14 Romantic Fantasy Novels Based on Irish and Celtic Mythology

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From Diarmuid and Gráinne (of “Pursuit” fame) to Deirdre and Naoise (re: Deirdre of the Sorrows) to Clíodhna and Ciabhán (who really made some waves), Irish mythology is full of stories steeped in romance—often tragically so.

Diarmuid Ua Duibhne (of the Love Spot), foster-son of the Irish love god Aengus Óg, was separated from his love Gráinne when he was gored to death by an enchanted boar—a boar that also happened to be Diarmuid’s step-brother. (Don’t you just love Irish mythology?)

Deirdre threw herself head-first out of a moving chariot after her love, Naoise, was double-crossed and killed with his own sword—a sword named Díoltach (Retaliator).

Meanwhile, Clíodhna, Queen of the Banshees, was washed away by a giant wave sent by the Irish sea-god Manannán mac Lir. She had been lounging on a beach at the time, waiting for her love Ciabhán to return from hunting.

Now, for some good news:

These tragic endings don’t have to be permanent. Thanks to a cadre of modern fantasy writers out there, many of the famous love stories from Irish and Celtic mythology have been reinterpreted, reimagined, rearranged, and repurposed. And in many (but admittedly, not all) cases, the enchanted-boar-gorings and chariot-swan-dives and angry-god-tsunamis have been replaced with some much-needed happily-ever-afters.

(Pssst. Prefer audiobooks to traditional books? You can snag 3 months of Audible Premium Plus for free using this link.)

The Top 14 Celtic Fantasy Romance Novels

1. What the Wind Knows

by Amy Harmon

Per the publisher: “Anne Gallagher grew up enchanted by her grandfather’s stories of Ireland. Heartbroken at his death, she travels to his childhood home to spread his ashes. There, overcome with memories of the man she adored and consumed by a history she never knew, she is pulled into another time. The Ireland of 1921, teetering on the edge of war, is a dangerous place in which to awaken…Caught between history and her heart, she must decide whether she’s willing to let go of the life she knew for a love she never thought she’d find.” Learn more…

2. Daughter of the Forest (Sevenwaters Series, Book One)

by Juliet Marillier

Per the publisher: “Lord Colum of Sevenwaters is blessed with six sons: Liam, a natural leader; Diarmid, with his passion for adventure; twins Cormack and Conor, each with a different calling; rebellious Finbar, grown old before his time by his gift of the Sight; and the young, compassionate Padriac. But it is Sorcha, the seventh child and only daughter, who alone is destined to defend her family. When she is kidnapped by enemy forces and taken to a foreign land, Sorcha will have to choose between the life she has always known and a love that comes only once.” Learn more…

3. Wild Irish Heart (The Mystic Cove Series, Book One)

by Tricia O’Malley

Per the publisher: “An ancient book, a power untouched, and a heart unloved lead Keelin O’Brien from her graduate studies in Boston to a small village on the coast of Southern Ireland. Determined to unearth the secrets lying hidden in the enchanted waters of the cove, Keelin has little time for a surly Irishman who infuriates her during the day and haunts her fantasies at night. Inexplicably drawn to the woman who has stepped from his dreams and into his world, Flynn fights a stubborn battle against his increasing attraction for Keelin.” Learn more…

4. Tyger Tyger (The Goblin Wars, Book One)

by Kersten Hamilton

Per the publisher: “Teagan Wylltson’s best friend, Abby, dreams that horrifying creatures–goblins, shape-shifters, and beings of unearthly beauty but terrible cruelty–are hunting Teagan. Abby is always coming up with crazy stuff, though, so Teagan isn’t worried. Her life isn’t in danger…Until Finn Mac Cumhaill arrives. Finn’s a bit on the unearthly beautiful side himself. He has a killer accent and a knee-weakening smile. And either he’s crazy or he’s been haunting Abby’s dreams, because he’s talking about goblins, too.” Learn more…

5. Darkfever (Fever Series, Book One)

by Karen Marie Moning

Per the publisher: “MacKayla Lane’s life is good. She has great friends, a decent job, and a car that breaks down only every other week or so…she’s your perfectly ordinary twenty-first-century woman. When her sister is murdered, leaving a single clue to her death—a cryptic message on Mac’s cell phone—Mac journeys to Ireland in search of answers. The quest to find her sister’s killer draws her into a shadowy realm where nothing is as it seems, where good and evil wear the same treacherously seductive mask.” Learn more…

6. Heart of the Fae (The Otherworld Series, Book One)

by Emma Hamm

Per the publisher: “A plague sweeps across the emerald hills of Uí Néill. To save her people, Sorcha makes a deal with a dangerous Fae. She must travel across the sea to find a forgotten king on a crumbling throne. Born king of the Seelie Fae, Eamonn fought battles unnumbered…until his twin brother sank a blade between his shoulders. Crystals grew from the wound. With the help of brownies, pixies, and will-o’-the-wisps, Sorcha battles to break through his crystalline shell and persuade him to take back his stolen throne. ” Learn more…

7. The Irish Warrior

by Kris Kennedy

Per the publisher: “As his men are slaughtered around him, legendary Irish warrior Finian O’Melaghlin is held captive by the despised English Lord Rardove. Struggling to break free, Finian finds aid from an unlikely source: the beautiful Senna de Valery, who is also trying to escape Rardove’s bloodthirsty grasp. Risking both their lives, Senna releases Finian from his shackles so they can both flee, but their plight has just begun.” Learn more…

8. Daggerspell (The Deverry Cycle, Book One)

by Katharine Kerr

Per the publisher: “Even as a young girl, Jill was a favorite of the magical, mysterious Wildfolk. Little did she know her extraordinary friends represented but a glimpse of a forgotten past and a fateful future. Four hundred years—and many lifetimes—ago, one selfish young lord caused the death of two innocent lovers. Then and there he vowed never to rest until he’d rightened that  wrong-and laid the foundation for the lives of Jill and all those whom she would hold dear.” Learn more…

9. The Princes of Ireland (The Dublin Saga, Book One)

by Edward Rutherfurd

Per the publisher: “The saga begins in tribal, pre-Christian Ireland during the reign of the fierce and mighty High Kings at Tara, with the tale of two lovers, the princely Conall and the ravishing Deirdre, whose travails cleverly echo the ancient Celtic legend of Cuchulainn. From that stirring beginning, Rutherfurd takes the reader on a powerfully-imagined journey through the centuries. Through the interlocking stories of a memorable cast of characters, we see Ireland through the lens of its greatest city.” Learn more…

10. Dark Witch (The Cousins O’Dwyer Trilogy, Book One)

by Nora Roberts

Per the publisher: “With indifferent parents, Iona Sheehan grew up craving devotion and acceptance. From her maternal grandmother, she learned where to find both: a land of lush forests, dazzling lakes, and centuries-old legends. Ireland. When Iona lands a job at the local stables, she meets the owner, Boyle McGrath. Cowboy, pirate, wild tribal horsemen, he’s three of her biggest fantasy weaknesses all in one big, bold package.” Learn more…

11. The Farrier’s Daughter (Irish Witch Series, Book One)

by Leigh Ann Edwards

Per the publisher: “In 16th Century Ireland. Young and beautiful Alainn McCreary is on the cusp of discovering she possesses vast and unusual supernatural powers, which she hopes will help her break the curse on the O’Brien Clan. Alainn is counseled to hide her magical abilities, but how can she when dark forces rise up to threaten not only the O’Brien Clan, but Alainn and the life of the Chieftain’s beloved, but forbidden nephew, Killian O’Brien, a man Alainn has loved as long as she can remember?” Learn more…

12. Dark King (Court of the Sea Fae Trilogy, Book One)

by C. N. Crawford

Per the publisher: “Once, I was a fae princess. Now? I’m a hunted supernatural in a squalid shop. My only comforts are stale cookies, Elvis records, and my hula-hoop. Until a lethally sexy fae king arrives and rips even those away. After the brutal king throws me in prison, I strike a bargain with him: my freedom in exchange for helping him find a magic blade. What Lyr doesn’t know is that the blade might restore my stolen magic. But as we journey, the gorgeous jerk is starting to make me feel things I’ve never felt.” Learn more…

13. The Awakening (The Dragon Heart Legacy, Book One)

by Nora Roberts

Per the publisher: “In the realm of Talamh, a teenage warrior named Keegan emerges from a lake holding a sword. In another realm known as Philadelphia, a young woman has just discovered she possesses a treasure of her own. But little does Breen know that when she uses some of the money to journey to Ireland, it will unlock mysteries she couldn’t have imagined. Here, she will begin to understand why she kept seeing that silver-haired, elusive man, why she imagined his voice in her head saying Come home, Breen Siobhan.Learn more…

14. Stone Song (The Isle of Destiny Series, Book One)

by Tricia O’Malley

Per the publisher: “Clare MacBride has her life in exactly the order she wants it. In a year, she’ll have finished her geology dissertation, though she’s no closer to figuring out the answer to one question that plagues her. Why does she feel stones pulse with energy? A centuries-old curse, a mysterious faction of protectors, and a mythological godstone all sound like old world fairytale nonsense to Clare. It only takes one rainy evening with a silver-eyed fae and a handsome stranger promising protection to rock her world forever.” Learn more…

Thanks for reading!

Let me know if there are any other Irish and Celtic fantasy romance books that you think should be on this list.

P.S. If you’re feeling so bold, you can also check out Neon Druid, an anthology of Celtic myth-inspired short stories I compiled and edited (under my pseudonym I. E. Kneverday). For the romantically inclined, I highly suggest the story “The Ache of Water” by E. K. Reisinger.

Neon Druid: An Anthology of Urban Celtic Fantasy

“A thrilling romp through pubs, mythology, and alleyways. NEON DRUID is such a fun, pulpy anthology of stories that embody Celtic fantasy and myth,” (Pyles of Books). Cross over into a world where the mischievous gods, goddesses, monsters, and heroes of Celtic mythology live among us, intermingling with unsuspecting mortals and stirring up mayhem in cities and towns on both sides of the Atlantic, from Limerick and Edinburgh to Montreal and Boston. Learn more…

Want to learn about the darker side of Irish mythology? Check out…

Samhain in Your Pocket (Celtic Pocket Guides 2)

Perhaps the most important holiday on the ancient Celtic calendar, Samhain marks the end of summer and the beginning of a new pastoral year. It is a liminal time—a time when the forces of light and darkness, warmth and cold, growth and blight, are in conflict. A time when the barrier between the land of the living and the land of the dead is at its thinnest. A time when all manner of spirits and demons are wont to cross over from the Celtic Otherworld. Learn more…

More the listenin’ type?

I recommend the audiobook Celtic Mythology: Tales of Gods, Goddesses, and Heroes by Philip Freeman (narrated by Gerard Doyle). Use my link to get 3 free months of Audible Premium Plus and you can listen to the full 7.5-hour audiobook for free.

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