My roommate my freshman year of college was a huge fan of romance novels. I was (and am) a Sci-Fi and fantasy fan and had never ready any romance before. She was thrilled to have someone to introduce to the genre, and she gave me book after book. College, being what it was, I didn’t have much time for ‘fun’ reading, so I would save these books for after finials. I learned that romance novels were the perfect relaxation read after the stress of final exams. The stakes are generally low, and genre convention requires a happy ending, so the stress of reading was practically zero for me.
Since she only gave me books she was done with, and had enjoyed, my introduction to romance reading was a lot of really good books. She got me hooked on Outlander, for example, back when there were only two books in the series. Only years later, when I had to find my own romance novels did I stumble into the sorts of books that have given the genre a less positive reputation. Because even after I had long moved on to other housing situations, I kept my new habit of reading romance after finals to unwind, and destress. (Thanks Heather!) But I had to start paying attention to authors and publication lines because a story about a captive that fell in love with her rapist was defiantly not remotely relaxing. It was enraging. Yet those books were mixed in there, so I had to learn to be selective on my own.
After college, I returned to my science fiction because I had more time and mental and emotional energy for different stories again. I wish I could remember what I’d learned in that process of selecting romance novels now though. Because since Covid and shelter-in-place times, I have rediscovered the value or romance. I was having major sleeping problems. Anyone who has had sleeping problems knows that bad sleep just leads on to other life problems. One night I decided to read a romance that I’d picked up for free and had sitting on my kindle. I think it was The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan. It shut my brain up and let me drift off to sleep much more peacefully. I’ve since bough the rest of the series, and gradually worked through them at bedtime. There is enough plot to be interesting but not so much that I’m confused if I fall asleep in the middle of a chapter and have to figure out the next night what was happening when I drifted off. It’s perfect. But I guess I’m afraid for my new sleep routine when I run out of Courtney Milan books. Luckily we now have the internet to point me toward novels that will fill the role I need of them. My daytime books can be as intense as I want, but my bedtime books over the past few months have become something I guard, and am careful and very selective of.
Still, if you have a favorite romance book or author, please share it with me. I’ve moved on to fantasy comedy (Diskworld) for my bedtime reading, but I am having a little more trouble following the plot while sleepy. I plan to return to a romance read next again. More importantly though, one can never have too many stress reducing book recommendations to work through.