The Rec League: “Unsexy Jobs”

The Rec League - heart shaped chocolate resting on the edge of a very old bookThis suggestions comes from Rebecca in the comments of our Submit Your Rec League post:

Heroes and heroines with unsexy jobs- e.g. administrators, accountants, city clerk. No lawyer/doctor/architect/owner of charming small business. HR professionals fall in love too!

Carrie: Both the upcoming A Princess for Christmas ( A | BN | K | AB ) and Get a Life, Chloe Brown have heroes who are apartment building supervisors/maintenance workers and the hero of Take a Hint, Dani Brown is a security worker at a university campus. Rose Lerner’s Listen to the Moon is about a valet and a maid.

Tara: I haven’t read it in a long time, but I remember enjoying Trusting Tomorrow by PJ Trebelhorn ( A | BN | K ). It’s an f/f romance and one of the leads is a mortician.

Hoosier Daddy by Ann McMan and Salem West  also has a line supervisor at a car factory and a union agitator who comes to town.

Sarah: (I always feel compelled to mention because I learned a LOT in my research for this part: Jeremy, the hero of my Hanukkah novella, is a Jewish mortician). ( A | BN | K | G | AB )

Maya: New Girl in Town by Rebel Carter has a apartment building supervisor falling in love with a Latina woman who is 10 years older than him!

Beautiful by Christina Lauren has (I think) ( A | BN | K | G | AB ) an accountant. It’s the last book in the series, but I totally read it and enjoyed it without having read the rest of the books in the series.

In A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole, the heroine has a bunch of part-time jobs to get her through grad school.

Carrie: In Rafe, the heroine is a surgeon but the hero is a nanny.

Shana: I think what’s even rarer than main characters in unsexy jobs, is stories where they stay in those jobs, and don’t become a musician/artist/princess. Zuri Day’s Driving Heat and Packing Heat have bus driver and postal worker heroes.

Packing Heat
A | BN | K | AB
Carrie: That’s a really good point.

Tara: The Do-Over by Georgia Beers ( A | BN | K ) has a corporate conflict resolution trainer.

Sarah: Which is the Victoria Dahl novella where they’re forensic accountants stuck at the same hotel doing an investigation?

Sorry no FDIC agents. Midnight Assignment. ( A | BN | K )

Amanda: You all are CRUSHING it.

Tara: Is fitness trainer a sexy or not sexy profession?

Shana: Not sexy to me, but I think probably sexy to others given how often they pop up?

An Unseen Attraction
A | BN | K | AB
Claudia: I’m going to go with An Unseen Attraction by KJ Charles, taxidermist and boardinghouse owner heroes. It kicks off the Sins of the Cities series, which is fabulous (in the other books, ‘sexier’ professions such as scam artist and detective are represented). I’ve been thinking of this one because of the horrendous fog that is like another living character in the series, and it reminds me of our own wildfire-wrought pea soupers and other horrors.

Also, About a Rogue by Caroline Linden ( A | BN | K | AB ) has a middle-class heroine. She is the heart and soul of her family’s pottery business and I thought that was an interesting (and perhaps a bit sexy? She mostly deals with paint and glaze formulas). The book is also set in Georgian times for a bit more variety.

Mimi Matthew’s The Winter Companion ( A | BN | K | AB ) has groom hero (training to be estate manager) and “lady’s companion” heroine.

Sneezy: In Man vs Durian by Jackie Lau, the hero is a landscaper and the heroine was working in her friend’s ice cream shop when the story starts, but switches back to software engineer by the end of the book.

Man vs. Durian
A | BN | K | AB
While the ice cream shop was def whimsical, the fact that she was working a part-time job instead of something ‘respectable’ was a source of conflict between the heroine and her mom. Er – and not sure how software engineer rates on the sexiness meter.

I’m not sure if farming and cattle driving counts as sexy either, but The Winter Witch by Paula Brackston ( A | BN | K | G | AB ) is very good. It takes place in Wales, so it’s not the same flavour as cowboys

Susan: My judgement of sexy jobs is skewed, but Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman has a protagonist who works in a theatre box office by day and hand-dyes yarn by night.

Cat Sebastian’s A Little Light Mischief ( A | BN | K | G | AB ) is a romance between a maid (who admittedly used to be a burglar) and a lady’s companion who’s desperate for something useful to do (Although caution warning for backstory sexual assault).

Oh, and Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku by Fujita, ( A | BN | K | G | AB ) where there’s a mild level of drama from all of the protagonists being hardcore nerds and trying to keep that a secret at their boring office job…I don’t know if I could tell you off the top of my head what work any of them actually DO in that office, now I think about it.

Ellen: I think Whiteout by Adriana Anders actually fits this although they spend pretty minimal time actually working in their unsexy jobs…heroine is a cook on an antarctic science station and hero is a scientist but i thought the book did a good job showing that most field science is actually really boring.

Simply Unforgettable
A | BN | K | AB
Also, in the Simply quartet by Mary Balogh, all of the heroines work at a girls school which is not really portrayed in a sexy or glamorous way at all. Now that i think about it The Others series by Anne Bishop ( A | BN | K | G | AB | Au ) may kinda fit this too—the actual day job of the heroine is basically as a postal worker…

Shana: Am I the only one who has “scientist” at the top of their list of most sexy professions?

Amanda: I think this could make an interesting discussion about what “sexy romance jobs” mean to you.

Some readers like a man who wears a suit for work. If you’re a barbarian, like myself, the dirtier, the better.

Andre
A | BN | K
Shana: Mmm dirty. Yes, I thought about suggesting Roller Girl, because one of the heroines is a plumber, but woman plumber is such my catnip that I didn’t think it would work on an unsexy jobs list.

For unsexy desk jobs, André by Jayce Ellis is a m/m where both heroes work in financial management, and make goo-goo eyes over bank statements.

Sarah: I mean, if a person is competent then any job can be sexy. Competence is effin hot.

Catherine: I can’t possibly answer that question without getting in trouble!

Ellen: Yeah I mean I have to be honest I was thrown by the idea of lawyer being a sexy job. When it’s portrayed accurately lawyering is really unsexy.

Amanda: I think sexy in the request is shorthand for “glamorized” because running a quaint small business seems stressful as fuck.

Sarah: As a runner of a quaint small business, can confirm.

Claudia: Yeah I took ‘unsexy’ to mean a bit of drudgery/repetitive work but if you really think about it… there’s a lot, a lot of dull parts in any profession!

Catherine: Definitely plenty of drudgery in science.

What are your thoughts on unsexy jobs? Which romances would you recommend?

Add Your Comment →

  1. 1
    Katie says:
    13+

    The heroine in You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle works a retail job in a weird novelty shop, then is unemployed and job hunting for a chunk of the book. None of her employment is glamorous. The hero is an orthodontist. Or maybe a dentist, I don’t remember, but it is one of the tooth jobs. So he’s a doctor, but as someone who had braces, putting them on people doesn’t seem like a sexy job me.

    The hero in Tell Me Lies by Jennifer Crusie is an accountant. There’s other books by her that might work, too. In Crazy For You, the heroine is a high school art teacher and the hero and his brother own the local garage/service station (sort of a mechanic, maybe too macho/sexy depending on how you look at it?). In Bet Me, the heroine is an actuary and the hero does training and seminars for companies. It’s been a long time since I read Bet Me, and the specifics of their jobs are a little hazy for me but I think that’s right.

  2. 2
    DiscoDollyDeb says:
    6+

    Cara McKenna (who is no longer publishing—alas!) was always excellent at grounding her work pretty much in the working class or in the world where people have to work hard and do unglamorous things like take the bus/subway and live in small spaces. Her AFTER HOURS, about a nurse and an orderly who works in a psychiatric facility is a wonderful example of that. I’d also include her duet, WILLING VICTIM/BRUTAL GAME (the heroine is a waitress, although in the course of the book she does begin a job that makes use of her college degree; the hero works construction jobs) with a strong CW/TW because the story involves very intense rape role-play.

    And I just read another book that fits the category: A.E. Via’s m/m romance, WOOD. Both heroes are ex-cons. One works landscape and construction jobs; the other is a janitor—although he is working toward getting his tattooing license renewed.

  3. 3
    Cheryl says:
    3+

    intermediate thermodynamics – she’s a scientist, he’s in grad school.

  4. 4
    Qualisign says:
    2+

    Just out this week: “Love Him Desperate” (On the Market Book 5), E.M. Lindsey. M/m, diverse issues, including ACE, age-difference, epilepsy and cerebral palsy. Unsexy jobs: receptionist at a small-town salon and [mediocre] assistant in a gluten-free bakery. This is the last in a series, but can be read alone. It is wonderful to read about people not defined by their jobs, sexy or not.

  5. 5
    Vivi12 says:
    8+

    Roan Parrish’s OUT OF NOWHERE has a mechanic in his family garage and an ex con working with a gay youth program.
    THE PROPOSITION by Judith Ivory has a rat catcher and a speech specialist/manners polisher for young ladies.
    TEACH ME by Olivia Dade, high school teachers.
    Brill Harper has a set of blue collar stories too.

  6. 6
    Rebecca says:
    3+

    The Hero of Attachments by Rainbow Rowell is a IT admin for a newspaper.

    Hazel in Hazel and Josh’s guide to not dating by Christina Lauren is a third-grade teacher

  7. 7
    Emily C says:
    6+

    Two perennial favorites came to mind- The Hating Game by Sally Thorne (both characters executive assistants) , and The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang (Stella is an econometrician – which actually could sound very sexy to right person).

    @Tara- my husband is a personal fitness trainer, and I assure you i have always considered it a sexy occupation

  8. 8
    HeatherS says:
    4+

    Amanda Stevens’ “The Restorer” (and subsequent books), the heroine is a cemetery restorer, which usually means a lot of physical labor – photographing, scrubbing headstones, cutting and hauling away trash and brush, etc).

  9. 9
    GraceElizabeth says:
    11+

    I think Mhairi McFarlane does unsexy British office jobs well, as someone who has one. Everyone works in pretty bland buildings and goes to bland office parties and drinks bad coffee. They also have relatable drama like, “Who stole my mug?” The only sexy job I recall is the actor hero in WHO’S THAT GIRL.

  10. 10
    Georgina says:
    4+

    I was coming in to rec Mhairi McFarlane as well.

    Kate Clayborn also has a few. The heroine of Beginner’s Luck works in a science lab (which I think is super cool, but probably not considered sexy?) and the hero in Love Lettering is some kind of financial guy.

    The heroine of Jasmine Guillory’s The Wedding Date works for the mayor’s office.

  11. 11
    Kareni says:
    4+

    In Lyn Gala’s Claimings series, Liam begins as an army linguist.
    In Wendy Qualls’ Worth Searching For, one of the heroes is in charge of maintenance of a parks department so lots of hands-on work.

  12. 12
    Ana says:
    6+

    In Annika Martin’s The Billionaire’s Fake Fiancee the female protagonist is a hairdresser (though that’s kind of nullified by the guy being a billionaire). Ome of Nora Roberts’s books set in Ireland has a plumber. Nora Roberts also has books with carpenters and general home improvement. In Fix her Up by Tessa Bailey the lead is a clown. Journalism is considered sexy right?

  13. 13
    Jill says:
    6+

    I love this topic! There are not a ton of blue-collar heroes out there (unless they’re tattoo artists or bartenders – insert eye roll here). I think maybe because the 9 to 5 of office work is pretty unromantic and readers just want to get away from it. Nora Roberts has some fairly blue-collar workers as heroes, but they (of course) own their own business. They’re always the sheriff, not the deputy, the contractor, not the guy who works for him. Even in Take a Hint, Dani Brown, the hero is working as a security guard, but only until he can pursue his real dream.

  14. 14
    Todd says:
    4+

    Vivi12, thank you for The Proposition – I was trying to remember which book by which author it was. Now I don’t have to do a HaBO for it!

  15. 15
    Heather says:
    6+

    Haha. It’s all about your perspective! Most people think wineries are about as romantic as you can get. But seeing it from the inside… not so much. It’s difficult farming with a lot of ways to fail + wholesale food manufacturing. Just plain hard work. But then you have to make it look glamorous to the customers who are visiting because they want the romantic experience.

  16. 16
    Stefanie Magura says:
    5+

    @SBSarah and @SBTara:

    I do not have recommendations for books, but the mentions of morticians did make me think of this musical gem from Dinah Washington.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7do38P_Ox4

    For what it’s worth, she did songs often with double entendre about dentists and musicians. There may be others, but those are the two I can recall.

  17. 17
    Stefanie Magura says:
    3+

    @SBSarah @SBTara:

    There’s also the song about the TV repairman. This one absolutely has double entendre.

  18. 18
    Laura says:
    5+

    I was coming to recommend Olivia Dade. Teach Me has two teachers. The hero in 40-Love is a tennis pro (inarguably sexy job) but the heroine is a high school assistant principal (inarguably NOT sexy). Also, her work is much more a part of the book than his, even though it takes place at the resort where he works.

    I think The Boyfriend Project partially qualifies, but explaining why might be a little spoilery.

  19. 19
    TinaNoir says:
    3+

    DON’T FORGET TO SMILE – By Kathleen Geilles Seidel. Set in a very blue collar, industrial working town. Hero is a logger who gets promoted to union supervisor. Heroine owns a bar.

    OFFICE HOURS by Katrina Jackson – Both the H&H are college professors. He is tenured, she is not and she is in tenure track hell.

  20. 20
    Karin says:
    6+

    I feel like a lot of the heroes and heroines in the Virgin River series have non-sexy jobs. Because it’s a small isolated town, a lot of them are just piecing together a living; a cook, a gardener, construction worker, orchard keeper, nurse, small-town cop, veterinary assistant.
    I am also reminded of Carla Kelly’s books, like The Lady’s Companion, a companion and an estate manager.

  21. 21
    June says:
    5+

    After Hours by Cara McKenna (already mentioned) is fantastic.

    Sweet by Tammara Webber – Pearl is a grad student who works as a receptionist at an inn, Boyce is a mechanic.

    Sarina Bowen’s Steadfast also has a mechanic hero (Jude), and the heroine Sophie is a social work student who works at a hospital.

    Daisy in Good Time Bad Boy by Sonya Clark is a waitress. Wade is a country music singer, though, which doesn’t remotely qualify as an unsexy job.

  22. 22
    SusanE says:
    4+

    @Stefanie Magura:
    Here’s the Dinah Washington dentist song I heard on the local jazz station:

  23. 23
    Stefanie Magura says:
    4+

    @SusanE:

    That’s the one. There’s also Short John about a doctor, Big Long Slidin’ Thing which is the one about musicians particularly trombone players, and TV is the Thing This Year about the TV repairman.

  24. 24
    cleo says:
    2+

    You, Me, U.S. by Brigitte Bautista – friends to lovers f/f set in Manila. One heroine works retail. (The other is a musician and sex worker – neither of which seem very sexy in this book.)

    Stupid Love by Riley Hart – NA m/m. One hero has multiple gigs including real estate agent. The other is a Pilates instructor and former dancer, so I guess that’s less boring.

  25. 25
    Stefanie Magura says:
    2+

    I’m going to try embeding the Dinah Washington one about the undertaker.

    [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7do38P_Ox4&w=560&h=315%5D

  26. 26
    Stefanie Magura says:
    2+

    Well that didn’t work. Never mind.

  27. 27
    jodi says:
    4+

    The Hating Game — both are executive assistants at a publishing house. Their jobs aren’t sexy, but there is always a certain magic about jobs in publishing, probably because readers and writers love books. I’m an editor, and I can guarantee that my job isn’t sexy or well-paid, though I enjoy it.

  28. 28
    MeME says:
    4+

    @TinaNoir OMG DON’T FORGET TO SMILE!! I burned through all the Kathleen Geilles Seidel audiobooks on Audible last summer and this is the first time I’ve seen her mentioned anywhere. All of the feminism and class stuff in Don’t Forget to Smile is so interesting and not at all what I expect from 1986. I’ve been hoping one of the romance podcasts would do a deep dive to contextualize for me.

    -The hero in After All These Years is a Viet Nam war vet who restores historic houses.

  29. 29
    MeMe says:
    3+

    I think that #romanceclass books tend to be wonderful for fleshing out characters professional life. Mina V. Esguerra describes classically unsexy office jobs so lovingly they become inherently interesting. The hero of So Forward is working on his business school dissertation and even THAT’S compelling.

    I second the recs for Cara Mckenna AND everything she wrote under Meg Maguire. The Playing Games novella has the best of ALL THE TROPES: one bed, snowed in, HS crush, best friend’s girlfriend, last room at the gross motel is the honeymoon suite… The heroine is the manager of a climbing gym and the hero fights wildfires. If it’s unclear I LOVE THIS novella! The way the heroine is decidedly NOT hung up on her teenage relationships cracks me up.

  30. 30
    cleo says:
    4+

    I have another thought re: books that have un-glamorized portrayals of jobs that are often glamorized in romance.

    So Forward (Six 32 Central, #3) by Mina V. Esguerra – low conflict m/f contemporary set in Manila. Both h/h are former winter sports athletes / champions in a tropical country. She works in her family’s real estate corporation – at 32 she’s a rising star but her job is much less glamorized than the usual 30-something-heir-to-the-family-business romance protagonist – she loves her job, but she can never be off. He’s a former figure skater / insta gram persona who’s secretly working on his MBA, which is what brings them together initially.

  31. 31
    Dee says:
    4+

    I have not read it yest, but just bought it – The Charmer by Avery Flynn. Yes the hero has a sexy billionaire job, but the heroine is described as a “nerdy ant researcher”. I think bugs are unsexy.

  32. 32
    ReneeG says:
    5+

    Two of Nalini Singh’s Hard Play series have sexy folk in non-sexy jobs: Cherish Hard has a landscaper hero and teacher heroine; Rebel Hard’s heroine is an accountant who works late.

  33. 33
    cleo says:
    2+

    @MeMe – hah! we cross-posted. Completely agree about So Forward and #romanceclass

  34. 34
    DonnaMarie says:
    8+

    Romance has a way of making some pretty hard jobs seem glamorous – usually by taking the reality out of the work. People who work with their hands are incredibly sexy, but I’m sure they’d never believe that when they are showering off the dirt and sore muscles.

    As I am employed in the unsexiest work on the planet, let’s hear it for the unsung heroes of the clerical world. We make the world go around and no one notices until they don’t get what they want as fast as they want it. Nine a.m. Me: “No, Ms Jones, the MRI the doctor ordered at 5pm last night has not been approved yet.” Followed by 57 minutes and four provider service reps to get the benefit and authorization information for one stupid code. But I digress.

    I’ve always enjoyed the rarely mentioned (and usually by me) Jasmine Haynes for her unglamorized office workers. Sure a few of them are out there making the million dollar deals, but mostly they’re dealing with troublesome vendors, PITA subordinates and difficult co-workers. The workplaces are pretty accurate. The job isn’t sexy, but the romance is. And one of my favorites does have a high school principle.

  35. 35
    Space Cadet says:
    2+

    Man Card by Sarina Bowen and Tanya Eby has a pair of real estate agents as its leads. In Dark Sexy Knight by Katy Regnery, the heroine is a cashier at a Middle Times-esque establishment.

  36. 36
    cleo says:
    6+

    @Dee – you reminded me of Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall – British mm. One hero is a fundraiser for a dung beetle foundation. And the other is a public defense lawyer (I think). It’s a fun romance – like a gay Hugh Grant rom com.

  37. 37
    Trix says:
    1+

    JL Merrow’s Plumber’s Mate Myśteries spring to mind, and Tara Lain has featured several blue collar heroes lately (usually paired with more glamorous guys). Josephine Myles’ THE HOT FLOOR is an m/m/m menage featuring a plumber, an academic, and a glassblower (which sounds exciting to me, though Myles plays up the workaday physical aspects).

  38. 38
    TinaNoir says:
    2+

    @MeMe – yes I went on a Kathleen Geilles Seidel some years ago and just loved her stories. For books written in the late 80s early 90s they did not feel dated at all. I just re-read SUMMER’S END the one about the older parents of adult children getting married and the two families vacation together at the one family’s summer camp to get to know each other. It read so authentic to me because we have a summer camp like that by a lake. And I love that the “children” blending together like the Anti-Brady Bunch were all adults and the family dynamic and story telling was so great. Her stories just feel full and rich.

  39. 39
    Mareda says:
    0

    Muscling Through by JL Merrow – m/m set in Cambridge. The main hero – whole story is told in first person POV – works at a boat rental. The other hero has a more glamorous job, I guess, an art professor at university. I’d caution that the narrator is portayed as a bit simpleminded, so there is a huge intellectual disparity between h/h, as well as class difference. But I found it a sweet and funny romance.

  40. 40
    Caroline says:
    3+

    I think Delphine Dryden did good job with the often boring and political work that can be attached to working for a university. “The Theory of Attraction” had a low-level researcher and a new professor hoping he’s on the tenure track. Data input is rarely sexy.

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