Kitschy (actually good) romances for the hopelessly single among us
All right, everyone. Another recommendation list headed your way!
I can't introduce how many days of quarantine we're at, because I've completely lost track. I'm currently thinking it's Day 85,018,734 but that might be a smidgen overstating things. I also don't know what day of the week it is, and the only reason I'm keeping track of the months is because of my TBR and wrap-up posts (I shit you not). But because we've been in lockdown for so many moons, it has been an equivalent number of moons since we have interacted with another human (that we're not related to or sharing a lease with), let alone touching (I'd go for a fucking hug right now mate, forget the schtupping). Anyway, if anyone is - like me - starting to get pretty damn desperate for some any sort of human interaction or if you're just hopelessly single, and want to get lost in some other people's love stories to forget the fact that we're all drowning in self-isolation: this list is a grouping of some of my favorite recent kitschy romance novels.
Now, a caveat: none of these are high literary works. They are cute, kitschy, silly romances that make no sense, are completely implausible, and strain any sense of credulity or belief. But they are adorable, and they made me feel light and fuzzy inside, and honestly, what else is going to help right now?
Crack a Pimms can and read on.
Bringing Down the Duke, by Evie Dunmore: I've reviewed this one here. It's a lovely romance about a duke and one of the early suffragettes who also has a scandalous backstory, and he's cold and removed and single-minded, and she's ambitious and funny and intelligent, and they fall in love because they're so different! And they bring out the best in each other! There's some hot sex! And it's well-written!
Well-Met, by Jen DeLuca: This one is pure, silly, ridiculous, enjoyable fun. Our protagonist (Emily) is roped into a Renaissance fair with her young niece, has to dress as a tavern wench, and falls for the fair's resident pirate (Simon), who also happens to be her niece's school's English teacher. He's a wounded warrior who locks his heart away; she's recovering from a bad breakup and is scarred by it; and they start off by hating each other and exchanging Shakespeare and literature-themed barbs and witticisms. It's so cute. It also has the added benefit of Jen DeLuca being brilliant at interweaving and building the chemistry and the sexual tension between the two of them so that by the time they finally schtup, I actually cheered. Also, this book made me realize that I quite like the idea of a pirate dressed up in leather speaking to me in old English. Yum.
Get A Life Chloe Brown, by Talia Hibbert: This is the story about a young woman suffering from fibromyalgia (a word I find impossible to both spell and pronounce) and her relationship with her building's superintendent, who is also recovering from a toxic relationship and is trying to fall back in love with painting. It's a really sweet love story about two people falling in love with each other and themselves, and learning how to rely on themselves as well as a partner for healing and self-worth and the feeling of being loved and needed. It does do that thing where the conflict that drives them apart for two chapters is silly and would be very easily resolved in real life, but we're not here for realism. Also, the sex is good - but it takes them so damn long to have it.
Red, White and Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston: A queer romance! A lovely, sweet story about the President's son (Alex) falling in love with one of the princes (Henry) of the British Royal Family. They start off hating each other, are forced into proximity for media purposes (a typical romance novel trope), and end up steamily making out in closets (let's not look too closely at that metaphorical setting). This entire book read like a liberal fantasy - a female President with a mixed-race family; a young woman (Alex's sister) who is very open about her ambitions and her goals and is accepted for them; an email hacker who gets punished for his crimes. Also, the sex is so steamy - and the story is so lovely and sweet I felt warm and fuzzy the entire time I was reading it. One big criticism though: Casey McQuiston gets the titles of the British Royal Family so, so, so wrong it was honestly a bit jarring. A very basic Google would tell you that Henry can't be Prince of Wales as he's not the heir presumptive (his mother is Princess of Wales and his older brother is the heir apparent, so Henry would be, at best, a Prince without a land designation, or he'd be a Royal Duke. Who am I. What have I become.).
When Katie Met Cassidy, by Camille Perri: Another queer love story. This one focuses on Katie, a young woman who's going through a rough break-up and falls in love with Cassidy, a woman she meets by chance at a queer bar. Camille Perri has written another book that I really like, The Assistants, and her writing is fun and poppy and bubbly and she puts you really successfully into her characters' heads, which in a romance novel with shifting viewpoints is important (and difficult to do). This book is bittersweet and absolutely lovely, and does such a good job of explaining and being compassionate for the utterly terrifying and exciting prospect both main characters are in: Katie who is falling in love with a woman for the first time; Cassidy who is so secure and comfortable in her own sexuality and is now facing someone who has just started exploring. Everything in this book is wonderful, from the witty banter to the delightful scene-setting to the incredibly hot, steamy sex (look, sexuality is a spectrum, and yes, I was turned on). This interview Camille Perri gave in Vogue also does a really good job of explaining the universality of this story in the twenty-first century, when so many people are tired of the rom-com tropes that have existed up until now. I cannot recommend this champagne-bubble of a book enough in these weird, messy, difficult, complicated times when none of us now what the fuck is even happening anyway.
There's a political point to be made here somewhere that the majority of romance writers are women, and 'contemporary fiction' writers are women whereas literary fiction writers are men. Literature is the prerogative of men despite the fact that the romance portion of publishing basically keeps the industry alive with its sales numbers. But hey ho, women's stories aren't serious literature, moving on. This is neither the time nor place. I love romance novels and I don't care what the patriarchy thinks of me (#OverthrowThePatriarchy).
Here are the romance books currently on my TBR pile which I will probably end up either reviewing or recommending, depending on how much I like them:
The Happy Ever After Playlist, by Abby Jimenez
Beach Read, by Emily Henry (this one is coming very highly recommended and so I can barely wait till my friend who mails me my BOTMs is allowed back to her office to send it to me)
You Deserve Each Other, by Sarah Hogle
I hope you are all staying safe and healthy, and that we can start giving each other big hugs soon.