Cozies have a special place in my heart. They were my first introduction to adult fiction and the first books I reviewed when I started this blog. Shoutout to Betty Hechtman who wrote the first cozy I ever read! I loved reading about the mysteries, I loved trying to solve them, I loved getting to know the characters, and I loved the coziness.
But lately, I’ve been feeling very frustrated with the genre. I’ve been finding myself reaching more and more for a romance novel instead. And the more I read romance, the more I reflect on my frustrations with cozies. There’s one reason that sticks out to me:
Cozies are starting to feel stale to me
I haven’t seen one commonly accepted definition of a cozy mystery but to me, I’d define it as having no explicit sexual content or violence, little to no swearing, and a ‘cozy’ feeling that invites the reader into the book. The main mystery should be solved by the end of the book and the ending should be happy.
Technically, this is a pretty loose definition and there are a lot of stories that can be told within this framework. However, I’m getting to the point where cozies are starting to feel somewhat repetitive. A lot of cozies stick to the same formula, down to the details.
Almost every single cozy I’ve read is set in the contemporary time in small town USA, featuring a white woman in her 30s or older. She is almost always financially comfortable. She likely owns her own small business, often in the areas of food, arts & crafts, or books. If she doesn’t own a business, there’s a good chance she’ll work in one of those three fields. She often has a pet (usually a dog or cat, maybe both).
She will have a close group of friends and/or family that aren’t too different than herself. If she’s in a romantic relationship, it will be with a man who also works a fairly conventional profession (eg. police officer, chef). She will use some tech but it probably won’t be used to solve the mystery.
As for the mystery itself, it’s almost always a murder. Often the victim is someone the town didn’t like or an outsider, or it’s an insider who the town loved. The suspects are often disliked by the town in some way, perhaps due to their moral dubiousness, while the protagonist is morally good and pretty squeaky clean.
There is always an understandable (but not justified) motive for the crime. The protagonist might make the police mad at first with their involvement but by the end, the police will be at least a little grateful that they solved the case.
I want to be clear: there’s nothing wrong with cozies that are written this way! It’s just that lately, I’ve been hoping for cozies that are a little different than this mold, that tell a cozy story but from a slightly different angle. I’ve been finding more success in millennial cozy mysteries and self-published cozy mysteries but it can be tiring to try and search for the right book that won’t feel stale.
It’s probably because I’m still pretty new to romance, but I’m not feeling burnt out or bored by it (yet). I’m at the point where I’m still reading at least something new in every book I read. I think it helps that romance is a pretty big genre, so there is relatively more to choose from than cozies. I still haven’t hit a wall with that genre yet.
Genres have their formulas for a reason. They’re there to help a book in that genre fit into that genre and they make sure that the reader’s expectations are met. But is it too much to ask for a cozy that plays around with this formula, even just a little bit?
I’m not going to stop reading cozies or reviewing them for this blog, but I do think it’s important to take a step back. I read for fun and it doesn’t make sense to be forcing cozies right now if that’s not what I’m finding fun. Focusing on the cozies that look the most interesting to me instead of reading it just because it’s a cozy is probably a better way to go.
Have you ever read a cozy and if so, how do you feel about the genre? Is there a genre that you’re feeling burnt out on and what are your tips for getting out of that slump?