A Guide to Dark Romance.
There are varying degrees of darkness in romance novels and many tropes, ranging from high-school bullies, paranormal, taboo relationships and BDSM as some of the most popular. As with all romance, heat levels also vary, but I would say dark romance is on the hotter end of the spectrum in general.
But, I hear you ask, what is dark romance? My interpretation of dark romance is where there is still a love story key to the main plot, but also a large degree of suffering. Whether that's the main characters who are experiencing this (which is usually the case) or the environment or other characters around them, something about this fictional world has to be very far removed from the standards and norms of regular life.
Personally I'm a big fan of this sub-genre. Whilst enemies to lovers and romantic suspense themes are abundant with angst (and also some of my favorites), I enjoy the heightened stakes you find in dark romance and when the characters find love in the end it seems to always be so much more satisfying. Of course, if the characters do not fall in love at the end of a novel (or series of novels if their story continues in later books), then for me I wouldn't class it as a dark romance. An erotic thriller perhaps, but no meaningful affection at the end of the story for me means it shouldn't have romance in the genre category.
The dark genre allows a reader and author to deliberately steer away from the social conventions acceptable in real life. What is or is not deemed acceptable on any level can be disregarded under the term 'fiction'. Of course, many themes in dark romance will undoubtedly be upsetting to some readers, but does this mean those wanting to shouldn't read or write this genre? If your answer is yes, let me ask you this. Should horror films or hospital dramas not include murder or distressing scenes because some people might find them upsetting? No, but also no one is expecting Hannibal Lector's dining habits to catch on and become the new social norm outside of the realm of fiction. In my opinion, dark romance should be judged the same way.
So if you're new to dark romance, but think you might enjoy the change, below I give you a short guide to some of the books I've enjoyed and their varying degrees of darkness, starting with the mildest first.
It's a little foggy
Trust In You - By Julia Firlotte
Killer Love - A Forbidden Romance - By Tabitha Drake
The Arrangement Series - By HM Ward
Fifty Shades Series - By EL James
Storm MC Collection - By Nina Levine
I can't see much here, it'll be getting dark soon
Imperfect Forgery - By GD Madsen
Withstanding The Enemy - By TL Mahrt
Put your headlights on or you'll crash
Cruel Intentions - By Siobhan Davis
Twisted Betrayal - By Siobhan Davis
Willing Victim - By Cara McKenna
Brutal Game - By Cara McKenna
Fear Me - B.B. Reid
Is there even a road out there? It's so dark !
Bully - By Penelope Douglas
Caged - By Clarissa Wild
Brutal Prince - By Logan Fox
I can't see a thing! It's pitch black.
Mindgames - By Jasmine Gold
Captive In The Dark - By CJ Roberts
Personally, most of my writing starts out very dark. Then I lighten it. And then I lighten it further so it fits more into mainstream romance. However sometimes it deters so much from my original story that I loose enthusiasm for it.
Again, I wonder why it is regarded as socially acceptable for graphic murder scenes to be written in the horror genre, not to mention all manner of psychosis in thrillers, but mention the word romance and it's frowned upon. And they wonder why people choose to write under pen names...