It can sometimes be hard to choose what type of book to read next – this will be a subject we’ll return to again as it can be one of the most vexatious aspects of reading – should you have a run on historical fiction, biography, sport etc to feel immersed in that genre or is it best to mix it up? Should you have several books ‘on the go’ at one time? I digress, we’ll return to this at a later date.
Today I want to explore whether you have ever tried romantic fiction? Or contemporary relationship fiction? Romantic fiction is seemingly ruled by female authors and is apparently subdivided into chick lit, sagas, erotic fiction etc and many readers dismiss it as lightweight, trashy or shallow – by women for women.
But romantic fiction is not what it first seems. Many men write about love – David Nicholls, Nick Hornby, Mike Gayle, James Bailey, Graham Norton are very successful contemporary writers of romantic/relationship fiction. The popular saga writers Jessica Blair and Emma Blair (not related) are in fact Bill Spence and Ian Blair respectively. I sometimes divulged this information to my lovely elderly lady borrowers when I worked at a village library to try to encourage them to broaden their range of authors, telling them they were already reading male writers – some would still not be persuaded. One lady would only read Catherine Cookson and was very irritated when I could not supply her with new reading material.
Many elderly male borrowers were very keen to get their hands on cowboy fiction which I fondly imagined described shootouts, bank robberies and riding lonesome on the trail. Not so. They were essentially quite racy romantic fiction with horses (no, not in that way!) So there is an appetite for men to read romantic fiction and to write it.
This week’s list celebrates male and female authors who write with sensitivity and honesty about emotional connection and communication. In the summer of 2020, Normal People and #ConnellsChain became a symbol of tender and sometimes tentative male sexuality. If you’ve never tried this type of fiction, try one from this highly recommended selection. It literally is just people writing about relationships and love.
Outstanding contemporary relationship fiction from male and female authors. Like Connell’s chain, these are all guaranteed to make you laugh, cry and reaffirm your belief in life and love!
Now so long, Marianne
It’s time that we began to laugh
And cry and cry and laugh about it all again
Small town Ireland page turner, written with warmth and intelligence. Fills a Maeve Binchy shaped hole (would love to hear Graham saying that last phrase) and he walks from the big red chair after a tale well told!
Three Women and a Boat: A BBC Radio 2 Book Club Title
Gentle, charming and uplifting, think an Enchanted April on a narrowboat.
The Flip Side: ‘Utterly charming, funny and very relatable’ Josie Silver
Very funny romance from a male perspective. Have fun casting the inevitable romcom film!
Just Like You
Excellent storytelling and full of trademark humour.
Such a Fun Age: Longlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize
You must read this book.
The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside
Optimism in book form!
The Guest List
Now you might be wondering why a thriller is here but it is about a wedding party and secrets and passions abound in this locked room marriage/murder story. Wildly entertaining!
If I Never Met You
Funny romance to devour in one sitting.
The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually: A beautiful and poignant Irish love story
Amazing book which you will either find therapeutic or you may need therapy afterwards. Intensely moving and just beautifully written!
Half a World Away: The heart-warming, heart-breaking Richard and Judy Book Club selection
A tear-jerking and emotional journey with great characters.
It’s only her second novel but you already feel you are in safe hands with Beth O’Leary. You can relax and enjoy the treat in store, knowing you will laugh, cry and wish you could spend more time with Leena and Eileen!
A Theatre for Dreamers: The Sunday Times bestseller
Enjoy the warmth of some Greek sun and musings on life, love and poetry. Atmospheric escapism!
The Man Who Didn’t Call
A perfectly pitched read about the aftermath of a romance which suddenly ends for no apparent reason. Brilliant humour, plot and storytelling. Faultless.
Connell and Marianne. Discover their story.
Normal People: The Scripts
Sally Rooney, Alice Birch, et al.
Relive the love story of the summer. Who said what to whom and when. Gorgeous photographs. See if you can spot Connell’s chain.