On the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism, her works tend to be a ways off from the Idealistic end. The heroes are good people, but realistically complex and possessed of human imperfections, and they often face large and complicated problems that can't be solved simply by smiting monsters. And when it comes to monsters, the fanged squamous horrors are often given a run for their money by some of the human beings.
Two good starting points for Hambly are Bride of the Rat God, in which an actress in 1920s Hollywood becomes the unwitting target of an ancient Chinese curse, and Stranger at the Wedding (aka Sorcerer's Ward), a mixture of Regency romance and murder mystery with the added twist that the protagonist has foreseen the murder magically and is trying to solve it before it happens. Both are standalone novels, and feature smaller-scale problems that admit of relatively neat happy endings, but are still sufficiently characteristic to give you an idea of whether this is the kind of thing you like.
In addition to her self-originated work she has written three Star Trek Expanded Universe novels (Ishmael, Ghost-Walker and Crossroad), two Star Wars Expanded Universe novels (the first and third books in The Callista Trilogy), and two tie-in novels for the Beauty and the Beast TV series, as well as episodes of Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, M.A.S.K., She-Ra: Princess of Power and Centurions. She also collaborated on the first Magic Time novel with the franchise's creator, Marc Scott Zicree.
Works by Barbara Hambly with their own trope pages include:
- Benjamin January series
- Bride of the Rat God
- The Callista Trilogy: Children of the Jedi and Planet of Twilight
- Darwath series
- Dragonsbane series
- Search the Seven Hills (aka The Quirinal Hill Affair)
- Stranger at the Wedding
- Sun Wolf and Starhawk series
- Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina (the short story "Nightlily: The Lovers' Tale")
- Those Who Hunt the Night series
- The Windrose Chronicles series
Barbara Hambly's other works include examples of:
- Arranged Marriage:
- In Circle of the Moon, it is mentioned that Raeshaldis (known simply as the Eldest Daughter in her own family), ran away from an Arranged Marriage to study Functional Magic. She is not happy to learn that one of her younger sisters — much younger — now looks like being forced into the match instead.
- Tally in The Rainbow Abyss, which caused a few problems when Rhion showed up.
- Ghostapo: In the Sun-Cross duology, two magicians in a medievalish fantasy world respond to a call for help from beyond the Void from a world without magic. They travel through the Void to help those mages...and land in the Third Reich. Luckily the hero is pretty smart and quickly realizes they're the bad guys.
- Grand Theft Me: In "The Adventure of the Antiquarian's Niece", a Sherlock Holmes/H. P. Lovecraft-inspired short story.
- Historical Fantasy: The Sun-Cross duology begins in a medievalish fantasy world before the protagonist travels to a wrold without magic: ours, in the 1940s.
- Perspective Flip: Renfield reworks Dracula from the POV of, obviously, The Renfield. It turns out to be a very odd romance in which Renfield actually survives the novel and gets to live happily ever after with one of Dracula's "wives".
- Purple Prose: Her Star Wars novels have a, shall we say, mauve-ish tinge to them. Done fairly well, though.
- Separated by a Common Language: In The Magicians of Night, an American OSS agent working with the British SIS recalls an occasion when an operation went off the rails because the person who briefed him was speaking in British English and he was listening in American English.
- Spirit Advisor: In the Sisters of the Raven books, Pontifer Pig is this to Pomegranate. Those who know her mostly assume that she is hallucinating about the ghost of her late pet. (In Circle of the Moon, however, some consideration is given to the theory that Pontifer might have been a djinn who is managing to use Pomegranate as a host.)
- Void Between the Worlds: The Rainbow Abyss in the Sun-Cross duology.