In Search of a Good Laugh

If an author’s book makes me laugh, then there is a 99.9% chance that I am going to love the book because I love to laugh. I seek out books or movies that have a good probability of doing that. And why not? It is a win-win situation. Read a book that makes you laugh and you relieve stress and depression. You improve your immune system and your digestion. But most of all, laughing just makes us feel GOOD. But why read about it? Watch the video to experience it. Feel better now?

The caveat is finding authors that write the humor I find funny. Have you ever gone to a comedy club where everyone is howling with laughter while you sit there stone faced, or a co-worker tells a joke and you are thinking, “This is not funny.” If so, then join the club, because that is me. It is not that I am oblivious to a supposedly funny scene. I recognize immediately any scene that appears written to be cute or funny — except that humor can be very subjective and not all of these scenes are funny to me.

There are very few authors that can make me laugh out loud immediately. Susan Elizabeth Phillips did it in It Had To Be You, but honestly that is uncommon. However, if I spontaneously smile in the first chapter then I make the assumption that the author and I share the same sense of humor and hope for more. You notice I said first chapter. I recently read Second Guessing Fate by Claire Robyns and in the very beginning the author used the expression “my biological clock is spinning, Helly, it is spinning down like a bloody stopwatch on Viagra.” Now I think of Viagra as, let’s say, a firming drug or even a blood pressure drug, so I didn’t immediately figure out that the author meant that Viagra only lasts so long until it stops. The opening scene in Don’t Mess with Texas by Christie Craig, where the heroine runs into her ex-husband, didn’t grab me, but by the time I reached the scene below, the author had my interest. Later I laughed all the way through both books.

The thing about humor is that there is no right or wrong answer. We all have different tastes. Personally I thought the apology in the form of the film clip hilarious in What I Did For Love, which actually surprised me, since dark humor is hit and miss with me with the exception of the Far Side by Gary Larson.

I have taken a scene from three books recently reviewed here at AAR. While I am not saying that the scenes are the best in the first chapter, I think they do indicate the variance in types of humor.

Animal Attraction by Jill Shalvis
(Hero has just charmed a little kitten)
“Yeah, there you go,” he said quietly. “Lifting his head, he flashed a grin at Jade. “If only your species were as easy.”
“We both know that for you they are.” She shook her head. And that should be illegal.”
“What?” He asked innocently. “Sweet-talking a p—“
“If you say pussy,” she warned. I’ll make sure that tomorrow you’ll be up to your eyeballs in vaccines and well puppy checkups from sun up until sun down.
“I like puppies.”
“Scratch the puppies. Did I say puppies? I meant anal gland expressing. I’ll find every large animal in Sunshine who needs it done and book them, just for you.”

Don’t Mess with Texas by Christie Craig
Dallas O’Connor walked into the building that housed both his business and apartment. Stopping just inside the doorway, he waited. Five seconds. Ten. When Bud didn’t greet him, Dallas looked over at the coffin against the nearby wall. Someone had opened the dang thing again.
“He growled low in his throat, “Get out of there.”
One soulful second later, Bud—short for “Budweiser” – raised his head from inside the coffin and rested his hanging jowls on the edge of the polished wooden box. The pain of being chastised flashed in his huge bug eyes. Bud, an English bulldog, hated being chastised.

Bad Boys Do by Victoria Dahl
“Happy Wednesday, ladies.”
Gwen grinned. “Don’t you mean happy hump day?”
Aw, come on, Gwen. I’m a nice boy. You should be ashamed of yourself?
“I’d like to be. Wanna help?”
For a split second, Olivia thought Gwen had gone too far. She’d offended this man. He was just doing his job. Olivia touched Gwen’s arm, trying to prompt her to apologize, but suddenly his face cracked, and he burst into loud laughter.
“Good one, “he chuckled. “You been saving that up for me?”

Any of the scenes make you smile? Make you want to buy the book?

So how do you find the authors that give you the belly laughs? I rely heavily on authors that have a proven track record with me, like Rachel Gibson, Julie James, Robin Kaye, Jill Mansell, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. So who are your go-to authors for great laughs?

I am hoping that I will discover new books and new authors from your input. I definitely know that a few of you keep a humor rating for all the books that you read. What is the last book that had you laughing out loud like the baby in the video? Do you actively seek out these types of books?

– Leigh Davis

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44 Responses to In Search of a Good Laugh

  1. lauren says:

    Its always an added reward to read a book and in the midst of it have a good laugh or two! It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen when I least expect it…I guess that’s why I love reading.

  2. maggie b. says:

    Emily Carmichael, Robin Wells early books, Eugenia Riley, Casey Claybourne – these are all older writers who made me laugh. SEP is of course the Queen of the Comedic Romance. I still laugh at Jennifer Cruise and Agnes and the Hitman is an all time favorite of mine. Mary Janice Davidson first three books in the Undead series. Janet Evanovich books Metro Girl and Motor Mouth are hilarious, imo.

    Off the top of my head, these are the ones that come to mind.

    maggie b.

  3. maggie b. says:

    For those that don’t mind Inspirationals Love Finds You in Hershey, PA by Cerella Sechrist. Also Deeanne Gist’s Courting Trouble.

    maggie b.

  4. LeeB. says:

    Sophie Kinsella definitely comes to mind. In regencies, Barbara Metzger.

  5. Just Tink says:

    I love authors who can make me laugh. Does anyone have recommendations for historical romances that fit that bill? Those seem to be harder to find than contemporary stories…


  6. xina says:

    I love the book, Indiscretion by Jillian Hunter, and have read it several times simply because it makes me laugh and is really a mood lifter for me. I really enjoy Janet Evanovich humor and SEP is another author that can make me laugh. I do think that humor is subjective, and it can be hard to recommend books. One reader’s funny, may fall flat with another reader.

  7. wenmc says:

    I agree with xina, because I only laughed at one of the excerpts above. Humor is totally subjective. So with that in mind, I always laugh at the Janet Evanovich books, even though they are getting a little stale lately. SEP is one for making me laugh, and JD Robb’s “In Death” books, I am always laughing at Eve and Peabody’s repartee.

  8. bungluna says:

    Lynsay Sands tickles my funnybone, both in historical and contemporary forms. The Romance Convention scene in “Single White Vampire” is one of my all-time favorite lol scenes ever.

    Karen Hawkins’ “Talk of the Town” was pretty funny.

    Jennifer Crusie has already been mentioned. I love her sense of humor.

    MaryJanice Davidson and Janet Evanovich used to be hilarious, but their more recent work has left me cold.

    That’s all I can think of off the top of my head. I too have a very persnikety sense of humor. I look forward to trying some of the recommendations given here and finding a new funny author.

  9. Mark says:

    The first part of this column in 1998 is about humor in romances:
    I wouldn’t change much of what I wrote then, though I would update a few ratings based on later rereading.
    My current list of romances with the most humor is in a thread on the AAR Potpourri board: favorite funny book??? Need holiday read.
    AAR also has a list of favorite funny romances, though it hasn’t been updated in a couple years:
    At the level of authors, this list is from a descending sort in order of the most books I’ve read with the highest humor ratings.
    Highest rating 5 stars:
    holbrook, cindy
    evanovich, janet
    quinn, julia
    macalister, katie
    alexander, victoria
    lansdowne, judith a.
    nelson, judith
    michaels, kasey
    leclaire, day
    crusie, jennifer
    laurenston, shelly
    davidson, maryjanice
    krentz, jayne ann
    quick, amanda
    smythe, sheridon
    garwood, julie
    thompson, vicki lewis
    phillips, susan elizabeth
    jensen, trish
    joy, dara
    jensen, emma
    sands, lynsay
    martin, michelle
    davis, maggie
    lynson, jane
    Highest rating 4 stars:
    metzger, barbara
    heyer, georgette
    kendall, karen
    hill, sandra
    darcy, clare
    jeffries, sabrina
    christenberry, judith/judy
    mcwilliams, judith
    lindsey, johanna
    paisley, rebecca
    mccarthy, erin
    hooper, kay
    howard, linda
    barnett, jill
    gracie, anne
    enoch, suzanne
    bond, stephanie
    linz, cathie
    james, julie
    donovan, susan
    klassel, jennie
    devon, marian
    d’alessandro, jacquie
    smith, joan
    carroll, susan
    sparks, kerrelyn
    blair, annette
    stuart, anne
    dalton, emily
    farr, diane
    kenner, julie
    kistler, julie
    long, julie anne
    gladstone, maggie
    hern, candice
    schulze, dallas
    bradley, celeste
    damon, lee
    gabriel, kristin
    maxwell, katie
    raye, kimberly
    brockway, connie
    king, claire
    clark, gail (mackeever)
    coughlin, patricia
    graves, trish (jensen)
    kane, kathleen
    mckeone, dixie
    porter, cheryl anne
    woodbury, leonora
    With all the romances I’ve read, I still have hundreds in my tbr lists that have been recommended for humor, so the list above is far from comprehensive.

  10. LiviaM says:

    I agree that we have different perceptions of humor. Many of the books my friends love I find.. just nice.
    But two days after reading The Serpent Prince I would burst laughing in the middle of a meeting whilre remembering key scenes :)
    I didn’t laugh at many SEP books, but Match me if you can was out of the ordinary for me.
    Also, What Happens in London – by Julia Quinn – I found it boring except the times she reads him from the gothic novel – I have bought the paperback so I can put bookmarks for those scenes :)

  11. Eggletina says:

    Some of Georgette Heyer’s Regencies have made me laugh (“The Grand Sophy” for example).

  12. leigh7333 says:

    Just Tink,

    I really enjoyed Maggie Osborne historicals. While most are written as frontier westerns, Lady Reluctant is a historical with portions of it set in England. I rolled on the floor reading this book. But it has been ages. Still I do think I would still find it funny.

    I also loved the Promise of Jenny Jones. . . It is pricey at Amazon. They have a couple of copies for over $20.00. I am surprised that her e-books are priced so high I guess her publisher still owns the rights. Many of her books are reviewed here. .

  13. JoAnn says:

    My favorite lol book is Match Me If You Can by Susan Elizabeth Phillips…even after multiple readings. Such a great story.
    Would also add Can You Keep A Secret by Sophie Kinsella and Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis

  14. PatH says:

    I love any unexpected emotional response while I’m reading a book–laughing, crying, snorting (You know, the snort of I can’t believe I just read that!), blushing, any and all emotional responses.

    I think emotional reponses are harder to have when they’re expected, when I’m reading a book a friend says will make me laugh out loud, for example.

  15. Carrie says:

    Along with several of the authors already mentioned (Shalvis, Crusie, SEP, Heyer), the dialog in JAK’s All Night Long always makes me giggle, as does the dialog in Sunny Chandler’s Return, by Sandra Brown. I’ve had some laugh out loud moments with Ilona Andrews Kate Daniel’s series. Donna Andrews writes the Meg Langslow mysteries and the first few especially are a hoot. Tami Hoag’s The Trouble with JJ is a favorite of mine for humor. Other authors that have made me laugh, Elaine Fox, Ellen Fisher, Erin McCarthy, Linda Howard and some of Janet Evanovich’s early romance.

    Interestingly, many of the authors who make me laugh also make me cringe at times, especially Crusie and SEP. And i also noted that some of the books that made me laugh, don’t necessarily rate top on my list overall. I can read a book that has some great funny scenes and still not think the book as a whole is all that special.

  16. farmwifetwo says:

    LRK and her fans swear her last The Pirate King was funny and I must have missed it since I was bored the entire time through it.

    I love Shelly Laurenston’s/GA Aiken’s PNR’s but they fall on the more crass side of humour and I appreciate that many don’t find them funny.

    I Love this Bar by Carolyn Brown kept me entertained the entire flight last year to Charlotte NC. So much so I bought “Hell Yeah” and hated it. Redo of the exact same plot, exact same laughs. I recommend “I love this bar” and stop right there. I have yet to try the next in the series b/c of book 2.

    I also enjoy GA McKevitt’s not quite cozy/cozy mysteries. Start’s at “Just Desserts”. Another series I don’t recommend reading one after the other. I have enjoyed them all, but they do overlap, so they are best read one here…. and one in a few months.

    Ilona Andrew’s “Edge” series. Her “Kate Daniel’s” are more serious and UF… “The Edge” are much lighter. Her bad guys are nice and gory but Hallowe’en style… so over-the-top you roll your eyes and keep reading.

    I read very little humourous romance since I rarely find them funny and the angst ruins the books for me.

  17. Julie L says:

    I love humor in romances too! Some of Julie Garwood’s historicals have some very funny parts to them, such as The Bride and The Lion’s Lady. The Crocodile on the Sandbank books are hilarious too by Elizabeth Peters. They are mysteries, but have some romance in them. I second Julie James and Robin Kaye for contemporaries too. I can always count on Julia Quinn for humor, particularly Romancing Mr. Bridgerton and How To Marry a Marquis. Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase has some funny bits in it as well as Kiss of the Highlander and Spell of the Highlander by Karen Marie Moning.

  18. Martha Lawson says:

    mr. perfect by linda howard is hysterical! Also, for historicals Kiernan Kramer (hope that is spelled right!!) is so very funny. Laughed all the way thru her books..

  19. jml says:

    I love a balance of angst and laughter.

    Many of the authors and books mentioned above are favs. There are also so many titles that I’ve forgotten but when I do a re-read years later and I’m laughing I realize why that book is on my keeper shelf.

    Open Season by Linda Howard was about murderers but there where parts that made me laugh out loud. J.D. Robb often features seriously sick perpetrators but then she’ll open the next chapter with some fun dialog between main characters.

    And Julia Quinn wrote a dedication to her husband in one of her historicals where she mentions that she had asked him for medical advice to save the hero. Her husband responded that “he has to die”. I loved finding that hidden gem where I was least expecting to find it.

  20. Susan says:

    For historicals, Loretta Chase has wonderful humor and sharp wit.

    Shelly Laurentson has some hilarious PNR books. Beast Behaving Badly is one of my favorites.

    Jennifer Cruisie was always a favorite for contemporary humor, and the Chicago Stars books by SEP.

  21. Corie says:

    Funniest scene I read was probably from Too Good To Be True by Kristan Higgins…the one where the heroine was trapped in an office closet and right outside it her parents were trying to have sex on the desk with some role playing involved.

    I always manage to laugh out loud (or chuckle out loud) whenever I read SEP. Even her “serious” books will always have their light/funny moments.

  22. Theresa says:

    The Unknown Ajax, also a G. Heyer, was very funny. Lots of little digs at the pompous lord that were well-deserved.

  23. kathy says:

    I think the funniest book I’ve read lately is “His At Night”. Lord Vere was hysterical!!

  24. Ell says:

    I’ll toss my two cents worth in, since nobody else has mentioned Janet Mullany’s The Rules of Gentility. A really funny, fun Regency.

  25. leigh7333 says:

    Ell, I don’t think I have read The Rules of Gentility, I will have to check it out. Have you ever read Judith Nelson’s Kidnap Confusion
    I remember thinking it was hilarious.

    Kathy, I haven’t read His At Night either. I haven’t been reading historicals, so thanks for mentioning this.

    Theresa, I LOVE the Unknown Ajax. The scene at dinner when he first meets the family, and then the ending scene are wonderful. My favorites of Heyer are all her funny books like the Unknown Ajax, The Talisman Ring, The Grand Sophy, Cotillion, and of course many more. But these books I re-read the most.

    Susan, Loretta Chase’s great wit is one reason she is such a favorite of mine. And of course I love many of SEP’s books. I am going to have to try Ms. Laurenston’s books again. I read one, but didn’t read more.

    Corie, I DO NOT remember that scene. It is definitely time for a re-read.

    jml, I remember that dedication. . . Funny.

    Farmwifetwo, Susan and you both have mentioned Laurenston, so I will have to try her again.

    Carrie, you are so right about sometime a book being humorous but make you cringe. I think Nobody’s Baby But Mine has funny scenes, but it is not a favorite.

  26. leigh7333 says:

    PatH, I agree completely. I find that I am almost more impressed when I discover a new author that is funny to me, then one that I expect to be funny.

    JoAnn, Match Me if I Can and Natural Born Charmer are definitely one of my favorite books by SEP. I even purchased the audio version of both.

    Eggletina, completely agree with you on The Grand Sopy. I love when she goes to retrieve the jewelry from the moneylender.

    Mark, what a great column. I don’t think I ever read it before. I didn’t discover this site until around 1999. You are definitely the expert on humor in books.

    bungluna, I know I have looked at Ms. Sands books, but I don’t remember reading any. I will have to check out her books.

    Julie L, I resisted reading Ms. Garwoods books for the longest time because I thought they sounded dumb. Finally I tried her and she quickly became a favorite. But after a while her humor just seemed recycled. But I do remember her early books fondly.

    Martha Lawson, I haven’t tried Ms. Kramer books. With contemporary books as my first choice, looks like I missed out on quite a few humorous historical authors.

    LiviaM, haven’t read the Serpent’s Prince either. For some reason I thought this book had lots of angst?

    Xina, I will have to check out Indiscretion by Jillian Hunter.

    wenmc, I think this thread just confirms our differences in humor.

    LeeB. Oh, Metzger was a big favorite of mine, along with Garwood. I think she fell victim to my general malaise with historicals.

    Maggie, I haven’t read the inspirationals, but agree with the others that you have listed. Loved Miss Piggy.

  27. leigh7333 says:

    lauren, I love it when I am surprised by a book. I think I tend to rave more about books that do that than others, because it is so unexpected.

  28. Carlotta says:

    What the Librarian Did by Karina Bliss was the funniest book I’ve read lately. Silver Lining by Maggie Osborne had me rolling on the floor. As already been mentioned several times I giggle and laugh through many SEP books.

  29. farmwifetwo says:

    Just finished Love Drunk Cowboy by Carolyn Brown. It had a couple of “WH???” moments… one was an entire scene that I think was suppose to have been put in for laughs and since it didn’t belong in the story fell flat IMO…. It was light, funny, angst to a minimum… and I stayed up too late reading.

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  31. Mary Skelton says:

    Some of the things Jamie says in the “Outlander” books cracked me up.

  32. Victoria S says:

    Just Tink, I read A Lot of Historicals, and I find humor in the strangest places:
    Anne Mallory’s In Total Surrender is not a comedy but the dialogue–laugh-out-loud hilarious
    Julia Quinn-What Happens in London has laugh out loud funny scenes
    Loretta Chase-Lord of Scoundrels, The Last Hellion and Don’t tempt Me. The Carsingtons are written with humor; Miss Wonderful, Mr. Impossible, Lord Perfect, Not Quite A Lady and Last Night’s Scandal
    jml’s suggestion Open Season by Linda Howard is a scream(contemporary), as is Drop Dead Gorgeous
    Amanda Quick’s “one word title” historicals are light and amusing-Rendevous ,Deception, Scandal. She also has two old contemps that are very funny–Absolutely,Positively and Trust Me.

    And I still laugh each and every time Stephanie Plum kills a car in Janet Evanovich’s series

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