Funny, at least sort of well-written romance novels?
December 19, 2011 10:25 PM   Subscribe

Looking for funny romance novels to read on break. Must be funny, should be well-written, and perhaps non-traditional?

I read this question which came closest to what I'm looking for but we have somewhat different tastes and I'm looking for more romance than chicklit (though am happy to look at stuff that crosses boundaries). I did do some searching and some 'if you like, you may like...' poking around, but couldn't find a similar thread and wanted more personal recommendations. Romances are my guilty vice.

Things I've really liked:
Katie MacAlister
some Donna Kauffman (her 'fairy tale' esque books, couldn't get into a lot of her others)
Sophie Kinsella
Laurel K. Hamilton (Meredith Gentry series only, couldn't get into Anita Blake)

Not so much:
most Nora Roberts (I liked her Three Sisters trilogy, but mostly I find her stuff too...something)
Most of the more traditional stuff.

Don't really care about setting or whether the supernatural is included or not. I prefer my escapism heavy on the story and light on the sex scenes and violence (mostly. I realize Hamilton is heavier on the sex, but in her case or cases with lots of story, that is the lesser requirement). In the ones I like, the woman tends to not be an idiot (at least most of the time) and her appearance is not the primary thing the hero is drawn to. There is some humor, some story beyond something to tie the sex scenes together, and the writing, while imperfect, isn't so cringe worthy I have to put the book down regularly.

Anyone else read stuff like this and have ideas? For this I trust you guys more than my librarian friends.
posted by eleanna to Writing & Language (54 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wuthering Heights? I think it fits your criteria (escapist romance) even if it's not like your examples)
posted by bananafish at 10:34 PM on December 19, 2011


I prefer my escapism heavy on the story and light on the sex scenes and violence (mostly. I realize Hamilton is heavier on the sex, but in her case or cases with lots of story, that is the lesser requirement). In the ones I like, the woman tends to not be an idiot (at least most of the time) and her appearance is not the primary thing the hero is drawn to. There is some humor, some story beyond something to tie the sex scenes together, and the writing, while imperfect, isn't so cringe worthy I have to put the book down regularly.

Georgette Heyer - about the only 'romance' I can stomach
posted by infini at 10:47 PM on December 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


So, the description of this is basically "accidentally time-travelling doctor lady meets brooding Scottish hunk and falls in love but clearly there are Issues" and also involves a lot of Scottish history but the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon are insanely addictive. The time travel thing is not a big deal, they are not even science fiction. It is just a thing, that happens. They are "romance" but not exclusively. They're also funny (sometimes unintentionally, often on purpose), interesting, and I devoured the first book, 800 pages and all, in just a few days. Perfect escapist reading.
posted by hepta at 10:50 PM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was also planning to say Georgete Heyer :)

You might like Marian Keyes
posted by jacalata at 10:55 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't believe I'm saying this, but try 'Sense and Sensibility'. No, for real! Meanwhile, I would seriously question whether 'Wuthering Heights' is escapism, and also umm whether or not Catherine's an idiot (she's kind of an idiot, ok).

I think you might like a whole bunch of urban fantasy/paranormal romance stuff, where it's got plot and romance and very little sex and lots of cuteness/snark, like Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels series (it's delicious! so much Unresolved Sexual Tension! cuteness! and non-idiot female), or Jeaniene Frost's 'Halfway to the Grave' and on, and there's a bunch more in that genre.

I'm kind of fond of C.E. Murphy's Walker Papers series, though the romance is light-- her gargoyle (Heart of Stone, etc) is much more romantic but Walker Papers is cuter/lighter and it is worth it! Oh man, if only I had it to read over again. The romance in Patricia Briggs' books (both 'Alpha & Omega' and especially Mercy Thompson books) is adorable, cute, feisty and hot but without sex. It's like, the most awesome thing ever. Also, Mercy is kick. Ass. And a mechanic (both at the same time! though it's related).

Kelley Armstrong's earlier books in her series (Bitten and the 2 sequels) is great as romance-- escapist but not guilty 'cause Elena is so badass (and her boy is like, whoa levels of badass, though to be honest Kate Daniels' boy would kick his ass, but he'd kick most people's ass). Anyway, if you read nothing else, try Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs. The romance gets going hardcore after a few books, but is there from the beginning. It's seriously just like 5 tubs of ice-cream without the weight afterwards.
posted by reenka at 11:03 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oops, I meant 'Pride and Prejudice'.

(nevermind the gnome behind the curtain, sorry)
posted by reenka at 11:04 PM on December 19, 2011


Yes, a million, breathless times, yes to Georgette Heyer!

The Grand Sophy is a great place to start.
posted by smoke at 11:13 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn. Regency era, written by a funny, smart woman with a very nice command of language who crafts characters you want to be friends with. There's romance that feels believable, just enough naughty bits for spice, sparkly humor, and stories that don't feel cookie cuttery. Love love love! I even got my husband hooked on them.
posted by mostlymartha at 11:16 PM on December 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Also, you can never go wrong with Georgette Heyer. And my gal Jane. If you haven't read Ms Austen, you haven't lived.
posted by mostlymartha at 11:18 PM on December 19, 2011




As mostlymartha's Boy, I can say that I do really love Julia Quinn. She is addictive. I actually just re-read her Bridgerton series a few months back. I grabbed one at random as I needed something to read, and found myself sucked back in.

She is definitely a person who is telling a story, and that story happens to be a little naughty. But the characters and the plot will always come first. She creates three dimensional heroes and heroines, so you root for them to get together because there is true lurv at stake and not just attraction and lust.
posted by jaybeans at 11:27 PM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Georgette Heyer's Sprig Muslin and The Talisman Ring made me scream with laughter.
posted by winna at 11:40 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


What you want is Jennifer Crusie. Start with "Agnes and the Hitman". Smart, funny, plot-driven, with great characters and a sexy spark to it.
posted by anonnymoose at 12:47 AM on December 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Or try her novel "Faking It".
posted by anonnymoose at 12:47 AM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Love in the Time of Cholera
posted by mikeand1 at 1:22 AM on December 20, 2011


Heyer was something of a palaeoconservative. Her novels can be anti-Semitic or otherwise racist, are pretty sexist, and many of them have weird age combinations, with naive, barely legal girls and worldly men in their late-thirties. Nevertheless, she's a great read, can be hilarious, and I second the recommendations above.

There are some to avoid if you want laughs. They are The Conqueror, Simon the Coldheart (cod mediaeval), My Lord John (nearly unreadable history, and also incomplete), An Infamous Army (though the most accessible of her fictionalised histories), Cousin Kate (Gothic terror) and A Civil Contract (I like it, but it's not a traditional romance). A couple of her detective novels aren't great as detective novels, but light, amusing, and with good romances in the background. On the whole her Regency novels are the ones to look out for.

Others I would put in the same category (but mostly without the dodgy politics): Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, Sorcery and Cecilia by Patricia Wrede and C-something Stevermer.
posted by tavegyl at 1:27 AM on December 20, 2011


To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis, it's not primary a love story but the romance angle is sufficient I think. Time travelling in the Edwardian era, looking for a hideous piece of Victoriana, and incredibly witty.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 3:17 AM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Agree with the Marian Keyes suggestion, all her books are great - romantic stories but she has a great wit which brings it up a level from general chick-lit, I think. Give 'This Charming Man' a miss though, very dark and quite depressing! Would recommend 'Rachel's Holiday' especially!
posted by cornflakegirl at 3:39 AM on December 20, 2011


reenka, I think Jane Austen is a perfect suggestion! Sly wit, wonderful settings, sharp, romance-obsessed heroines, much going on under the surface, and brooding-difficult-dark-but-ultimately-husband-material guys! Plus, you get some Literary props with a spoonful of Austen sugar.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:18 AM on December 20, 2011


I wouldn't call Kelley Armstrong romance, but then I wouldn't call LKH romance either - but I also liked Merry Gentry and hated Anita Blake, and I loved Bitten/Stolen/Broken, so there's a second for those. Elena is awesome.

You might also like Sunshine by Robin McKinley if you liked those.
posted by corvine at 4:45 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nthing Jane Austen - both Emma and Pride and Prejudice are great examples of what you're looking for.
posted by marsha56 at 5:02 AM on December 20, 2011


Yes to Jenny Crusie!
posted by Jeanne at 5:23 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree with the suggestions of Marian Keyes and Jennifer Crusie, both well written and funny. I would add Susan Elizabeth Phillips, who I discovered a couple years ago and burned through all her books in a few months, I loved them so much. Great writing, strong women characters, and interesting plots. Very fun, very easy reads.
posted by Bresciabouvier at 5:31 AM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yep, I came in to recommend Jenny Crusie. She's a delight. My favorites of hers are "Bet Me" and "Manhunting" but will read pretty much everything she's done. She's good with witty banter and strong females, even among the supporting cast.
posted by librarianamy at 5:48 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe try Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series? They are a little campy, and sometimes I really find myself annoyed, but I continue to go back to the library and dutifully pick up the next two in the series.

They are definitely, however: amusing & somewhat non-traditional.
posted by firei at 5:49 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Redonkulous premise, but terribly funny with protagonist characters you rarely find in romance. Chemistry for Beginners.
posted by rumposinc at 6:02 AM on December 20, 2011


Nick Earls, Perfect Skin

Crazy funny.
posted by myselfasme at 6:06 AM on December 20, 2011


Bridget Jones's Diary.
posted by Dolley at 6:07 AM on December 20, 2011


Also, Lessons in French--for something historical. The relationship between the female protagonist and her beloved prize bull is worth the read, in itself. For great banter in a historical, Loretta Chase (like the Crusie of historicals). For contemporary and deeply emotional stories (and humor), Victoria Dahl. I also think Tessa Dare is very overlooked for funny and smart historical writing. Feel free to memail me for more ideas--I'm on break doing the very same.
posted by rumposinc at 6:09 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Marian Keyes is excellent but more chicklit than romance, and her books tend to tug at the heartstrings. There are some serious moments mixed in with the funny.

Jennifer Crusie is definitely what you're looking for. I'd suggest Bet Me, The Cinderella Deal, and Strange Bedpersons.
posted by elsietheeel at 6:23 AM on December 20, 2011


Oh yes, seconding Susan Elizabeth Phillips! She is hilarious and her heroines are usually multidimensional. Good romance, too.
posted by anonnymoose at 6:25 AM on December 20, 2011


I want to third the Julia Quinn recommendation. She's probably the best romance writer I read, and the Bridgerton series is the best. I'd say don't pick up her first three or four novels, though (these are before the Bridgerton series). I think it took her a while to hit her stride.

I'll also add a recommendation for Eloisa James, who is also a good writer. I've been reading the Desperate Duchesses series.

Both of these are fun and funny writers, and they're excellent if you like regencies at all.

Oh, and To Say Nothing of the Dog is an excellent recommendation. It's got enough romance in it to satisfy, but mostly it's just super funny adventure and dialogue that happens to involve a lot of relationship stuff.

I'll be saving this thread to revisit when I'm after another romance author to try, for sure.
posted by hought20 at 6:55 AM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Sookie Stackhouse novels are pretty funny.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:24 AM on December 20, 2011


Definitely Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I wasn't much of a romance reader until I picked her books up. The Bonner brothers/Chicago Stars books are the best place to start; I loved Match Me If You Can and was pleasantly surprised when This Heart Of Mine turned out to be even better. Some get a little formulaic or outlandish, but so do Julia Quinn's books.

SEP really does a good job of interweaving emotions into her characters' lives, especially the men. The women are very relatable, too -- sure, they end up married to pro football players (and in one case own the team), but they come from different backgrounds and have different interests. They're funny and spluttery and awkward and endearing without relying too much on chick-lit stereotypes; the humor comes from inside. She also usually has interesting secondary storylines, such as the main character's long-lost parent showing up or people reconnecting with past loves.

Overall, they're well-rounded and very enjoyable. and yes, very easy to blow through quickly!
posted by Madamina at 7:53 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nthing Julia Quinn -- Bridgerton series mainly, and newer non-Bridgerton books: The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever, 10 Things I Love About You, et al.

Not exactly outright funny, but humorous with a side of Victorian obsurdity: The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger.

You mentioned Katie MacAlister (yes, definitely funny!) but not which books. If you've read the Dark Ones (vampire-centric) but haven't read her contemporary books (my faves include Hard Day's Knight, The Corset Diaries, and Blow Me Down) or lesser known historical romance (Noble Destiny, Noble Intentions), definitely check them out. Also, she writes YA as Katie Maxwell, so think funny and light romance versions of her other works. Suggestions include The Year My Life Went Down the Loo and Eyeliner of the Gods.

Connie Willis is not exactly romance, but many of her stories have romantic elements. hought20 mentioned To Say Nothing of the Dog, which is excellent. Also consider Bellwether (I've read this so many times it's shameful) and her short story "Spice Pogrom" -- it's along the lines of romantic/crazy classic movies, comedy of errors, etc. -- from Impossible Things. The collection also has non-romance but funny stories, along with heavier sad stories; if you want to be selective for funny / humorous, read "Spice Pogrom", "Even the Queen", "Ado", "Time-Out", and "In the Late Cretaceous".

(And if you like romance and are unaware of this blog... well, let's just say you are missing out.)
posted by southpaw at 7:56 AM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, Jenny Crusie has been plugged, so I'll suggest her roommate Lani Diane Rich and her upcoming alter ego Lucy March, I believe that alias has a book coming out in 2012.

I'll also plug Loretta Chase, with heavy emphasis on getting "Mr. Impossible," "Lord Perfect" and "Last Night's Scandal." Very fun characters in the first and third books in particular. "Lord Perfect" is a bit less funny, but you need to read it because it introduces the characters in "Last Night's Scandal."
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:08 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


(My mind is racing trying to visualize my collection at home, various library books, borrowed gems, etc...)

Came back to suggest The Accidental Series by Dakota Cassidy as a possible romantic / funny series.

Also, you should look at MaryJanice Davidson, such as her Undead Queen Betsy series. Sort of like the Sookie Stackhouse / True Blood books, but with more shopping. I haven't read them all, but the first few were quick and entertaining, and not beyond annoying enough to set aside. Other books from same author that you might like: The Royal Treatment, Sleeping With the Fishes, and Hello, Gorgeous!. I believe those are all the first books in their respective series, romance with a side of funny.
posted by southpaw at 8:14 AM on December 20, 2011


You might try Tanya Huff's Summon the Keeper. There are a couple of sequels that are not quite as good, but the first one is very funny.
posted by gudrun at 8:39 AM on December 20, 2011


Coming in to Nth Connie Willis. Bellweather is fun, and I have read it more times than I care to admit. You might want to try Uncharted Territory and the short story Blued Moon in her collection Fire Watch.
posted by AMyNameIs at 8:49 AM on December 20, 2011


Adding my vote to Pride and Prejudice - I find Elizabeths politely snarky comments in it hilarious and there is lot's of Unrequited Sexual Tension which I love. Sense and Sensibility is good too.
posted by wwax at 9:03 AM on December 20, 2011


Gawd, my guilty pleasure during a stressful time last year was the Outlander books. I do not like romance books, especially historical fiction of this particular flavor. That I blew through all of these books (swearing, each time, I wasn't going to read any more, and then instantly buying the next one on my kindle as soon as I finished) and squee'd when I saw that a new one is coming out is a real tribute to Gabaldon's ability to tell a story.

I also recommend Christopher Moore. Very very funny stuff. The vampire trilogy is more romance, I think A Dirty Job kind of was too (but I recommend The Stupidest Angel for your holiday reading).

If you like mysteries, Jasper Fforde's Nursery Crimes books are good and also funny.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:55 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I saw Sunshine by Robin McKinley above, but I'd recommend anything by her-- her heroines are strong and smart, they always kick ass (except for Pegasus, which was just plain depressing) and the romance is subtle and sweet, funny, and the characters feel real.


She has some really great fairytale-retellings, including Beauty and Spindle's End, and the Blue Sword series are great.... I really can't recommend her enough.

Also going to push for the Outlander series and the Stephanie Plum novels!
posted by lockstitch at 10:33 AM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series is funny, has more going on than just the romance, is light on the sex and violence, and is generally escapist and enjoyable.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:35 AM on December 20, 2011


The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger.

Witty, light, absorbing. Such fun little reads!
posted by Windigo at 10:42 AM on December 20, 2011


Seconding Janet Evanovich (both the Stephanie Plum series and the Full House, Full Scoop, etc. series) and Marian Keyes.

I'll also add Denise Swanson's Scumble River series if you like mysteries.
posted by SisterHavana at 11:47 AM on December 20, 2011


Seriously, just go devour some Georgette Heyer. I have never found anything else to compare -- non-cheesy and hilarious, with intelligent (though often beautiful) heroines. The Grand Sophy is one of my favorites as well.

And thanks for the recommendation for Bellwether everyone, I just ordered that used from Amazon as my holiday guilty pleasure reading (yay!).
posted by peacheater at 11:53 AM on December 20, 2011


I found the Enchanted, Inc. series by Shanna Swendson a lot of fun - funny and light, but not stupid. Also the Poor Relation series by Marion Chesney, though those may be too light for you.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 1:05 PM on December 20, 2011


I didn't see that you wanted "funny." Ignore suggestion of Wuthering Heights then.
posted by bananafish at 3:21 PM on December 20, 2011


I nth Julia Quinn.

A book I haven't seen mentioned that I found very funny is Maggie MacKeever's Waltz With a Vampire. Kristine Grayson's Fates Series (Utterly Charming, Thoroughly Kissed, Completely Smitten, Simply Irresistible, Absolutely Captivated, and Totally Spellbound) is also very entertaining.
posted by bluesapphires at 3:59 PM on December 20, 2011


Another vote for Janet Evanovich - I think the Stephanie Plum series is priceless.
posted by aryma at 6:54 PM on December 20, 2011


You might like Mavis Cheek.
posted by mippy at 2:48 AM on December 21, 2011


Wow. Thank you. This is such a great list that I'm not sure what to mark as best answer. Awesome. Metafilter comes through again.
posted by eleanna at 4:45 PM on December 22, 2011


Coming in late (and with the caveat that Keyes's Sushi for Beginners made me want to punch something in its twee little face) to suggest Mindy Klasky's short series beginning with Magic and the Modern Girl. They are thoroughly silly and escapist and the protagonist is only very occasionally dumb as a post. I'd put them on par with Kinsella.

Seconding the Pink Carnation series and nthing Connie Willis, too.
posted by MsMacbeth at 6:48 AM on December 25, 2011


Nthing Julia Quinn (one of the few authors who has literally made me laugh until I cried.) You really can't go wrong with one of her Bridgerton books. And Lady Whistledown is an absolute gem of a character.

This might be a little unconventional, but I adore Meg Cabot's romance books. They're smart, funny, and surprisingly well written.
posted by Tamanna at 3:16 PM on December 28, 2011


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