[Note from Frolic: we’re so excited to have author Sara Whitney guest posting on the site today. She’s pairing some great shows with the books you should read once you’ve finished binging. Take it away, Sara!]
Bad news, TV lovers: the 2020 network season’s going to look a little different this year thanks to the spring COVID-19 production shutdowns. If you want to escape the sea of reruns and reality TV, here’s a list of recent shows that span genres while delivering the romantic storylines you crave. Bonus: I’ve paired each one with a romance novel that captures its vibe so even if you’re already binged every episode, you can always pick up a book.
High Fidelity (Hulu):
A record store owner revisits her exes to dissect where her relationships went wrong, plumbing the highs and lows of love. Although this gem was cruelly cancelled after one season, Zoë Kravitz’s Rob is both luminous and effortlessly cool, and you’ll want to befriend her just so you can bug her for skincare advice.
Related book: Get a Life Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert features a list-making heroine on a quest, not unlike Rob, and of course High Fidelity’s based on the Nick Hornsby novel by the same name. (Don’t be fooled by Zoe’s face on the cover; in the Hornsby book, Rob’s a man.)
This post-apocalyptic tale of high school cliques that survive a zombie uprising is Mad Max meets Ferris Bueller meets Lord of the Flies, and it features the most gorgeously weird cover of Air Supply’s “Making Love Out of Nothing at All” that you’ll ever hear. More importantly, Daybreak unfurls a surprise romance over its single season that I wouldn’t dream of spoiling here. Watch, swoon, mourn what could’ve been if this show had been reanimated for season 2.
Related book: Kick at the Darkness by Keira Andrews is a bloody good zombie yarn with a blood-red romantic heart at its center as quippy college student Parker grapples with his feelings for his companion/frequent rescuer Adam.
The Bold Type (Freeform/Hulu):
Three twentysomething magazine employees in New York find and lose (and find and lose) love in a smart, fresh hourlong dramedy that’s equal parts romantic and progressive.
Related books: The Bold Type is a natural companion to Lauren Layne’s Stiletto & Oxford series, which also features whip-smart young things falling in love while working in a glam NYC magazine setting.
Harley Quinn (HBO Max):
This giddily foul-mouthed, gleefully violent animated gem features a sssssslow burn romance between the short-tempered Harley and the cool-headed Poison Ivy. These two unapologetic bad girls make an explosively good couple.
Related book: Get your f/f superhero kicks with Ruth Diaz’s The Superheroes Union: Dynama. This fast, steamy action-packed short zips by quickly enough for even Harley’s miniscule attention span.
Grantchester (Amazon Prime):
This 1950s British cozy mystery series centers on not one but two hot vicars over the course of its five seasons. Solving crimes, sipping tea, and stealing hearts: that’s how the clergy do it in this slice of English countryside. Related books: Finding the perfect fit for this show is tough, so let’s split the difference. Alan Bradley’s delightful Flavia de Luce series is devoid of romance, largely because its protagonist is a 1950s preteen girl with a passion for chemistry and crime-solving. And to make up for the lack of steam in Bradley’s books, pick up The Lord I Left by Scarlett Peckham. There’s absolutely nothing chaste about evangelical reformer Henry Evesham’s feelings for the enticing Alice Hull.
Fleabag (Amazon Prime):
Speaking of hot men of God… you’ve all seen this Emmy winner by now, right? If one person out there hasn’t yet discovered this brilliant, lacerating, hilarious, romantic, heart-breaking show, including it on this list will have been worth it.
Related book: Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s character is a heaving mess of a woman, and you can see a little of that same energy in Darcy, the chaotically self-destructive yet lovable heroine of Sally Thorne’s 99 Percent Mine. If you’re in it for the hot priest and the hot priest only—no shame here!—you’ll want to slip on some hot pads to pick up the scorching Priest by Sierra Simone.
This fixer-upper sitcom only got six episodes before NBC pulled the plug, but the bickering chemistry between the opposites-attract leads was off the charts. Even without a happily-ever-after resolution, the three hours you spend with shaggy playboy Pete and uptight lawyer Alex will have you sighing over what might have been.
Related book: Tempting Lies by Sara Whitney (ahem, that would be me) features a reformed playboy coaxing his childhood neighbor into a fake relationship that inevitably leads to real feelings, as these things tend to do. This witty rom-com has all the sparky banter of Bent, but unlike the show, it wraps up with a swoony HEA.
Roswell, New Mexico (CW/Netflix):
This reboot of the ‘90s show adds a modern twist by depicting the daughter of undocumented immigrants fighting to protect the identity of her alien boyfriend. This show twines several romances together, and each one helps ground the out-of-this world action.
Related book: Okay, it’s not a perfect fit for the show, but Strange Love by Ann Aguirre is too weird and wonderful to be overlooked. This alien abduction romance pairs a human woman with an insectoid being who definitely doesn’t have compatible parts, ifyouknowwhatimean. Aguirre makes this odd-couple pairing work beautifully, and you’ll be rooting for Beryl and her cinnamon roll alien lover to make it work.
Got a recommendation for an overlooked romance-heavy show? Tweet them at @sarawhitney_ so I can add it to my viewing list!
About the Author:
Sara Whitney writes sassy, sexy contemporary romance novels packed with wit, heat, and heart. A 2019 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart award finalist, Sara worked as a newspaper reporter and film critic before she earned her Ph.D. and landed in academia. She’s a good pinball player, a so-so karaoke singer, and an expert TV opinion-haver.
In a funny twist of fate, Sara’s married to a divorce attorney, and she likes to think that her happily-ever-afters help keep their household in balance. She and her husband live in the Midwest surrounded by books, cats, and half-empty coffee cups. Keep up with Sara by subscribing to her mailing list here.
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Tempting Lies by Sara Whitney, out now!
“Don’t scare me like that again.” He tangled his fingers in her hair, pulling enough to tilt her chin upward.
Her brown eyes blazed. “If I do, will you kiss me like that again?”
After her widowed mother rushed into a regrettable second marriage, Thea Blackwell vowed never to commit to anything. Not jobs. Not hairstyles. Not men. Yet here she is dreaming about buying a house and having it renovated by the town playboy who never spared her a second glance.
Too bad she lacks both the cash and the courage.
Aiden Murdoch put his wild ways behind him to help his ailing father run the family construction business, but he can’t seem to escape his scandalous reputation. Then his childhood friend Thea shows him her money pit of a fixer-upper, and he stumbles on the perfect solution: he’ll provide the labor, and she’ll make him look happily domesticated in front of his father’s nervous clients.
If only he knew how easily fake kisses can turn into real feelings.
What should be a simple arrangement gets complicated fast, leaving Aiden aching to prove he’s worth a lifelong commitment and Thea wondering if her pretend boyfriend can truly give up his swipe-right lifestyle. With forever on the line, will they be brave enough to tear down the lies they’ve told each other—and themselves?