I usually try to avoid generalizations but oh well. Everyone enjoys a good romance now and again. I’ve found that while the chick lit genre is great for what it is, I am more intrigued when a love story doesn’t end the way I expect it to, the way I predict it will. I think it’s tough as a writer to avoid giving your characters a happily ever after. That isn’t to say these books do not include happily ever afters but they aren’t exactly the kind you would find in a Chick Flick. Real life is messy and so is real love. And I suppose that is one more reason that I am drawn to books like these.
Of course, remember. Real life can be serious and tragic and it can also be light and funny. These books fall into both categories. Just because it isn’t the typical happily ever after does not mean it is sad. Maybe she ends up with someone unexpected. Maybe things are just more complicated. Regardless, these are worth a read.
I could have picked plenty of others but I tried to give you a plethora of genres. Romances aren’t just romances. They can take place in thrillers, mysteries, young adult, historical fiction, and on we go. (By the way, you can click the purple links to purchase the books. The blog does receive a few cents–literally–for your purchase but it comes out of Amazon’s pocket, not yours. Thanks for helping me to support this space!)
Romances with Unconventional Endings:Laura Dave’s Eight Hundred Grapes
If you like Chick Lit, you’ll like Eight Hundred Grapes. Georgia is all set to marry the man of her dreams at her family’s winery in Northern California (the local attracted me too) when suddenly, a week before the wedding she runs home, sure she is going to call it off. Once there, she finds out a lot of family secrets that will also affect her life. In the meantime, her fiancé follows her to fix the problem he caused. But can it be fixed? And meanwhile, there is a developer trying to get his attractive hands on the family’s winery. She hates him. Right?
This is a part of Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad Series. The series is set up so that it is not necessary really at all to have read the previous books since the character in each book is on the very peripheral of the previous books. Hope that makes sense. Anyway, this is a divine crime drama (I cannot wait for her next book). At 19, in 1985, Frank made plans to run away and marry Rosie but she never met him. He was devastated. Now he’s a lot older without having ever gotten over it, with a kid, and an ex wife. He’s also a pretty cynical detective when, 22 years after they were supposed to meet, someone finds Rosie’s suitcase in an old house. How can this be considered a romance? It just can.
P.S. I rarely if ever listen to audio books but I happened to listen to this on audio and the Irishman who did it was just so good. So good.
Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth
Ian McEwan is king but this is a lot lighter than his amazing Atonement. It’s the 70’s in Britain, in the thick of the cold war, and Serena is recruited for MI5. Imagine a female James Bond who is younger, not as suave, and not nearly as worldly. Her job is to infiltrate a literary circle and she falls for a writer and falls hard. But who’s spying on who?
It starts rather explosively with the deaths of two people who were once lovers, now passed their prime, hating one another, dying together with a secret between them. The book then works backwards, telling the story of two young people connected to the first couple with their own secrets, mistakes, and pain. Did I mention that one is the daughter of the old man from the first pages and the other is the son of the woman from the beginning (they are not related)? Farther and farther back it goes until we reach the secret and the misunderstanding of that original couple and realize how it has shaped not only their lives but the lives of generations. It’s good, guys.
A.S. Byatt’s Possession
This is one of my favorite books. In fact, I always tell people, if they like books, or majored in English, they will love this book. It tells two stories–two romances. The first takes place in modern day and is about two academics trying to find out the truth about the relationship between two literary figures. The second story tells the love story of those two Victorian poets. It’s so complicated, so epic, so romantic. And so unexpected. I never wanted it to end.
If you like Young Adult novels and have not read this series then, I just don’t know what to tell you. Jessica Darling is as dramatic and sassy as she is naive and when her friend moves away her life seemingly falls apart. She also is drawn to Marcus Flutie, the bad boy. I wish I could tell you this book ends the way you want it to but it doesn’t. If you read it (you must!) you will read the next book and the next (there are five). Maybe you’ll find the ending you want by then…But part of the fun is the journey right?
Mary Kubica’s The Good Girl
This story has been put in the same category as Girl on a Train and Gone, Girl (everyone wants not only to write the next Gone, Girl but read it!). And in many ways it is. Half of it takes place in Chicago and if you have any familiarity with the city and the surrounding areas, you will recognize it. The book is an unconventional romance for simply being on the list since it tells the story of Mia being kidnapped. Who does Mia fall in love with? Why was she kidnapped? And the steadfast cop on the case and Mia’s mother are drawn together even as Mia’s father pushes her away. When Mia returns pregnant and alone, there are a lot of questions.
Written by the same author as Chocolat, in this book, Jay’s life is kind of falling apart. His wife left him. His last book was a best seller, telling the stories of the magical stories of his youth. But nothing has been a hit since. So, what does a person do? He goes to France and buys a house, trying to recapture that magic from his youth. Someone there, a woman, a recluse, somehow reminds him of the magic of those summers. This book definitely falls into the category of magical realism but in a way that is truly charming. It also made me want to try blackberry wine.
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