Auto-buy. It’s what all authors aspire to. It’s when a fans automatically buys the author’s latest book–no questions asked. You can’t market your way into an auto-buy. It’s an act of pure love. And I have pure love in my heart–for these four funny ladies. That’s right — I like my romance with a side of comedy. You gotta problem with that?
Kristan Higgins — Higgins is probably the one romance author I discovered all by myself and love all by myself. Even though most of my friends are into historicals, or erotic romance, or other stuff, Higgins does funny contemporary in a young way and I luff her. I sit down with a book by her and I don’t get up until it’s done. She’ll make me cry too. I like the way she calibrates her stories just left of perfect. She hits that sweet spot of slightly flawed humanity. I’m not Kristin Higgins, and I don’t write like her but I aspire to be her.
She does heroes the way I like ’em too. Higgins’ heroes (say that three times fast) are not Mr. Big Dumb Alpha scene-makers. They do not burst with sexy, and walk around flex their biceps. A Higgins hero is more likely expressing emotion through some gritted jaw muscles. Quiet guys. Smart guys. Uptight guys who have usually been so very hurt. The kind of guy I’d probably go after in real life. I like ’em.
Jennifer Crusie — Crusie uses mystery as a spine for her contemporary romances. Friends introduced me to Crusie, and when I get loaned her book I whiffled through it. I’ve gone from being given copies to getting my own copies and loaning them out. And by the way–People! Who out there borrowed my trade copy of WELCOME TO TEMPTATION and never gave it back?
Did Kristan Higgins learn to have a great dog in your book at Jenny Crusie’s knee? Maybe. I’ll tell you a secret about Crusie though. Lean in close.
Okay: between you and me, Crusie writes the ultimate in wish fulfillment fantasy. Her heroine’s aren’t really pretty. They aren’t really in shape. Soft and round is the usual qualifying description of a Crusie heroine.
Not only does a Crusie heroine care more about her dog than the rest of humanity (except a child if there’s one in the story) but the Crusie heroine isn’t such a hot dresser either. Yet a Crusie hero is totally hot. He’s got tight buns, and that crisp clean perfect thing, or more often that bad boy thing going on. He homes in on her (usually despite himself) and then you can stick a fork in him, because he’s done. Hog-tied for good.
But you have to ask yourself why? I’ll tell you why. Because when you thought you were buying a contemporary romance, what you really bought was a fantasy romance . And that’s the Crusie secret. Shhhhhhh. Don’t tell anyone else.
Which is not to say that her books aren’t catnip for me, because they totally are. I remember being faced with a choice one night: do something fun with somebody that I would normally want to go out with or hop in the tub with a Crusie novel. I chose the tub and Crusie. I can’t even remember now what the other choice was or who it was with, I just remember feeling slightly guilty while I lolled in the hot tub and loved the Crusie book….
So there it is. Great dialogue. Funny prose. I whiffle and (sometimes) I sniffle. Auto buy for sure.
Sarah Elizabeth Phillips aka SEP. Again, I was introduced to SEP by friends (I love you, my friends.) In fact, I kinda blank out when I have to say her name, (is it Phelps? I always wonder) because they only call her SEP so I only know her as SEP. I started off with GLITTER BABY which had a lot in common with those 80’s glamour contemporaries written by Judith Kranz. The latest one I read is where the child of Glitter Baby is now grown up enough to go out and find love–and does so amongst the children of other heroes and heroines from former books. So obviously SEP’s been kicking it a while.
Yet she’s not getting older. She’s getting hotter–oh so much hotter!!!!!–and better. She manages to litter the current novels with characters from old books, but in such a way that you don’t want to wring her neck. (Yes, I’m one of those readers who doesn’t really like that. In fact, I was crossing my eyes reading book three of some paranormal where seven — LITERALLY SEVEN — characters from the previous series just fell (literally fell) out of the sky and into the book about two-thirds of the way through. UGH. )
SEP’s characters don’t have such funny thoughts but what makes her characters so appealing is that SEP likes to start off with a gal that everyone hates. The villainess. Yes, please, not another perfect self-sacrificing angel type, I plead as I plunge into her work.
She’ll also focus on a hero flaw, and while it doesn’t prevent the hero and heroine from getting together, the heroine sees it for what it is–something that’ll take the relationship out in about a decade or so if it isn’t addressed now. And that heroine will chip away at that ever-lovin’ issue long past the point where I’d giggle and let it go, telling myself I’d save it for another day. I love it that she does that!
Kristan does great inner dialogue, Jenny does great dialogue, and SEP does just great scenes. I tried describing an SEP plot to someone and it didn’t come out sounding so great actually. Which surprised me because the minute-to-minute scenes between hero and heroine are just amazing.
Mary Janice Davidson MJD (does anyone actually call her that?) writes paranormal, so yay for that! MJD’s magic is that she writes like a nine year old stand up comedian who thinks sex is icky. I mean, okay, in her second book the sex was pretty hot. And yeah, she kinda qualifies as an erotic romance author (when your hero and heroine do it for the first time in a pool–with a giant crew of people watching–ya, you’re writing erotic romance.) But really, I still can’t escape the feeling that the MJD heroine would rather be cracking funny than gettin’ some.
if you left planet earth or something and haven’t read them, I recommend starting with UNDEAD AND UNWED. Those first three or so books in the series are undoubtedly her best. Yet I’ve also plunged into her Fred the Mermaid series and read those books so fast I probably looked like I speed reading. MJD’s books are so light that when you hold one it actually hovers about three inches above your hand.
Share the love — have you read any funny romances lately? Do tell.
And if you’ve read something by any of these funny ladies what would you recommend reading next?