I’m a sucker for a romance novel with wry humor, snark, high-quality banter, or the fun kind of bickering. Every single book on this list made me laugh out loud at least five times. So take a look, and hopefully you’ll find something new and fun to read!
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I thoroughly enjoyed this M/F romance between biracial Indian-American tech writer by day / romance novelist by night Lily Nayar and white Welsh actor Tom Morrison, brought together when Lily drunkenly mails him a copy of her book about a sexy hero clearly based on him. Tom needs a screenwriter to help him close a deal for a passion project, and because reasons it would help if Lily pretended to be his girlfriend too. The woman who road-tripped to his hotel and broke into his room to steal the book back isn’t going to say no to a ridiculous plan, but of course, complications ensue!
If you’re into the fake dating trope, heroines with fantastic female best friends, Hollywood glamour, lough-out-loud character voice, evil exes getting their just desserts, and romances that engage with racism and sexism, you should really check this out.
I had SUCH a good time with this M/F romance between a just-retired bi Greek footballer (soccer, to us Americans) and a black plus-size British tattoo artist. Nik Christou falls in love with stunning Aria Granger at first sight, but he has literally zero game for actually dating anyone. So he comes up with a seriously terrible plan: paying Aria to pose as his girlfriend at a week-long house party vacation with his former teammates. Why would he need a fake girlfriend? Um… to keep other people out of his bed? It seems bizarre that Aria falls for it, if you haven’t met Nik, but omg this guy is so lovably clueless that it’s a believable cover story. Antics ensue, but Aria has serious trust issues, and Nik is legit in love with her but lying to her… yeah, that’s going to end well. It’s hilarious to watch Nik stumble around like a dork, Aria is amazing, and I was – as always – deeply grateful to Hibbert for how she writes care and consent in sexual relationships.
If you like this, you should also check out Hibbert’s book The Princess Trap (Amazon / Goodreads). It was often very funny as well, though it ended up in much deeper and more emotional waters as it went on. I really enjoyed it, and BONUS – both the hero and heroine are bi.
Diversity note: Hibbert is a pan, black, autistic woman.
I wish I could figure how to send cupcakes through Twitter, because I would love to send one to the gal who recommended this to me. (I’ve already said thank you, but it doesn’t feel like enough!)
It’s an M/F opposites-attract romance by a black woman where both African-American leads are bi, so for this bi gal who loves to read more diversely, this checked so many boxes! And it was freakin’ hilarious. Eddie is a tattoo artist who prefers his partners corporate slick. Astrid is a smoothie-drinking yoga instructor and graphic designer who’s convinced Eddie wants to sleep with her. Eddie thinks Astrid is imagining things. But Eddie’s getting a strange feeling that it’s time to break out of his comfort zone a little in life, so he takes a step into Astrid’s world, and then another… and two people who swear up and down they don’t want a relationship suddenly realize what they’re doing looks an awful lot like one.
Totally fun and amusing without sacrificing emotional depth between the two main characters. Superb handling of stereotypes about bisexuals. And I think I pulled a muscle laughing during Eddie’s battle of insults in the barber shop, and again when his mother read him the riot act about keeping his sister’s secrets. Love Eddie and Astrid together, especially when they snarked at each other, and I’m definitely trying out more of the books from this series.
I think I have a thing for fictional bumbling heroes with hearts of gold. Dean Sherwood would drive me up the wall in person, but he’s amazing (and hilarious) in this book. Dangerfield describes him as “easygoing, a great footballer and always up for a beer or sixteen” with “the attention span of a Cocker Spaniel on MDMA.” He’s the dude who will help you move and carry all the heavy stuff, if he doesn’t forget what day you told him to show up. All of that is working fine for him until he ends up falling head over heels in love with Ash Bennett while he’s getting her off in a bathroom at a party. Ash is a former model, now nurse midwife. She’s given up on relationships and is in the process of selecting a donor for IVF. She sees Dean for exactly who he is – not a real grownup, but hot as hell – and decides he’s perfect for a one night stand. Then she can’t keep going back for more. Dean would marry Ash and knock her up tomorrow, but Ash claims she only wants sex… and antics ensue.
The characters’ very different personalities and their interplay are amazing. Dean is immature, but he’s never a two-dimensional stereotype. Ash has been judged so often for growing up in poverty and her wild child model phase that she automatically expects to be looked down on. It literally never occurs to Dean for a minute that Ash is anything other than amazingly wonderful – even though he knows all about her past. To him, none of it is bad, and a lot of it is awesome. Ash has legitimate concerns about Dean’s ability to be a partner, and they are not brushed aside. Dean’s way of (eventually) addressing those concerns honors Ash’s very real fears, and that helps Ash develop the confidence to adapt to Dean’s personality. We also find out that Dean isn’t as feckless as he appeared, without magically making him a totally different person.
Dean is kinky, specifically having a thing for being humiliated and ordered around. Ash doesn’t know that at the start, but she’s more than willing to learn and go along with it. It’s a great pick if you’re looking for what someone on Twitter called “casual BDSM” – i.e. a different direction than dungeons, collars, etc.
Open Hearts is billed a sequel to Locked Box, but it can easily be read as a standalone.
I really enjoyed this F/F slow-burn opposites-attract romance between an Olympic snowboarder and an Olympic skiier. Elise, the skiier, is coming back from an injury and she’s all serious business all the time. Corey, the snowboarder, works hard too, but she’s also a colossal goofball. Half the time I was laughing at her jokes, half the time I was laughing just because she just kept making jokes – the “here she goes again” kind of laughter. I’m not much of a winter sports fan, but I didn’t feel like I had to be, I could still follow the book and enjoy the story. Watching Elise come out of her shell and learn to accept support from friends was lovely to watch, as was Corey’s decision to mentor a younger snowboarder even though it might negatively impact her own career. I didn’t quite understand their final conflict, but overall I still had a good time reading this book.
Diversity note: (1) Elise is Jewish, though the rep doesn’t have much impact on the story. (2) Spangler has a wife, so while I don’t label people unless I see them labeling themselves publicly, I feel safe this is #ownvoices.
Set in 1920s London, this sex-positive novella isn’t quite a romance, but it’s a love story with plot beats and an HEA that will please romance readers. Jade Yeo is a Malaysian writer who came to London seeking adventure, but hasn’t yet found it when our story begins. It’s told through entries from her diary, which are scathingly funny at times, especially when she’s messing with her rich Aunt Iris. Jade’s friend Ravi, a magazine editor, offers to pay her for a cutting review of the new book by literary darling Sebastian Hardie. Jade and Hardie meet and end up sleeping together with Hardie’s wife’s blessing, which is the kind of educational adventure Jade was hoping for from her London experience… except that Jade finds she’s more concerned than she predicted about Ravi’s feelings about it.
After our heroine faces great peril (or at least oppressive boredom), female friendship saves the day, and all ends as it should. Great fun to read.
Diversity Note: Cho is a Malaysian writer who lives in London.
Milan says this delightful novella is “about a love affair between two men and the Declaration of Independence.” John, a Black American soldier who leaves the army after being injured at Yorktown, and Henry, a white British aristocrat officer who went AWOL, go on a road trip to find out the fate of John’s sister and her husband back in Rhode Island. I don’t understand how Milan packed so much into such a short space: John unabashedly challenging Henry’s ignorance and privilege, unpacking the impact on Henry of his undiagnosed ADD (my best guess) and his family’s horrible treatment of him because of it, a tender falling-in-love story, and amazingly funny conversations about terrible cheese. Actual cheese, which Henry carries around in his pack. It’s like a master class in combining banter with real emotion, politics with comedy, and building characters who learn and grow. Loved it.
Diversity Note: Milan is Chinese-American.
Boss-employee romances usually get an eyeroll from me because OW the ethics, but this book is so ridiculous in such a good way that I gave it a pass. Milo Bautista, tattooed factory security guard, has recently realized he’s gay. Renner Bastion, the uptight CEO of his company, is an out, successful gay man. So of course, what makes sense is for Milo to ask Renner to be his role model in being confident with his sexuality so he can approach his crush, in exchange for Milo giving Renner lessons on how to relax. Which inevitably leads to Renner lying in a hammock in a park when it’s about to rain and Milo licking his abs because… well, basically, because these guys just can’t stop bickering and having sex (including mild D/S) in all the most inappropriate places and bickering some more. And it’s gloriously funny, so much good banter here. Then the conflicts as both men start to have feelings are messy and feel very real.
I particularly appreciated Bailey’s deft handling of the backstory for Milo, who had long thought he was straight, had sex with women and had a fairly good time, but finally realized he was gay. It didn’t feel like bi erasure for even a second.
A bitingly funny enemies to lovers BDSM romance between two bisexual men: Avery Hextall, a caustic architect, and the reserved project manager at his company, Malin Lacroix. Avery decides Malin is his nemesis, but after yelling at man in his office, saying terrible things about Malin while drunk and unaware the guy is right behind him, and… fantasizing about Malin dominating him? Well, that was unexpected. By Avery, that is. Part of his charm is that he often lacks about 10% of the self-awareness he’d need to manage his life properly. The other part is his acerbic inner dialogue, one of the most crisp, sharp character voices I’ve read in romance.
I was slightly unprepared when their relationship started to take a more serious turn, but wow, yes, things get heavy. Avery and Malin’s relationship gets dangerous, both emotionally and physically, because of its growing intensity without emotional honesty. Neither of these guys are skilled with letting anyone close, especially Malin, who is carrying serious baggage. As Avery’s feelings change, Gale doesn’t throw out either man’s personality (or the humor), but she lets them both flail around until they figure out how to connect and move forward, even if imperfectly.
Diversity Note: Gale is queer.
A delightfully entertaining supposed-to-be-just-summer romance between two guys in small town Ohio. First we have Nick Stahlnecker, 18, gay, Lord of the Rings Fanboy, who has panic attacks whenever he thinks about college and writes haiku about the sex he imagines with his hot coworker. Second we have that coworker, bisexual 25 year old Jai Hazenbrook, who works construction to finance his world travels and really doesn’t need a directionless 18 year old boyfriend. They don’t stay coworkers for long, because getting caught mid-blow job in a port-a-potty on a work site isn’t how one wins friends and influences people.
Lisa Henry often writes dark, serious books, so I was surprised and delighted by the scatterbrained hilarity that is Nick’s character voice. He doesn’t have his head together even a little bit, lacks a filter, and has terrible impulse control! But he’s so damn sweet and enthusiastic, and he has a good heart even if he needs much practice at thinking about other people. In my mind, he’s kind of a poster child for how the added burdens of being gay in a homophobic society, and also having mental health issues, can slow down your maturation. However, he’s not the only 18 year old to graduate from high school and feel overwhelmed by external demands that he already have the rest of his life planned out.
Jai, quieter and more reflective, manages to both take Nick seriously as an equal and also step into a mentor role. He’s quietly surprised to have affectionate feelings for Nick, but he doesn’t struggle against them. Henry doesn’t then trope out their relationship by having them declare undying love. The story recognizes that each having their first boyfriend, and Jai allying with Nick to help him find a next step that won’t mess him up more, is important enough on its own.
p.s. But what is WRONG with all the people in this book who walk in on Jai and Nick having sex and then just stand around being appalled or embarrassed? Why wouldn’t you leave?
Mason, a nerdy romance-reading librarian, meets Shane, a gorgeous runner, when Shane trips in the park and somehow manages to hook his shorts with a tree while he’s falling and flash his backside at Mason. Which, I don’t even understand the physics of that passage and I read it twice trying to figure it out, but okay! Anyway, Mason is 100% skeptical that a hunk of a man like Shane would ever be interested in him, and ridiculousness ensues during the courting process. For example, Mason lies to Shane that he goes to a boxing gym, and instead of admitting it, he joins a boxing gym. Mason should not have joined a boxing gym. Will Shane and Mason make it through the gauntlet of Shane’s homophobic lesbian biker grandmother, a judgmental vegan who seems to haunt Mason’s every move, and Mason’s best friend’s baby drama? Well duh, yes, it’s a romance novel.
This seems to be a “love it or hate it” book. The humor, events, and many of the secondary characters are all somewhat preposterous, and the humor has bite and isn’t always appropriate. I had a great time reading it even while recognizing that, but some folks on Goodreads felt like it tried too hard or was on the mean side. So take full advantage of trying a sample through Amazon before you decide to dig in.
My one big non-spoilery complaint was that I was a little disappointed in how the situation between Mason and his best friend was handled in the end. Not because I think Mason made the wrong decision, but because it didn’t seem to account for the things he’d said about it at the beginning of the book – I just think the writing was a bit weak on this subplot. If you’ve read it, let me know what you think.
Lady Olympia Hightower is supposed to get married to a duke. Instead, she gets drunk, climbs out the window, and runs away. In her wedding dress. Said duke’s best friend, also a duke, feels it’s his responsibility to make sure she doesn’t come to harm, even though in his opinion, she’s not making a lick of sense. I think y’all can predict what happens to this couple, what with it being a romance novel. Anyway, I recommend this if you aren’t hardcore anti-cheating – because they don’t do things in the right order of (a) break engagement and (b) get it on, though they do realize they’ve done wrong and apologize. The character voices and the dialogue are exceedingly funny, and the adventure these two end up on is often hilarious. Chasing dogs through muddy fields, anyone?
There are a lot of what I call “men are from Mars and dumb, women are from Venus and incomprehensible” type comments, which I could have lived without. To be honest, I mentally armor up for gender essentialism when I read mainstream traditionally published non-queer romance, either contemporary or historical, because it’s so rampant. But overall, I liked so many things about this book, and these characters were so clearly meant for each other, that I really enjoyed reading it even with those flaws. It’s light entertainment done right.
A (really) laugh out loud romance between a stoner video store clerk named Gustavo Tiberius, who has a pet ferret named Harry S. Truman, and an asexual hipster bakery employee guy named Casey, who decides to woo Gus for reasons Gus can’t even begin to understand.
The setup sounds too quirky to work, but it does, because TJ Klune is absolutely gifted at wrapping comedy around real emotion. Gus’s misadventures using the internet to figure out how to be normal are hilarious, but his underlying loneliness and grief are deeply touching. Casey is a ray of sunshine, and his patience with Gus made my heart all melty. This book is so many good feelings. Ace readers will extra appreciate that Casey is 100% okay with his asexuality, the main characters do NOT have sex, and Gus finds his physical and romantic relationship with Casey deeply fulfilling.
Diversity Note: Klune is a queer asexual man.
A masterpiece of a gay second chance romance. Travis and Craig fell in love their senior year of high school, but went to colleges across the country from each other in the 1980s and lost contact. Twenty years later, Travis realizes he’s still in love with Craig and sets out on a cross-country road trip to find him.
When I finished reading this, I honestly thought Kluger might have ruined me for all other fiction. I have never laughed out loud so much reading a novel. I have never had my heart so firmly in my throat, hoping against hope that the author would find a way to fix things for EVERYONE even though several characters were moving inexorably towards a heartbreaking collision. It’s so freakin’ heartfelt and beautiful.
Diversity note: Kluger is a gay man.
I’m lucky C-Man didn’t tell me to read this in another room, given how much I was laughing out loud while reading it. The setup is like so: actuary Min Dobbs hears the guy who just dumped her making a bet with gorgeous playboy Cal Morrisey that he can’t get Min into bed. Min doesn’t hear Cal turn down the bet, and she needs a date to her sister’s wedding so her mother doesn’t freak out that she’s single, so she decides to string Cal along. Whereupon Cal and Min discover, to their mutual horror, that their bickering is basically foreplay and they can barely keep their hands off each other.
Crusie adeptly juggles a HUGE cast, including Min’s 2 female best friends, her mother, her sister, Cal’s two male best friends / business partners, both Cal and Min’s conniving exes, Cal’s lesbian bartender neighbor/friend, and various other secondary characters. It feels like a great big found/chosen family, and a self-aware dialogue with the idea of fairy tale endings, and it’s also an examination of how families can judge and control people, and how to find allies that help you push back. That’s probably why it’s 430+ pages long. I barely noticed because I was so immersed. Characters tell each other uncomfortable truths, relationships begin and end, and the truckload of humor is well mixed with some serious emotions, particularly around Cal’s relationship with his emotionally abusive family of origin (which is inflicting itself on his nephew) and the pain he still carries from growing up with dyslexia in that unsupportive environment.
Loved it. Very motivated to work my way through Crusie’s backlist now. (Okay, her anti-Trump blogging didn’t hurt that motivation. ;)
Content notes: (1) I didn’t take down specifics, but there’s probably some gender essentialism and whatnot in here, given it’s a mainstream non-queer romance. (2) Min is fat, and her overbearing mother has somewhat terrorized her into not eating carbs because Bridesmaid’s Dress, to which Cal’s response is to feed Min donuts and encourage her acquisition of clothes that show just how awesome she looks exactly as she is. There’s something very trope-y about the donuts and not in a good way, and Min definitely doesn’t start the book feeling good about being fat, though she does end up there. So if that would be uncomfortable for you, skip it!
I haven’t had time to write reviews of these, but I adore them just as much and they are so funny. One of them may be a perfect fit for you! (Blurbs may be condensed.)
“As a Frenchwoman of highly questionable upbringing, Marie-Anne de Vauteuil was shunned by genteel society when her fiancé died years ago, leaving her a penniless, fallen woman. Wealthy American businessman Mason is a) accidentally engaged, b) desperate to get out of it, and c) neither wealthy nor a businessman. But when he meets the irresistible Marie-Anne, she makes him rethink his life as a fraud, and for once consider his true talent as an artist.” And they fall in love, because yay romance novel.
The Spinner, The Shepherd, and the Leading Man by Kris Ripper (free to download, Goodreads listing has the link)
“Frazier Lane has wanted his roommate since the day they met — eight years ago. When Dom gets them jobs running a summer stock program in the sticks, Fraz thinks the time has come. He’ll kiss Dom, Dom will realize they’re meant to be, and they’ll live happily ever after. That’s how it’s supposed to go, anyway. Until they meet Pete.
Pete knows nothing about theater, is totally in the closet, and is one of the nicest guys Fraz has ever met. Unfortunately, Dom seems to think so, too. Fraz decides he’ll take one for the team and help Dom coax Pete out of the closet and into the light, even if it breaks his heart, but Dom and Pete have other ideas.”
“Being related to a supervillain isn’t a big deal to Pat West. So what if his mom occasionally tries to take over the world? All Pat wants is to finish university and become an urban designer. That he moonlights as an evil minion sometimes – that’s just a family tradition. Then Pat accidentally sleeps with superhero Silver Paladin, otherwise known as reclusive billionaire Nick Andersen. It’s a simple misunderstanding. Pat never means to impersonate a prostitute, honest. But soon Pat is in way over his head, and threatening to fall for the worst possible guy.”
“What’s the best gift a young, single man could receive for Christmas? Mohawked punk Liam wouldn’t have picked the hideous collection of homemade knitwear he’s presented with by his well-meaning mum and aunties. He’d much rather have the gorgeous older man he sees every day while busking at King’s Cross station. Liam’s been doing his best to seduce the guy with his saxophone playing — the trouble is, he’s beginning to despair of his message getting through. But with a little Christmas magic in the air, maybe those garish garments will be just the thing for attracting the attention of a silver fox…”
And that’s the list of my favorite romance novels that made me laugh! Hope you found something interesting. If you have any reading suggestions, let me know, and as always, if you found this post helpful, please share it!