Cozy Mystery Books with Just TOOO Much Romance…

A few days ago, Patricia posted this comment on the blog:

“I know this may seem a bit of a rant but I would like to have the views of other readers on this. For many years I have been reading murder mystery cozies and thoroughly enjoyed and devoured them, but I am finding with some of the authors in the past year in particular that perhaps they are writing a romance rather than a murder mystery cozy. On several occasions lately I have picked up their latest paperback, eager to read it, and half way through I start to wonder if the murder mystery is still relevant as I am sidetracked onto the existing romance/or new one and have to go a few chapters before getting back to the plot. On a few occasions this year I have put the book down, not wishing to continue as it has been driving me round the bend.

Sorry for this but I am just wondering if other recipients to your website are finding the same problem.”

Well, Patricia, I have to admit to not having that happen in the Cozy Mystery books that I try. I know that even Agatha Christie would throw a little romantic side-line into her novels a lot of the time. Sometimes she would simply have a young, level-headed working woman (a private secretary, or a terrific housekeeper, you know… something of that sort) who would meet a young man from a “good family” who didn’t care about social class stereotypes. But, she always kept those plot lines as very secondary.

How about you all, what do you think of the romance genre possibly moving into the Cozy Mystery genre? Please post your comments, and thank you!


  1. says

    I liked a side romance–so long as it is a side. Being terribly picky, I prefer it be the SAME romance (same guy) each book. I love Janet Evanovich’s One for the Money series, but after 8 books of not choosing a guy and thinner plots…I admit, I read a couple more, but I did lose interest.

    I liked Sookie Stackhouse at first too, but after 3 books and 3 boyfriends, that was enough for me. I like plot and character growth but I don’t like when there’s a main romance that keeps changing every book.

    I don’t think I’ve really read a cozy that turned too romantic, but I do agree if there is too much character angst going on (concerning the romance) it can really detract from the mystery plot.

  2. Kay says

    I have noticed (and regret) the tendency for the main character’s personal life issues, whether romance or otherwise, to become a major focus of the book, and for that to continue with each new book using that character. I want a cozy mystery to be about the puzzle, the motivations, the clues, the process of unraveling the threads. I prefer the way Miss Silver, Miss Marple, Hercules Poirot and others remained stable, and the book was about solving the mystery, not sorting out their personal problems.

  3. Carrie says

    I don’t mind when the romance is peripheral to the mystery, like with Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane in Dorothy L. Sayers’ books or like Daisy Dalrymple and Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher in Carola Dunn’s books. However, when the mystery becomes secondary to the romantic plot of the book then I agree with Patricia.

    I have never liked Mills & Boone type books and I definitely don’t want my cozy mysteries spoilt by an unnecessary emphasis on the romance instead of on the crime being solved.

    A little bit of romance as a sub-plot is okay, anything more and it becomes a romantic fiction book with a bit of mystery and not a true cozy mystery.

  4. Carol says

    I totally agree with Maria’s remark about character angst. It is why I quit reading Elizabeth George. Her characters were always agonizing over their relationships.

  5. Rebecca says

    I agree with the others, a little romance is fine just as long as it doesn’t take over the story. Now here is something for you Danna, I found a bookmark with a new book listed on it I went to look for it and found it is coming out in Sept. and it is another name for Casey Daniels. The book is Button Holed by Kylie Logan.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Thanks, Rebecca, for the heads-up about Casey Daniels/Kylie Logan. I did not know…

  6. Lizz says

    I like the Flower Shop Mystery series by Kate Collins and the Cats in Trouble series by Leann Sweeney. Both of these cozy series have just the right amount of sideline romance, and the lead character stays with the same boyfriend/fiance to date.

    • Shawn says

      I like the Kate Collins series too. You are right about staying with the same boyfriend. I am currently reading the newest Stephanie Plum and it is time she picked between Morelli and Ranger.

        • linda says

          In one of Stephanie’s latest books, hadn’t she picked up a 3rd boyfriend! Sometimes I think some of these women are just oversexed Come on, Janet, get on with the story!

  7. Susan says

    I agree. There is a sub-genre called Romantic Suspense, and whilst I don’t mind it occasionaly, I prefer my mysteries to be just that – mysteries.
    One tip that might help, is to avoid anything published by ‘Mira’. They’re an imprint of Harlequin / Mills and Boon, and specialize in the Romantic Mystery. (Both Cozy and Thriller)

  8. Frostie says

    I understand and agree what the reader Patricia is saying, but on the other hand, these are cozy mysteries, not hardcore –
    and without a second side, there would only be half a book.
    I understand the side should not overwhelm in theory – but –
    in reality sometimes it makes the book work.
    This is a case of not everyone can be pleased – some like me, don’t mind the extra overwhelming, some do, that’s just how it is. Personally, I don’t mind and look forward to the overwhelm, it makes the book more real and human – to me anyway.

  9. Larraine says

    I notice that many of the newer books feature slightly older but still young (30+-) heroines who have had failed romances and are starting a new life. I still want the mystery. A little romance on the side is fun. As someone who is older, though, I am sorry to see how few older detectives there are. If the detective is older, they are MUCH older – well into their 70’s approaching 80. Then we are treated to being told how “sprightly” they are.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      You’re right, Larraine. It does seem like a lot of the sleuths are 30 somethings who are starting a new life… And, then there is the other side of the spectrum>>> recently more and more septuagenarians and octogenarians are hitting the mystery streets…

  10. Carol says

    A little bit of romance goes a long way. As I have never been able to read a regular romance book all the way through, I think too much romance in a cozy is wrong, wrong, wrong!

  11. Annette says

    Even Mrs. Fletcher had a little romance!!!!! A little is ok as long as it is not the center of the plot/book it should be secondary.

  12. says

    I am also of the opinion that some of the newer cozy types go a bit overboard in the romance and in many cases this interrupts the flow of the story. I just read two books, with notice that another is due in 2012, that have good story lines and interesting and quirky mysteries but the main character seems to have sex on the brain and there are simply too many intimate scenes that have nothing to do with advancing the story.
    A little subtle sexual tension is fine but I don’t want to lose the momentum of the mystery in someone’s bedroom fantasies when it has nothing to do with the mystery itself.

  13. Donna says

    I agree with most of the previous responses. The mystery, the puzzle, is the thing that fascinates me most and keeps me coming back to the cozy genre. A little romance is fine as long as it pertains to the story and does not overwhelm the mystery.

  14. Petie says

    I agree with those readers regarding a little romance not getting in the way of a good mystery. I’m now reading the Denise Swanson Scumble River mystery series and love it. One of the best on-going series since my CAT WHO ones are over. Sure miss those ….. but there are so many good ones out there now. Joanne Fluke’s Cookie Jar series is another good example of a little romantic ‘tension’ but a great mystery series as well.

  15. Danna - cozy mystery list says

    Patricia, it looks like you had a great comment about the romance in Cozy Mysteries. From the consensus, it would seem that we don’t mind a little romance on the side… way on the side. But, as Cozy Mystery lovers, it would appear that we prefer the romantic mystery genre to be just that, and that it not be consolidated with the Cozy Mystery genre.

    It seems that something we all have in common, as Cozy Mystery readers, is the feeling that character development is one of the key ingredients in our mysteries. And, how can you have that – if there is a different boyfriend in each novel? Just when you think you are getting to know a boyfriend, in comes the next!

    • says

      My favorite mysteries of all time are the M.C. Beaton Hamish Macbeth books. Good puzzles, a great central character with only mild romantic subplots, but I love that he is developed as the books come along. I can’t wait for the new one in February. I’ve read Beaton’s other series with Agatha Raisin and while I adore the cozy village scenes and neighbors, she is a bit hard to sit down with. Anyway, I agree with the others that cozies are not romantic fictions or we’d be in another bookshelf the next row over.

  16. sandy says

    I don’t like a lot of romance in my cozy mystery books A recent disappointment was Skirting the Grave it was more of a romance than a mystery If I wanted to read romances thats what i would buy………

  17. Elizabeth says

    I just finished reading Ocean Waves by Terri Thayer. I enjoyed the book overall, and I didn’t mind that the main character had a boyfriend, but she was 30 and couldn’t resist an “encounter” in the woods with the boyfriend in the middle of a week away at quilt camp. It didn’t fit with the rest of the book and seemed thrown in just for a sex scene(it wasn’t explicit). It was also the first cozy I’ve read with the “F” word in it.

    I don’t mind a romance in a cozy as long as it is a small part of the story.

  18. Angela says

    I actually like a little romance in the cozies because to me a big part of a cozy series is the characters. It’s not just romances but all of the characters personal relationships that help me get more involved in the story. That said, I completely agree that these books are about the mystery first and foremost. If the personal bits overshadow the mystery I don’t like it. I also don’t mind a little boyfriend hopping IF it makes sense to that particular character’s personality. Stephanie Plum would be an example of what I mean, although I am ready to see a resolution to that triangle after 17 books! I think the romances should be used to add a little “flavor” and dimension to the characters not disrupt the main story.

  19. Julia says

    I don’t really mind romance in my mysteries as long as the sex isn’t explicit. I guess it’s because when I started reading mysteries as a young adult, I read a lot of the older romanctic suspense novelists (like Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt), where the emphasis was fairly well balanced between mystery and romance.

    I do confess, however, to a certain impatience with dragging out the…shall we say ‘wooing’…for multiple books. In romantic suspense novels they aren’t looking to build a series, so by the end of the book things are settled one way or the other. But since every new mystery these days seems to have to leave an opening for a series, things drag on and on through one book after another until yes, the romance swallows up the mystery.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Julia, I totally agree with you about the romances in mysteries running on, and on, and on some more!

      My love for mysteries started when I spent a lot of time at my grandmother’s home, and I read a lot of (as you say) “older romantic suspense”>>> Like you, I specifically remember reading a lot of Victoria Holt’s mysteries.

      It’s sort of like the cliffhangers that a lot of television shows are going with now. The words “I love you.” are said only when the intended listener is in a coma from a gunshot wound, frozen in a freezer, has been blown out of a building, or has ear phones on>>> Good grief!

  20. Judith says

    Since one of the main reasons that I like Cozy Mysteries is the characters. So I like a little romance when it is part of the character development and their relationships – I’m not looking for gratuitous sex scenes. SPOILER ALERT!!!! One of my favorite series is the Pennyfoot Hotel series by Kate Kingsbury. Early on in the series, you knew that two of the main characters were interested in each other – but this was Edwardian England so part of the joy of reading the books was watching their relationship grow until they finally admitted their feelings for each other and kissed in the ninth book!

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      You put it well, Judith >>> character development is so crucial to Cozy Mystery books. (Can you imagine some of our current popular sleuths waiting until the ninth book to finally admit their feelings? I guess setting your mysteries in Edwardian England helps you resolve the problem of gratuitous sex…)

  21. Lili says

    I love to read cozys in series because I love getting to know the communities, the characters and the relationships. Romantic relationships are part of that. They don’t need to get explicit, and I prefer continuity over several books (a multi-volume courtship or even love-triangle is preferable to having boyfriends change in each book). Diane Mott Davidson is a good example. Joanne Fluke is another (although her heroine really has to choose at some point).

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Lili, I agree with you. I find it distracting if there are too many romantic relationships in a series.

  22. linda says

    I like the romance in the stories as long as it fits into the storyline. One thing I have found though, is sometimes when the sleuth gets married that kind of spoils the series. An example of this is when Evan Evans got married. This took something away from me. I can’t explain it, but the series just wasn’t as good after that.. Just maybe that is why we haven’t seen anything of Evan for awhile!

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Linda, I think that sometimes it depends on the relationship. I remember the television show – Moonlighting. I thought it just got ridiculous – the two kept flirting outrageously, and nothing became of it.

      I know that a lot of people will NOT agree with me (’cause my own family doesn’t!) but I simply got tired of Beckett and Castle continuously flirting, but always “just missing the opportunity” to declare their love for each other (on the show Castle). I actually quit watching the show because I thought the season cliff-hangers were just too predictable… Kate is frozen, she’s blown up, ETC… and doesn’t hear Castle declare his love for her. Good grief! (Actually, there were some other things that got a little repetitive for me…)

      • linda says

        Two more examples of the romance killing the story are Sara and Harm on “Jag and the romance on Walker Texas Ranger. Alex would get into some kind of trouble and Walker would have to interrupt his duties to save her. I think most men who liked both of these 2 TV series watched because of the action in the shows. I know my hubby loves watching Walker kicking some guy’s butt but he says if he wants a romance he could watch the daytime soaps! Just got boring!
        Sometimes I think maybe what I don’t like in some books is not the romance but the continual sexual comments and innuendos that are made throughout the book, also the step by step love making that goes on throughout the stories. Goodness, just get it on and get it over with so we can try to figure out who dunnit!

        • Margaret says

          Danna, it makes me crazy when they put Male and Female Partners in relationships. Men and Women can work together with out falling in love. I understand it is fiction and they need the material for the story lines but it still makes me crazy. Sometimes that little feminist streak in me slips out to say can’t we just see a strong, independent woman who can be equal to a man. It always seems once the romance starts the Women become helpless and always get themselves in a situation where the Man has to save them. It also seems like once the romance starts the shows “jump the shark”.

          I don’t mind the normal human relationships in the Cozies but I don’t want it to consume the story line. In the series I read, they seemed to be very normal and well balanced. Krista Davis, Lorna Barrett, Carol Higgins Clark, Carolyn Hart, Leslie Meier, Laura Childs are some of my favs and they write such wonderful strong Female Characters with or without a mate.

  23. says

    Along the same line, I get bored with mysteries that delve too much into the lead character’s personal life when it has nothing to do with the mystery. I read whodunits because I want to know who done it!

  24. says

    I much prefer a mystery series where ‘love contenders’ are introduced early, and there’s a pinch of ‘will-they-or-won’t-they?’, but it’s to keep things interesting and the interactions tense as opposed to being a draw-card of the series.

    I think Charlaine Harris does it really well, in all her contemporary series (not the supernatural ‘Sookie’ books, which are quite a bit sexed-up for the sake of vampirism). In all those books the main protagonist has a one-off ‘fling’, but then by the second book she gets a totally different steady romance to spice things up. Often that first ‘fling’ comes back to bite her, or influences her outlook in the next book of the series (because the romance ended badly through cheating/stalking etc – thereby triggering a mystery in itself).

    Plus, Harris does ‘subtle’ smut, akin to cutting away to billowing curtains when characters get down n’ dirty in movies and tv shows.

  25. Danna - cozy mystery list says

    Danielle, I guess I disagree with you. I haven’t read any of the Charlaine Harris Southern Vampire books because vampires simply don’t interest me. (I wasn’t a fan of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, and have not gotten into the Twilight saga, either.) So, I can’t comment on the Sookie books.

    However, the word “smut” has such a negative connotation – even with the word ‘subtle’ in front of it ( defines it as “indecent language or publications; obscenity”), and I don’t think the earlier Harris mysteries (Aurora Teagarden Mystery Series and Lily Bard Mystery Series) had anything in them that would qualify them with that definition. It has been years since I finished reading both of those mystery series, and my memory has never been that great, but since I enjoyed both of the series, I doubt I would have continued with the books had they been “smutty”… subtle, or not… To each his own, but I guess I didn’t see it that way.

    PS>>> I wouldn’t qualify the Lily Bard Shakespeare series as a Cozy.

    • linda says

      I loved both the Aurora Teagarden and the Lily Bard series. I just cannot get into the vampire stories. I would dearly love to see more of the Aurora Teagarden series. I loved those books.

      • Danna - cozy mystery list says

        Linda, now that the publishers are bringing back the Aurora Teagarden and Lily Bard mystery series, maybe (here’s hoping!) Charlaine Harris will pen some more in those series…

  26. Amy says

    I am looking for new authors to read. I really enjoyed Elizabeth Peters stand alone books and the Vicki Bliss series but I have finished them. I also really enjoyed some of Mary Stewart’s books. The settings are so well described that they make me want to travel. I am tired of spending money on what seems like a good mystery but it ends up being a smutty romance or has really horrible crime details. I like a romance as part of a mystery but I want mostly mystery and I don’t want explicit sex, gory murders, graphic violence or lots of bad language. (I can take a bit of sex and a bit of bad language, it just needs to be sparse.) I’m not into multiple partners. That’s not romantic. Any advice from others readers?

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Amy, I’ll add Elizabeth Peters to the list of authors who people are trying to find similar authors.

  27. TracyB says

    I would love for there to be a Romantic Cozy Mystery Section!!! I keep checking the website to see if it has been added. Please add it. I love the books with mystery and romance.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      TracyB, the problem with a theme like Romantic Cozies is that the romantic part of the equation is so subjective. I’ll see what I can do.

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