At least once a week, I think to myself, I am so grateful for romance novels. I’ll be sitting in the sun, smiling to myself over a good book, and it will occur to me how thoroughly everything else has melted away. No worrying about the future, no stressing over the minutiae of daily life. When I’m basking in a great love story, for a while I feel entirely safe, warm, happy.
Alongside I am so grateful for romance novels, there’s another thought: I wasted so much of my life not reading romance novels. I came of age in the heyday of the quintessential romance cover – a woman in a falling-lower-by-the-second dress wrapped around a shirtless man named Fabio – and while I was aware of how popular these kinds of books were, I was also aware of the way the greater culture sneered at them, along with the women who read them.
So maybe I was too ashamed to pick one up, or maybe I was just intimidated by those lusty covers, but either way, the end result was the same: I never read a single romance novel until 2016, when I picked up Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game. My life has been so much better since.
Whenever I’m anxious, melancholy, or overwhelmed, I pick up a romance novel and feel an almost instant reprieve. No other genre offers such a safeness, a world in which things may go wrong but, in the end, everything will be all right. So if, in this time of extreme uncertainty, you find yourself longing for that happy ending, then maybe now’s your chance to fall in love with a good romance novel.
Three perfect meet-cutes* with the romance genre
*A ‘meet-cute’ is the term given to a particularly unlikely if endearing encounter between two people who go on to fall in love. Which is to say: these are the books to start with.
Three absolutely essential romance novels
The must-read, unputdownable heavy-hitters.