There were too many times when my mother would catch me reading a book with a flashlight under my sheets, demanding I go to sleep already. I can’t say that romance was ever my go-to genre as I was (ironically) falling in love with reading as a kid. I loved fantasy, mystery, and historical fiction, which I would devour the physical copies of. Some of them are still on my bookshelves, and it’s clear that they were well loved.
Romance always felt like that thing that would derail my plans to save the world. But as I got older, the genre began to appeal to me more. And as cliché it is, I have to be honest and say it: the book that got me into romance was Pride and Prejudice, which I’ve read about four or five times at this point. But just as I was diving deeper into romance books in high school and college, I was also developing my interest in more “respectable” literature.
Getting a degree in English was one of the best decisions I ever made as a young adult. But it certainly made me a bit self-conscious about the books I read because I wanted to appear erudite in front of my classmates and professors. In fact, I wanted nothing more than to appear like a Shakespeare aficionado who unironically spoke about irony to anyone who would listen. My cutesy romance novels had no place in this world, or at least I convinced myself of this.
But hey, a girl has to read what she likes, so I downloaded the Kindle app and began enjoying romance books on the sly between lectures and even when I should’ve been studying for that organic chemistry final.
It took me an embarrassingly long time to admit that I found reading The Duke and I by Julia Quinn just as enjoyable as Jane Eyre. Are they two different experiences? Yes. But the former was a great comfort during a stressful time in my life whereas the latter helped me realize how much I enjoyed literature. I just loved how romance books expected nothing from me other than to believe in love and meet cutes.
Over time, I came to realize that reading romance books on my phone came with certain advantages. For one, I love reading romance books while snuggled up, and my phone happens to be the perfect size for such reading. It’s also a bonus that I have my own apartment now, so my mother can’t stop me from reading late into the night. Do I drop my phone on my face from time to time? Yes.
I also realized that while I read books from other genres from beginning to end, I sometimes love reading my romance books asynchronously. I’m not sure why, but I think it’s because I love the anticipation of the happily ever after and want to make it last (I strictly read happy romances, by the way). My phone also makes this so easy, because in less than a second I can go from reading Mr. Malcolm’s List by Suzanne Allain to The Marriage Game by Sarah Desai. And my strange brain just finds comfort in that.
The Kindle app also gave me access to Amazon’s vast selection of books, not to mention those published by indie authors, which quickly gave me access to something amazing: romance books by authors of color, which honestly weren’t given shelf space when I was in college. Say what you want about Amazon (and there’s plenty to say), but it gave me access to books that helped me to see me in romance books. To be honest, I always thought that amazing romance in Pride and Prejudice probably wasn’t for me, until I came across a swath of authors who wrote stories to the contrary. I now tuck into comfort romance books like From Gods by Mary Ting, The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory, The Trouble With Hating You by Sajni Patel, and The Bride Test by Helen Hoang. Nowadays, I feel like it’s so much easier to access romance books by authors of color, but this wasn’t the case when I was in high school or even college.
While the shame of reading romance books has faded, I still find myself turning to my phone to read them. I no longer do it to hide the fact that I’m reading romance; in fact, I proudly display some hard copies on my bookshelves. I think it comes down to habit: the idea of pulling up my Kindle app or Libby and reading a romance is just comforting to me. My brain is now in the habit of expecting a comforting read whenever I pull up an ebook on my phone.
And it turns out that reading Nalini Singh’s and L.J. Shen’s books after a long day working in corporate America is just as pleasant as after studying for that dratted organic chemistry final.