There was a bit of stink lately on Twitter about whether or not Romantic Comedies were a different genre from Romance, and whether or not one had more value than the other. I didn’t catch the whole debate, but I think the argument was that romantic comedies show people working through their differences to come to a happy ending, while romances are just about who can get out of their corset faster.
Ah, the age old debate between plot and smut. To which I say..
All this to say, the folks at BookRiot put together a list of the 100 Best Romantic Comedies. Whether this is part of the romance vs romantic comedy debate, or whether it’s just a well timed post, is TBD.
100 books is a lot though, and maybe you’re one of those people who can pin a list of 100 books and work your way diligently through it. I am not one of those people. If you suffer from a tiny attention span like yours truly, I thought I’d post a condensed and vetted list from the top 100, so you know where to focus your attention (and where not to).
Beautiful Bastard, Christina Lauren
This book makes me a liar when I say smut and plot can co-exist. This book. What can I say? I like smut for smut’s sake, but this one’s just not very funny. From the moment he starts groping her in chapter one and she goes with the “I don’t want him, but my nipples are hard, so let’s bang anyway” trope, to the moment in chapter three where she refers to her “power panties”, I was confused, then horrified, then just plain old pissed. I could write a whole rant about this book and I only read the first three chapters, but I think you get where I’m going here. Maybe it’s an enjoyable read under different circumstances, but at a minimum, I can’t see how it can be considered a comedy.
Bridget Jones’ Diary, Helen Fielding
I read this when it first came out. That was a while ago. I was still in high school, so I wasn’t really the target demographic. I didn’t much like Bridget, or either of her apparent suitors. And now that I’m a smug married, I’d probably still find it narcissistic and boring.
The movie though, is still adorable. It (mostly) marks the end of Hugh Grant’s era as a bumbling stammering heart throb, and of course has Colin Firth as (the other) Darcy. If you need a Bridget in your life, go for the film version.
Love Lessons, Heidi Cullinan
Heidi’s one of the main reasons I started reading m/m romance, so her books in general have a special place in my heart. Love Lessons is definitely one of those books you should judge by its cover, mostly because the cover is gorgeous, and so are Kelly and Walter. There are Disney princes, deep dish pizza, and just enough angst to keep it all humming together nicely! I have some reservations about NA as a genre, but this is one of the exceptions where I’ll overlook some of my hang ups and just enjoy the ride.
Much Ado About Nothing, William Shakespeare
Truth, I probably haven’t ever actually read Much Ado. We read mostly about dead kings (fictional and otherwise) when we did Shakespeare in high school. But the 1993 film version with Kenneth Brannagh is just about the perfect movie (the actual perfect movie shows up later in this list). The cast is impeccable. You’ve got Denzel Washington’s swagger! Michael Keaton’s Dogberry’s pathetically earnest bumbling! When this first came out, I had an epic crush on Robert Sean Leonard. As an adult, Emma Thompson’s “were I a man” speech is heartbreaking. At any age, the scene in the garden (you know which one) is hilarious.
Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen
This is by far Jane’s (she lets me call her Jane) breeziest novel, but still one of my favourites. Catherine Morland is me and I am her, once she gets to Northanger Abbey. I am totally the girl who thinks the only reasonable explanation for why my cat is staring at nothing late at night is because he can see the ghosts I can’t. Catherine and I would totally be BFFs.
The Duke and I, Julia Quinn
Ok, ok. I know the Bridgertons are like Romance Novel 101, but I have never finished this book. And that’s a tragedy, because the parts I have read are adorable and hilarious and I want to read so many of the others in the series, but I feel compelled to read series in order. I blame my public library for this; The Duke and I always has an extensive waiting list, which means I can only have it for three weeks at a time with no renewals and, as I’ve posted before, I’m not the fastest reader in the world. I’ve finally borrowed a friend’s dog eared copy. I’m optimistic that I’ll finish it this time!!
The Princess Bride, William Goldman
We’ve all seen the movie, right? If you haven’t, close your browser now and go watch it. Seriously. Go!!! It is, in my mind, the Perfect Movie. Every time I watch it, I’m all “this is the best scene!!” then three minutes later I’m all “NO! This is the Best Scene!!!”. Never get involved in a land war in Asia!! I’m not a witch, I’m your wife!!! MLTs!!!
But the book is a masterpiece of its own. The annotations! The parentheses! This is after stew, but then again, everything is after stew. The book is satire and romance and everything else, and most people don’t even know it exists. So once you’re done watching the movie, read this book.
The Sweetest Thing, Jill Shalvis
Jill Shalvis’s blog is a really sweet and human chronicle of day to day antics in the high Sierras. It features klutzy women, alpha men, and more than a dog or two. Her books are similar. I read a review once that said there’s not much tension in the “will they or won’t they” of Shalvis’s main characters, but they’re just so darn likeable that it really doesn’t matter. I think this is a fair summation of the early Lucky Harbor books for sure. I like the third instalment (Head over Heels. Two words: shower sex) better, but they’re all pretty cute.
Wallbanger, Alice Clayton
So obviously this story started out as a cute plot bunny. What if a woman with an orgasmic dry spell winds up living next to a…well…noisy neighbour? We know how this is going to end. The book is 300 pages of verbal foreplay, which is basically where I live as a writer and a human being so, yeah. It gets a big thumbs up from me, even if the writer seems a little too pleased with her banter sometimes. We all have our demons.
So there you go. The nine of the hundred best rom coms that I have read (or seen, or am currently reading, or tried to read) and can recommend to you, or caution you against.
How about you? What was missing from the big list? Any titles that should have made the cut? Of the other 91 titles that I haven’t read, where should I start first?