Recently, I wrote about how I’m riding my reading slump to the bitter end.
Now, at long last, after many months of drought, I am cautiously poking my nose out of the dark burrow where I’ve been hibernating from reading. I’m sniffing delicately into the air, hoping it’s (finally?) the right time to come out and try a book. Or two. Or dozen.
If you’re like me, at this time you’re feeling a bit like Goldilocks, because this phase of the reading life is as fragile as a fall leaf. One gust of too-strong wind, one book that feels too heavy, or too silly, or too boring, or too…anything, really, and your interest tears like that leaf off the tree and is lost. You won’t be able to really get into something unless it feels just right. So, where do we start looking? How do we make sure we pick the just-right book?
The answer, for me, is often in the Romance section.
First, romance novels almost always have a happy ending. Sometimes, when you’ve been away from beloved fictional worlds for a long time, you start to feel hazy on why you love them so much. Why are they your go-to pick-me-ups, why are they the things you sit for hours with? And a lot of times for us readers, the happy ending is why. We love that bittersweet satisfied feeling we get when we turn the last page of the book, and the thrill of knowing characters we fell in love with found what they were looking for. We live for the journey that gets us there. And, above all other genres, romance is all about the happy ending. It’s about two people finding actual happiness, in themselves and each other.
Which brings me to my second point, being: romance is about people. Wounded people, clumsy people, insecure people, selfless people, frightened people, angry people, quirky people, bookish people, athletic people, hopeful people, desperate people, but above all, people. There are plenty of amazing treatises about how romance is always worth your time, or why romance is definitely for feminists, so I won’t wax too poetic about the importance of Romance as a genre here. What I will add, though, is that romance books are a great jump-start into the reading life, because it’s so easy for us humans to get sucked into the lives of other people. That is also why we read, after all. And the entire premise of any romance is, “Character X and Character Y deserve a good life, and they’ll find the perfect complement to that in each other.” That’s what makes it so easy it is to get interested in romances — they’re a fascinating look at how people relate to each other and fit together, and often, the people we read about are people we relate to.
Third, when done right, romance has some of the wittiest, most humorous and heartfelt dialogue. Dialogue is fast-paced and fun to read. It doesn’t require you to slow down, because you don’t necessarily have to spend too much time processing it (though great dialogue certainly can do that, because it is worth savoring!). It makes the story smart and enjoyable. We’re sucked into the exchanges between our two leads easily, watching them try and fit together (or not, as the case may be!). These little snippets of characters and scenes give our brains quick, fun jolts of wit and pleasure. What could be a more perfect way to get yourself back into the reading way of life?
Last, romances don’t have to be terribly long. Sure, you can certainly find the sweeping epics, like Jessica James’s Shades of Gray. But mostly, romance novels are one-story books that span the intimate undertakings of two people over the course of one, relatively small, definitive time period. This is great, because it means you don’t feel fatigued trying to keep up with the lives of various different characters over the course of many years. You get this one snapshot where lots of riveting events happen that, hopefully, lead to proving the premise the author has laid out, and then you reach that bittersweet sigh at the end. It also means you’re not languishing after a sequel. If there is a sequel, it often stands on its own with a different set of characters for you to enjoy all over again. Which means the ball is entirely in your court as the reader. Once you’ve read a good Romance novel to whet the bookish appetite, it’s entirely up to you as to whether or not you want to continue down the romance path (which I often do), or if you want to move on to a different genre.
Either way, you know that romance is always there to help you out…especially when you need it most.