Let’s reinvent the romantic comedy

Let’s reinvent the romantic comedy

If you’ve noticed a sharp uptick in the number of romantic comedies being released—both on the screen and on the page—you’re not alone: the romantic comedy is coming back with a vengeance. I am here for it. And many of you have been telling you are, too.

When we spoke with author Julie Buxbaum in the MMD Book Club recently, we dove into the rom com resurgence. Buxbaum describes herself as a “huge romantic comedy junkie,” and is on board for this trend, speculating it’s fueled by today’s combative political environment. “Romantic comedies are soothing,” she said. “We want the happy ending.” And so the rom com is coming back—but it’s being reinvented.

We might want the happy endings, but today’s audience also wants deeper emotions than the rom coms we remember from the 90s and early 2000s, when so many plots were propelled forward by silly misunderstandings or simple character opposition. This emphasis on deeper emotions is a key reason Buxbaum considers her own book Tell Me Three Things to be a romantic comedy that’s emblematic of the reinvented rom com. The book revolves around grief—yet it’s also sweet, and funny. And of course, the reader trusts there’s a happy ending in store.

Reader, if you love a book that guarantees a happy ending, gives you the funny with the sad, has emotional depth, and makes the reading experience fun, one of these newer romantic comedies may be exactly what your TBR needs.

I’d love to hear your favorite romantic comedies in comments. And in a few weeks we’ll share the movie version of this post—what (old or new) films would you recommend?

10 contemporary romantic comedies for readers

One Plus One

One Plus One

Author:
A road-trip-from-hell as a romantic comedy? You got it. Financially strapped Jess can't afford to send her math whiz daughter to a decent school, but then a scholarship opportunity arises—in Scotland, and she can't afford to drive there. Enter Geeky Ed, who owes her a favor, but mostly wants a chance to think about anything besides the insider trader scandal he's embroiled in. The story is told from four different points of view, with different voices for each (which makes the audio version great). Quirky and endearing. More info →
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Attachments: A Novel

Attachments: A Novel

Can you fall in love with someone just by reading their email? For Lincoln O’Neill, the answer is YES. When he takes a new job as an "internet security officer" he doesn't realize that means he'll be reading people’s emails. But it's the company's policy, and besides, all the employees know their emails are being monitored—at least in theory. Before long Lincoln has pored over countless personal emails between Jennifer and Beth, and he's sure of two things: he's in too deep, and it's too late to confess. You couldn’t ask for a better beach read. More info →
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The Rosie Project

The Rosie Project

Don Tillman can count his friends on one hand, has never been on a second date, and is clearly (to the reader, at least) on the autism spectrum. When a colleague surprises him by remarking he would make a wonderful husband, Don creates "the Wife Project" to find his perfect partner. (To Don, that means creating the perfect questionnaire.) But when he meets a woman that's all wrong for him—at least on paper—he's forced to reconsider what he really wants, and what love really looks like (all while his scientific, orderly approach to life is getting wrecked). Fast, fun, and smart. Heads up for a few f-bombs and racy scenes. More info →
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Act Like It

Act Like It

Author:
Newsletter subscribers know I just blew through this series (again) on vacation and it was good for my reading life. Richard and Lainie are actors in London's West End. Though talented, Richard's cranky off-stage antics are turning his fans against him, and the theater is worried they won't be able to sell tickets. Fan favorite Lanie is already stuck working with her cheating ex-boyfriend, and then it gets worse: she's asked to pose as his new girlfriend to help Richard clean up his reputation. And fans love nothing more than an on-stage/off-stage romance, so soon they're packing in the crowds. But then the lines between on-stage and off begin to blur. A fast, fun contemporary romance with a keen sense of humor. More info →
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Now a Major Motion Picture

Now a Major Motion Picture

Author:
Iris’s grandmother wrote the famous high-fantasy Elementia series but Iris wants nothing to do with it. She's never read the books and she barely even met her grandmother but that doesn’t stop the trilogy's fans from wanting a piece of her and her family. Iris fears what the fandom is capable of—and that's before the movie adaptation begins filming. But when Iris tries to shut down the production, she learns she doesn't have the story quite right. A fun light-hearted read! More info →
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Ayesha At Last

Ayesha At Last

While it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single, Muslim man must be in want of a wife, there’s an even greater truth: “To his Indian mother, his own inclinations were of secondary importance.” In this retelling of Jane Austen's comedy of manners, set in contemporary Toronto, Darcy becomes Khalid, a devout Muslim man whose mother is trying to marry him off. Elizabeth becomes Ayesha, a teacher who’d much prefer to be a poet. When they first meet, it’s utter disaster: she thinks he’s rigid and judgmental; he thinks she’s not a good Muslim because of the drink (virgin) and cigarettes (not hers) she’s holding. But circumstances bring them together again, of course. I loved the supporting cast featuring good friends, a cousin dreaming of a Bollywood-inspired wedding, an embarrassing mother, and a Shakespeare-quoting grandpa. If you’re a P&P devotee, this is a delight. If you’ve never read the original, you can still enjoy this story about family, friendship, and love. More info →
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Waiting for Tom Hanks

Waiting for Tom Hanks

Author:
Annie Cassidy is a Nora Ephron-obsessed writer who dreams of both writing a rom com and finding a Tom Hanks of her own to love. Those dreams begin to come true when a Hollywood film crew invades her Columbus neighborhood to shoot a new romantic comedy featuring the handsome Drew Danforth … who Annie believes to be an overgrown manchild who cares more about on-set pranks than acting the part of a serious film star. But as Annie gets to know the people on set better, her life starts to take on an eery resemblance to some of her favorite movies. This familiar story feels fresh and fun in Winfrey's hands, and absolutely oozes charm. (In this closed-door romance, the sexy stuff is present, but happens offscreen.) Bonus: you'll come away with a long list of rom coms to watch. More info →
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Crazy Rich Asians (Crazy Rich Asians Trilogy Book 1)

Crazy Rich Asians (Crazy Rich Asians Trilogy Book 1)

Author:
When Economics professor Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend Nicholas Young, she has no idea his family is worth billions. Instead of the lovely vacation she imagined, she spends her days navigating the complicated and perilous world of three mega rich Chinese families, as Nick's mom schemes to drive the couple apart. This is an insider look at wealthy Singapore society that toes the line between fun romp and over the top parody. (The movie version—which I thoroughly enjoyed—is decidedly more rom com in flavor than the book.) More info →
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What If It’s Us

What If It’s Us

Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera teamed up to give us this fun, light-hearted read. When Arthur and Ben meet at the post office right before a flash mob breaks out, Arthur is convinced the Universe brought them together. Even if he doesn’t know Ben’s name. Arthur decides he’s going to help the Universe bring their paths back together. You’ll love watching Ben and Arthur find their way to one another and what happens once they do. More info →
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Dating You / Hating You

Dating You / Hating You

Fans of Sally Thorne's The Hating Game will enjoy this fun office romance! Carter and Evie meet at a Halloween party and start to date, only to evolve into office enemies when a corporate merger has them vying for the same position. They take pranks to a whole new level. Add in witty banter and this one will have you laughing out loud for sure as Carter and Evie figure out the thin line between love and hate. More info →
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Readers, what are YOUR favorite romantic comedies? Tell us your favorite books—and films—in comments.

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123 comments | Comment

123 comments

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  1. I really enjoyed both of Julie Buxbaum’s books, with a slight preference for Tell Me Three Things. I also just finished another SRG book, Field Notes on Love, which was delightful. Another favorite was Anna and the French Kiss. I seem to prefer YA romantic comedies, I think because they are pretty PG. I’m not a big fan of romance reads as some of the “ripping bodice” type of scenes are just too much for me!

    I enjoy the escape of reading books like these, especially after finishing heavier books. I feel like life is serious enough these days, especially if you watch the news/read the newspaper, so I need an escape to something light and easy-breezy!

    • Natasha Stone says:

      I’m here for Buxbaum as well! I’ve simply adored her last three books! I seem to gravitate to YA rom com the most

  2. Jess says:

    I was hugely disappointed in Crazy Rich Asians. I waited forever for my library book, (I think I was like 40 something on the list!) And all I could think of was I can’t believe I waited that long for this.

      • Cynthia says:

        I loved all three books! I thought they were fabulously entertaining and very enlightening on a society I knew nothing about. I highly recommend them along with Anne!!!

        • Jaime says:

          I also loved the Crazy Rich Asians books and appreciated the adaptation for the movie as well. What I will say though is that I would always recommend reading these via audio-book as opposed to the page. There is a lot of language intricacies that would be difficult for non-Chinese speakers and I think a lot would get lost in that translation (per say). Also – the narrator is hilarious!

          • Jody says:

            Yes, definitely go with the audiobook! The narrator was excellent, and I’m sure all the language tones and expressions would have been missed by me if I was reading it myself. It was much funnier than I expected: an over-the-top escape into a nearly unbelievable world.

      • Anne says:

        It made it in on the strength of the movie. I think it’s sooo interesting to see how the tone differs in the two mediums, book and film.

    • Samantha Thilkey says:

      Same. I actually read HALF of this book before I DNFed it because I was waiting for it to get good. To each their own!

    • Marie Braz says:

      Yeah, I couldn’t get them to them either. There’s nothing pleasurable about reading about self obsessed wealthy people with first world problems.

    • Liz says:

      I just read my first Kristan Higgins last week (‘Good Luck With That’) and it was fantastic!! I wasn’t sure what to expect but it managed to be both funny and also cause me to cry a few times. Excited to dive into her backlist!

    • Toni Aliskowitz says:

      I found Kristan about a year ago and am hooked. It might be that I am of a similar age as the author which helps with relatability, but I love the mix of fun and depth in her stories.

    • Carrie Padgett says:

      Love love love Kristan! All except My One and Only. I’ve read everything she’s written and love all of them except that one. And even it was just okay, I didn’t hate it. Can’t wait for Life and Other Inconveniences in August. I’ve already pre-ordered it!

      • Sheila DelCharco says:

        I’ve never read her. Two questions: is the romance steamy? (R rated or more like PG-13?) and where should I start?

  3. Julie says:

    Just finished Ayesha at Last 15 minutes ago. Loved the characters and the storyline. Jenny Colgan is another favorite for romantic comedies!

  4. Hélène Gilot says:

    I really enjoyed The Little Bookshop of Happily Ever After by Jenny Colgan, a booklover’s dream, really, considering it’s about a young woman who decides to open her own bookstore on wheels in Scotland.

    • Mary Foster says:

      I loved it too – though it was a tad more racy than I prefer so I recommend it with a warning to most people:) It is funny because I am really not prudish at all (like AT ALL…talk to me in person and you will know what I mean!) and I have a terrible potty mouth but somehow reading about explicit bedroom moments just isn’t my thing. Still, the story was so fun and I thought the author handled complicated and difficult realities with the perfect touch.

    • Michelle says:

      YES!!! I couldn’t put it down and immediately reread it and bought the audible. LOVE. British, politics, witty, steamy and heart-soaringly romantic. Definitely recommend “Red, White and Royal Blue”!!!!

    • Ann Perrigo says:

      My all-time favorite Susan Elizabeth Phillips is First Lady! It’s got everything—road trip with recalcitrant man a 14-year-old girl, a toddler, and a stray dog! I’m not so crazy about her sports-team books. Too predictable. If anyone could suggest titles of hers that are more along the lines of First Lady, I would be thrilled!

  5. Michelle Coffey says:

    I am reading The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary and it is a DELIGHT. Definitely fits in this category. It’s a rom com with lots of character development and real issues happening in the characters’ lives. I highly recommend it!

    • Marie says:

      Me too! I thoroughly enjoyed it not really expecting to. It was not the fluffy thing I thought it would be but more substantial in the end.

  6. Michelle says:

    I’m surprised that Dear Mrs. Bird didn’t make it on this list or in the comments. It is such a great read. Very uplifting. A completely fresh take on a WWII novel. I absolutely adored it and the subtle nod to rom-com status. It will make a great movie!

  7. Emily Greaves says:

    I will forever be a fan of Bridget Jones! Another book that I love is Silver Linings Playbook. Even though these are both movies, they are worth checking out!

  8. Emilee says:

    Helen Hoang
    Jasmine Guillory
    Sally Thorne

    -These three turned me into a romance reader after YEARS of looking down on the genre.

    • Annie says:

      @Emilee, SAME! I just read The Bride Test and I own 99 Percent Mine, but I’m saving it for a special occasion (like a beach trip). 🙂

  9. Victoria Simpson says:

    I highly recommend The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang. Autistic girl hires male escort to help her learn, all the feelings ensue. It is the first adult novel I’ve willingly read in an entire day. I could not put it down.

  10. Krysia says:

    The Hating Game by Sally Thorne – I loved this one so much! The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion – also funny and sweet. I admit I binge-read both of these and ignored real life until they were finished.

    • Dana says:

      I loved The Rosie Project. Just picked up The Hating Game from the library. My writing partner recommended it. Can’t wait to read it.

  11. Rachel says:

    Just finished “The Accidental Beauty Queen” by Teri Wilson and loooooved it 😍 P&P meets Miss Congeniality – it was the perfect light read to finish off the last week of school. And I’m also glad closed door romances are a thing. I usually skim the sex scenes and worry I missed a plot point 😂

  12. Bridget says:

    100% true about escaping into romantic comedies these days! The world seems terrible and as a result I find myself seeking escapism in romances and hallmark movies. I seem usually geared to more young adult genre but thanks to recommendations, goodreads, and articles like this I”m finding mire options in the romance genre that aren’t the cheesy steamy ones( which are ok once in while but not my fave genre) Thanks for the recommendations above and in the comments! I think I just added at least 6 books to my to read pile!:) Keep ’em coming!

  13. Johna says:

    I love lucy Parker. My favorite of that series is Pretty Face. I also LOVE Kate Clayborn particularly Beginner’s Luck.
    Also, if you want to go historical, there’s a series by Julia Quinn called The Bridgertons that’s going to be made into a miniseries by shonda rhimes (Julie Andrews has already signed on!) The first two of the series are my favorite.

  14. Mary Kay says:

    Romantic comedies are my favorite! Liam Dolan wrote two of my favorite very smart rom-coms- “Helen of Pasadena” and “Elizabeth the First Wife”. Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series is fun, witty, and historically accurate. I’m happy to see Jasmine Guillory in the comments- “The Wedding Date” and “The Proposal” were both wonderful. And “The Kiss Quotient” by Helen Hoang is great. I’m surprised that no one has mentioned Sophia Kinsella. I’m not a huge fan of her Shopaholic series, but her stand alone books are consistently fun, funny and satisfying.

  15. Elizabeth says:

    I confess I have not read many romantic comedies, but Ayesha at Last and Waiting for Tom Hanks are both on my TBR list for this summer. Given those are the two romcoms I’ve chosen to read this summer it should not at all be surprising that my favorite film romcom is the classic (it’s a classic now, right?) You’ve Got Mail. It will always and forever be at the top of my list followed closely by Notting Hill, which I feel does touch a bit on the emotional depth/sadness that we want today. Definitely time for a re-watch of both!

  16. Mary says:

    Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married by Marian Keyes…laughed ‘til I cried! She’s an Irish author and her books are great

  17. Renae says:

    Loved the new “Always be My Maybe” as a quirky and fun rom-com that’s reminiscent of the comedies of which you speak. But my tried and true will always be Meg Ryan movies: When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, French Kiss, You’ve Got Mail. I’m a sucker for them. I also love Dan in Real Life, Fever Pitch, and Easy A.

  18. Carol Cool says:

    I love all of Jennifer Weiner’s books, especially her first—Good In Bed (which I had to hide the cover while reading in public, even though the book itself isn’t so racy!), and In Her Shoes, which was made into a movie that I like, but the book is better. I’ve procured her newest—Mrs. Everything—but haven’t had the chance to start it yet, since starting it will mean doing nothing else until it’s finished.

  19. Sarah Bowyer says:

    One in a Million by Lindsey Kelk was released last year and ticked all the boxes for me. At the time I read it, I described it as “My Fair Lady meets Set it Up”. It’s funny and romantic and predictable in the best possible way…

  20. Kelli Roberts says:

    Jasmine Guillory has a new one coming out in October – mother follows her daughter to England (she has a job styling the royal family) and mom falls in love with the Queen’s (male) private secretary. It sounds like a really fun one!

  21. My whole summer reading guide this year is devoted to rom coms. I’m always up for diving into this genre and I’m SO happy that we’re getting new additions left and right. It seems like most of my go-to authors were mentioned already, but I’m eager to see who else will pop up in the next year or two!

  22. Whitney H says:

    I loved “The Royal We” by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. It was long enough and had enough development that I truly did care about the characters, yet it was still lighthearted, romantic and fun. Besides, reading about an average girl falling in love with a prince… (sigh) I’ll be rereading it this summer!

    • How to Find Love in A Bookshop was thoughtful, had romance and books! Such a great combination! I just read “The Forgotten Wife” by Lorna Cook and enjoyed it too.

  23. eculatta says:

    Ha! Started my own list of recommendations before I read yours – and they top your list! 🙂 And I LOVED Attachments too!
    Books:
    One Plus One (Jojo Moyes)
    The Rosie Project (Graeme Simsion)

    Movies:
    To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (Netflix)
    Set It Up (Netflix)

    What a fun thread – thank you! Many new ones on my TBR!

  24. I just read two great ARCs that will be released this summer. The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadows by Jenni Keer is really fun. It’s set in England and is about a young woman who works at an auction house, is trying to reunite her family, while not falling in love with her boss. And A Highlander Walks into a Bar by Laura Trentham is about a Scotsman visiting Highland, Georgia during their annual Scottish festival. Loved the humor in this one! I got to review them for NetGalley and also posted on Goodreads.

  25. Judy says:

    I recently liked Matchmaking for Beginners and am enjoying How Not To Die Alone…both a bit Eleanor Oliphant-ish…which may be a “thing” now but could be on its way to being overdone by less talented writers.

  26. April S says:

    Meg Cabot’s Heather Wells series comes to mind, technically they’re mysteries but they’re fun and funny the first book in the series is “Size Twelve is Not Fat” followed by “Size 14 Is Not Fat Either” then “Big Boned” (5 books total).

  27. Judy says:

    I found a forgotten copy of ‘The Inn at Lake Devine’ in a beach cottage we rented a couple of summers ago. I’ve never been a reader of romantic comedies, two-thirds of the way through, they always get too predictable. I decided to give the book a shot anyway and what a treat! Elinor Lipman is masterful in her delivery of rom-com fiction! Next was ‘Isabel’s Bed’ followed by ‘The Way Men Act’ and …

  28. Debbie says:

    The latest Sophia Kinsella, I Owe You One, and The Undomestic Goddess.
    Looking forward to adding more books to my TBR list!

  29. Vicki says:

    I just have to object on one account: What if it’s Us was the whiniest pair of maybes I’ve ever read. I couldn’t even finish. I kept telling myself “they’re in high school. They can’t help it. Breathe. It’ll get better.” But good Lord. I gave up about 7/10 of the way they. Even tried to pick it up again. They drove me crazy. 😆

    • Rachel says:

      I read a lot of rom-coms and I have to agree–I didn’t like this one and couldn’t get through it! I loved Simon Vs. The Homosapiens Agenda so I was excited for another Albertalli book, but it was very whiny

    • Anne says:

      Vicki, this cracked me up. Thank you for sharing your reading experience here; not every book is for every reader and I am happy to hear dissenting opinions. 🙂

  30. Tina C says:

    Beard Science by Penny Reid is hands down the best rom com I’ve read. I stumbled on her books by accident and now I can’t get enough. I was never a romance (or rom com) reader before but now I’m finding there are some amazing books out there I’ve been missing.

  31. Molly Parker says:

    Just finished Red White and Royal Blue this weekend, and it was so cute! Such a fun premise, but also so believably realistic. Highly recommend!

  32. Katie W says:

    I just finished Tell Me Three Things and was not in love. It was predictable, but in an annoying way. I will say, how she ended it was rather cute. Jessie’s relationship with her stepbrother Theo was the best part of the whole book.

  33. Sarah says:

    I’m really enjoying the rom-coms that are out this summer. While literary and drama have their place, I have enough drama in real life and like a good escape through fiction every now and then. It always makes me wonder when I read the comments in the book club space about the rom-coms. There are always those that say they are “too predictable” and “too cheesy” or “too fluffy”. What exactly were they expecting?? Argh! Sometimes, reading should just be for fun and not to prep for an AP English exam. I’m packing my summer TBR list with these books, because that’s exactly what my mind needs right now!

  34. Shelby says:

    I am new to the rom-com genre when it comes to books, and I think this genre is quite charming. I usually lean more towards serious-topic books, but I am finding the rom-com genres a great relief in between my readings. I am currently reading “Aeysha at Last,” and I love it! I was hesitant because I am a classic “Pride and Prejudice” fan and I was worried this book would not do it justice, but it is so charming, and I love the retelling of Uzma Jalaluddin. She is remarkable. I also enjoyed “Tell Me Three Things” by Julie Bauxum, and “The Bookshop on the Corner” by Jenny Colgan. And to throw in some movie titles, “13 Going on 30”, “Love Actually” and “10 Things I Hate About You” (which I am a big fan just because it is an excellent nod to Shakespeare).

  35. Jenny says:

    I know Liane Moriarty is known for her mystery/dramas like Big Little Lies, but one of her earliest books is a very sweet romantic comedy with a unique spin: What Alice Forgot. Such a great book!

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