Romance Books After My Gen X Heart

Generation X aka Gen X: Noun. A term typically used to describe Americans born between 1965 and 1981. A generation often forgotten and treated like a middle child, sandwiched between boomers and millennials. Other (supposedly) defining characteristics and events: latchkey kids, slackers, MTV/cable, Cold War, AIDS epidemic, Challenger explosion. We’re also known for being independent, self-reliant, cynical, and we get sh** done. 

We grew up with minimal supervision and plenty of responsibility for ourselves. Our parents had no way of getting in touch with us or knowing where we were once we left the house; and there was no social media evidence of our exploits. We made mix tapes, listened to grunge, wore flannels and Doc Martens, watched inappropriate movies, and hung out at the mall. 

So what kinds of books fit Gen X? Well, of course books that focus on characters over 40, bring some 80s or 90s nostalgia and vibes, pop culture references, and characters who get sh** done with minimal whining or drama.  

Proudly advertised as a Gen X Romance, Come As You Are rocks the Gen X nostalgia, pop culture, and feel (and is a great read too)!

Ashley’s family has run the Bluebird Mountain ski hill for generations, but it’s fallen on hard times with the fancy new resort down the street with more amenities and Ashley’s dirtbag ex-husband trying to run her out of business.

Matthew is an ex-grunge rocker and recovering addict who runs a sober living program and dedicates himself to helping others beat addiction. Ashley needs employees for her ski season and Matthew’s charges need jobs, so it seems like a perfect fit, even if it’s a risk. But will Ashley and Matthew be able to keep it professional?

Come as You Are really spoke to my GenX heart! Grunge music and culture, mix tapes, movie references, yes please! The characters grew on me too—I didn’t love them at first but after a while I was all in. It was nice to see some different subjects too; you don’t often see romances cover recovery from addiction and issues surrounding it, but this book did a nice job.

Rating: 4
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Small Town, GenX, Addiction and Recovery, Proximity
Pair With: Non-Alcoholic Wines

Empty nester and recluse Maggie has no interest in being more social, but she’s worried her college freshman son is too much like her and isn’t getting out and experiencing life. She grudgingly agrees to get out more if he will.

While her attempts at in-person socializing are borderline catastrophic, she manages to connect online as “Bogwitch” with some gamers and finds a friend in “Otter,” who she thinks is a college student (and who thinks she’s an old lady). Otter is really Aiden, who’s around Maggie’s age and using the online game as an escape from his god-awful family. What a surprise when they meet in person!

I liked Role Playing a lot more than I thought I would. When I read the description and saw gaming as a main part of the plot, I wasn’t all that excited to read it. But I’ve enjoyed other Cathy Yardley books and I also liked her Smart Bitches Trashy Books podcast interview, so I gave it a chance and am glad I did!

The scene where they meet for the first time is hilarious, and the friendship they develop is sweet and lovely before it becomes more. It’s definitely a slow burn, but you really get a chance to know the characters and see more of their lives—it’s not just two online gamers hooking up.

Rating: 4
Steam: Low to Medium
Themes or Tropes: GenX, Friends to Lovers, Divorcee, Slow Burn, Secret Identity
Pair With: Washington Wines

Journalist and single mom Claire’s had a rough time of it lately, but can get her career back on track when she lands a coveted interview with hot British rock star Chris (who was also her teenage crush). She knows she has to ask him some tough questions but doesn’t expect flirtatious conversation and maybe an actual friendship forming.

Chris also hasn’t had the easiest time after a nasty divorce and career mishaps—the fun and sparks flying from the interview seem just as unexpected for him. The story brings them together first in friendship, but romance comes along and with it happiness, pain, growth and a little angst.

Claire and Chris feel like real people with real pain, real mistakes, and real love. It goes beyond the typical rock star trope (though, really, what rock star is as real as Chris?) and the author does a lovely job of showing us who the characters—especially Claire—really are.

I could have done with a dual perspective for more insight into Chris, but overall it’s a fun story I thoroughly enjoyed. If you’ve ever fantasized about an HEA with your favorite rock star and like the trope, this one is for you!

P.S. I liked the sequel, Back Forever, even more, though I’d recommend reading Bring Me Back first.

Rating: 3.5
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Rock Star, Single Parent, Childhood Idol
Pair With: Mojitos, Fancy Wine

Here’s another Karen Booth novel with some Gen X vibes and fortysomething heroine in Gray Hair Don’t Care

Freshly divorced NYC makeup artist Lela finds the confidence to launch her own beauty line in her 40s and own her age. Who cares if she slept with her former crush, Donovan, and told him she was in love with him, only to find him gone in the morning? Eeesh. So she decides she needs to get her sh** together and go for it, gray hair be damned. 

Of course, the rom-com world is a coincidentally small one. Donovan’s been through more than one divorce and is focusing his  marketing skills to help his daughter with her lifestyle company. They’re meeting with the CEO of an up-and-coming new brand, who’s none other than Lela. 

What a fun read! Lela’s down but not out–she’s determined to embrace her talents and her own sense of beauty, age be damned. Donovan starts out as a jerk, but eventually realizes it and becomes really supportive. Still, I wished all the characters had a little more depth and dimension. There were some backstories that could’ve been explored and shed more insight into their personalities. 

Rating: 3.5
Steam: Low to Medium
Themes and Tropes: Second Chance, Gen X, Career Woman, Restarting in Your 40s, Owning Who You Are
Pair With: Your favorite Champagne. 

My Very ’90s Romance is more of an ensemble story of twentysomething ups and downs than a romance, by the way. But it’s quirky, interesting, and definitely gave off some 90s feels. And there’s love involved. 

The story centers on Holly, who’s desperate for a place to live that she can afford and with normal human beings. She ends up moving in with two of her old “friends” and their roommate. There’s Josh, her dear friend who hasn’t quite figured out who he is; Kate, a bitchy corporate lawyer; and Addison, who literally never leaves his room, EVER. Holly finds this so odd that she’s determined to force him into the world and develops a bit of a crush–which brings some good, some catastrophe, and some good fun too.

Spoiler, they all find love, just not necessarily in the way you’d envision. There are unexpected storylines, very kooky characters, and some fun references to grunge music and landlines. A couple annoyances–first, Kate is the world’s biggest bit** and unbelievably rude, and Holly just sits there and takes it (and really just takes it wherever she goes without standing up).

Second, the relationships really could have been given more depth. It’s harder to do when the book navigates the lives and relationships of several characters, but I felt like I hardly knew a couple of the main characters and would have loved more insight. Still, I enjoyed this book for its uniqueness and fun. 

Rating: 3
Steam: None
Themes and Tropes: Hot Mess Heroine, Reclusive Hero, Ensemble/Group, Roommates
Pair With: A nice gin & tonic. 

 

Billie is a thrice-married, hilarious, and wacky woman who finds herself in a bit of a love triangle while also juggling her in-demand business of getting people over breakups, helping her daughter through an imploding marriage, and even managing the roommates she’s taken in. Just when a lovely widower enters her life, her slimy ex-husband jumps in and tries to win her back. If you want something with a kooky older heroine who’s a bit of a hot mess, Snap Out of It is for you! It was a lot of fun and reminded me that really, do any of us have it together or are we all faking it til we make it no matter what age we are?

Rating: 3.7
Steam: Low
Tropes: Love Triangle, Ex Returning
Pair with: Martinis. Not really a wine crowd, but the Thursday martini nights are hilarious. 

Divorcee Jo’s only son is marrying single Dallas’ only daughter . . . but the wedding gets called off and the groom sends Jo on his honeymoon, conveniently located in sexy Dallas’ beachfront vacation cottage in Belize. Jo’s in for a shock when she settles into the one-bedroom and one-bed cottage and Dallas shows up in all his hotness (and both with some grumpiness).

The idea was great and the book was pretty good. The tropical setting and feel were perfect, but I’m not sure I can take one more “darlin’” and there definitely wasn’t too much deep conversation. But who needs depth when you’re on a parentmoon in Belize?

Rating: 3.3
Steam: Medium to High
Themes and Tropes: Forced proximity, Over 40, GenX, Tropical Island
Pair with: Belize tropical drinks.

British veterinarian Sophie is at a crossroads—she’s just sent her daughter off to college in the U.S., her job is taking her nowhere, and her life is just, well, blah. Until she sees a job posting for a veterinarian in a small Highlands village and impulsively applies. Artist Ben enjoys the quiet and solitude he can find in his Highland croft, and has a daughter of his own recently out of university. He can wander the shores with his dogs with no interruption, but then Sophie moves into the cottage down the hill…

This book focused on more than just Sophie and Ben. Really, it was mostly about Sophie, her life, her struggles, her feelings, with sprinkles of Ben and his life but not much more. Still, the town vibe and the other characters and parts of the story make it well-rounded and interesting. Sophie and Ben’s relationship grows very subtly and quietly—a lovely moment here, a look there, chance meetings that grow into more, and a sweet happily ever after that suits the book perfectly.

Rating: 4.5
Steam: None
Themes and Tropes: Small Town, GenX, Over 40, Scottish Highlands, Empty Nesters, Close Proximity
Pair With: Scottish Specialties

Fiona’s looking for a new start–45, divorced (good riddance to a cheating ex), and has no idea what’s next. Why not take a relaxing retreat with a good friend. Only it’s anything but relaxing when the hotel is flooded and her car is on its last leg. And it’s still not relaxing when the hottest man she’s ever seen is happy to give her a room at his place (as a friend, of course). But it’s certainly not boring, and some bad decisions are coming…

Dirty Little Midlife Crisis–a super fun and hot start to the Heart’s Cove Hotties series, which focuses on a small California town with a disproportionate number of handsome men and cool women. Grant is mostly awesome, until he isn’t (he had a major jerk moment that really annoyed me), and Fiona is lovely. Plus, the friend group and the community really add to the book (and provide some real comedy). 

Rating: 4
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Small Town, Friendship, Proximity, Baggage With Exes
Pair With: Mid Life Crisis Wines

Two people who are actively resisting love may find it anyway. 

Amy is perfectly content riding into her 40s unattached. She got married way too young when she was pregnant and never had the chance to be on her own. Now divorced with her teenage son, she’s not folding to the pressure from her friends to get back out there. 

Likewise, Thomas certainly doesn’t need love in his fifties (or any other time). He already had that and look how it ended (not good). He needs to focus on his new job and that is that. But then he ends up in Amy’s dentist chair and both their carefully laid plans may go awry. 

Loved the Gen X references to some of my favorite movies like The Usual Suspects and Say Anything and good music too. And you know what was a huge plus? No ridiculously stupid third-act obstacle. The book flowed well and was an enjoyable, easy, low-stress read. 

Rating: 4
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Widower, Divorcee, Gen X, Single Mom
Pair With: Tennessee Wines