. Now, there is no way back. Lily Williams isn’t like anyone thinks she is, underneath her straight-A student veneer. I’m the only one to see the real her, I’m the only one to know her… And I’m the one who is keeping her.
This high school bully hockey romance features a possessive and powerful hockey player forced to live with the coach’s daughter. She becomes his obsession, and he’ll stop at nothing to have her…and keep her. Hellions of Hade Harbor is a series of standalone bully romance novels with great reader ratings. Be sure to give it a shot.
By Claire Contreras
You've heard of these groups - the secretive ones that only the crème de la crème are invited into, the ones outsiders speculate about for centuries - I'm the second in my family invited to attend, but to them, I'm fresh meat. New blood. New money, too. They think they'll elbow past me, that I'm here for their amusement, for them to walk all over, they'll find out soon enough that I'm not.
I may look like one of them, with my designer bags and clothes straight from the Parisian runways, but I'm not. I'm here for answers, to take revenge for blood spilled on their centuries-old Persian rugs. I transferred here in search for answers about what happened to my older brother, who hightailed out of here, and my friend who seemingly disappeared into thin air. I certainly wasn't here for the attention of the star hockey player, regardless of how much he willed my eyes his way. I wasn't here for his scrutiny or his judgment or to read into his mysterious aura. I was here for the society, because only they held the answers I needed. That was, until I found out that in order to get those answers, I needed to go through him. He's saying if I want in, I have to play by their rules, follow their lead.
It's a game I'm willing to play. I may be the second person I know of to be invited into their society, but I'll be the first to make it out intact.
Another Claire Contreras novel, and I couldn’t decide where to place this one. After all, there are secret societies, billionaire boys, and hockey players. That’s three of our main categories all shoved into one book! I’ll admit, I was a bit apprehensive about adding this to the list because it seemed like too much for an author to get right. But based on the reviews, this is a series to keep an eye on, and one I’ll be adding to my list to read later this year.
I saw this title and I had to add it to the list, so think of it as a little bonus.
Her Soul to Take
Leon I earned my reputation among magicians for a reason: one wrong move and you're dead. Killer, they called me, and killing is what I'm best at. Except her. The one I was supposed to take, the one I should have killed - I didn't. The cult that once controlled me wants her, and I'm not about to lose my new toy to them.
Rae I've always believed in the supernatural. Hunting for ghosts is my passion, but summoning a demon was never part of the plan. Monsters are roaming the woods, and something ancient - something evil - is waking up and calling my name. I don't know who I can trust, or how deep this darkness goes. All I know is my one shot at survival is the demon stalking me, and he doesn't just want my body - he wants my soul.
This dark fantasy romance series is free on Kindle Unlimited, and the reviews immediately piqued my interest. Someone compared it to Hush Hush and Twilight, but with a side of horror vibes and adult style kink. I can’t wait to try it, and I’d love to know what you think if you’ve read it!