Turn These Headlines Into Romcoms STAT!

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Jamie Canaves

Contributing Editor

Jamie Canavés is the Tailored Book Recommendations coordinator and Unusual Suspects mystery newsletter writer–in case you’re wondering what you do with a Liberal Arts degree. She’s never met a beach she didn’t like, always says yes to dessert, loves ‘80s nostalgia, all forms of entertainment, and can hold a conversation using only gifs. You can definitely talk books with her on Litsy and Goodreads. Depending on social media’s stability maybe also Twitter and Bluesky.

If I had a penny for every time I saw a headline and my brain’s first thought was “I want to read the romcom version of that!” I’d have a bunch of pennies. The world is certainly not without inspiration for novels, especially romcoms. If it were possible to write a book a day, I’d probably just do that with all these ideas, but alas there is this super pesky thing we call time. So instead — since apparently I can’t fight time — I like to play a game where I imagine the romcom version inspired by a headline I’ve seen.

Now, this isn’t to take a real life story, and very real people, and just fictionalize them. Instead I use the headline as a jumping off point that gives an idea for a fun plot of a romcom — basically the setup, which is my catnip. And hopefully Hollywood has learned its lesson from the years it turned its back on blockbuster romcoms and is looking to adapt all the romcom novels now. In that perfect scenario, here are headlines that made me imagine a great romcom setup for a novel that would then make a great film adaptation. These would be automatic buys for me, and I’m already making the popcorn for the film adaptation.

Miss Argentina and Miss Puerto Rico Reveal They Secretly Got Married

Book cover of Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall: an illustration of a woman in an apron standing in front of a stove/oven range with her hands on her hips.

Think of the way that it became popular recently to set romcoms in the world of reality food shows (Battle Royal; Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake), but now make it a beauty pageant. So much can be done here. They can start as enemies, or they can do the trifecta of having been friends that became enemies that then became lovers. They can be best friends competing together the whole time. They can be lovers competing the whole time.

Like the food reality show books, comedy can ensue so easily from all the chaos and characters around them. That allows the romance to be sweet, with the tension and conflict coming from the characters surrounding them.

With so many countries that participate in international beauty pageants it can be a series with different country focuses, written by a different author each book. Other fun, similar settings: the Olympics, bodybuilding competitions, strength competitions…

Carey Mulligan & Marcus Mumford’s Relationship Began In An Old-School Way

Book cover of The Bollywood Bride by Sonali Dev

There is so much that can be done with adult celebrities that have lost touch since childhood, but were once fellow campers who then continued their friendship as pen pals. Seriously, you can pick two celebrities in two totally different fields: do they have similar personalities or are complete opposites? Why did they lose touch? How do they finally reconnect? Is one of them going through a hard time and somehow comes across an old letter and reaches out to the other? Does one casually tell a funny story in an interview about having gone to camp with the other — maybe an embarrassing story — that then creates a ripple in the other’s life?

There’s also a lot to explore here in how much we get to grow in the mind of people who have a set perception of us from childhood. But please make them fictional celebrities, like in You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria, If the Boot Fits by Rebekah Weatherspoon, and The Bollywood Bride by Sonali Dev, rather than using real life celebrities — that always makes me uncomfortable if they didn’t give permission.

She put a stranger on her shoulders at a Phillies rally. Now fans want them to marry.

What if a fun moment goes viral and you suddenly find yourself being pressured by strangers into the story they want your life to be? Maybe after being hounded they decide to fake a relationship, thinking that people will soon get bored by their everyday fake relationship and move on. But, and here’s the twist, instead of the falling for each other trope, they fall for people in each other’s lives. Hilarity ensues as they hide their very real relationships from the public while faking a relationship with each other.

Grandmother and Stranger She Accidentally Texted Spend 7th Thanksgiving Together

I was surprised this actual story hadn’t already been turned into some inspirational TV holiday film so I went to the google and it turns out it is in the works: Netflix Making Movie About Grandma Who Accidentally Invited a Stranger to Thanksgiving Dinner. I, on the other hand, am just using the initial concept for a great slow-burn romcom setup: Older woman accidentally texts a young man she doesn’t know, inviting him for Thanksgiving. After the text exchange goes viral, he ends up going to the Thanksgiving. There he meets a relative/neighbor who he immediately has sparks with and thinks this is why the text must have happened, because he’s a big believer in fate. But it’s not meant to be (yet!): the other young man is there with someone. From there, we get this one holiday over the course of years, and how every time they meet back up, there is a complication that keeps them apart, despite enough sparks to cook a turkey. Until, of course, one of them is convinced by someone else to stop waiting until that one day a year to see each other and to just finally grab their own destiny. And so they do and there’s a grand gesture — bring in another holiday! — and then they finally get their HEA! Four Thanksgivings and a Wedding. You’re welcome publishing!

Tom Justice was once a cyclist chasing Olympic gold. Then he began using his bike for a much different purpose: robbing banks.

Book cover of A Spy in the Struggle by Aya de Leon

Marry a romcom with a procedural or an amateur sleuth and you’ve got gold here! I’m thinking of authors like Aya de León and Alyssa Cole who do a wonderful job of marrying crime with a romance story — and also Jesse Q. Sutanto, who married a comedy of errors with a crime novel and a romance novel. This set-up would pair either a bank employee affected by the robbery or a bank customer with either an FBI agent on the hunt for the thieving cyclist or an amateur sleuth certain the FBI won’t ever catch the robber. The humor can come in from scenes of chasing a bicyclist through a race and someone who is not athletic can go undercover as a cyclist and learn fun lessons like a sore rear. All while getting to know each other and falling in love, of course.

That Time Isabel Allende Got Fired for (Re)Writing Feminist Characters

There is actually already a film with the basis of this story, Book of Love, but I want a romcom in book form. And then that book can be adapted into another film. I promise there is room for all: romance fans are never not thirsty.

In this version, an editor gets fired for the changes they made to a book that creates a huge social media fight of the author’s fans vs. not fans. In the process of the editor being sued by a not-nice author, she ends up in a tricky situation of falling for the author’s oldest child — the child who has publicly gone head-to-head with their dad for years. We get a mix of the legal profession, the publishing world, diehard author fans, family drama, and a love story with hurdles.

While you wait for romance authors to write these gems, you can snuggle up with already published manga romcoms. And if you want a ton of backlist, here are 100 Must-Read Romantic Comedies.