By Rachel Montgomery, MLS, Collection Development Librarian
The Romantic Comedy, or Rom-Com, with leading ladies like Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts, and Sandra Bullock, was my favorite movie genre in the 90s, and I watched my VHS tapes on repeat. It’s fair to say I’ve seen French Kiss, Only You, and While You Were Sleeping at least 100 times…each. And while the Romantic Comedy lost traction in the 2000s, we’ve recently seen it make a comeback in theaters (Crazy Rich Asians), streaming (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before), and TV (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend). And in that time, we’ve seen new and exciting fiction titles explode on the market, and I’m hoping this resurgence will have its own HEA (Happily Ever After).
While I was a huge Rom-Com movie fan, I didn’t discover the Romantic Comedy book until later. I was fully converted by authors like Jennifer Crusie and Julia Quinn. To this day, Crusie’s Agnes and the Hitman is one of my favorite books, and I can’t even begin to express how excited I am about the Shonda Rhimes Bridgerton series on Netflix (did you know that THE Julie Andrews will be the voice of Lady Whistledown?!). These books had me giggling and brought me joy as I read them, and that kind of escape is what I turn to when my life, or the world, creates stress.
So it’s not much of a surprise that more people are looking at the Rom-Com as an escape. Melissa Umbarger said in an article last year in Publisher’s Weekly, “In tough times, rom-com novels can serve as the literary equivalent of comfort food.” And there’s more flavor in this new era, with a little more diversity and a little less alpha-male behavior. Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston follows the “half-Mexican son of the first female president of the United States” and Prince Henry, the heir of the British monarchy. A royalty-adjacent Rom-Com, Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory, explores a multi-cultural 50-something romance over a Christmas holiday in England. And Uzma Jalaluddin authored a modern-day Muslim Pride and Prejudice in Ayesha at Last.
There are many types of Rom-Coms, but some books completely lean into the Rom-Com vibes. In Kerry Winfrey’s Waiting for Tom Hanks, Annie dreams of living the perfect Rom-Com with a Tom Hanks-type leading man but falls for a sexy prankster instead. And in Helena Hunting’s Meet Cute, Kailyn and Daxton’s meet-cute (meet-cute: “a situation or occasion when potential romantic partners meet for the first time in a charming or amusing way”) goes awry, but they have a second chance at love years later.
Do you prefer sporty Rom-Coms? Evelyn Lozada has two options for you: The Perfect Date, involving a nursing student/bartender meeting a star pitcher, and her June 2020 follow-up, The Wrong Mr. Darcy, where this Pride & Prejudice-inspired Darcy is a rookie basketball player. Bromance Book Club, by Lyssa Kay Adams, revolves around “Nashville’s top alpha men,” who have a secret romance book club – and a major leaguer joins in the hope of saving his marriage. Alexa Martin’s Playbook series centers on romance with NFL players, including this December’s newest title, Blitzed.
Typically, when you think of Rom-Coms, you think of something contemporary; maybe a workplace competition (The Hating Game by Sally Thorne), enemies-to-lovers (Truth or Beard by Penny Reid), a family driven fix-up (The Matchmaker’s List by Sonya Lalli), or spam emails claiming a betrothal to an African prince that turn out to be real (A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole). But there are many hysterical historical titles that shouldn’t be overlooked. A classic Loretta Chase, Lord of Scoundrels, should be in every library. It follows Jessica Trent, an intelligent, no-nonsense heroine, as she faces off against the mad, bad Marquess of Dain. In Tessa Dare’s When a Scot Ties the Knot, shy Miss Gracechurch invents a sweetheart, only to discover the real man years later. Then there’s the Love by the Numbers series by Sarah MacLean, which left me in stitches.
If you love a good Rom-Com as much as I do, and you’re interested in exploring more Rom-Com titles, check out our lists for more recommendations:
(Note: While the Kitschy Covers list isn’t 100% Rom-Coms, many are represented here, with fun and inviting cover art.)