I’ve heard it said that there are no new stories out there, just new ways of telling them. While I’m not sure I believe that, I’m not entirely against the idea. There is something comforting in the familiar themes that seem to crop up time after time. Not every romance novel can be shoved neatly into a category, but a lot of them can. Secret baby stories. Long lost love stories. Cinderella stories. Mistaken identity stories.
Fitting into one of these categories, or others which I didn’t mention, may be considered cliché. After all, it’s not a great sign if you can sum up the entire plot of the story in just a word or two, right? What would be the point of reading the other 99,999 words of the novel?
Au contraire, I say. Clichés, or in this case, recurring themes, became what they are because at some point, people identified with them, connected with them, found truth in them. Sometimes it’s reassuring to know that there’s something out there that can fit your particular mood.
Here are some contemporary novels that I recommend if you’re looking for a good yarn in a particular vein (If there’s an interest, I’ll cover other genres in future posts):
Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie – The Bet – I bought this at the B. Dalton in Union Station while I was waiting for my train home when I worked in D.C. I read it, cover to cover four times within a single month. It’s still a go-to book for a good chuckle and an unlikely romance, with a great cast of characters and a wager (or two or three) that will leave you wondering how Cal and Min can possibly overcome the odds.
Open Season by Linda Howard - The Cinderella Syndrome - What happens when a 30-year old librarian decides to give herself a makeover, move out of her mother’s house, and start looking for a man to keep her warm at night? Parts of this one hit a little close to home for me, which may be why I love it even while it makes me squirm in self-realization.
The Pregnancy Test by Erin McCarthy – The Boss - A little bit raunchy, a lot steamy, and a massively tortured hero make this an irresistible read. Not to mention that the quirky British secretary gets to nail the big, bad, gorgeous boss! My only regret is that due to a change in publisher, Ms. McCarthy has no plans to write the last two books in the series.
Kiss An Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips – The Marriage of Convenience - Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Actually, not lions and bears, but tigers, elephants, gorillas, whip-wielding Cossacks, and squirrel-brained debutantes definitely. I know this sounds more like a historical, but this novel is set in modern day, believe it or not. I actually have to hide my copy from myself – if I see it laying out, I can’t help but pick it up and read it cover to cover again!
Mirror Image by Sandra Brown – The Case of Mistaken Identity - This one never fails to give me chills. It seems so farfetched, and at the same time, she makes it seem so plausible that you’ll find yourself looking for your own doppelganger wherever you go.
Simply Irresistible – By Rachel Gibson – The Secret Baby - Even though this was the first of her Seattle Chinook-related books, it was one of the last of Ms. Gibson’s novels I read. Parts are hilarious, parts are absolutely heartbreaking. And as big of a schmuck as her hockey-playing hero is in the beginning, you’ll find your heart melting as he tries to come to terms with fatherhood and the woman he lost.
What literary “cliché” do you find irresistible? Do you have a go-to book to satisfy your cravings for that “cliché”? Is there a particular “cliché” that you enjoy reading or writing?