Cozy Books, Uncozy Language

I like cozy mysteries, or I did. Recently, however, I’ve struggled to find new series that I’ve liked. The restrictions have allowed for some stunning leaps of logic or amazing unrealistic relationships. I’m not pointing fingers because, frankly, writing anything is hard. Writing a series that gives loyal fans what they love while on-boarding new readers poses an even bigger challenge. No, the writer created characters and a world they love and want to play in. Please do. Have fun when you can because most days aren’t.

That said, I have a suggestion—let them swear. Sorry, I don’t care what anyone says about now swearing, we all have a go-to. Admittingly, someone’s might only reach the ‘darn it’ scale of swear words, but they have one. I got this idea from a workshop I attended where they were discussing how to approach setbacks. The presenters gave the example of what do you do if you encounter a detour or traffic jam due to accident on your way to work. Crickets. Now, they made us come in early so we could open on time for this oh-so-fun workshop topic. No one was quite awake yet. And then, the silence got to me and I blurted out ‘Swear.’ Here’s the thing, everyone laughed because everyone does it. I find that I’m sick of the paragons in these books who do nothing that makes them human.

I mean, take my librarian crush, Jacqueline Kirby. That series screams cozy, but Jake does not. And while author Elizabeth Peters never has her swear on the page, she makes it clear on several occasions that she curses. To be clear, not the polite sort, the drunk sailor sort, all without getting explicit on her exact word choice. She takes the same approach with sex. Nothing graphic, but she’s a grown woman with a healthy set of appetites and Peters’ both makes this clear while giving the character her privacy and without judging her. Her struggle to stop smoking gets a nod, as well as her feminist outlook and tart tongue are out there bold as brass, yet she manages to live in a cozy world while feeling real and, somehow, now, the cozy mystery ‘rules’ have strangled that out.

Elizabeth Peters left big shoes to fill, but I think it’s worth asking WWEP do? There are worse standards to live by

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