Frequently, when someone refers to "romance novels," the image that comes to mind is a cover with a brawny, bare-chested hero and a completely undone heroine with a heaving bosom. However, some books with a romantic thread running through them are quite smart, witty and even cynical. Some titles are a mix: A mystery with some romance thrown in. Or maybe a shoot-em-up thriller with a relationship that forms without any intent on the parts of the main characters.
Recipes for Love and Murder, by Sally Andrew
"Tannie Maria doesn't like change, but soon discovers she has a knack—and a passion—for helping people. Of course she shares her recipes and culinary advice whenever she can! Assisting other people with their problems, Tannie Maria is eventually forced to face her own issues, especially when the troubles of those she helps touch on the pain of her past, like a woman desperate to escape her abusive husband. When the woman is murdered, Tannie Maria becomes dangerously entwined in the investigation, despite the best efforts of one striking detective determined to keep her safe. Suddenly, this practical, down-to-earth woman is involved in something much more sinister than perfecting her chocolate cake recipe...”
*There is a second book in the The Satanic Mechanic series, also available at Helen Hall Library.
Happiness for Beginners, by Katherine Center
"A year after getting divorced, Helen Carpenter, thirty-two, lets her annoying, ten years younger brother talk her into signing up for a wilderness survival course. It's supposed to be a chance for her to pull herself together again, but when she discovers that her brother's even-more-annoying best friend is also coming on the trip, she can't imagine how it will be anything other than a disaster. Thus begins the strangest adventure of Helen's well-behaved life: three weeks in the remotest wilderness of a mountain range in Wyoming where she will survive mosquito infestations, a surprise summer blizzard, and a group of sorority girls."
The First Husband, by Laura Dave
Her happiness shattered by her movie director boyfriend's announcement that he would reconnect with a woman from his past, travel columnist Annie Adams impulsively marries a charming chef and attempts to restart her life in rural Massachusetts.”
Days of Awe, by Lauren Fox
"Celebrated for her irresistibly witty, strikingly intelligent examinations of friendship and marriage, Lauren Fox (“An immensely gifted writer—a writer adept at capturing the sad-funny mess that happens to be one woman’s life” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times) has written her most powerful novel to date. Days of Awe is the story of a woman who, in the wake of her best friend’s sudden death, must face the crisis in her marriage, the fury of her almost-teenage daughter, and the possibility of opening her cantankerous heart to someone new."
*This title is available in e-book format.
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman
"Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she's thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office."
Unmarriageable, by Somah Kamal
"In this one-of-a-kind retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in modern-day Pakistan, Alys Binat has sworn never to marry—until an encounter with one Mr. Darsee at a wedding makes her reconsider. A scandal and vicious rumor concerning the Binat family have destroyed their fortune and prospects for desirable marriages, but Alys, the second and most practical of the five Binat daughters, has found happiness teaching English literature to schoolgirls."
Time's Up, by Janey Mack
The police academy gave her the boot—and she knows how to use it.
"All her life, Maisie McGrane dreamed of following in her father and older brothers’ footsteps and joining the force. But when she’s expelled from the police academy, she’s reduced to taking a job as a meter maid. Now, instead of chasing down perps, she’s booting people’s cars and taking abuse from every lowlife who can’t scrape together enough change to feed the meter. "
*This hilarious, starred-review mystery is part of a three-book series featuring Maisie McGrane.
Attachments, by Rainbow Rowell
Lincoln O'Neill can't believe this is his job now—reading other people's e-mail. When he applied to be "internet security officer," he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers—not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.
When Lincoln comes across Beth's and Jennifer's messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can't help being entertained—and captivated—by their stories.
By the time Lincoln realizes he's falling for Beth, it's way too late to introduce himself.
The Dangerous Edge of Things, by Tina Whittle
"Tai Randolph is still adjusting to a newly inherited Confederate-themed gun shop when she gets a big shock: a murdered corpse in her brother's driveway. Worse, her respectable sibling has fled to the Bahamas, leaving her to deal with the homicide and questions from the Atlanta PD. Complicating her plan to clear the family name is Trey Seaver, field agent for an exclusive corporate security firm hired to investigate the crime. Trey, recovering from a car accident that left him cognitively and emotionally damaged, is fearless, focused, and - to Tai's dismay - utterly impervious to bribes, threats, and clever deceptions."
* This title is part of the Tai Randolph series, also available at Helen Hall Library. This title got a starred review in Kirkus Reviews.
An Available Man, by Hilma Wolitzer
"In this tender and funny novel, award-winning author Hilma Wolitzer mines the unpredictable fallout of suddenly becoming single later in life, and the chaos and joys of falling in love the second time around.
When Edward Schuyler, a modest and bookish sixty-two-year-old science teacher, is widowed, he finds himself ambushed by female attention. There are plenty of unattached women around, but a healthy, handsome, available man is a rare and desirable creature. Edward receives phone calls from widows seeking love, or at least lunch, while well-meaning friends try to set him up at dinner parties. "