Book Recommendation · Bookish List

Seven Sunshine + Grumpy Character Pairings

Isn’t it adorable to see a soft, sunshine character slowly coaxing a grumpy character out of their shell?

I love this trope so much, and I know many of you do too, so I brought you seven novels that make excellent use of this trope. These titles are swoony and sweet, and I do hope you’ll love them as much as I do.


🌻 A Girl Like Her by Talia Hibbert 🌻

She’s the town pariah. He doesn’t give a damn.

In Ruth Kabbah’s world, comic books are king, silence is golden, and human contact is a pesky distraction. She doesn’t like people, which works out just fine, because the people in this small town don’t like her. The exception to that rule? Evan Miller, her way-too-charming next-door neighbour…

Ex-military man Evan is all tattooed muscle on the outside—and a big, cuddly teddy bear beneath. He’s used to coaxing prickly people from their shells, but he’s never met a woman quite like Ruth. Blunt, sarcastic, and secretly sad, she’s his exact opposite. She’s also his deepest desire.

Soon, Evan’s steady patience and smouldering smiles are melting Ruth’s reserve. But when small-town gossip from her past begins to poison her future, she’s forced to make a choice. Should she trust Evan completely? Or is her heart safest alone?

🌻 Ladies, gents and non-binary friends! A Girl Like Her is the story of a girl who is incredibly prickly and who is not only allowed to remain prickly but is also cherished just as she is.

🌻 A Girl Like Her is a romance that will, undoubtedly, warm your heart. There’s so much love and support in it, not just between Evan and Ruth, but also between friends and family.

🌻 Evan is such a caring person! He cares for his friend and for Ruth, and does so in big and small ways. He is the kind of person who will cook for you even if you’ve had an argument, and I’m all 😭.

🌻 A Girl Like Her is also about standing up for yourself and forgiving yourself for something you’re (but shouldn’t be) ashamed of. It’s about moving on from an abusive relationship and being open to a new one. All in all, it’s a well-rounded, beautiful story, and I loved it from start to finish.


🌻 Act Like It by Lucy Parker 🌻

Richard Troy used to be the hottest actor in London, but the only thing firing up lately is his temper. We all love to love a bad boy, but Richard’s antics have made him Enemy Number One, breaking the hearts of fans across the city.

Have the tides turned? Has English rose Lainie Graham made him into a new man?

Sources say the mismatched pair has been spotted at multiple events, arm in arm and hip to hip. From fits of jealousy to longing looks and heated whispers, onlookers are stunned by this blooming romance.

Could the rumors be right? Could this unlikely romance be the real thing? Or are these gifted stage actors playing us all?

🌻 Am I going to mention Act Like It in every single recommendation post? Very likely. I bloody love this book. It has romance, snark, and the theater, i.e. it’s a perfect novel.

🌻 Act Like It – and the majority of the London Celebrities series – makes excellent use of the grumpy + sunshine character trope. Laine is energetic and positive, while Richard is anything but that. In all honesty, he will undoubtedly get on your nerves at first, but he grows so much during the story.

🌻 Act Like It is one of the most entertaining books ever – it’s light-hearted and fun. I can recall few books that have comforted me and made me smile as much as this one. It’s a gem.

🌻 There’s a grumpy cat, lots of banter, and a loving family – seriously, what else can you ask for?


🌻 New Orleans Rush by Kelly Siskind 🌻

Beatrice Baker may be a struggling artist, but she believes all hardships have silver linings…until she follows her boyfriend to New Orleans and finds him with another woman. Instead of turning those lemons into lemonade, she drinks lemon drop martinis and keys the wrong man’s car.

Now she works for Huxley Marlow of the Marvelous Marlow Boys, getting shoved in boxes as an on-stage magician’s assistant. A cool job for some, but Bea’s been coerced into the role to cover her debt. She also maybe fantasizes about her boss’s adept hands and what else they can do.

She absolutely will not fall for him, or kiss him senseless. Until she does. The scarred, enigmatic Huxley has unwittingly become her muse, unlocking her artistic dry spell, but his vague nightly activities are highly suspect. The last time Beatrice trusted a man, her bank account got drained and she almost got arrested. Surely this can’t end that badly…right?

🌻 Bea is the epitome of a sunshine character who stays positive and optimistic in the face of, well, everything. Huxley, on the other hand, is perpetually stressed, because keeping the family business afloat is his responsibility.

🌻 Despite – or because of – their differences, these two made such a perfect couple. I loved the way Bea could make Huxley laugh even in the worst of times, and the way they cared for each other was BEAUTIFUL. 😭

🌻 An important aspect of New Orleans Rush is family – Huxley is so passionate about what he does because he inherited everything from his father, who he wants to honor. He is also trying his best to take care of his brothers, and boy, did I love reading about their relationship. Sibling love for the win.

🌻 As a whole, New Orleans Rush is a funny, light novel that will certainly cheer you up and keep you entertained from start to finish.


🌻 Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo 🌻

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone. . . .

A convict with a thirst for revenge

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager

A runaway with a privileged past

A spy known as the Wraith

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes


Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

🌻 If you’ve read Six of Crows, you know who I’m going to talk about here, because Nina and Matthias are one of the best, most fun example of this trope.

🌻 Nina is, hands down, one of my favorite characters ever. She is sassy and full of energy and she cares so deeply for her friends. Matthias, on the other hand, is someone who will have to (hopefully) grow on you; he is imperfect and grumpy and all about his duty to his country.

🌻 There’s so much growth in this relationship, which is made even more special because we simultaneously learn about their past (hello, thy name is second chance romance) and present.


🌻 Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills 🌻

When Claudia accidentally eavesdrops on the epic breakup of Paige and Iris, the it-couple at her school, she finds herself in hot water with prickly, difficult Iris. Thrown together against their will in the class production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, along with the goofiest, cutest boy Claudia has ever known, Iris and Claudia are in for an eye-opening senior year.

Smart, funny, and thoroughly, wonderfully flawed, Claudia navigates a world of intense friendships and tentative romance in Foolish Hearts, a YA novel about expanding your horizons, allowing yourself to be vulnerable, and accepting–and loving–people for who they really are.

🌻 Foolish Hearts is genuinely one of the best, and I mean, THE BEST, contemporary YA novels I’ve ever read. It made me beam so much, my face was tired by the time I closed the book.

🌻 The romance is incredible precious. Gideon is a goofy social butterfly, while Claudia is a more reserved and quiet. The two of them made such a captivating couple, and I loved seeing them slow by slow getting to know and understand each other.

🌻 There’s a strong focus on friendship; some already rock solid, others currently in the making, and yet others that are experiencing a crisis. No matter which one we’re talking about, the novel does a magnificent job of portraying them in all their glory.


🌻 A Duke By Default by Alyssa Cole 🌻

New York City socialite and perpetual hot mess Portia Hobbs is tired of disappointing her family, friends, and—most importantly—herself. An apprenticeship with a struggling swordmaker in Scotland is a chance to use her expertise and discover what she’s capable of. Turns out she excels at aggravating her gruff silver fox boss…when she’s not having inappropriate fantasies about his sexy Scottish burr.

Tavish McKenzie doesn’t need a rich, spoiled American telling him how to run his armory…even if she is infuriatingly good at it. Tav tries to rebuff his apprentice, and his attraction to her, but when Portia accidentally discovers that he’s the secret son of a duke, rough-around-the-edges Tav becomes her newest makeover project.

Forging metal into weapons and armor is one thing, but when desire burns out of control and the media spotlight gets too hot to bear, can a commoner turned duke and his posh apprentice find lasting love?

🌻 A Duke by Default is the second novel in the Reluctant Royals series, but it can definitely be read as a standalone. But why would you do that when the whole series comes highly recommended from yours truly, as well?

🌻 Portia is someone who gets things done; she is full of new ideas and enthusiasm, which drives gruff “I know the best way to do this” Tavish mad. They make a fun couple, and will have you rooting for them all through.

🌻 Portia has ADHD, and Alyssa Cole put so much heart into writing that representation. Would like to know more? Let me guide you to this own-voices review of the ADHD representation.


🌻 The Wallflower Wager by Tessa Dare 🌻

Wealthy and ruthless, Gabriel Duke clawed his way from the lowliest slums to the pinnacle of high society—and now he wants to get even.

Loyal and passionate, Lady Penelope Campion never met a lost or wounded creature she wouldn’t take into her home and her heart.

When her imposing—and attractive—new neighbor demands she clear out the rescued animals, Penny sets him a challenge. She will part with her precious charges, if he can find them loving homes.

Done, Gabriel says. How hard can it be to find homes for a few kittens?

And a two-legged dog.

And a foul-mouthed parrot.

And a goat, an otter, a hedgehog . . .

Easier said than done, for a cold-blooded bastard who wouldn’t know a loving home from a workhouse. Soon he’s covered in cat hair, knee-deep in adorable, and bewitched by a shyly pretty spinster who defies his every attempt to resist. Now she’s set her mind and heart on saving him.

Not if he ruins her first.

🌻 While The Wallflower Wager is the third novel in the Girl Meets Duke series, it can be read as a standalone. With that being said, you’ll appreciate the friendship between the characters more if you read the books in order. (And the rest of the books are also *chef’s kiss.*)

🌻 Penny is the most caring, most sunny character ever. She adopts any and all animals that need a new home and makes sure to give them all the love in the world. Gabriel, on the other hand, is ruthless – he doesn’t care about the consequences of his actions, and certainly can’t be accused of being anything remotely soft. (He is not a bad person though!)

🌻 For those who have read anything by Tessa Dare it won’t come as a surprise that The Wallflower Wager is laugh-out-loud funny, and incredibly entertaining. We have a weird, awkward meet-cute that will certainly make you smile and lots of good natured banter between friends.

🌻 TW: The novel deals with sexual assault, so please be mindful of that going in!

🌻 Let’s chat! 🌻

Do you like this trope? Have you read any of my recommendations? Do you have others for me?

I’m currently working on part 2 of this post (it turns out I have read MANY books that use this trope), and I’m specifically looking for lgbtq+ recommendations!

30 thoughts on “Seven Sunshine + Grumpy Character Pairings

  1. I just started reading Romancing The Duke by Tessa Dare last night (on a whim!) and I really love how light and almost relaxed it made me feel to read a romance. Like, wow! I haven’t made it far in the book but if I do enjoy it I’m definitely gonna try her other books!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ahhh love love love this trope of sunshine character softens grump!! A girl like her is now on my TBR and I just love everything about Six of crows *swoon* def will be returning to this list as to not forgot about any of the recs! Great post 🙂

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  3. I do enjoy a grumpy hero, because I feel like, when he is all full of glee, it’s so much more meaningful. I guess the pairing in The Tourist Attraction fits this. The heroine is all unicorns and rainbows, while the hero could definitely be called grumpy. They were so fabulous together too.

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  4. Yes I love this trope so much, the dynamic is amazing and full of so much potential. I will always fall for these characters !! Nina and Matthias are a great example and I love the growth so much !! In fact the growth is often one of my favourite things about this trope!! Foolish Hearts sounds so good, I need to read it !! Thank you for all the recommendations as well, I know where I will be looking when I need this trope !! I love that your recommendations always have books I haven’t heard of as well, so gooood !! ❤

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    1. It’s honestly one of the most wholesome tropes EVER, I just love the gradual growth, yes!! So cute. And Nina and Matthias are such a great couple, I loved reading about them (and then I was HEARTBROKEN at the end.) Foolish Hearts is one of my favorites this year, highly recommended. 😀 Aww, thanks, that’s so good to hear!! I try to mix up the hyped and less known title, and I’m glad it works. ❤️

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  5. Oh my god, I love that trope! So thank you for all the amazing recommendations 💛 I have been hearing such fantastic things about Talia Hibbert so I have to check out her books sometime 😊 My fave grumpy/sunshine couple are Adrian and Nova from Renegades – while Adrian is a sweet cinnamon roll, Nova is more private and reserved but warms up around him 💕

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    1. It’s one of the best tropes, I just.. ah, I love it so much! 🥰 Ooh, please let me know if/when you read Talia Hibbert!! I’d love to hear your thoughts on her. Ooh, I need to get to Renegades, and I love how you’re basically constantly reminding everyone of it on your blog, haha. Will try to binge the series when the semester ends! 😀

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  6. You’re not alone, I love this trope and I’m impressed a lot of these on your list. I did DNF A Girl like Her a while back but I very much think it was a me thing. I just wasn’t in the mood for it so am definitely giving it another shot. I mean, Talia Hibbert is brilliant so I should love it. I Also really need to read New Orleans Rush. I wanted to read that book simply because New Orleans is in the title (I have strong love for both the place and also any book/film/tv show set in that area) so I don’t know why I’ve not bought myself a copy yet. I might have to treat myself if I can clear a few more books off of my Kindle shelf. Can’t wait for a part 2 because hopefully it’ll give me a couple more books I need to buy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This trope is so wholesome and sweet, I love it so damn much. 🙂 I do hope you’ll try A Girl Like Her Again – it’s my favorite by her, although the rest of the series, especially the final book, is also A++. New Orleans Rush is genuinely one of the most entertaining books I’ve ever read. It gets utterly ridiculous at parts, but that’s the charm of it, haha. Part two has kind of turned into opposites attract, but!! It’ll have even more books, so I’m still looking forward to posting it. 😅

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  7. Okay, I read Six of Crows last month and I definitely agree with the sunshine and grumpy character thing. But instead, I shall choose this moment to tell you that I truly detest Matthias’ character and I think Nina deserves so much more :’) I have been hearing such good things about Tessa Dare’s romance lately and when I am in a romance mood I need to read something by her!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Noo, that makes me sad, but I also get it? Matthias grew on me as he developed, but the beginning was rough, and yes, Nina deserves someone who’d cherish her from the get go!! Let me know when you read Tessa Dare, I’d love to hear your thoughts, I adore her books so much.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh what a fun post, I love your recommendations so much, so many new books to discover! I haven’t read anything by Talia Hibbert, but heard amazing things about the books, so I’ll have to check them out for sure 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Just found your site and this list is perfection! But also, my wallet is now crying? Thank you for all the recs– excited to try some new-to-me authors. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. OMG!! Nina and Matthias!! *cries*
    I will be adding all the others to my TBR though.
    Have you read The Hating Game by Sally Thorne? Those two definitely deserve to make this list!! 😂

    Like

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