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The funniest romance novels of the year offer laughs and escape

A romance that can make a reader laugh aloud is a treat, especially if that book causes uncontrolled chortling in public or punctures the silence of an otherwise quiet space. I love when a book is so amusing, I forget where I’m reading it.

It’s not easy to find these kinds of books, though. For one thing, humor is subjective, so recommendations can fall flat. Compounding the difficulty is the blanket label of “rom-com,” which has been attached to a number of contemporary romances that are far from comedic.

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So how does one find the funniest funny in this year’s collection of romance novels?

Glad you asked! I have recommendations, plus suggestions from people who make me laugh regularly, because it takes a network to keep the hilarity on high.

Let’s start with a book that made me snort-laugh because the heroine is so sarcastic — even after she’s kidnapped and dropped into an unexpected hunt for a missing treasure with her ex-boyfriend during a very (very) long night in Vegas. “Partners in Crime,” by Alisha Rai, contains mayhem, high jinks and much humor.

Full disclosure: I hosted a podcast with Alisha. And since she personally cracks me up, I immediately asked her for a book that made her laugh. Her suggestion? “Funny You Should Ask, by Elissa Sussman. Not only is “funny” in the title, but it’s in the banter, the chemistry, and the past and present timelines of a celebrity profiler and the movie star she, well, profiled once upon a time.

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Banter is always a good source for laughs, and Christina Lauren, the pen name of writing duo Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings, write terrific dialogue. I read “Something Wilder” and grinned at some of the arguments between Leo and Lily as they attempted to find a lost treasure in the Utah desert. If you’ve ever bickered with your co-pilot on a tough road trip, you’ll understand the vibe.

When I asked them for their rom-com recommendations, Billings replied, “Too often I think we use the word rom-com when we really mean contemporary romance; it’s very rare for a book to make me laugh out loud.” Can confirm.

The Bodyguard,” by Katherine Center, is one that did crack her up. The novel follows a woman hired to protect an A-list actor from a stalker and, as Billings put it, “their dynamic is so hilarious and swoony.”

That “The Bodyguard” caused belly laughs is not a surprise. The movie version of Center’s novel “The Lost Husband” was a smash hit when it debuted on Netflix in 2020. And the streamer has an adaptation of Center’s “Happiness for Beginners” in the works, starring Ellie Kemper.

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Billings also recommends “Love on the Brain,” by Ali Hazelwood, the tale of a neuroscientist who gets stuck working with her grad school nemesis: “There are a lot of ways to be funny in books, such as with banter or funny situations or jokes dropped perfectly in the moment, but I think one hallmark of a good romantic comedy is funny voice, and no one does that like Ali.”

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Hobbs agreed that Hazelwood’s book was tops on her list. She and Billings both loved Sally Thorne’s “Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match,” too. Thorne, the author of all-time rom-com favorite “The Hating Game,” went in a more science-fiction direction with this tale of Victor Frankenstein’s sister, who attempts to create the perfect man.

“The premise is totally bananas,” Billings said, “and it’s definitely not for every reader, but I love the tongue-in-cheek way Sally tackles issues of loneliness, body autonomy, privilege and self-awareness in a single book.”

Author Sonali Dev mixes emotional wallop with genuine laughter in her books, especially her Jane Austen retellings about the Rajes. Her next book, “The Vibrant Years,” is one of the debut novels in Mindy’s Book Studio, Mindy Kaling’s publishing partnership with Amazon, and is about three generations of wry and intelligent women embarking on the next stages of their lives. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

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Dev suggests Sara Desai’s “The Singles Table” as “probably the funniest Desi romance I’ve read. I love cringy situational comedy that strips us down to our most vulnerable selves, and there’s just something absurdly hilarious about her characters” — a brokenhearted lawyer and, as Dev put it, “a trained-for-combat Marine who takes himself super seriously.”

Shana McDavis-Conway, who writes about romance novels, is always looking for laughter in her reading. Her recommendation: “That Time I Got Drunk and Yeeted a Love Potion at a Werewolf,” Book 2 in the Mead Mishaps series, by Kimberly Lemming. The first in the series, “That Time I Got Drunk and Saved a Demon,” is just as funny, she said, mixing familiar fantasy settings with sarcastic heroines who love cheese and are protective of their hair and their boundaries.

Shana adds, “And the audiobook of ‘The Missed Connection,’ by Denise Williams, had me cracking up in the car. It was a combo of fantastic comic timing from the narrators, Zenzi Williams and Jakobi Diem, and a grumpy/sunshine pairing” of professional rivals who have a one-night stand.

If you’re the type of person who giggles at animal antics, both in person and online, bookseller Amanda Diehl has a suggestion for you: “Lucy on the Wild Side,” by Kerry Rea. “Quirky animals always do it for me because they’re sometimes gross, always curious and do not care for human rules about politeness and etiquette,” she said.

Whether you like pratfalls and mayhem caused by animals, banter and high jinks amid treasure hunts and heists, or family drama turned up to at least 14, so many romances this year brought the feels and the hilarity. Snort-laughs and serotonin are the perfect addition to your reading list.

Sarah Wendell is the author of three books and a co-founder of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, one of the most popular and longest-running online communities devoted to romance fiction.

More from Book World

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Best books of 2022: See our picks for the 10 best books of 2022 or dive into your favorite genre. Look to the best thrillers and mysteries to keep you on the edge of your seat, get lost in the possibilities of the best sci-fi and fantasy, and spark some joy with these 14 feel-good reads.

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