A few years ago, I read an article in the New York Times by Motoko Rich entitled Recession Fuels Readers’ Escapist Urges. It talked about how romance novel sales have increased seven percent after four years of zero growth. A week later, ABC News ran a similar story.
This is no surprise to me. I have been “using” romance novels for years to relieve stress. I am terrified of flying. You won’t find me getting on a plane without a bodice-ripper in tow! I was so engrossed in one during a flight from Memphis to New Jersey a few years ago that I didn’t see the smoke coming from an engine. I didn’t even hear the announcement about our emergency landing in Virginia. It wasn’t until we hit the runway surrounded by fire trucks that I knew something was amiss. That is how effective romance novels are on stress. I didn’t even know I had something to be worried about!
I find these books to be useful when I’ve got a lot on my mind or I just need to decompress. They are easy to read, and surprisingly well written. My understanding is that the historical ones are well researched, though my husband looks at me askance when I share a “fact” from one of these books.
Before you pass judgment on my reading material and me, be advised that I read other stuff as well. We have no television, so I get my news from the newspapers. I am also in two book clubs. But when I’m stressed, instead of hitting the bottle or the cookie jar, I plant myself in front of the fire and read a romance. Believe it or not, like readers of Playboy Magazine, I read the books for the story and not the steamy stuff.
I have a friend who lives in my hometown of Mendham, New Jersey. She was the “literary” one in our book club and happened to be director of the local library. Two years ago her husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Thankfully, he had surgery and is now fine, but for the year after the surgery, she read nothing but romance novels all day long. She told me she still reads them but is so embarrassed about her habit that she goes out of her town to procure them. She doesn’t want to check them out of her library! In our last conversation, she said that she couldn’t find her new favorite author, Lisa Kleypas, in the library in the next town. “I’m just going to check it out from here. People can laugh at me if they want!”
So here we are in a recession. People are losing their jobs, their homes and their savings. For $7.99 (or free if you want to brave your local library) you can have a few hours of escape and get a happy ending to boot!
Originally Published in The Doings Newspaper in Hinsdale, IL