THE WASHINGTON POST – We hold these truths to be self-evident: One, 2020 is a trash fire. Two, romance novels have the power to dampen the resulting flames. Thank you for coming to my TED talk; I won’t be taking questions at this time.
Now let me tell you about the particular power of a romance that also makes you laugh. Such a story can clear your skin, absolve you of your sins and facilitate proficiency in several foreign languages. I kid, of course – but not completely. If there’s a consistent theme in readers’ messages about my latest book, The Worst Best Man, it’s that the story is precisely what the reader needs in these tumultuous times. As those within the genre’s community often note, romance is the language of hope, and the guarantee of a happily-ever-after provides comfort in the midst of uncertainty. Add a significant dose of humour to the mix, and you have yourself the makings of a joyful and much-needed respite from the current state of the world.
So what are the romances that have charmed me with their humour? Here’s a small sample. Two are relatively old, a couple are new, some can be borrowed, none of them will make you feel blue. All made me laugh out loud, and for that, I am truly grateful to these authors – especially now.
The Duchess Deal, by Tessa Dare
Ash, the Duke of Ashbury, a recluse physically scarred by war, needs a wife. It’s convenient, then, that Emma Gladstone, a vicar’s daughter and seamstress, bursts into his library wearing the most hideous wedding dress he’s ever seen. But Miss Gladstone isn’t interested in marriage. What she wants is to be paid for stitching the aforementioned monstrosity, a gown meant to be worn by the Duke’s former fiancée. Instead, Ash and Emma negotiate a mutually satisfying bargain, a marriage of convenience for the overriding purpose of ensuring the Duke gets the heir he so desperately desires. Love isn’t permitted to enter into the equation, but as Ash soon learns, neither Emma nor his heart is apt to follow the rules. Aided by perfectly paced repartee, hilariously meddling house staff, and a cantankerous cat with terrible timing, this book is a delight from beginning to end – and an excellent example of a breathtakingly beautiful romance that is also incredibly funny.
Feud, by Phyllis Bourne
Justice Lawson and Alexandra Bridges have each inherited homes from recently deceased relatives, and now they’re neighbours. Nice. The wills in question also contain a so-called feud clause, awarding hundreds of thousands of dollars to the person who manages to win the long-running private war between their families.
Not so nice. What follows is a game of one-upmanship played out in some of the most unforgettable and hysterical scenes I’ve ever read in a romance. This neighbours-to-enemies-to-lovers romp is short, immensely satisfying and one of my favourite comfort-reads.
Meet Cute Club, by Jack Harbon
Jordan Collins is struggling to keep his romance book club afloat. He has no patience for people who scoff at the romance genre, and he certainly will not waste his time on people like Rex Bailey, the rude and judgemental bookstore employee who can’t help commenting on Jordan’s reading preferences.
But when Rex joins Jordan’s Meet Cute Club, the two square off, grow to respect one another, then discover that happily-ever-afters exist in real life, too. Jordan’s grandmother is a hoot, the lovers’ banter is witty, and the grand gesture is positively swoon-worthy. This is a love letter to the genre, and it is so appreciated.
Spoiler Alert, by Olivia Dade
By day, Marcus Caster-Rupp plays Aeneas, the lead character in one of the biggest shows on TV.
But by night, he became another person; Book!AeneasWouldNever, writer of fanfiction about the very show he stars in – a fact that could destroy his career if the show’s creative directors discover his secret.
When April Whittier, a superfan of the show, is teased online for cosplaying another show character, Lavinia, Marcus invites April on a date and soon learns that the first woman to see beyond his carefully crafted public persona is also Unapologetic Lavinia Stan, a fandom member he’s been corresponding with for more than two years as his online alter-ego.
Unwilling to risk his livelihood, Marcus doesn’t reveal their connection, which makes the reader wonder: Can a relationship founded on deception truly succeed?
It’s a romance; of course it can!
The journey these two characters take to get there – both individually and separately – is where the magic happens.
It’s a path of self-discovery, healing and growth, punctuated by scorching chemistry, whip-smart dialogue and side-splitting humour.