book recommendations for you and me
April 11, 2022 12:17 PM   Subscribe

Recommendations? I'm looking for a book with romance in it, fiction, nonfiction, or romance novel, that has a specific sort of middle-aged love story.

Are there good stories of m/f romance between characters in their late 30s or 40s? I am interested in books that aren't romance-centered, even nonfiction books or memoirs, but not uninterested in genre romance novels, as long as the romance is not too hard to believe. (I don't read much het romance because I tend not to like your standard-issue jerkass male leads, but that's a different matter.)
posted by Countess Elena to Writing & Language (22 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
The Outlander series starts when the married hero and heroine are in their 20s, but picks up in Book 3 when they're in their 40s; in the most recent one I think they must be late 50s. They are passionately in love and constantly doing it. It's not a standard genre romance... it's got time travel; historical fiction; military history... all equally represented. (And it's violent, and almost everyone gets raped at some point.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:27 PM on April 11, 2022

Slim to None by Freya Barker Emma, disabled mom, moved to small town as a bookkeeper after her daughter's all grown up. Unfortunately, she apparently kept some bad guy's books and a PI, Gus, is tailing her, and have to protect her from some OTHER bad guys who wanted to "clean up"...

The Broken One by Ruth Cardello Sebastian developed the single grocery store founded by his father into a grocery empire, but loss of his wife and unborn child turned him into a workaholic robot... until he found a dirty stuffed wolf doll on the side of the road... // Heather is a single mom who adopted her best dead friend's daughter to raise as her own, while opposed by her family. Then her daughter lost "wolfie" out the window of the car. She did not expect it to be returned by the handsome guy with the saddest eyes...

Not Quite Perfect by Rebecca Norinne Victoria met her dream guy on the ferry while heading to her mother's (sixth) wedding. Professor David Carstairs is the perfect guy. They are even compatible in bed. Turns out, he's off to attend his father's wedding. Then they found they are about to become step-sibling...

If you need more recommendations, try /r/romancebooks on Reddit.
posted by kschang at 12:41 PM on April 11, 2022

If you're not mystery-averse, you could try the Maj Sjöwall/Per Wahlöö books, the central character is Martin Beck. There are 10 of them. In the first few, he is unhappily married, and gradually over the course of the series he is single and then falls for another woman. She is busy and professional and fits him into her life eventually - he thinks lovingly about her a lot, with a kind of earthy sensuality (not offputting, I swear!) He's deeply into her physically but there are no heaving bosoms or strangely attenuated legs or anything, she is a stocky middle aged woman to whom he is very attracted.

The romance is not the central feature of the books, which are police procedurals written by a couple of marxists who were critical of the Swedish welfare state of the 60s and 70s. But it was a striking element of the later books.

Further genre suggestions: Tehanu and The Other Wind, by Ursula LeGuin, in which the young people of the earlier Earthsea books are grown and find each other again.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 12:44 PM on April 11, 2022 [3 favorites]

I think you would like The Republic of Love by Carol Shields. It fits your parameters and she is (was) an excellent writer.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:47 PM on April 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

The Veronica Speedwell books aren't going to win literary prizes but they are fun mysteries with an independent, older heroine (30s I think), who solves mysteries and there is a romance. I think we're on book 7 and no one is married yet. Fairly frank discussions of sex, no depictions of sex that I can recall but don't quote me on that. 10/10 they are fun.
posted by Medieval Maven at 12:50 PM on April 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

My standard rec: Lois McMaster Bujold, particularly Paladin of Souls and Cordelia-centric books in the Vorkosigan Saga (notably the first and last: Shards of Honor and Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen).

You might also enjoy Ursula Vernon's Saint of Steel/Paladin series. Not all protagonists are middle-aged, but most are, and the romances have a very life-experience-y feel to them.
posted by humbug at 12:54 PM on April 11, 2022 [12 favorites]

A Big Storm Knocked It Over by Laurie Colwin is about someone who has recently married so it's not about meeting and falling in love; that already happened before the book started. But as I recall, there are descriptions of the meeting and falling in love stage.
posted by Redstart at 1:28 PM on April 11, 2022

Major Pettigrew's last stand fits the bill, but the characters are older. Late 60s I think

hen retired Major Pettigrew strikes up an unlikely friendship with Mrs. Ali, the Pakistani village shopkeeper, he is drawn out of his regimented world and forced to confront the realities of life in the twenty-first century. Brought together by a shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship on the cusp of blossoming into something more. But although the Major was actually born in Lahore, and Mrs. Ali was born in Cambridge, village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and her as a permanent foreigner. The Major has always taken special pride in the village, but will he be forced to choose between the place he calls home and a future with Mrs. Ali?
posted by Ftsqg at 1:41 PM on April 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

Bujold's Paladin of Souls is an excellent fantasy novel with a decidedly middle-aged romance. I would even say that the major theme of the book is that one's life does not end at 40, not even if you are widowed and your children are grown. (I love the previous book, Curse of Chalion, but Paladin is my personal favourite from that series/universe.)

The Saint of Steel series by Ursula Vernon (writing as T. Kingfisher, as she does for all of her adult/YA novels) are also fun fantasy-romance novels. I can't recall the ages of the protagonists in the first (Paladin's Grace, but it's at least late twenties for one and 30s for the other; Paladin's Strength (my favourite of the three out so far) features characters in their late 30s, early 40s (and who talk about it a lot).

This is stretching down in age, in that the heroine is 29, not in her 30s, but The Blue Castle is a classic novel about a woman claiming her own life at an age when her society deems her to be past adventure and romance.
posted by jb at 1:45 PM on April 11, 2022 [3 favorites]

The protagonist in Rosy Thornton's The Tapestry of Love is 48 and starting over after a divorce by moving to France. The book is not just a love story with a person, but also about the protagonist coming to live and love a particular place.
posted by gudrun at 2:41 PM on April 11, 2022

Most of the books by Jeanne Ray, definitely. Especially Julie and Romeo; a middle-aged couple getting together after their divorces. There's a sequel as well.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:47 PM on April 11, 2022

In non-fiction, Dared & Done: The Marriage of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, by Julia Markus, and the letters of Barrett and Browning. The George Eliot section of Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages.

In fiction, DE Stevenson has some older women in her novels: Vittoria Cottage for instance.

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books has a section on books with the theme of older couples.

Several that I first thought of turned out to be early or mid-thirties rather than late thirties; that cut-off may be where the number of books tend to peter out. I know I've read several books where the author insists early on that the heroine is 35 in a kind of "look! It's not too late!" way.
posted by paduasoy at 3:44 PM on April 11, 2022

Response by poster: Thanks, guys! Everything sounds great! I really enjoyed The Blue Castle and the Kingfisher books I have read. I couldn't get into the first Outlander book, but it seems like the books change a whole lot over the series, and maybe I would like the later ones better. All these other books, I still should try!
posted by Countess Elena at 3:44 PM on April 11, 2022

1000 days in Venice
posted by sulaine at 5:44 PM on April 11, 2022

Evvie Drake Starts Over, by MeFi's Own Linda Holmes.
posted by dr. boludo at 7:14 AM on April 12, 2022

I was going to come and make the same Bujold recs, consider them third-ed.
posted by wellifyouinsist at 9:07 AM on April 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

The four novels in Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries that revolve around Lord Peter's relationship with Harriet Vane might work for you. They are Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, Gaudy Night, and Busman's Honeymoon.
posted by darchildre at 10:00 AM on April 12, 2022

The Captain Lacey books by Ashley Gardner are mysteries set after the Napoleonic wars. In one of them he meets his future wife. There's a lot in the series, and I've read them all twice.
posted by Enid Lareg at 10:26 AM on April 12, 2022

In addition to the specific Bujold books (and Vernon books) that have already been recommended, I would like to point out that in the middle of Bujold's Vorkosigan series Miles is old enough that the Miles/Ekaterin romance also fits the bill. I don't remember if their exact ages are stated in the books, but from some quick wiki maths I think Ekaterin is around thirty in Komarr and Miles is thirtysomething.

(But maybe don't start with Komarr; the series can be read out of order, but the later books are much less satisfying if you haven't followed the recurring characters as they developed in the earlier books.)

This is also very much my jam, and I'll be keeping an eye on the answers!
posted by confluency at 4:31 PM on April 12, 2022

This is a bit outside of your requirements - the characters are in their 50s, I think - but I really enjoyed Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory.
posted by kristi at 5:27 PM on April 13, 2022

I would like to point out that in the middle of Bujold's Vorkosigan series Miles is old enough that the Miles/Ekaterin romance also fits the bill. I don't remember if their exact ages are stated in the books, but from some quick wiki maths I think Ekaterin is around thirty in Komarr and Miles is thirtysomething.

I believe that they are both 30 (it's within a year of Memory).

(But maybe don't start with Komarr; the series can be read out of order, but the later books are much less satisfying if you haven't followed the recurring characters as they developed in the earlier books.)

I actually think that Komarr is one of the good places to start the series - I would start either with Shards of Honour, Warrior's Apprentice or Komarr. Warrior's Apprentice doesn't fit the request, but the other two do, though Shards a bit better (33 and 44, rather than 30 and 30).
posted by jb at 5:46 PM on April 13, 2022

E.Annie Proulx: The Shipping News might qualify, if you haven't already read it.
posted by Coaticass at 8:10 PM on April 13, 2022

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