It’s been said that romance writers never go to bed alone. There’s the characters in our books, of course, but, sometimes, those companions are a little more…corporeal. Books and cats are classic companions, and who among us doesn’t like to have a beverage of choice at hand, possibly an optional nibble? What’s up with that?
Reading is often a solitary pastime. There are, of course, exceptions. How many of us have memories of a parent, or other older adult, first reading to us, and then with us, and even that in-between stage of allowing us to sound out the words for ourselves, giving coaching as needed, until we were finally ready to kick off our literary training wheels? Some of us have continued the cycle by reading to younger friends or relatives of our own.
Some of us have participated in buddy reads, where we read a book at the same time as a friend. Sometimes, the book is new to both parties, and other times, one friend recommends a favorite book to the other, and rereads the story while their friend experiences it for the first time. Some of us have participated in reading groups, formal or otherwise. Most likely, there will be a few members of such groups who didn’t read the book, or all of it (not every book is for every reader, after all) but still have contributions to make to the discussion. Depending on the group, the companionship is as important as the books themselves.
We have the internet, with countless boards and chatrooms and websites, making it easy to find other readers who can point us toward the good stuff (or steer us from things that are not our cups of tea) and even ask us for recommendations of our favorite things. Finding our romance reading tribe is a valuable thing. Depending on the group, there may or may not be snacks, possibly coffee or tea, possibly wine, possibly baked goods.
For the actual reading experience, though, we usually want to be the only bipeds in the room. Excluding feathered friends, if one has avian family members. Cats and books are a time-honored combination, and with good reason. Cats are big on comfort, and comfort can only heighten the reading experience. Purrs and slow blinks are great for relaxing nearby humans and helping us settle into an experience that is wholly themed around our own pleasure.
Dogs may be considered man’s best friend, and that goes for women as well. Is there any animal more devoted than a dog? Having a canine companion for our reading sessions cranks up the devotion aspect a few degrees, and, in cooler weather, the extra body heat is a huge plus. Who doesn’t want a friend who is as excited over us having a good time as we are? They may require payment in return after the reading session, in the form of walkies, but that’s a price many of us are willing to pay.
What we’re less likely to share, however, are our reading snacks. Some readers prefer to keep food and books as far apart as possible, and there are valid reasons for that. Chocolate and Cheetos, for example, can leave fingerprints and other smudges, which are less than desirable, especially if the book in question actually belongs to the public library. Others, though, consider taste an integral part of the reading experience. Fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies, still warm and gooey from the oven, with a hot cup of tea, or cold glass of milk, can enhance the sensory experience. Personally, I have never consumed bonbons (while reading romance, or otherwise) but the idea of indulging the palate while indulging the imagination? Yes, please. Now that we’re flirting with October, how about a nice, warm apple crisp a la mode? Hot cider optional, or maybe a nice ginger ale?
Tea or coffee, too, go perfectly with a great book, as a quick scroll through most bookstagram accounts will show. Some of the same principles as for food apply, and there’s also the ritual of preparing the drink, choosing the mug or cup, heating the water, choosing the coffee or tea, choosing, perhaps, a sweet or salty snack to accompany them, arranging said snack on a plate, and carrying the whole deal to our reading nook.
Here, too, there is the chance to fully indulge ourselves. Fluffy pillows? Hand-nit afghan, or fuzzy fleece throw? Bamboo bath tray? Scented candle? Chair? Bed? Window seat? Cat in lap, or dog at feet? Both? Romance readers never have to go to bed alone…unless they want to.
So, dear readers, I turn it now over to you. Who and/or what are your ideal reading companions? Pull up a chair in the comment section, and tell us all about it. There’s room for everybody at this table.