10 Dark Academia Romance Books You Won’t Be Able to Put Down

If you’re a fan of romance novels that go beyond just swoon-worthy love stories, then you’ll adore the dark academia genre. It’s all about combining elements of mystery, romance, and a thirst for knowledge. These novels often take place in universities or other learning institutions, and have a sophisticated, melancholic atmosphere.

In dark academia, you can expect to find themes like forbidden love, complex relationships, and even a touch of the supernatural. The settings are usually atmospheric and ethereal, with a gothic or Victorian vibe.

What I love about dark academia is that it’s not just about the romance between two characters. It’s also about the personal growth of the characters and their search for meaning in life. The romance in these novels is not only romantic and emotional, but also deep and thought-provoking.

And the atmosphere in these novels is just divine. The settings are typically grand and historical, with an air of mystery. The characters are often intellectuals who are passionate about literature, art, and philosophy. It’s the perfect mix of romance and intelligence. 

Without further ado, here are my top 10 Dark Academia romance picks:

1. Gothikana by RuNyx

Gothikana: A Dark Academia Gothic Romance

Rating: 4.5/5

“Gothikana” is a gothic romance novel about Corvina Clemm, an outcast who is admitted to the mysterious University of Verenmore, and Vad Deverell, a part-time professor at the university who is an enigma. When Corvina and Vad meet, their bond is magnetic but forbidden. They are drawn together by a century-old mystery that has caused people to disappear from the university every five years, and they must work together to solve the mystery while also trying to trust the right people and figure out who is causing the disappearances and fear at the university. “Gothikana” is a stand-alone novel with a unique atmosphere and a captivating love story that is worth all the hype. It is a pure gothic romance with spooky vibes, a forbidden love story, and an intriguing mystery.

Buy Gothikana from Amazon US

If you like Gothikana, I have also written a blog post on 5 books like Gothikana

2. Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé (2021)

Rating 4/5

The dark academia thriller “Ace of Spades” is a thrilling and captivating read that compares to “Gossip Girl,” “Get Out,” and “Pretty Little Liars.” The book follows the story of Chiamaka and Devon, two students at an elite school who are targeted by the mysterious “Aces” for their identities and opportunities. While some readers may be turned off by the book’s lack of detail in explaining the motivations and actions of the villains, “Ace of Spades” is still a well-written and enjoyable read. The book also addresses important themes of identity, race, and sexual orientation, and the epilogue hints at the possibility of a continuation of the story.

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3. Half Truths by Claire Contrera (2019)

Rating 4.5/5

Are you ready for a thrilling mystery that will keep you on the edge of your seat? Look no further than Half Truths! Follow Mae as she starts her senior year at a new college and becomes fascinated by the stories of young women who have disappeared from campus. With her interest in journalism and determination to uncover the truth, Mae delves into the mystery and learns more than she ever could have imagined. This book is full of suspense and will keep you turning the pages with its hint of danger and twisty romance between Mae and a member of a secret society.

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4. The Atlas Six by Olivia Blake (2022)

The Atlas Six - Dark Academia BookRating 5/5

The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake is a thrilling, romantic read set in a world where magic exists in the open. Six talented magicians are selected to join the secretive Alexandrian Society, which has access to knowledge from ancient civilizations and a lifetime of power and prestige. But only five of them will make it through the year of study to become full members. The novel follows the journey of these six initiates, including bitter rivals Libby Rhodes and Nico Ferrer de Varona, telepath Parisa Kamali, historian Reina Mori, ambitious businessman Tristan Caine, and trust fund baby Callum Nova, as they navigate their way through the Society and discover their own magical abilities. With a captivating magic system and a mix of suspense, action, and drama, The Atlas Six is perfect read for the dark academia romantics.

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5. Killing November by Adriana Mather (2019)

Killing November Dark ACademia Romance BookRating 3.5/5

“Killing November” is a thrilling and mysterious dark academia book set in a hidden boarding school where students are trained to become assassins, counselors, spies, and master impersonators. The main character, November Adley, is the daughter of a government strategist and finds herself in this strange new world where personal revelations are discouraged and competition is everything. When another student is murdered, November must figure out her place in the school’s strategy games before she becomes the killer’s next victim. The book focuses on November’s relationships with her roommate Layla and Layla’s brother Ash, as well as the social dynamics of the school and the underlying blood feuds between the students. The plot is fast-paced and full of twists and turns, making it a captivating and exciting read.

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6. The Ritual: A Dark College Romance by Shantel Tessier (2021)

The Ritual: A Dark College Romance by Shantel TessierRating 4.5/5

If you’re a fan of dark academia romance, you’ll definitely want to check out The Ritual by Shantel Tessier. This book follows the story of Blakely, a young woman whose life has always been planned out for her, and Ryat, a member of the elite secret society known as the Lords at Barrington University. When Ryat offers Blakely an opportunity for a better life and the freedom she’s always wanted, she can’t resist. But as she’s drawn into the twisted world of the Lords, what starts as a game quickly becomes a fight for survival. The romance between Blakely and Ryat is steamy, but the suspense and action in the story are just as captivating. Blakely is a strong and determined protagonist, and Ryat’s devotion to her is epic. With a fast-paced plot and the perfect balance of heat and thrills, The Ritual is a must-read for fans of dark academia romance.

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7. Pretty Girls Make Graves by Steffanie Holmes (2021)

 Pretty Girls Make Graves by Steffanie Holmes (2021)Rating 3.5/5

 This novel is set at Blackfriars University and follows the story of Georgina, or George, who’s just trying to fit in and follow the rules. But when she stumbles upon a shallow grave filled with bones, she can’t help but dig deeper and uncover the truth, even if it means tempting the dark priest with forbidden tastes and catching the eye of a cruel aristocrat. This book has all the juicy ingredients you crave: secret societies, ancient rites, twisted relationships, and buried secrets. Plus, there’s a slow burn romance between two characters that’ll have you swooning. Just be warned, there are some trigger warnings to consider before diving in. Trust me, you won’t be able to put this one down.

Buy Pretty Girls Make Graves  from Amazon US

8. A Lesson in Thorns by Simone Sierra (2019)

A Lesson in Thorns by Simone SierraRating 4/5

This book is the perfect mix of mystery and steamy romance set in the enchanting Thornchapel estate. Follow the story of Proserpina “Poe” Markham as she returns to the place of her childhood summer, where her mother was last seen and her father won’t speak of. As a librarian at Thornchapel, Poe delves into the secrets the estate holds and becomes tangled in the desires of Auden and Saint, two men bound by a childhood ritual and a forbidden kiss. With its sultry atmosphere, carnal rituals, and complex group dynamics, this book will have you hooked and craving more of the four-part series. Just be warned, there are various romantic pairings and steamy scenes to consider before diving in.

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9. If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio (2017)

If We Were Villains: A NovelRating 5/5

If We Were Villains is a beautifully written novel set at a prestigious arts academy called Dellecher. The story follows a group of seven theatre students in their final year, who are immersed in the world of Shakespearean tragedy as they study and perform various plays. As the lines between performance and reality begin to blur, the students’ own lives become intertwined with the tragedies they are studying. The main characters are all unique, but share a deep passion for poetry and words. The dialogue in the book is often structured to look like a play, and the characters seem caught between their roles in the plays and their true identities. This book is an intelligent and all-consuming read, perfect for Shakespeare fans and anyone who loves beautifully written fiction.

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10. Maurice by E. M. Forster (2005)

Rating 4/5

Are you ready for a heart-wrenching romance set in early 20th century England? Look no further than Maurice by E.M. Forster. This novel follows the life of Maurice Hall from boyhood to adulthood as he grapples with his sexuality and struggles to find love and acceptance in a society that denies and condemns homosexuality. Along the way, he meets Clive Durham, a wealthy scholar of ancient Greek philosophy, and Alec, Clive’s gamekeeper, and navigates the complexities of relationships and desire. But this isn’t just a love story – it’s also a beautifully written exploration of self-doubt, heartbreak, and the search for happiness. With its poetic prose and complex characters, Maurice is a must-read for fans of dark academia and forbidden romance.

Buy Maurice from Amazon US

So there you have it, my top 10 picks for the best Dark Academia romance novels. Whether you’re looking for historical romance, dystopian love stories, or gothic mysteries, there’s something on this list for every Dark Academia fan. Happy reading! 

Interested in reading more Dark Academia Books?

Read my latest blog post on the “10 Best Queer Dark Academia Books to Read Now” to get your dose of Dark Academia with a queer narrative! 

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