Warm, low-stress novels

We can definitely all use a comfort read from time to time, or in this case probably all spring at least, am I right?

I suspect a lot of us may be looking for a story that is:

a) catchy and engaging, so that the story will pull you in even if you’re distracted by real-world concerns.

b) possibly exciting but not especially stressful, with a guaranteed happy ending.

c) warm in tone, with “warm” as an antonym for . . . I don’t know . . . gritty, maybe. I mean something that feels warm and fuzzy, like curling up in your favorite fluffy robe with a couple of spaniels and a roaring fireplace and a mug of hot chocolate. Or whatever you prefer. That feeling, anyway.

Here are some novels, in no particular order, that to me fit these criteria:

  1. Chalice by Robin McKinley

2. Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn

3. Fortune and Fate, also by Sharon Shinn, preferably with the original cover rather than the worst cover in the world.

4. Island of Ghosts by Gillian Bradshaw

5. Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by LMB

6. Thornyhold by Mary Stewart

7. Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart

8. Oh, yes, The Blue Sword, also by Robin McKinley

9. Dealing with Dragons by Patricia Wrede

10. And, to wrap it up, of my own books, I think the best comfort-book candidate is:

Also, to be sure, a lot of romances. Nothing like romances for a definite happily-ever-after. I’m reading a very good historical romance at the moment, but for contemporary romances, I particularly favor Laura Florand:

How about you all? What books do you find especially comforting when you want something warm and reassuring to read?

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11 thoughts on “Warm, low-stress novels”

  1. I cannot imagine any list that includes both “The Blue Sword and “Capt. Vorpatril’s Alliance” other than “books by good authors.” “Blue Sword” isn’t low stress in any traditional sense, unless you are just assuming it will end happily.

    No argument on Vorpatril though. That one is really low stress.

  2. As for low-stress books… I suspect certain books by Stephanie Burgis count. Certainly “Dragon with a Chocolate Heart” is clearly going to have an entirely happy ending, just from the title alone.

  3. Pete, you may be right. I have The Blue Sword basically memorized, so perhaps I’m not able to quite see it as a new reader would.

    I like the suggestion of The Dragon With a Chocolate Heart. Good one!

  4. I just re-read The Blue Sword for this very reason! I agree with your whole list except haven’t read Island of Ghosts and read Thornyhold too long ago to remember. I’ll have to go check them out..

    For me, anything by J. Kathleen Cheney fits and also Andrea Host, although with the later it’s because I know they end well.

    Also a couple of recent finds:
    Paladin’s Grace by T. Kingfisher
    The Henri Davenforth series by Honor Raconteur (new book coming very soon!)

  5. I’ve read and liked all the books on this list except Island of Ghosts and Troubled waters. Both are in my TBR pile and will now get moved to near the top.

    I agree that Stephanie Burgis’ books are this kind of comfort reads, both the Chocolate & dragons trilogy and the Harwood spellbook (starting with Snowspelled).
    A lot of Andrea K. Höst’s are on my personal comfort reading list, reread multiple times and always enjoyed (not Medair though, as that type of ending is on my dislike list even though the books themselves are fine). The Touchstone series with all the related books is still my favorite, but anything she writes is an auto-buy for me because they’re all good, and almost all get reread.

    I will now check out J. Kathleen Cheney and the Henri Davenforth series by Honor Raconteur, and move Troubles waters to the top of the (electronic) pile.
    Thsnks for the suggestions!

    Patricia A. McKillip’s Changeling sea is on my comfort reading list too, and can trigger a craving for some more of her books. I tend to go for Robin McKinley’s Beauty instead of Chalice (I love her horse, but hate the names of the sisters; I don’t have any affinity for bees).

    One fairly recent discovery for me, who I think belongs in this comfort read category, is the author FORTHRIGHT, with the Amaranthine saga: three books and some shorter stories in the same world, starting with 1 Tsumiko and the enslaved fox, then 2 Kimiko and the accidental proposal, and 3 Tamiko and the two janitors.
    They are contemporary fantasy with a Japanese flavor, and a kindness that puts them in the comfort read category for me. I’m not sure if they’d be to Rachel’s taste as some of the magic biology is fantastical, and the fantastic creatures do not really behave much like the animals they’re based on, as far as I can tell.

    Terry Pratchett is a reliable source for taking me out of a moping mood; I like the Vimes series, some of the singletons and the witches best.

    Lisa Shearin’s Raine Benares fantasy series (starting with Magic lost, trouble found) is fast-paced, snarky and humorous, and the books and the series end well; they’re good at sucking me in but not exactly relaxing to read. I’ve not reread them yet, but if I need a really energetic distraction I might go for these six books.

    I also like the Liaden Universe short stories by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller – a lot less tense than the novels, but of similar heart.

    Jenny Colgan’s modern romances, like Little Beach street bakery, are gentle and kind too, and not steamy.

    Emily Hendrickson wrote lots of really oldfashioned basic historical romances that are light and short to read, always end well, and tend to be kind in tone: fluff without much body, but gentle fluff suitable as a distraction when I’m tired. Georgette Heyer is less basic, has better style, but is a bit similar in type.

    On the really oldfashioned side, I like some of the less-famous stories by L.M. Montgomery, like the Emily trilogy, or Pat, but I need to be in a fairly calm mood already to be able to get into them.
    The same goes for Rosamunde Pilcher’s gentle almost-contemporary stories.

    A few more modern romance writers that give me that sense of comfort: Janet Chapman has some really unbelievable fantasy elements in some of her books (the worst of which I don’t like), but most of her books are just a nice, light and relaxing read for me. If you like some magic in your romance, try Spellbound Falls; if not, her standalone last one, From kiss to queen, could give you a taste of her writing style. Unfortunately, I read that she died last year, so no more new books from her will be appearing.

    Jennifer Crusie writes modern romance with no fantastic elements but more exitement, especially in the later books, and also an occasional nice snarky humor (a lot lighter touch than Lisa Shearin); I like her voice, and most don’t get too tense, at least not for long.

    Patricia Rice writes in many different romance subgenres, from contemporary with fantastic elements (Crystal magic series), contemporary romantic mysteries (Blue clouds), contemporary spy-tales with slowburning romance (the Genius books), to historical romances with some small magic elements (the Magical Malcolms) and historical romances without fantasy trappings, set in America (American dreams, Carolina or Texas) or in a more traditional regency romance setting (5 or so different sets, from light and short to longer and more complex). I almost always enjoy them; they tend to have a bit more body than Emily Hendrickson, can be a bit more complicated, but always end well, and I like her writing style.

  6. I’m certainly adding a bunch of novels to my Samples folder in a hurry. Tons of suggestions; thank you all.

  7. All the Sharon Shinn, Gillian Bradshaw, and LMB books are on my comfort reading list, and I’m not sure I can read The Blue Sword anymore or the book will fall apart. For true comfort I re read Dorothy Dunnett, the last two books of the Lymond chronicles.

  8. Good heavens, Alison. I find the Lymond books anything but low stress. Granted, once you know how everything ends, it’s fine.

    How about the Niccolo series? I found those so high-stress I only read the series once, where I’ve read the Lymond series four or five times.

    Hanneke, let me know what you think of them both!

  9. An old one, Elizabeth Goudge’s Damerosehay trilogy which starts with Pilgrim’s Inn. Contemporary when written and just… warm and comforting.

  10. I agree with you- the Niccolo Rising series was not one I could read more than once, while I’ve read the Lymond chronicles more times than I can count. Not sure why, but it’s always a treat to go back and read. Another comfort novel: A Song for Arbonne. Titans might be my favorite but A Song for Arbonne is a better comfort novel.

  11. I also lean toward McKinley’s Beauty.

    And I recommend Ursula Vernon’s Castle Hangnail.

    And I think the best candidate among my own works is The Princess Seeks Her Fortune. 0:)

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