What do you think of when someone describes a novel as having a “fish out of water” trope? Do you immediately think of social inequities, or class differences like in Georgette Heyer’s hilarious An Unknown Ajax? Maybe your thoughts jump to stories illustrating cultural differences, such as Nalini Singh’s Desert Warrior. In western romance novels, you’ll often see greenhorn heroes or heroines as they struggle against the hard life, as Englishwoman Jessica Thornton does in Pieces of Sky by Kaki Warner. More than a few of you might think of a dramatic saga like Diana Gabaldon’s time travel series, Outlander, or even maybe Linda Howard’s suspenseful Son of Morning. Or did your first thought go to more comedic books, like Maryjanice Davidson’s Undead series.
All of the above examples are in some way or form part of this trope. According to the definition from wiseGeek: “In fiction, a fish out of water theme is a story paradigm that places the main character in a world totally foreign to the world he or she is accustomed. Commonly a vehicle for comedy, it can also be used in other genres including drama, romance, action and science fiction.”
The books listed below are all in the contemporary and comedy genres (with a post focusing on historical and fantasy books later).