Return of the Rom-Com!

The romantic comedy film genre took a serious dive in popularity over the last 2 decades, going from 2 billion dollars in tickets sales (1999) to less than 1/2 million (2018). Romantic comedy novels followed a similar trajectory.  But the film genre is experiencing a resurgence, and rom-com novels are riding their coattails with a comeback of their own.

The past couple of years have seen an explosion of romantic comedies in publishing – heck, the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction went to a book with a lot of rom-com characteristics: Less by Andrew Sean Greer. As poignant as it is humorous, Greer’s award-winning novel contains many familiar rom-com tropes, and also turns a few on their heads!

Once known somewhat disparagingly as “chick lit”, these smart and sassy stories explore all the quirks and foibles of modern relationships, often tackling difficult subjects but never losing their sense of humor. If you’re new to the genre, this list of recent romantic comedies is a good place to start:

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman are competitive rivals at a publishing company and profess to hate each other, but when the tension reaches the boiling point, they both wonder if the competition is just a game and that maybe they don’t hate each other after all.

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren. Partnered with a nemesis best man on a paradise honeymoon when her bride twin gets food poisoning, a chronically unlucky maid of honor assumes the role of a newlywed before unexpectedly falling for her companion.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang. A 30-year-old math whiz with Asperger’s tries to make her love life as rich as her career by hiring an escort to help her with her lack of knowledge and experience in the dating department.

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory. Stranded together in an elevator during a power outage, Drew and Alexa agree to pose as a couple at an ex’s wedding and discover afterwards that they are unable to forget each other.

Fight or Flight by Samantha Young. After her delayed flight, Ava has a brief intimate encounter with Caleb, an arrogant Scotsman, and never expects to see him again, but when he is stranded in Boston, they reconnect, and Ava has to deal with her increasing attraction.

Meet Cute by Helena Hunting. After meeting the former actor she had a crush on as a teenager and fangirling all over him, Kailyn Flowers strikes up a friendship with Daxton Hughes who needs help acting as guardian to his 13-year-old-sister.

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin. A modern Muslim adaptation of Pride and Prejudice finds a reluctant teacher who would avoid an arranged marriage setting aside her literary ambitions before falling in love with her perpetually single cousin’s infuriatingly conservative fiancé.

Red, White & Royal Blue  by Casey McQuistion. A big-hearted romantic comedy in which the First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends.

When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri. A romantic comedy about gender and sexuality follows the experiences of a traditionally minded Midwesterner who, in the aftermath of an ended engagement, finds herself in a transformative relationship with a self-assured New York businesswoman.



Louise Reads: The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Effect ibooks the sequel to 2013’s runaway hit The Rosie Project, author Graeme Simsion’s debut novel (reviewed here). That romantic comedy followed the efforts of Don Tillman, a genetics professor and extremely socially inept, to procure a life partner for himself. The Wife Project ends successfully with Don finding true love with the free-spirited and quirky-in-her-own-way Rosie.

The sequel opens with Don and Rosie starting their married life in New York City. Don is feeling very satisfied with his adjustment to marriage, until he notices orange juice on his breakfast table one morning. “Orange juice was not scheduled for Fridays.” , he muses in the book’s opening sentence,  and it’s the beginning of even more changes for Don. Rosie, you see, is pregnant.

A comedy of errors ensues as Don tries to adjust to this unplanned event. His best friend from Australia moves in with Don and Rosie after his wife kicks him out, Don’s endeavors to observe fathers in action end up getting him arrested, and his attempts to take control over the pregnancy have, of course, the opposite effect. As troubles start mounting, Rosie begins to doubt that Don is meant for fatherhood.

This blurb from Simon & Schuster sums it up nicely: “As Don tries to schedule time for pregnancy research, getting Gene and Claudia to reconcile, servicing the industrial refrigeration unit that occupies half his apartment, helping Dave the Baseball Fan save his business, and staying on the right side of Lydia the social worker, he almost misses the biggest problem of all: he might lose Rosie when she needs him the most. ”

audioI enjoyed The Rosie Effect, though I must admit, not as much as The Rosie Project. Half of the fun in the first story was getting to know Don and his myriad of quirks. The sequel also seemed a bit rushed to me, with almost too many crazy misunderstandings thrown into the plot to keep it lively. I listened to the audiobook version narrated by Dan O’Grady, who was fantastic. A very enjoyable read, even if I didn’t love it as much as the original. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.