Must-Read Romance Novels For Your Downtime

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Journey of the heart

Modern life is abuzz with conundrums – How can I get more done in less time? How can I be a more present and attentive parent? How can I earn more in much less time? How can I find, or keep, the partner of my dream?

So, if you’re a worrier, your house is likely cowering under a pile of interesting self-help books, from titles such as Mark Manson’s “The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck”(Harper, 2016, available at Amazon) to Jen Sincero’s “You Are A Badass: How To Stop Doubting Your Greatness And Start Living An Awesome Life” (Running Press Adult, 2013, available at Better World Books) or Christopher McDougall’s “Running With Sherman” (Penguin Random House, 2019, available at Penguin Random House). But there comes a point where more mulling over a topic is unproductive, and that’s precisely when – just as you may switch off with Netflix – it pays to switch to a romance novel to escape, in a healthy fashion, for an hour or more at the end of the day.

Floating like a cloud

Unconvinced about the health benefits of this type of escapism? Here’s a look at some of the research. First up, Coster Content advises readers on the importance of striking a balance, i.e. “Escapism isn’t going to change your whole life, but it can improve how you approach and deal with [whatever] you’re going through.” In a piece entitled “The Power of Escapism: Imagination, Mental Health And The Benefits Of Distraction”, this team of highly educated academics and professionals reveal that the benefits of escapism can help you “ride out” any pressing concerns or worries; that, via distraction, “this can happen without dragging you along for the process”; and, where there’s no quick fix, “taking time to detach yourself allows you to regroup and better approach whatever the issue maybe”. Pressure valve, be gone…  A last note from this crowd of researchers? “Our imaginations are a wonderful thing when it comes to seeking refuge from mental health concerns. There’s [really] nothing like separating from your own life for a few hours after a stressful day.”

Another point on armchair escapism: travel forms a decided aspect, even if the beloved pandemic is constraining your actual movement. A WebMD feature, “If You Travel To Escape Your Problems, What Happens When You’re Trapped In Place?”, suggests that not being able to travel can “be a blessing in disguise”. According to a counselor at SocialPro, Viktor Sander, you could instead make use of this time (the third wave potentially landing shortly) to “self-reflect and solve problems you might have been avoiding. When we stop avoiding unpleasant problems and deal with them, things [can] get better.”

Into romance we subside

There’s clearly no opportunity to back away, then, from the benefits, romantic novels can bring to such dilemmas. According to the mighty Oprah Winfrey, they’re the best remedy to distract you from your daily grind by providing “a group of aunties hiding the dead body of a blind date, a vampire named Savage who also doubles as an MMA fighter, and a grumpy young woman who falls in love with someone who’s stuck in time from the 1970s”. Over and above the pretty-much guaranteed “happy ending” (interpret as you may), the escapism within the many pages is there to obliterate any pressing angst from your day-to-day grind – and there’s no lack of options, which will smack you in the face once you get into it.

In fact, the originator of O, The Oprah Mag, reckons “you’ll find 30 picks – and counting“ if you look on her book reviews pages. Throwbacks include Ms Beverly Jenkins and Tessa Dare, along with a plethora of series continuations – from Bridgerton and Sweet Magnolias to Virgin River.

Your sub-genre for the picking

If Victorian is your sub-game, read Elisabeth Everett’s “A Lady’s Formula For Love” (Berkley, 2021, available at Amazon.com). The staunch women’s rights advocates among us will enjoy the fact that Lady Violet is, rightfully, a leading scientist of her time who sets up a hush-hush network of other hotshot gals and takes on a James Bond-level mission for the royalty of the time. For the Mills & Boon aficionados, for whom swoonery and powerplay are of the essence, Tessa Dare’s “The Bride Bet” (Avon, 2020, available at Good Reads), is sure to draw you in; make you forget; then spit you out at the end when you love the characters, including girl who meets duke, more than your own family (it’s par for the course).

Among Oprah’s choice sub–genre picks include Bollywood (Alisha Rai’s “First Comes Like”), African folktale (Bolu Babalola’s “Love In Colour”) and even murder mystery (Penny Reid’s “Marriage And Murder”). No possibility gets left unexposed. And that’s how it should be in the diverse world we now occupy. There’s something for everyone – or should be.

Still not in the mood?

An additional list of “keepers” in the romance department includes those to be found on the Good Housekeeping “20 Best Romance Novels” list. Try a favorite author of mine over the years, Isabelle Allende, who continues to gather impetus in her latest offering “A Long Petal Of The Sea” (Penguin Random House, 2020, available at Penguin Random House). The story follows the movements of knocked-up widow, Roser, and her dead lover’s sibling, Victor, as they set about exiting fascist Spain on a vessel belonging to poet Pablo Neruda. There’s no lack of philosophical musing as the waves attempt to engulf them yet they still emerge, to some extent, on the other side.

The question before the house is: once the romance is soothing you and sorting through your trials and tribulations – however sub-consciously – what ought you to do with that towering Piza of self-help books. Hmmm. Church or car-boot sale, methinks.

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