From 1989 to 1998, Meg Ryan ruled romantic comedy on the silver screen. Whether her character pursued a wayward fiancé through France in French Kiss or discovered her full potential in I.Q., she never lost her optimism.
Ryan’s most memorable roles are versions of the “girl-next-door” or “spunky kid” archetype. What can one expect from this kind of heroine?
Gutsy and true, she is loyal to the end. She is a favorite of many writers, and for good reason. You can’t help but root for her. She’s the girl with moxie. She’s not looking to be at the top of the heap; she just wants to be in her own little niche. She’s the team player, the one who is always ready to lend a hand.Tami Cowden, The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines
The wholesome girl-next-door moxie really came through in her work with Nora Ephron. For instance, in the 1993 classic Sleepless in Seattle, Annie hears Sam on a radio talk-show and is instantly smitten. It doesn’t matter that she has never met Sam or that she is content with her life. She wants to meet Sam at the top of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day.
Although the American Film Institute ranks this movie as one of the top 10 romantic comedies, the two protagonists barely share any screen time together. But as film critic Roger Ebert explains, “If love at first sight is a reality, then in this information age there should also be the possibility of love at first cybercontact.”
In this love story, Emmy accidentally picked up the wrong cell phone at an airport charge station. She’s beginning to find out a lot about the man Trystan from his phone apps. Unfortunately, he grabbed her phone by mistake and is finding out a lot about her!
As they navigate through difficult personal crises hundreds of miles away from each other, they find comfort and distraction by texting and calling each other. But will this connection break once they meet to exchange phones?
Accidental Tryst is a light and entertaining read. The hero and heroine are not in same place for most of this hot romantic comedy and the anticipation builds for when they’ll finally meet!
Another Meg Ryan romantic comedy that combines cyber love, Tom Hanks and Nora Ephron is You’ve Got Mail. The 1998 remake of Miklós László’s The Shop Around the Corner (1940) gives the hidden identity trope an update with technology.
Haven’t seen the movie? (Where have you been?)
Struggling boutique bookseller Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) hates Joe Fox (Tom Hanks), the owner of a corporate Foxbooks chain store that just moved in across the street. When they meet online, however, they begin an intense and anonymous Internet romance, oblivious of each other’s true identity. Eventually Joe learns that the enchanting woman he’s involved with is actually his business rival. He must now struggle to reconcile his real-life dislike for her with the cyber love he’s come to feel.Rotten Tomatoes
Lizzie needs to hold onto her job until the end of the month. This requires her to be invisible and play by the rules. But when she’s assigned to find a new wake-up call service for her CEO, Lizzie gets stuck placing the calls herself. It turns out she’s a rude wake-up-call girl at 4:30 in the morning. Under the guise of Operator Seven, she tells Theo, her billionaire boss, exactly how she feels about him.
To her surprise, Theo is into her sassy mouth. It brings out the argumentative and uncivilized side of him. And when the calls turn steamy, Theo wants to meet Lizzie in person. There’s no way she can let him find out the truth, but her billionaire boss is as relentless as he is resourceful.
Readers will enjoy the sexy banter between the nerdy scientist hero and the down-on-her-luck heroine!
There’s a common theme in a lot of Meg Ryan romantic comedies. The character is always looking for comfort and security. She will drift into an engagement with a perfectly acceptable man or stay in her corner because it’s what she knows. But that all changes when she meets someone who challenges her world view and disrupts her orderly life.
Which leads us to When Harry Met Sally, a film that influenced how rom-coms are told today. Written by Nora Ephron and directed by Rob Reiner, the 1989 romantic comedy asks if men and women can just be friends. Instead of relying on high concept premises or fairy-tale retellings, this love story focuses on conversation and the gradual love between Harry the pessimist and Sally, the eternal optimist.
In her When Romance Met Comedy column, pop culture critic Caroline Siede argues that the film is really an examination of friendships adults find themselves in.
After bad breakups, Harry and Sally use their friendship as a stand-in for the emotional intimacy they actually want from a romantic relationship. They become platonic life partners in a way that starts out as a healthy friendship but ultimately becomes unhealthy because it’s preventing them from growing. “Someone to dance with on New Year’s Eve” becomes “the person who stops you from wanting to dance with anyone else on New Year’s Eve.” In other words, it’s a film less about sex and more about emotional intimacy.Caroline Siede
Fans of this iconic film will want to read romance books with a grumpy/sunshine couple. They would also want to explore the friends-to-lovers trope. One reader-favorite is The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez.
Kristen and Josh become friends who are there for each other no matter what. It doesn’t take long for them to be friends with benefits but they’re absolutely meant to be a couple. You know they’re going get through anything as long as they’re together.
The story has a lot of fun moments, and while it’s labeled a romantic comedy, there’s also a heartbreaking twist near the end that will have you crying long after you finish the book.
And—bonus book!—for those who always associate Tom Hanks with Meg Ryan, pick up Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey. In this story, Annie adores romantic comedies and is waiting for her own swoon-worthy romance to happen when she gets the opportunity to work behind the scenes of a rom-com. She doesn’t think the Hollywood actor who’s playing the romantic lead is suited for the role. He’s no Tom Hanks… but he just might be her Mr. Right.
This is not a hot romance, but fellow rom-com-aholics will appreciate the shrewd insights about romantic comedies. It’s the perfect treat for the hopeful romantic.
Are you a fan of 90s rom-com? If you enjoyed Pretty Woman, check out these romance book recommendations!