It happens to all of us. There we are, minding our own dang business, going to work, taking care of our homes and/or families, pondering our next read, or ten, and then, BOOM. There’s a phone call, or an e-mail, or knock at the door. Maybe it’s that tone in the voice of someone we see everyday, who tells us we need to talk. Maybe we feel a little funny, or maybe we’re not able to pinpoint the exact minute the life we know takes a sharp turn into the unknown. However it happens, the least of our considerations is what to read during life’s brouhaha…or is it?
Self care is always important, and, when life gets weird, it becomes all the more important, even if taking time to, say, run a bubble bath and crack open a good book, or fix some lemonade, settle into the porch swing with a good book, or build a blanket fort on the corner of the sectional couch, and burrow into it with a good book, doesn’t seem the most productive thing we can do. The common element here is the aforementioned good book, a pleasure in any circumstance, a necessity when life takes a strange turn.
Not that all strange turns are bad. Good things can upset life’s apple cart. A new job, or big promotion that requires a headlong leap into more responsibility, or a move across the country -or ocean- in a staggeringly short amount of time. A plus sign on a plastic stick, under bathroom lights, a writer getting The Call, a real estate agent giving the news that the owners of one’s future dream house accepted the offer, a marriage proposal, tendered and accepted, would all count as well. Sometimes, life takes more than one strange turn at a time. Bam, it’s the flu. Bam, the new job starts on Monday. Bam, one’s significant other’s parent is coming to stay for a month, while one is dealing with both flu and new job, at the same time. Surely, there’s no time for something as frivolous as reading romance novels at a time like this.
Or is there? As with the standard advice from flight attendants everywhere, putting on one’s own oxygen mask, before attempting to help somebody else, is strongly advocated. Passive tense, okay, but you get the drift. No matter what life throws at us, when we take even a few minutes, open a romance novel, and dive into the pages, we give ourselves a respite from the craziness going on around us. Maybe it’s not a big, life changing thing, but a bevy of small annoyances that have somehow banded together and formed some sort of stress gang. (These things totally exist; they have jackets and everything.) That’s not important. This isn’t a competition. What matters is getting that moment of not only respite, but recalibration.
That’s one of the (many, many, many) great things about romance novels. No matter what else life throws at our lovers, we are guaranteed that they are going to reach the end of the story, together, and happy about it. Doesn’t matter if the problems that beset our lovers are the threat of a land developer with designs on the farm, a bookish miss on her third Season, apparently invisible to eligible men of rank, futuristic warriors on opposite sides of a battle, lawyers on opposite sides of a big case, or, well, anything else one can imagine. Mortals falling in love with immortals, that’s a classic as old as time. Seriously, ask the ancient Greeks. Okay, technically you can’t, but trust me, it’s been around. It’s probably going to stay around, same as friends to lovers, secret babies, enemies to lovers, fated mates, second chance at love, rakes, wallflowers, pirates, Vikings, pirate Vikings, you get the drift. It’s all good.
So, what do we read when life gets weird? Sometimes, it’s more of the usual stuff, and, sometimes, it’s not. Sometimes, the familiarity of a favorite genre, series, or author, is exactly what the doctor ordered, a touchstone to stability when all else is in chaos. Sometimes, it’s the thrill of discovering something new; a dogged search for classic standalones, for a diehard series fan, for example. Sometimes, it falls somewhere within the two. Maybe it’s e-books, devoured on phone, tablet, or e-reader, in waiting rooms or hospital beds. Maybe it’ s a set of beloved hardcovers, carefully packed and labeled as precious cargo, during a move. Once in a while, it’s a grab bag, the yellowed old paperback on the library swap rack, that catches our vision, when we’d only come in to pick up tax forms, or use the printer, because ours has a mushroom cloud over it, and may still be shooting green sparks, for all we know.
No matter what the problem, in romance novels, love does always conquer all. Our lovers always come through their trials better off than they went into them. Maybe we will, too.
So, dear readers, I turn it now over to you. What changes do you notice about your reading habits when life gets weird? Do you go for more of the usual fare, fall back on old favorites, seek out something new? Does your method of reading change; more or less e-reading, or on a different device? Pull up a chair in the comment section and tell us all about it. Rolling your eyes because this fluff piece is what’s getting weird here? We want to hear about that, too. There’s room for everybody at this table.