Ed. note: This is clearly a current, ongoing, and difficult topic, and your feelings on reading books that include the COVID pandemic may be different. We want to remind folks that it’s ok to like very different things.
This Rec League was sent in by Anna:
I recently read Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld, which made me realize that reading a romance set during Covid, especially one that doesn’t sugarcoat lockdowns, could really help me cope with grief over everything that happened (privately and globally) during the pandemic. Could you recommend some?
Sarah: For something light and a little goofy, there’s always Chuck Tingle, who has two releases: My Handsome Sentient Face Mask Protects Me Despite the Ridiculous Conspiracy Theories That He Won’t Also He Pounds my Butt ( A ) and Not Pounded by Anything While I Practice Responsible Social Distancing. ( A )
Love Under Quarantine by Kylie Scott and Audrey Carlan ( A | BN )
Love in Lockdown by Chloe James ( A | BN | K )
Amanda: I’d also recommend the movie Locked Down, which combines a marriage in trouble, layoffs, and a heist.
Which books would you recommend? Let us know below!
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Mia Hopkins’ Tanked is set in the later part of the pandemic (not lockdown) and I thought it handled the realities of Covid really nicely. It’s not the primary focus of the plot though, but it does have relevance. It’s the third book in the series and all three books are fantastic. I never pass up an opportunity to recommend the series. 🙂
Mina V. Esguerra’s Your Place Next Year is set in the Philippines in the wake of Covid lockdowns (rather than during) – our lead couple, both in their early forties, routinely met for holiday hookups every summer but don’t even know each other’s last names. Covid lockdowns interrupted that and they find themselves missing each other. When they meet in their “real lives” can they make something bigger work? Do they want to? Esguerra’s one of my favorite contemporary writers and her characters are super relatable; she absolutely doesn’t shy away from the emotional effects real life – including the pandemic – has on people. This is a novella, so also a relatively quick read.
Together, Apart was a YA anthology series that did a nice job – it came out at the end of 2020, so it’s got a lot of, OH YEAH that *was* what we did/thought in May 2020. I couldn’t read it until 2022, but when I did, I was impressed.
There were also several stories in the second Love All Year anthology that dealt with it (which, BTW, was MUCH better than the first anthology so worth checking out if you were disappointed by the first like I was).
And Chick Magnet by Emma Barry has COVID as a major external force – the heroine’s influencing took off during the pandemic, while the hero’s face-to-face business struggled.
Not a romance but I thought The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi did a good job of capturing the vibe of the Covid lockdowns (and then moves into escapism which is nice too)
Quarantine Kitchen by J Caldwell handled the COVID lockdown really well!
The problem with the COVID backdrop in CHICK MAGNET is that the hero with the failing business is a vet, and the pandemic business boom for vets was so dramatic that there was a NY Times article about it. Even a quick Google search turns up dozens of articles about how backlogged and burned out the vets all were.
The Locked Room by Elly Griffiths is a mystery set during Covid. There’s some of the ongoing romance, and it’s a really great book in general. I think it came in at my second favorite book of the year for 2022.
To Be Alone With You by Jodie Slaughter is set during the early weeks of the pandemic. In desperate need of a vacation, Naomi goes out to stay in a California desert guesthouse belonging to her old crush. Then COVID-19 hits and Ira offers to let her stay there for free for as long as she needs. I loved how it dealt with the economic realities while also letting Naomi and Ira reconnect and explore their chemistry.
the winning score by gk brady – hockey player finds love during lockdown
Seconding the recommendation for Tanked and that whole series.
I enjoyed both of these a lot. Neither is terribly light but worth the angst.
Romantic Comedy: a Novel by Curtis Sittenfeld. I argue that this is a romance (yes, she wrote one of those!) but some might see it as women’s fiction. It is also very incisive and laugh out loud funny.
Two Metres from You by Heidi Stephens.
In Eva Moore’s Caught A Vibe, the female lead’s sex toy business launch is complicated both by the lockdown and by her one-night-stand becoming her quarantine roommate. It’s a fun read.
I’ll add my vote for Tanked. It really captured the details of how the pandemic affected families, jobs and daily life.
Katie McIntyre Hits a Home Run by Mindy Klasky. It was originally titled “The C Word” for, you know – COVID, but apparently readers/buyers didn’t catch on to the double entendre. It’s a fun romcom, despite being set squarely in the middle of the pandemic.
I thoroughly enjoyed “Where the Deer and the Antelope Play: The Pastoral Observations of One Ignorant American Who
Loves to Walk Outside” by Nick Offerman. It isn’t fiction, but does involve pandemic travel and relationship issues. It’is so interesting and amusing and well written. And the audiobook was read by the author, who of course does a great job.
The Summer of Lost and Found by Mary Alice Monroe. It’s part of The Beach House series, but it can be read as a standalone.
Oooh, I’ll definitely be checking out the Nick Offerman rec—thank you!
I’ll also recommend Just the Two of Us by Jo Wilde—a couple on the brink of divorce go into Covid lockdown and rediscover what made them fall in love in the first place. It’s really moving and sweet and great if you like a married couple’s second chance romance, forced proximity, and dual pov.
The pandemic isn’t over even if everyone says it is. It’s on-going and the disease will continue to hurt people into the future.
Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel isn’t a romance. It’s not about COVID.
It is a novel which deals with a deadly virus, so maybe that will help.