There are so many things I love about the romance genre, but one of my absolute favorites is how much fun authors have with it. The crazier the setup for two characters to fall in love, the better! Below are seven of my favorite romances with crazy premises that the authors somehow manage to pull off.
My One and Only Duke by Grace Burrows
He’s on death row while she’s accompanying her father as he preaches in prison and offers to marry her to give her the protection of being a widow. Only then he’s pardoned and turns out to be a duke, and they have to figure out how to make their marriage work.
My One and Only Duke is the book that inspired this post because the premise is so completely crazy and really shouldn’t work. Only it does! And it’s so beautifully done. I mean, they’re complete strangers and married for incredibly practical purposes with absolutely no intention of actually being tied to each other, and it was so much fun when they realized their marriage was going to be a real one. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it was handled incredibly well, and the development of their relationship was so satisfying. I had no expectations for this book going in, I just picked it up for my book club, but I absolutely loved it and thought Burrows handled the crazy premise incredibly well.
A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole
She keeps getting these super spammy emails telling her she’s betrothed to the king of an African country—and it turns out they’re real!
This is such a fun premise, because who hasn’t gotten some of those spammy emails promising you a fortune if you wire a bunch of money to Nigeria? No one expects them to be real, so of course the heroine in A Princess in Theory ignored all of the emails telling her she was the betrothed of an African king. In addition to that fun play on expectations, the hero also shows up and doesn’t disclose who he really is when the heroine mistakes him for a waiter, so you get some The Prince and Me vibes, which is such a great (terrible) movie. AND, as if that weren’t enough, the hero’s country is basically Wakanda, so you get a bit of Black Panther in there too. It sounds like a lot of elements, but Cole is such a masterful writer and blends them all together seamlessly in a really special book.
Also, this whole series is absolutely delightful, and I highly recommend reading them all once you finish A Princess in Theory! A Duke by Default is my favorite of the three, but A Prince on Paper was just released and features a spin on a Harry and Meghan story that you have to read.
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
She’s autistic and struggles with relationships, so she hires a male escort to teach her in a reverse Pretty Woman setup.
The Kiss Quotient is so wonderful on so many levels. I really liked how Hoang took a crazy premise we already knew and loved and then turned it on its head and made it completely its own. For one thing, the heroine’s autism and practical nature make it incredibly plausible and non-sleazy of her to have hired a male escort. And while the hero enjoys his job, you see he’s really doing it for his mother and sisters, giving him an added layer. And their romance is so satisfying as they learn to see themselves in a new light and open up to each other. I absolutely loved this book, and while the fun setup might have gotten me to pick this book up, the adorable romance is what set this book apart.
A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev
He goes to the U.S. to track down his brother’s long-lost child bride, only to fall in love with her himself.
I’ve never read anything with a premise like A Bollywood Affair, so the setup was definitely a major draw for me in picking up this story. After all, there was no way this was going to work out, right? But of course it’s a romance novel, and things always work out in romance novels, and it was oh so much fun to see Dev turn a story that never should have worked into one of my favorite romances I’ve read in ages. While it seems like a crazy premise, I thought Dev did an excellent job making it believable and then sweeping you up in the romance between the hero and heroine, and it was so satisfying to see them get their happily ever after. Honestly, I started this on the subway home one night and meant to get a bunch of chores done when I got home, and instead wound up sitting there all night and completely ignoring my husband in order to finish it. So if that doesn’t tell you how much I love this book, I don’t know what will!
The Other Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
She stumbles across his smuggling/spying operation and he’s forced to kidnap her and take her with on his mission in the interest of national security.
Kidnappings, while a classic element of the historical romance genre, are a bit of a miss these days for rather obvious reasons. So it was really fun to see Julia Quinn make kidnapping the main premise of The Other Miss Bridgerton, and then turn it into something not only palatable but highly enjoyable. This book features Quinn’s classic banter between the hero and heroine, and there’s lots of it since the two of them are stuck on a boat for two weeks while completing the hero’s mission! The ending felt a bit rushed, but overall I definitely felt like this book had the elements we know and love in a Bridgerton book, and it was such a fun read.
Tempest by Beverly Jenkins
She shoots him after mistaking him for a stagecoach robber.
Ok, but really. Is there any better start to a romance novel than the heroine shooting the hero? She had completely plausible reasons for doing so (she was literally just attacked and thought the robbers were coming back for round two) and impressed everyone with her aim and cool headedness, but can you blame him for not being thrilled with her? How on earth are they supposed to have a romance after that? But the heroine in Tempest is such an amazing character that the hero really had no choice but to fall in love with her, and he’s not so bad himself once he got past his embarrassment at being shot by his intended bride (did I mention she was a mail order bride? There are so many great elements to this story!). Plus of course Ms. Bev incorporated all kinds of cool, little-known history in this book, making it educational in addition to being an awesome romance. What more can you ask for?
When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare
She invents a pretend Scottish fiance to avoid the pressures of the marriage mart, only for a real Scottish fiance to actually show up at her door one day.
Not going to lie, When a Scot Ties the Knot might have my favorite premise on this list. Like, in what universe would you ever expect an imaginary fiance to actually show up on your doorstep?! But it’s entirely plausible when you use such a common Scottish name as the heroine did, and while he was there to try and find a home for his men after the war, it turns out her letters meant more to him than she ever could have imagined. In true Tessa Dare style, this book is just so fun and funny and has all kinds of great banter, but it’s also so emotional and romantic, and I absolutely love it. I can’t pick just one favorite Tessa Dare novel, but this one is definitely up there. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it!
There you have it. Seven of my favorite romances that involve wild, outlandish setups that start the hero and heroine on their path towards love. They’re just so much fun!
I know this is only a small smattering of the crazy premises out there, so now it’s your turn. Let me know in the comments what some of your favorite wacky romances are!