What is a Comfort Read? And a #giveaway from Barbara Monajem

Barbara Monajem here. First, the giveaway: Comment below for a chance to win Rakes and Rogues (a boxed set by six authors, including me; see more info below). If you already have it, I’ll offer an alternative.

So, on to comfort reads. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about about what makes a book a comfort read. Obviously this varies from person to person, just like food—canned ravioli might be the ultimate comfort food for one person and absolute ick for someone else. Same goes for comfort reads.

Heyer Toll Gate

Last month, I blogged about binge-reading sci-fi by Lois McMaster Bujold, and how her books were comfort reads to me. More recently, I’ve been rereading historical adventure romances by Joanna Bourne—again, comfort reads. I’ve also been rereading mysteries written in the mid-20th century by Ngaio Marsh, and modern-day mysteries by Anne Cleeland. And of course there’s the old standby comfort read when all else fails—almost anything by Georgette Heyer.

So, what makes a comfort read for me? Hmm.

  • A happy ending. Doesn’t have to be a romantic happily ever after, just a positive resolution to the story.
  • Love scenes are fine, but I’m perfectly happy without them. If a story is too intensely erotic, it may be titillating, but it’s not a comfort read.
  • Characters I admire… Hmm, that may not be quite accurate. I don’t have to like the characters. They don’t necessarily have to be good people in a conventional kind of way. I rarely wish I could meet them or be friends with them. What matters is that I relate positively to their values and their struggles… It’s really hard to pin this down!
  • There shouldn’t be much in the way of graphic violence, cruelty, vengeance, addiction, etc. I may read this kind of book, but not for comfort.
  • Usually, my comfort reads do not take place in today’s world. I hardly ever read contemporary mystery or romance. I live in the real, present-day world, and reading about it isn’t comforting to me. I prefer escaping into the past, and occasionally the future or an imaginary world.
  • The only author I mentioned above who writes present-day mysteries is Anne Cleeland—but her characters are highly unusual and don’t do things by the rules. I guess that’s what comforting to me there.
  • Great writing, of course!

So, what makes a comfort read for you? Mention specific authors, if you like. One commenter will win Rakes and Rogues, as mentioned above.

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Here’s the blurb for Rakes and Rogues. Five of the stories in this boxed set have been published before, so if the winner prefers a different prize, no problem!

Rakes and Rogues abound in this six-book collection of secrets, spies, vengeance, and lust. From London’s glittering ballrooms to the intimate mischief of a pre-season country house party, be captivated by these sexy first in series Regency romances.

A duchess and her son’s heir join forces to solve a family mystery in ENGAGING THE ENEMY by Heather Boyd.

Barbara Monajem’s lady spy is a rogue in distress in THE RELUCTANT SEDUCTRESS.

An earl’s sensible plans go awry as he becomes embattled with a sworn enemy, and his best friend’s sister, in TO LOVE A HELLION by Nicola Davidson.

In Wendy Vella’s LORD GALLANT, newlyweds hide secrets and confront dangers of the heart as well as a deadly foe.

When a sizzling encounter with a handsome stranger at a masquerade ball leads to love, Fanny’s dreams have nearly come true in RAKE’S HONOUR by Beverley Oakley.

In LORD WASTREL by Donna Cummings, a former rake needs a scandal-free wife to help him raise his child, but he’s falling for London’s most notorious woman instead.

Publisher’s Note: With the exception of The Reluctant Seductress, these stories are all previously published works.

Follow Barbara Monajem:

Barbara Monajem started writing at eight years old. She has wandered from children’s fantasy through mystery to paranormal and historical romance. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and feline strays.

39 Responses

  1. Jacqueline Phelan

    I started reading early (I read Jane Eyre when I was ten) and it has been a joy and sustained me through the following fifty years! I suppose comfort reading for me is something that evokes happiness within me and (generally) has a happy ever after. I read and collected all of the Georgette Heyer books when I was about thirteen or fourteen and would buy a book and a packet of fudge and find a sunny spot for a couple of hours of bliss.Over the years I have found different genres of books and a short (ish) list of annual re-reads that I suppose form my comfort reads because they are both familiar and offer something to which I either aspire or relate. These re-reads I have in actual book format- and strangely I find that I cannot read them on my kindle- it just isn’t the same! Every year I re-read all of the Lord of the Rings plus the Hobbit, now there is no real romantic theme but there is a good deal of romance in the characters and genuine love towards friends. I also re-read H.E.Bates and his beautiful re-construction of English country life -told with a great deal of humour. Then it’s Stella Gibbons Cold Comfort Farm, all of P G Woodhouse, Evelyn Waugh, and then Benson all for their wonderful depiction of English humour and a way of life that is gradually passing. There is a great deal of comfort in the familiarity of these stories and delight that they never grow stale. Lastly, I continue to read (as I have done from the start) historical romances, they have changed a great deal over the fifty years and I still love them. They are a good deal raunchier, have a lot more actual history links, and provide fantastic escapism (I was never one for Norah Lofts and love on the breadline, who enjoys that?) No, bring me a handsome hero, a beautiful heroine, a lively plot and a happy ever after- hopefully in a series so that I can follow their friends and relatives- and I shall provide the packet of fudge and a sunny spot!

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Jacqueline. Yes! re Georgette Heyer and a few hours of bliss. I had forgotten about H.E. Bates. My parents had some of his books. I must go back and re-read. My mom also enjoyed books by Miss Read — about an English schoolteacher, as far as I recall — and I still have several on my shelves. I agree re reading them in book form. I do a lot of skimming and going back-and-forth when reading, more so with re-reads, so the Kindle doesn’t work well for them. It’s great when traveling, though. 🙂

  2. allybroadfield

    My comfort reads are those that make me laugh and also have a satisfying love story with at least a happy for now ending. I’m looking forward to reading Rakes and Rogues, but don’t enter me in the giveaway because I already have it. 🙂

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Ally — Thanks for buying Rakes and Rogues. Agreed, humor is a significant factor in comfort reads. I’ve done a lot of laughing out loud while reading a Heyer. 🙂

  3. I love to read this period. I rarely binge read anymore, which I think is something missing from my life! This book, I’m sure, would be the catalyst to start me up again!

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Linda — I’m the opposite. I didn’t used to binge read, but lately I’ve started to do so. 🙂

  4. For me a comfort read is a mystery with a large dollop of romance and a happy ending. I prefer historical but I’ll take contemporary, or sci-fi. I’ve recently fallen in love with historical cozies, especially those with an overall romantic arc.

    By the way, my Heyers would probably fall apart if I tried to take them out of the bookcase – they are all from the late 60s early 70s and they’ve moved countries three times.

    • Barbara Monajem

      LOL, Jan — most of my Heyers live in Ziploc bags because they’re falling apart. I’ve been thinking lately that a comfort *write* for me is probably what you describe — mystery with romance and a happy ending. I’ve got a plan…

      • Fiona Marsden

        I’ve been listening to Heyer on audio as I do a lot of driving. They work really well as audio books.

      • You’ve got a plan? Okay, I’m now officially excited. lol. I wonder if your plan includes a little supernatural or magic…

      • LOL, Jan. One of my plans includes some magic. The other is sort of borderline re magic–mostly mystery and some romance.

  5. Lisa Kleypas is my literary equivalent to chicken and noodles over a scoop of mashed potatoes. Comfort reads should make you feel good and just take you to that happy place – like starchy foods :).

    • Barbara Monajem

      Well, Jessica, since I’m on a low-carb diet, I don’t get much in the way of starchy foods, so I’m substituting comfort reads. 😉

  6. I am definitely a binge reader. I love reading. I read my first Harlequin when I was nine. I fell in love with romance that first book 😃

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Tammy. Wow, you started reading romance early! I don’t think I read my first Heyer until I was eleven or twelve! 🙂

  7. What a super post, Barbara. Such a good topic. I totally agree with you. My comfort read are several series about English rural/village life in the mid to latter 20th century by British Author Miss Read. I also love books with a positive resolution. Your giveaway looks great.

  8. Barbara Bettis

    Lovely post. My comfort reads are all historical and usually involve authors I’ve enjoyed for a long time, and even books I’ve read before and love. For comfort, I pick up these ‘old friends’ knowing I’ll not only enjoy the stories but revel all over in the authors’ writing. I couldn’t begin to list them all, but I will include Heyer. Your collection sounds wonderful, Barbara.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Barb. It looks like we have the same sort of taste in comfort reads. 🙂

  9. Fiona Marsden

    My Prozac shelf contains complete Georgette Heyer, Agatha Christie, Patricia Wentworth, Dorothy L Sayers and Ellis Peters and some Ngaio Marsh and other Golden Age Mystery authors. I have read all of them numerous times over the years. You can usually tell my levels of stress by what I’m reading. Heyer is superdouble dose Prozac. I have some favourite Mills & Boon books that I am happy to re-read. Most of these are vintage. I’m afraid I don’t have the trust in recently published books because so many contain trigger issues for me.

  10. Barbara Monajem

    Hi, Fiona. Yes, Heyer is especially comforting to me, too. I’d forgotten Patricia Wentworth — I think I have some of hers on my shelves. Another of the Golden Age mystery authors I read is Margery Allingham.

  11. Something not too heavy (hard core SciFi) bcos I don’t want to have to think hard. I like fantasy romance best bcos I like magical elements & the different settings

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Linda. I like fantasy romance, too — in fact, I like writing it a bit better than regular romance, I guess because it’s even more removed from the everyday world. A little bit of magic is always fun.

  12. I love historical romance, most especially the Regency period. Those I consider comfort books as they take me to another time and place and I get lost in another world and forget about my own life and troubles… I also like to imagine myself in the stories. I started reading those back in HS when we were assigned Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and I was hooked! I also enjoy a good cozy mystery. I get lost in all of the whodunits and interesting twists to the stories and I especially love to be surprised and the bad guy ends not being who I suspected! Those also, are comfort reads for me. Something fun and light!

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Janet. I too love it when I can’t guess who the bad guy is. Thinking about what you said, I guess I do imagine myself in the stories sometimes. Fun. 🙂

  13. I love Historical romance, also. Judith McNaught is a wonderful author!

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Josie. Thanks for the recommendation — I don’t believe I’ve read anything by McNaught.

  14. I like historical books, either current books written as historicals, or books that were written to be contemporary but are now historical (think the Tarzan books or Jane Austin). I do like some contemporary, but want some aspect of it to be supernatural or sci-fi. I agree that I want to escape from the real world!

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Ann. That’s my feeling about contemporary, too. If there’s something supernatural about it, it counts as an escape. 🙂

  15. Great post, Barbara! It seems like my “comfort reads” are the ones I’ve read so many times I practically have them memorized — I shouldn’t need to re-read them. LOL I also feel like I’m checking in on my buddies, to make sure things haven’t changed since their HEA. That’s what I tell myself when I re-read Suzanne Brockmann’s series. 🙂 And Georgette Heyer of course!

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Donna — LOL, I have some passages more or less memorized, too. My daughters and I quote them to one another!

  16. beppie2014

    Great blog, Barbara. All my books except what’s on the Kindle and the 4 or 5 I picked up at RWA are in boxes now, and how I miss them! Like some of the others, print is the way I cuddle into a comfort read: the Kindle is so irritating to flip back and forth in or try to locate a treasured passage! Georgette Heyer of course; some of Nora Roberts’ classic trilogies–the Irish ones, and the Chesapeake Bay books are immensely comforting. Sigh. The new bookshelves arrive 7/29, and I can lay hands on my old friends then!

  17. Barbara Monajem

    Hi, Beppie. I completely relate — it’s hard not to have those favorites at one’s fingertips. Won’t be long!

  18. Mary Preston

    My comfort reads tend to be old favorites. Characters that I love. Worlds I want to live in. I’ll grab an Agatha Christie or Terry Pratchett or……so many more.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Mary. Many of my comfort reads are old favorites, too. 🙂

  19. I can get into a Nora Roberts book. I once grabbed Lavyrle Spencer. Now I need time to read for comfort or fun!

  20. Barbara Monajem

    And the winner is…Jacqueline! I will email you about how to receive your prize. Thanks for the comments, everyone. 🙂