By Rhonna Hargett, Adult Services Manager
I am an unabashed romance reader. In the midst of a crazy world, romance novels can offer a bit of escape, or even reassurance. I love how author Kristan Higgins put it in Publishers Weekly, “Our books affirm faith in humanity and preach the goodness and courage of the ordinary heart. We make our readers laugh, we make them cry, and we affirm our belief in the enduring, uplifting power of love.” Sometimes I find myself wanting something different, though. Fortunately I’ve found that there are some amazing genre crossovers that have eased me out of my comfort zone: still uplifting, but with a very different perspective than one typically gets in a romance novel. The following reads are good for a change of pace or for those romance doubters among you.
Crosstalk by Connie Willis mixes science fiction, intrigue, and humor with a dash of romance thrown in. Sometime in the near future, Briddey Flannigan and her boyfriend decide to get implants in their brains that allow them to sense what each other is feeling. Something goes wrong and Briddey is connected to the weird guy who works in the basement instead. A light-hearted exploration of the question of how connected and informed we really want to be, Crosstalk is both thought-provoking and entertaining.
Two Across by Jeffrey Bartsch is about Stanley and Vera, two teens who meet when they tie for first place in the 1960 National Spelling Bee. Both of them are brilliant but have difficult homes and end up plotting a sham wedding to change the course of their lives. Years of awkward exchanges, missed opportunities, and crossword puzzle communication create a sometimes bittersweet but hopeful story.
For historical romantic suspense, Lauren Willig serves up The Other Daughter. When her mother dies, governess Rachel Woodley stumbles across a magazine clipping dated only three months before with a picture of her supposedly long-deceased father. With the assistance of her cousin’s associate, Simon Montfort, she seeks revenge against the father she never knew and his replacement family. An insightful plunge into 1920s London and all of the social divisions of the time, The Other Daughter also reveals a woman forced to reevaluate who she is while playing a dangerous game of deception.
I am particularly a fan of modern retellings of classics. It amuses me to discover how the author weaves the original tale into something completely new. One of the better ones I’ve read lately is Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld, a modern interpretation of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Magazine writer Liz Bennett rushes home to Cincinnati to help her family during her father’s health crisis. In Sittenfeld’s version, Jane is a yoga instructor, Mary is addicted to online education, and Kitty and Lydia have an unhealthy obsession with CrossFit. They meet reality show star Chip Bingley and his friend the neurosurgeon, Fitzwilliam Darcy. Navigating the challenges of life at home and an uncertain future, Liz approaches the world with a biting wit and unfailing self-assurance. I have often been told that Pride and Prejudice is just about a bunch of women seeking husbands, but Eligible emphasizes that this is really about growing up enough to see the complexity of the world and the fascinating creatures we encounter in it.
Based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler manages to hold onto the humor from the original but adds a more contemporary view of relationships. Kate is an exceptionally blunt preschool teacher who fills her days with gardening and taking care of her widowed father and teenaged sister. Her father comes up with a scheme for her to marry his lab assistant Pyotr to help him with a green card. Kate’s lack of tact, combined with Pyotr’s language limitations, lead to some hilarious scenes and a level of honesty not often achieved in contemporary relationships.
Come visit us at the library to find your next great read!