Same old, same old … or is it?

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 CrusieThe 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 McCarthyThe 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 PhillipsThe 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 BrownThe 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?

14 Comment(s)

  1. Hi Kelly,

    Fun blog. And yes I have a go to cliche or as I call them, theme. Way back in the early 80s, yeah I’m dating myself, I found a book entitled, Rebel in His Arms. Sort of says it all, tomboyish, hard edged female who is tamed by the hero’s love. I guess you’d call it a wild west take on Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew.

    I like a naughty heroine.

    Terri | May 12, 2008 | Reply

  2. Great blog, Kelly! Mine is the tortured hero and the heroine who teaches him to love again. Sarah’s Child by Linda Howard, Anna Campbell’s Claiming the Courtesan, and A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole all fit in this category. There are others in this vein on my keeper shelf and I love to read them over and over.

    A few of your favorite examples, I’ve read. I’ll have to look for the rest. :)

    Lara Lee | May 12, 2008 | Reply

  3. Wonderful blog, Kelly. I am a fan of the battle of sexes plot. The one where they try to one up the other.

    Sindee | May 12, 2008 | Reply

  4. I wouldn’t call the cliche. I’d call them archetypes.

    I don’t have any go-to books. I’m one of those so-many-books-so-little-time readers.

    Alice | May 12, 2008 | Reply

  5. Hey everyone! *waves* This is the first chance I’ve had to be online all day, so sorry for the delay in responding to all of you!

    Terri – do you remember who authored RIHA? Sounds kind of fun to me! And it doesn’t have to date you – you can just say you got a head start on that author’s backlist!

    Lara – I can’t believe I forgot Sarah’s Child! That story just breaks my heart, cover to cover. As for my recommendations – I really hope you like them!

    Sindee – Battle of the sexes is another great plot. Have any in particular that you would recommend?

    Alice – Archetypes! That’s the word I was looking for when I wrote this! Duh. I’m glad you’re around to keep me straight!

    Kelly Arden | May 12, 2008 | Reply

  6. I love all of these “archetypes.” I seem to lean toward that whole thing of the heroine overcoming what she thinks will make the perfect mate to find that her real hero (warts and all) was just waiting to be found!

    Great blog!

    Maura | May 12, 2008 | Reply

  7. Oh how wonderful, you’ll pulling to the contemporary side.

    Madeline Hunter, Victoria Alexander, and Julia Quinn. Need I say more?


    Renee | May 12, 2008 | Reply

  8. Oh, Maura, are you talking about the Boy/Girl Next Door? That’s one of my favorites, and I can’t believe I missed it here. I’m kind of struggling to think of a contemporary example, though. Any suggestions?

    Kelly Arden | May 12, 2008 | Reply

  9. LOL! Renee, I agree wholeheartedly. I was just doing the contemporary list, but I’d be happy to do one for historicals someday, if there’s any interest. I don’t know that I could pull one off for suspense, though. And I don’t read a great enough variety of paranormal to make a really good list. But historicals I can manage!

    Kelly Arden | May 12, 2008 | Reply

  10. That can be your next blog. :)

    Lara Lee | May 12, 2008 | Reply

  11. Yep, Kel, boy/girl next door gets me every time! Romancing Mr. Bridgerton is one that comes to mind (but of course it’s a historical and not a contemp).

    I also like the ones where the boy/girl yearns for the “jerky” popular guy/girl but the real hero/heroine saves the day. :)

    Maura | May 12, 2008 | Reply

  12. That’s the book that immediately jumped to my mind, Maura. The only contemporary novel I can think of that fits the bill is Sleeping with Beauty, by Donna Kauffman.

    Kelly Arden | May 12, 2008 | Reply

  13. Lara – I’ll see what I can come up with!

    Kelly Arden | May 12, 2008 | Reply

  14. I came by earlier, but didn’t get to stay long enough to leave a comment. One book I always go back to is Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale. I guess this falls under the tortured hero category, and boy was he ever tortured. I never get tired of heros, or even heroines, having some deep dark secret that cripples and controls their life until that one special person finds the key to set them free.

    Sasha Allgood | May 12, 2008 | Reply

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