It’s the day after American Thanksgiving and we’re heading into the holiday season, which of course always bring on their unique stresses. “Self-care” seems to be the buzzword these days when we talk about dealing with stress, and that can range from a bubble bath to therapy to a shopping spree – basically anything that makes you feel good and can help you minimize tension. For me, self-care is romance novels (and boy howdy, have I been grateful for romance in the trash-fire year that the past twelve months have been). Here’s why romance as self-care works:
Books have always been my refuge when the world gets loud, but romance novels are a particularly wonderful retreat because they’re so comforting and familiar. The rhythms of romance get ingrained in readers once you’ve read widely in the genre, so you know how things are going to shake out but still have the pleasure of watching each new story unfold and how the author plays with that formula.
There are books that I’ve read a million times that are my go-to comfort reads – I’m happy to go revisit that world and the characters in it. These books don’t really get old for me, even though I know exactly what will happen. There’s always something new to discover or a part that becomes your new favourite because it resonates with where you’re at in your own life.
Also, some days, you just need to reward yourself with a “congratulations, you made it through the day without your head spinning off” book. We all know the comfort of cracking open a brand new book or treating yourself to an instantly delivered ebook, and little things like that can help you keep it together and escape for a bit.
You’ve gotta work your anxiety out somehow, even if it is just by taking a break from the real world and visiting a fictional one where love always wins. I mean, reading a romance novel is a lot healthier and more convenient than going out and getting wasted to forget about your problems, right? And for the price of a one-clicked ebook or the time it takes to go to the library, you can lower your stress levels and work that tension out of your body and find some solace. Hey, it’s cheaper than therapy. (Though do get the therapy if you need it in addition!)
After the election last year, I was, like many people, seriously anxious about the state of the world. It kept me up at night, worrying about what I could do, what I was powerless to do, how to change that. I turned to romance novels to help me cope, and to help me relax enough so I could go to sleep. There were many times in which everyone else had long been asleep and it was just me, still awake, in the dark house with only the glow of my tablet to keep me company late, late at night. I read old favourites; I read historicals; I read dystopian (terrifying and uplifting at the same time).* No matter what time period you’re reading, smart romance doesn’t let you escape reality entirely; the authors are often commenting on the political moment in which they’re writing, especially in how it relates to women. But these stories all ended with a happily ever after, which was exactly what I needed to read then.
The best thing about romance novels is that they are stories predicated on hope; that even after all the angst and sadness and worry that the main characters go through, things will be better in the end, happiness will always reign, and love conquers all. And romance reminds us that those things are all worth fighting for.
So take a break from the stress this holiday season (or whenever you need it), read a romance novel, and take care of you.
Or in the inimitable words of Tom and Donna:
*Some of my post-election OMG-I-need-to-disappear-into-a-book reads:
Dystopian: Kit Rocha's Beyond series is a master class in world building and thoughtful, emotional, HOT erotic romance.
Austenesque: I've read Linda Wells's Imperative over and over (I've lost count how many times I've turned to this book) for the low angst in the relationship and the happy marriage of our couple.