Slumps are the worst.
Whether it’s a creative slump, a work slump or a social slump, when you find yourself stuck in an unproductive groove and unable to do anything in a satisfying fashion, the frustration can permeate everything in your life.
Personally, I find myself in reading slumps several times a year. For some reason, my brain just refuses to enjoy anything new. I can re-read old favorites with no problem. But pick up a brand-new book, and my mind blue screens with a hiss of obnoxious white noise.
You can imagine that as an avid reader and writer, this leads to much lamentation and gnashing of teeth. Especially when these slumps stretch for not just weeks but months.
The silver lining in all of this is that when I do find something that shakes me out of the rut, that allows my record skipping on repeat to resume playing at a smooth rate. It’s like the sweet, sweet relief of a fall breeze after an especially brutal heat wave. Few dopamine rushes are sweeter.
Just this past week, I managed to snap myself out of a reading slump that had lasted six full months (big yikes). For weeks and weeks, I’ve been trying so dang hard to plow through my massive To Be Read list, which has more than 70 titles on it (double yikes). My list is crammed full of mysteries, sci-fi epics and fantasies stuffed with epic world-building, and I never made it past the 30-page mark in any of them.
So how did I escape the slump?
With some deliciously tropey romances. I set aside the important books, the carefully constructed critical darlings, and dove headfirst into a warm bath of classic tropes, snarky dialogue, colorful characters and spicy smoochin’.
(SIDE NOTE: I refuse to look down my nose at Romance with a capital “R” – the genre once defined by shirtless Fabio covers and lurid gilded titles. There are some absolutely wonderful authors who devote their time to making fictional people kiss, and I deeply appreciate that the genre’s primary focus has always been female wish-fulfillment.)
If you, too, are having a hard time finding something you want to read, I highly recommend picking up one of the following light, frothy, fun, guaranteed-happy-ever-after stories.
5. “THE SINGLE UNDEAD MOMS CLUB” BY MOLLY HARPER
So, this is technically the fourth book in the Half-Moon Hollow series (and if you count the Jane Jameson books that truly kicked off the series, it’s the eighth), but Harper does a fine job giving you enough background that you could pick this one up completely cold.
Widow Libby has been handed a terminal cancer diagnosis and can’t bear the thought of her 7-year-old son becoming an orphan. Desperate, she makes a gutsy decision: She places an online ad asking for a vampire to sire her.
That unlikely Craigslist gambit succeeds, but now Libby has a lot of drama on her plate, as she’s forced to prove to everyone she’s not a danger to her human son and that she can still juggle all of the responsibilities of a PTA mom, even if direct sunlight makes her smell like burnt popcorn. At the same time, she’s navigating the confusing dynamics between both her handsome sire and the hunky, tattooed biker/single dad she keeps running into.
Harper’s Half-Moon Hollow series is such candy-coated fun. The vast cast of interconnected friends and lovers makes the fictional Southern town an oasis of found family/paranormal hilarity; and I really enjoyed how this story balanced Libby’s demands as a mother with the romance.
4. “LADY ANNE’S LOVER” BY MAGGIE ROBINSON
I sure do love me a well-written historical bodice ripper, and Robinson writes some of the best. In this installment of the London List series, dashing war veteran Gareth Ripton-Jones returns home to Wales with a ruined arm and a broken heart. He’s in dire need of a housekeeper and cook and hires Anne Mott via a newspaper advertisement.
Little does the major know that Mott is actually Lady Imaculata Anne Egremont, notorious hoyden of the gossip rags. Anne, however, is not the she-demon society thinks her to be and needs to escape a truly evil father, so she eagerly reinvents herself as a poor servant.
When Gareth learns the truth of Anne’s past and sparks fly between them (both figurative and literal – Anne is not to be trusted alone in a kitchen), the pair decides to pretend to be betrothed, but in true romance fashion, fake dating quickly turns into something real (and really passionate).
3. “MICKEY CHAMBERS SHAKES IT UP” BY CHARISH REID
Things aren’t going so well for Mickey. An adjunct professor, her classload just keeps getting cut, and her paychecks can’t cover her expensive thyroid medication. She decides to supplement her income with a second job and happens upon The Saloon, a bar in need of a new server.
Widower Diego worries he’s running his wife’s bar into the ground. He’s not only worried about his business, but he’s also going back to school at 41 years old and fully expects to fail his English 101 course.
When Mickey realizes her hunky new boss is one of her new students and Diego discovers the embodiment of sunshine, he can’t stop staring at his professor, and things get complicated real quick. The two have to navigate their power dynamics in a hurry because the attraction between them is too much to ignore.
Oh, boy, was this a charming read! It’s so nice to find a nontraditional romance like this, where both of the leads are older than 30, where the gal is plus-sized, where the couple is biracial and neither is white (Mickey’s Black, while Diego is Puerto Rican).
It’s such a solid take on the grumpy/sunshine trope, and the supporting characters are super fun in their own right.
On a personal note, I got to meet Charish Reid when she made an unexpected visit at the Barnes I work at, and she was a lovely lady. I’m most definitely going to read everything she writes henceforth.
2. “MY ROOMMATE IS A VAMPIRE” BY JENNA LEVINE
Artist Cassie is about to be evicted when she finds a too-good-to-be-true “roommate needed” ad. She’s pretty sure only a murderer would lease a room in Chicago for a mere $200, but what other options does she have? At least the guy’s nighttime schedule means they’ll rarely cross paths.
Frederick J. Fitzwilliam is handsome, polite and leaves her lovely notes. When Cassie finds bags of blood in the fridge, the truth comes out: Frederick is a vampire, and he needs a human to teach him about blending in with modern society.
As their “human lessons” progress, Cassie and Frederick draw closer and closer.
Full disclosure: This book started life as a Reylo (Rey/Kylo Ren of “Star Wars”) fanfic. Personally, I’m not a fan of that ship. Putting the origins aside, this is a frequently hysterical, often adorable paranormal rom-com, and I’m very much looking forward to Levine’s next book.
1. “Things We Never Got Over” by Lucy Score
Naomi has just run away from her own wedding to the rural town of Knockemout, Virginia, to look for her twin, Tina, who’s in trouble (again). When she arrives, she finds an 11-year-old niece she never knew existed while Tina promptly steals her car – and all of her money.
This is not Naomi’s best day ever.
Knox is a beardy, tattooed grump who cuts hair by day and runs the local bar, the Honky Tonk, by night. The self-professed bad boy is a proud love-’em-and-leave-’em type and refuses to saddle himself with a needy good girl.
Naomi’s predicament isn’t one he can turn a blind eye to, and before long, he’s going out of his way to make things easier for the damsel in distress.
Who doesn’t love a grumpy hero who actually has a heart of gold? How can you resist the ridiculously over-the-top soap opera tropes here? There’s literally an evil twin, a runaway bride and a lotto millionaire who pours his money into his hometown! There’s also a sassy gay BFF who looks like Henry Golding, criminal shenanigans, bikers, jaded preteens and fake dating!
Score writes books that look like bricks (most are about 600 pages) but are actually marshmallows: dangerously sugary and addictive.
Now, I’m not about to say that she writes high literature. But I will say I haven’t had this much fun with a book in a long time. I enjoyed every minute I spent in Knockemout and fell hard for every kooky character I met.
That’s just further proof that any book you enjoy reading is a great book. So never let a naysayer yuck your yum or guilt you for enjoying something campy or silly, especially when that something shakes you out of a slump.
Angie Barry is a contributing columnist for Shaw Media. To suggest future topics for The B-List, which covers topics in pop culture, history and literature, contact her at email@example.com.