Romance and Revenge on NPR

The First Wives ClubI was invited to be on NPR's All Things Considered (which you can read – and hear! woo! – at this link) as part of a feature wherein they link a current news story to a related or recommended read. They asked for my recommendation in response to the story about Francois Hollande, the president of France, whose longterm affair with Julie Gayet was revealed recently — sending first lady Valerie Trierweiler into the hospital in shock.

Well, that's not a happy ending, is it? Oof. Recommending a romance that parallels that story would be a nearly impossible thing for me to do. There aren't many stories I could think of that narratively redeem a similar situation.

But I did think of a book to recommend for the segment – the very delicious and devious The First Wives Club by the late Olivia Goldsmith. Really, for my reading, there's no more over the top holy crap what did I just read revenge story than that one – and the movie is much, much less sharp than the book. (Of course, did I realize that the book is mostly out of print and not available digitally? No. *headdesk* At least it is available at many, many libraries.)

I asked online, however, what your favorite revenge romances were, and given that (a) a few NPR listeners might be looking for more revenge romance (hi, listeners! Welcome!) and that (b) many on Twitter asked me to share the list, I collected all your suggestions along with my own ideas.

A few suggestions weren't about revenge on a ex so much as revenge in general, such as The Golden Chance by Jayne Ann Krentz, recommended by Laura Florand, which is family feud revenge story. Sweet Revenge by Zoe Archer which is about an organization strategically getting revenge on aristocrats who get away with their crimes against other people, and Sweet Revenge (a more different Sweet Revenge) by Nora Roberts is about careful revenge on an abusive family member.

I don't even know if there's enough bandwidth on the internet to list all the revenge stories that visit retribution on a hated business adversary through said adversary's offspring. That list might break the available room left online. Seriously. 

But revenge against the ex, that's slightly different. Here is a partial list of Ex Revenge and Starting Over stories in romance. If you have additions, pleas share!

Book The First Wives club


The First Wives Club by Olivia Goldsmith

It's a classic, and yes, it may be hard to find, but the revenge is, like I said on ATC, “Costco-sized,” and there's a bit of romance for the women in the club once they start taking down their awful exes one by one.

Goodreads | Amazon | BN



Book Getting Rid of Bradley

Getting Rid of Bradley by Jennifer Crusie

If you're an angry wife with a dirtbag husband and some dirty dishes, Lucy, the heroine, has some suggestions as to what to use for a scrubber sponge. This book starts when Lucy's ex doesn't bother to show up for their divorce hearing, and gets better from there. I reviewed it awhile back and gave it a B.  

I almost selected this as my recommendation for the ATC segment, but given how sad and awful the actual news story is, recommending a comedy/suspense seemed off-key.

Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo | All Romance eBooks



Book Vanity Fare

Vanity Fare by Megan Caldwell

Vanity Fare isn't about revenge as much as it is about starting over after a bad divorce and an even-worse financial scandal in the aftermath. Plus the hero is a pastry chef, and what man doesn't acquire additional appeal when he possesses intimate working knowledge of chocolate and buttercream?

Plus-plus, this book is on sale right now for $2.99 digitally.

Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo | All Romance eBooks



Book Mercy

Mercy by HelenKay Dimon

This book isn't out until May, but Lillie, Bree, and Nix from Scorching Reviews all said this book was fantastic – and flush will all sorts of delicious revenge.

I totally want to read it.

Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo




Book What I Did for  a Duke

What I Did for a Duke by Julie Anne Long

Not quite an evil ex, but a big revenge plot as the hero tries to take revenge on the heroine's brother for interfering in his marriage by ruining her.

Only she's not having any of his crap, duke or no.

Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo | All Romance eBooks

What other revenge stories do you recommend most?

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Dread Pirate Rachel says:

    I just finished Zoe Archer’s Sweet Revenge, and I thought it was great. Perfectly plotted; wonderfully developed characters (including supporting cast—I absolutely cannot wait to read about Harriet); dreamy, dreamy nontraditional hero; vivid world building. Would-be authors of gritty Victorian fiction, take note: this is how it’s done.

    Vanity Fare is on my TBR. I might have to bump it up the list a few notches.

  2. 2
    Maria says:

    Hi I just wanted to ad that it topic of revenge that case in France was fates revenge and no more. Vallerie first had a romance with Mr President still when he was for c.30 years together with Marie-Ségolène Royal and had 4 kids….

  3. 3
    jimthered says:

    I notice there are a decent number of romance and erotica novels about someone who starts out seeking revenge but winds up falling for their initial target of revenge.  LADY SOPHIA’S LOVER stars with the title heroine out to seduce and ruin the reputation of Sir Ross Cannon for his sending her brother to prison (where he died), but she falls for him pretty quickly.  And for erotica, ELENA’S CONQUEST by Lisette Allen has Aimery le Sabrenn as a Norman who was betrayed (and scarred) by a Saxon woman, leading him to capture, seduce, and break the heart of Saxon women.  But when he tries this with Elena, he falls for her (of course).

  4. 4
    Vasha says:

    There’s also Nine Tenths of the Law by L. A. Witt (which I thought was just okay, but YMMV). It’s an m/m tale about a guy who finds out his boyfriend is two-timing thanks to an accidental encounter at a restaurant, continues to talk to the “other guy” outside, they say “hey, we’re both mad at our mutual boyfriend, that’s a reason to have sex!” And then somehow keep getting together in spite of the manipulative two-timer not staying out of the picture.

  5. 5
    Krista says:

    I binge read the Consequences series the other day (17 hours straight, yo) and holy revenge, Batman. It blew my socks off and was impossible to put down. At least, for me it was. YMMV

  6. 6
    Mzcue says:

    I think you can count Jennifer Crusie’s Fast Women as a sort of revenge story. If I recall correctly, all three women end up better off while their respective cads suffer.

  7. 7
    Jody says:

    Faye Weldon’s She-Devil.

  8. 8

    My favorite revenge romance is Amanda Quick’s Scandal (where the revenge is aimed at a whole family but founders, naturally, when the dark, brooding hero actually falls in love with the genius-trader/terrible-poet daughter of the family).

    I actually feel very, very uncomfortable with the whole trope of celebrating revenge against an ex for daring to leave you – it hurts horribly to be left, and I think it’s normal to hate someone for hurting you that badly, but still: people AREN’T property, and there shouldn’t be an anything-goes clause against someone just because they’ve chosen to leave a relationship with you. I’ve read (or tossed against the wall) books where the heroine literally stalked her ex or worse and had that behavior treated (within the book) as being funny/empowering rather than scary/abusive or even inappropriate.

  9. 9
    Isabel C. says:

    @Stephanie: Totally agreed. (I would even disagree on the “normal to hate someone for leaving” part, mostly—most of the people I know are still friends or at least civil with their exes some years later.) Breakups are painful, anger is part of the grieving process, and a little “fuck him he could never put his dishes away and he always wore tightie-whities” might be essential to the getting-over-someone process, but I’ve been on the other side, and it’s painful there too. And everyone has a right to leave a relationship, for any reason.

    I can enjoy a good revenge story, but the vengeance has to be for a good reason. (FWC, at least in the movie, had at least one ex-husband seriously trying to screw his ex over financially, so there was that.) And while infidelity is a perfectly good reason to leave—see above—and even to be upset, I don’t think it justifies property-damage-and-stalking-style vengeance in most cases. (Cannot *stand* that one Carrie Underwood song: switch the genders and it’s terrifying stalker behavior by anyone’s standards.)  Sleeping with the third party as in Vasha’s example, OTOH, sounds like an awesome way to do it. ;)

    And I think I need to read Sweet Revenge now, as it appeals to my inner Robin Hood fangirl.

  10. 10
    Trish says:

    The revenge book that has always stayed with me and that I consider the best is “Butterfly” by Kathryn Harvey.  This book actually came out in the 90’s I believe.  It has since been digitalized and you can get it online.  I honestly have no idea how it would hold up now, but then I absolutely loved it.  It was a little Jackie Collins, a little Sugar Daddy (Klepas) and added in a touch of Olivia Goldsmith, jumbled it all into one book together. 

    It was the ultimate deliciousness in revenge books.  Poor girl done wrong by rich guy & when she grows up, she gets back at him.  I know I’ve read it a couple times, but I think it may be time to see how it has held up.

  11. 11
    laj says:

    I was so EXCITED when I heard your name Friday afternoon on NPR!

    As far as revenge tropes….not my cup of tea….though I agree…..Scandal is a terrific story.

  12. 12
    LML says:

    I am 100% with @Maria.  Why would Ms Trierweiler expect Mr President to treat her differently than he treated Ms Royal?  Character is character.  Very savvy of Ms Trierweiler to require hospitalization, don’t you think?

  13. 13
    Vasha says:

    There’s a whole bunch of jokes about a man whose wife and mistress run off together (see e.g. Robbie O’Connell’s song “The Mistress”) and it comes up, as comedy, in the novels The Green Man by Kingsley Amis and The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera. At least in those three cases, the situation involved a threesome or permission from the wife. I get the feeling such jokes may reflect insecurity on the part of the men who make them—do I really have an open and trusting relationship with my wife, or rather when she agrees to anything I want (even sleeping with another woman) is there an ulterior motive?

  14. 14
    Nancy Collins says:

    The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas has to be the mother of all revenge stories – and I heard through the grapevine – (my son works in Hollywood) – is the basis for the TV show “Revenge”. It is a wonderful story!

  15. 15
    Bianca says:

    I was shocked when I read that The First Wives Club is a bit hard to get now!!! I really consider this book a classic so that makes me sad. It may look very kitschy and over the top but The First Wives Club really portrays so many profound things about emotional and physical abuse, depression, and how much we as women are valued by our age. It’s also so much fun to read and hilarious along with the serious subject matter. :) i hope this great book becomes more easily available, including digitally. I’ve reread it many, many times!

  16. 16
    Vasha says:

    Okay, I changed my mind about that last bit—the O’Connell and Kundera examples, at least, are just portraits of guys who are jerks. Trying to analyze who finds what joke funny is probably overthinking things.

  17. 17
    Genghis Mom says:

    I was shocked by the NPR comments. So bizarre to me.

  18. 18
    MissB2U says:

    I’m waiting to read “Revenge Gifts” by Cindy Cruciger.  (I had to order a paperback from Amazon because I can’t get it on my Nook.  GAH.)  I’ve heard it’s very entertaining.  Has anyone read it?  I think there are three in the series and this is the first.  Sarah!  NPR!  Wonderful combination if you ask me.

  19. 19
    LML says:

    I’m late to this party, but when NPR’s _book notes_ email hit my inbox today with SB Sarah’s recommendation of The First Wives Club as this week’s “Must Read”, I remembered what must be the best ever song about revenge: John McCutcheon’s The Red Corvette.

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