This one’s a bit on the edge, Squiders. One could argue that this is a subgenre of romance rather than a subgenre of fantasy (and some argue that Romantic Fantasy is the proper name).
You may be confused. A lot of fantasy has romance subplots already (especially things like urban fantasy/paranormal romance) so what separates fantasy romance from fantasy with a romantic subplot?
Tropes, my friends. It is all about the tropes. You see, each genre (and subgenre) has tropes that tend to be prevalent within themselves. They make it easy to identify the genre. Also, certain tropes tend to resonate with people, which is why people tend to read mostly in the same genre, or tend to pick out books of a certain genre in certain frames of mind.
Fantasy romance takes typically romance tropes and mixes them with some fantasy ones. Stories can be marketed as either fantasy or romance, depending on how whoever is in charge of such things decides. (For example, Jennifer Crusie, Anne Stuart, and Lucy March’s Dogs and Goddesses includes a strong mystical mythological theme but as they are all primarily romance authors, it’s billed as romance rather than fantasy.)
At least in my readings of the genre, the main character (almost always female) starts off alone, and then through whatever means, she discovers she is special somehow (many times involving some sort of magical powers) and then surrounds herself with friends and a lover (or a couple) and manages to get through whatever she must defeat to live happily ever after.
My favorite fantasy romance author is Robin D. Owens. (And I recently found out she’s local, but I have been a good girl and not stalkery at all.) She has a five-book Summoning series that I enjoyed quite a bit. Other people who write the genre include Mercedes Lackey, Tamora Pierce, and Catherine Asaro.
What do you think, Squiders? Fantasy romance – fantasy or romance? Or does it not matter? What are your favorites?