Hello friends. It’s Vera here today and I’m back with a recommendation post. This time I brought you books that contain the sunshine and grumpy trope / character pairing. As the name suggests, a relationship like this contains a character that’s all sunshine and softness, and another character that’s grumpy and skeptical. I love opposites attract couples in general, but I feel like the sunshine + grumpy pairing is the best kind of opposites attract couple.
Today, I brought you eight recommendations, but if you want more, I recommend checking out my previous post about this trope where I recommended seven more novels. Click here for it.
Well Met by Jen DeLuca
Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?
The faire is Simon’s family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn’t have time for Emily’s lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she’s in her revealing wench’s costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they’re portraying?
This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can’t seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon, or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.
What I Love About Well Met
🌻 I would love to attend a Renaissance faire like the one described in Well Met, as Jen DeLuca did a wonderful job of highlighting how fun an event like this can be. It was also intriguing to see all the planning, passion and work that goes into an event like this.
🌻 It was lovely to see Emily build new friendships in Willow Creek – she came to take care of her sister and then move on, but she couldn’t deny that she found her own community here. Even better than that was seeing how she was connecting with her older sister, who she hadn’t been close to as there is a big age gap between them.
🌻 Now onto the romance! I’ll admit that it took me some time to warm up to Simon as he came off as arrogant and judgmental at first, but he made up for his mistakes later on. Learning about why the faire is significant for him was another step in the direction of understanding where he was coming from. Ultimately, this was a romance that took me on an emotional roller coaster, which is something I appreciated.
The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker
Freddy Carlton knows she should be focusing on her lines for The Austen Playbook, a live-action TV event where viewers choose the outcome of each scene, but her concentration’s been blown. The palatial estate housing the endeavor is now run by the rude (brilliant) critic who’s consistently slammed her performances of late. James “Griff” Ford-Griffin has a penchant for sarcasm, a majestic nose and all the sensitivity of a sledgehammer.
She can’t take her eyes off him.
Griff can hardly focus with a contagious joy fairy flitting about near him, especially when Freddy looks at him like that. His only concern right now should be on shutting down his younger brother’s well-intentioned (disastrous) schemes—or at the very least on the production (not this one) that might save his family home from the banks.
Instead all he can think of is soft skin and vibrant curls.
As he’s reluctantly dragged into her quest to rediscover her passion for the stage and Freddy is drawn into his research on a legendary theater star, the adage about appearances being deceiving proves abundantly true. It’s the unlikely start of something enormous…but a single revelation about the past could derail it all.
What I Love About The Austen Playbook
🌻 One of the highlights of Lucy Parker’s romances is always the relationship the main characters have with their friends and family. This stands true for The Austen Playbook, where it was a pleasure seeing the loving relationship Freddy had with her sister as well as the complex relationship Griff had with his family.
🌻 Freddy is such a lovely, sunny character and it was really funny to see Griff, a grumpy and serious character, slowly but surely warm up to her despite his best attempts at ignoring her. The fact that Griff is a theater critic while Freddy is an actress made the dynamic between these two really interesting, especially as he had written some less than favorable reviews about her performance before.
🌻 The concept of a live play where the audience decides what happens next – including which character will die – was really fascinating. On top of that, I loved the idea of creating a whole new story by using Jane Austen’s characters.
Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur
After a disastrous blind date, Darcy Lowell is desperate to stop her well-meaning brother from playing matchmaker ever again. Love—and the inevitable heartbreak—is the last thing she wants. So she fibs and says her latest set up was a success. Darcy doesn’t expect her lie to bite her in the ass.
Elle Jones, one of the astrologers behind the popular Twitter account, Oh My Stars, dreams of finding her soul mate. But she knows it is most assuredly not Darcy… a no-nonsense stick-in-the-mud, who is way too analytical, punctual, and skeptical for someone as free-spirited as Elle. When Darcy’s brother—and Elle’s new business partner—expresses how happy he is that they hit it off, Elle is baffled. Was Darcy on the same date? Because… awkward.
When Darcy begs Elle to play along, she agrees to pretend they’re dating to save face. But with a few conditions: Darcy must help Elle navigate her own overbearing family over the holidays and their arrangement expires on New Year’s Eve. The last thing they expect is to develop real feelings during a fake relationship.
But maybe opposites can attract when true love is written in the stars?
What I Love About Written in the Stars
🌻 The first thing you should know about Written in the Stars is that it gives multiple nods to Pride and Prejudice. It doesn’t follow it closely, but it was clearly inspired by Austen’s classic, which made me so happy. After all, who wouldn’t want to read an F/F retelling of a classical work?
🌻 As the blurb points out, not only does this romance involve the sunshine plus grumpy character pairing, but it also has fake dating in it. In my humble opinion, both of these are superior tropes so any novel that includes both is one that immediately goes onto my to-read list.
🌻 I really loved the gradual development of the romance. Elle and Darcy were attracted to each other from the get go, but their differences – particularly from Darcy’s perspective – felt too great to cross. The fake dating scheme forced them to spend some time together and realize how well they fit together.
Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare
As the daughter of a famed author, Isolde Ophelia Goodnight grew up on tales of brave knights and fair maidens. She never doubted romance would be in her future, too. The storybooks offered endless possibilities.
And as she grew older, Izzy crossed them off. One by one by one.
Ugly duckling turned swan?
Abducted by handsome highwayman?
Rescued from drudgery by charming prince?
No, no, and… Heh.
Now Izzy’s given up yearning for romance. She’ll settle for a roof over her head. What fairy tales are left over for an impoverished twenty-six year-old woman who’s never even been kissed?
🌻 Not only is this a really excellent example of the opposites attract trope, but it also contains the forced proximity trope, as the main characters are effectively forced to live together.
🌻 As is usual for Tessa Dare’s novel, Romancing the Duke was utterly delightful and entertaining. Dare is one of the few authors who always manages to make me laugh out loud with her novels.
🌻 This is the only romance I’ve read that has a visually impaired main character – the hero – and while I can’t speak for how good that rep is, I still wanted to highlight it, because it seemed to be written with respect. (Do you have any book recs for me with visually impaired characters? If yes, let me know!)
Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert
Eve Brown is a certified hot mess. No matter how hard she strives to do right, her life always goes horribly wrong—so she’s given up trying. But when her personal brand of chaos ruins an expensive wedding (someone had to liberate those poor doves), her parents draw the line. It’s time for Eve to grow up and prove herself—even though she’s not entirely sure how…
Jacob Wayne is in control. Always. The bed and breakfast owner’s on a mission to dominate the hospitality industry—and he expects nothing less than perfection. So when a purple-haired tornado of a woman turns up out of the blue to interview for his open chef position, he tells her the brutal truth: not a chance in hell. Then she hits him with her car—supposedly by accident. Yeah, right.
Now his arm is broken, his B&B is understaffed, and the dangerously unpredictable Eve is fluttering around, trying to help. Before long, she’s infiltrated his work, his kitchen—and his spare bedroom. Jacob hates everything about it. Or rather, he should. Sunny, chaotic Eve is his natural-born nemesis, but the longer these two enemies spend in close quarters, the more their animosity turns into something else. Like Eve, the heat between them is impossible to ignore—and it’s melting Jacob’s frosty exterior.
🌻 I’m fairly certain I could recommend you either of the three novels in The Brown Sisters series for the sunshine x grumpy trope, but I’m going with this one because it’s my favorite book in the series.
🌻 Talia Hibbert is another author who can always make me laugh with her stories; she really, truly knows how to write a funny story. For example, the job interview scene and everything that followed it was absolutely golden.
🌻 Something I really appreciate about Eve Brown – and Hibbert’s novels in general – is that it doesn’t hide that people that love you, like your family, can hurt you, even unintentionally. I can’t get into what happens due to spoilers, but for those who’ve read the book, I’m talking about something that happens towards the end and that is later addressed by the characters.
Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle
Maybell Parish has always been a dreamer and a hopeless romantic. But living in her own world has long been preferable to dealing with the disappointments of real life. So when Maybell inherits a charming house in the Smokies from her Great-Aunt Violet, she seizes the opportunity to make a fresh start.
Yet when she arrives, it seems her troubles have only just begun. Not only is the house falling apart around her, but she isn’t the only inheritor: she has to share everything with Wesley Koehler, the groundskeeper who’s as grouchy as he is gorgeous—and it turns out he has very different vision for the property’s future.
Convincing the taciturn Wesley to stop avoiding her and compromise is a task more formidable than the other dying wishes Great-Aunt Violet left behind. But when Maybell uncovers something unexpectedly sweet beneath Wesley’s scowls, and as the two slowly begin to let their guard down, they might learn that sometimes the smallest steps outside one’s comfort zone can lead to the greatest rewards.
🌻 I had a blast reading Twice Shy! I found this book an entertaining and a stress-free read, which is important in a rom-com. That is not to say that there weren’t conflicts or issues the characters faced, but I still think Twice Shy remained low-stress and low on angst even through these.
🌻 It was great to see Maybell and Wesley discover the secrets of the house and renovate it slowly. The fact that the house was so significant for Maybell as a child and that it held so many of her great-aunt’s memories made this a special read.
🌻 Moving on to the romance, this was one of the best type of sunshine and grumpy pairings. While Wesley came off as grumpy at first, Maybell soon started to realize that he is a soft, shy cinnamon roll underneath that gruffness.
Chasing Cassandra by Lisa Kleypas
Everything has a price…
Railway magnate Tom Severin is wealthy and powerful enough to satisfy any desire as soon as it arises. Anything—or anyone—is his for the asking. It should be simple to find the perfect wife—and from his first glimpse of Lady Cassandra Ravenel, he’s determined to have her. But the beautiful and quick-witted Cassandra is equally determined to marry for love—the one thing he can’t give.
Everything except her…
Severin is the most compelling and attractive man Cassandra has ever met, even if his heart is frozen. But she has no interest in living in the fast-paced world of a ruthless man who always plays to win.
When a newfound enemy nearly destroys Cassandra’s reputation, Severin seizes the opportunity he’s been waiting for. As always, he gets what he wants—or does he? There’s one lesson Tom Severin has yet to learn from his new bride:
Never underestimate a Ravenel.
The chase for Cassandra’s hand may be over. But the chase for her heart has only just begun…
🌻 I love Lisa Kleypas. She writes incredible historical romances that always suck me in and make me fall in love with the characters. Seriously, even when I expect to dislike a character based on what I know about them from the previous novel(s) in a series, I’m nearly always satisfied with their redemption.
🌻 On this list, Chasing Cassandra is probably the book that fits the sunshine x grumpy trope the least.. it might better be classified as a pessimist + optimist pairing. These two are definitely an unlikely pair, but nonetheless, they have a connection that cannot be denied.
🌻 The best thing about this series is how important family and friendship is in it. The Ravenel family cares so deeply for each other, which is always a delight to see.
Glitterland by Alexis Hall
The universe is a glitterball I hold in the palm of my hand.
Once the golden boy of the English literary scene, now a clinically depressed writer of pulp crime fiction, Ash Winters has given up on love, hope, happiness, and — most of all — himself. He lives his life between the cycles of his illness, haunted by the ghosts of other people’s expectations.
Then a chance encounter at a stag party throws him into the arms of Essex boy Darian Taylor, an aspiring model who lives in a world of hair gel, fake tans, and fashion shows. By his own admission, Darian isn’t the crispest lettuce in the fridge, but he cooks a mean cottage pie and makes Ash laugh, reminding him of what it’s like to step beyond the boundaries of anxiety.
But Ash has been living in his own shadow for so long that he can’t see past the glitter to the light. Can a man who doesn’t trust himself ever trust in happiness? And how can a man who doesn’t believe in happiness ever fight for his own?
🌻 I feel like out of all the books on this list, this one has the most unlikely pairing, as the characters seem to be – and to an extent are – exact opposites of each other. Despite that, their relationship works really well.
🌻 Be mindful of the fact that besides being a wonderful romance novel, Glitterland deals with potentially tiggering topics, such as self harm, anxiety and depression.
🌻 You might not be expecting this based on how serious Glitterland gets at times, but it happens to be an incredibly entertaining novel that made me laugh out loud multiple times. How different the main characters are makes for some really funny scenes.
What are your favorite (romance) tropes? Do you enjoy the sunshine + grumpy pairing? Do you have any recommendations for this trope? Have you read any of my choices?