Have you ever fallen down a romance reading rabbit hole? Most of us have. Maybe it’s more accurate to say gone down a bunny trail, because these ventures can, as often as not, be completely voluntary, but one thing still holds true. One good book leads to another, which leads to…well, let’s talk about that.
For some of us, reading one book at a time, and moving on to the next one is as natural as breathing, as logical as a mathematical equation. Reading plans are as carefully crafted as a university syllabus, and strictly adhered to, right to the end. Then, there are the rest of us. Those of us who read one book, or even part of one book, then wind up, six hours later, with one tab open to Wikipedia, another to TV Tropes, one more on Goodreads, with our Amazon cart overflowing, all while sitting in the middle of the floor, surrounded by what can loosely be termed a book igloo, because we have pulled that many off our bookshelves (both keeper and TBR, thankyouverymuch) because we’re looking for, um, you know, that thing.
What thing? Well, that’s funny you should mention. The thing is very often a whole bunch of things. One minute, you’re looking up an author’s long-unused pseudonym, which leads to searching for the reason they stopped using it, which leads to finding out what happened to that once-thriving publishing house, which can lead to researching sociopolitical events of the time surrounding the publishing house’s demise, which coincides with the birth of the author’s first child, who sounds really familiar, so it’s a hop on over to IMDB, and no hecking way, they’re that person from that show, and this author is their parent? How did you never know that?
Maybe it’s checking on a historical fact, which leads to a related, but little known historical fact, that the author may have made a sly nod to in the book, and you thought they made it up for the story, but no, it actually happened, and this other person wrote an academic paper on that, and it sounds super interesting, so can regular civilians maybe get a copy? Bet the librarian will know the answer to that one. While you’re at it, that other thing about that other person sounds pretty cool, and wait a minute, this article mentions that a different romance author used that same historical tidbit in their book, so now of course you have to go find that one, which is related to this other one, which is out of print, but maybe it’s worth nosing around a bit to see if there are any used copies circulating about, and and and and and…yeah.
Most of us have been there, and those of us who haven’t, wait. Your turn is coming. There’s no telling when it’s going to happen. Maybe you innocently pick up a category romance, from the line you get every month, like clockwork, and oh look, it’s part of a multi-author continuity, so off now to hunt down the other books, with a possible detour to study the map of the town where this all takes place, maybe snoop about to see if there is a real-life counterpart, and, before you know it, you not only have six new authors to investigate, but you are knee deep in vintage house plans, and can give architectural historians a run for their money on the origins of Levittown, have watched the episode of Cold Case with a Levittown-ish setting, have two books on the civil rights movement on request at the library, are building your own version of a housing development in The Sims, and it’s all thanks to the couple who meets cute on page three, at the bottle redemption center.
That’s how deeply romance reading weaves itself into the fabric of our everyday lives. No matter the time or place of the story worlds, they are packed, not only with emotion, great stories, and connections to readers all over the world, but with hard work and solid research that pulls us so far into these love stories, that they become part of our own worlds, as well. In extreme cases, this sort of thing can click the “I wonder if I can do that” switch, and, in a flash, the reader morphs into a writer. Not in every case, but ask most writers what the book was that flipped that switch for them, and they will be able to tell you. (For this writer, it was The Kadin, by Bertrice Small.) Maybe reading one particular romance novel leads to other things, like a trip to Scotland, taking martial arts lessons, or learning to paint. Maybe it changes the course of university studies, or ignites a lifelong love of spicy cuisine. These romance reading rabbit holes can go anywhere, but, by and large, it’s almost always somewhere good.
So, dear readers, I turn it now over to you. Have you ever fallen down a romance reading rabbit hole? Does one good book lead to another? What’s the strangest bunny trail you’ve followed, thanks to a romance novel? Pull up a chair in the comments section and tell us all about it. There’s room at this table for everybody.