I hit a bit of a reading slump this weekend. I’d finished reading a big epic fantasy series, so I wanted something completely different. I dug through my to-be-read stash, looking for something along the lines of a romantic comedy, and I ran into an annoying trend.
I picked up one book that seemed to be a nice women’s fiction kind of story with a heroine close to my age, but the beginning of the blurb was along the lines of “She thought she had the perfect life, but then her husband left her for another woman and her teenage daughter got in trouble …” I wasn’t in the mood for a recovering from divorce and dealing with a troubled teenager book, so I picked up something more chick-litty. That one was about a 30-year-old who thought her life was over when her long-term boyfriend broke off their engagement, and now she has to deal with her cousin who’s getting married, and she’s realized she has nothing else going on in her life because she’s let her career and other interests slide. My reaction was along the lines of, “Oh, honey, no. Get a life.” I think I could have handled the book if it really had been about her finding her own life, but it seemed to mostly be about her juggling men.
Why does it seem to be that most of the changes in a woman’s life in books seem to be driven by men? There’s the whole subgenre of “my husband dumped me for a younger woman and now I have to find myself” in women’s fiction. There’s the subgenre popular in British books of “my boyfriend dumped me, so I’ll move to a village and run a bookstore/bakery/cafe.”
Not to mention, it’s nearly impossible to find a contemporary-set book about a heroine over 40 without a blurb that starts along the lines of “after her husband left her/cheated, she and her teenage daughter …” And it usually seems to be a romantic relationship that “fixes” her problems.
During all this dissatisfying reading this weekend (I tossed a couple of books after chapter 3), I realized that I’m having two different reading cravings, and my attempts to search for this sort of thing came up empty, so if it’s out there, I’m looking in the wrong categories or using the wrong search terms.
One is a light romantic comedy with some slight paranormal element — something along the lines of my Christmas book, but right now I don’t want it to be about Christmas. So, no full-on magical world like in my Enchanted, Inc., stories. More like one mystical element, like maybe the heroine’s wishes start coming true, or she gets the ability to read men’s thoughts (a la What Men Want), or a Groundhog Day kind of scenario in which she lives the same day over until she gets it right, or she gets to go back in time to fix one thing, etc. “Paranormal romance” mostly seems to get you a lot of shifter/witch/vampire, etc., books. “Fantasy romance” seems to be more of the full-blown fantasy world sort of thing. “Magical realism” is more literary and more about theme.
And I want women’s fiction that doesn’t center on romance — a woman who moves to a new place to start over, but it isn’t about a divorce or breakup. She gets her life together maybe by developing friendships or figuring out what she wants. Maybe she does fall in love along the way, but that’s not what “fixes” her. It might be a byproduct of getting her life together. Or maybe she goes on a grand tour to find herself, but not because she got dumped or broke up, and she finds herself through some experience other than sleeping with a hot, young foreign stud. And because it’s me, I wouldn’t mind some magical or mystical element.
I have read a few books like that, so I looked up one on the library web site to see what their “readalike” recommendations were. None really fit what I wanted, but then I found the “story elements” function, where there were tiles showing some of the key elements in that book. You selected the elements that you were looking for, and it would give you recommendations. I had to keep removing things I wanted before I finally got a recommendation, but I don’t think it’s very comprehensive because my Enchanted, Inc. books would have fit every tile I had selected, and they didn’t come up. I looked at the one book that came up. How did the blurb start? Along the lines of “after learning that her husband was cheating on her, she loaded up her teenage daughters and took off …”