Romance Novels and Heroin

“It’s funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools – friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty – and said ‘do the best you can with these, they will have to do’. And mostly, against all odds, they do.”
~ Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

When I was growing up heroin (the opiate) was the drug of choice for those who wanted to escape their life and forget for a while. At school we were taught about the evils of addiction, and the shameful weakness of the addict. To let ourselves fall to heroin? Goodness, that was never going to happen.

And then there are romance novels.

Romance novels?

You might ask what they have to do with addictive drugs.

Everything, really. Romance novels are heroin for the mind. Cheap, nasty, bad for you. A weakness. I never read one.  They are genre fiction, and at school and university this kind of story, that kind of writer, were frowned upon. I trusted my teachers and lecturers. I stayed away.

Now I am grown up, and I have a mind capable of critical thinking and analysis. I am also a grown up with an overflowing plate. Family dramas, terminal illnesses, clients needing major support, and in my psychic work recently some truly shocking and upsetting things that I can never quite shield myself from feeling and thinking about long after the work is done.

I am not the kind of girl to go shoot up some heroin. Or drink myself into a stupor. Or take ice or valium. Those things are never going to be adequate solutions to life’s pain and problems.

But romance novels? Genre fiction? Yes. Yes to them. Yes to losing myself in another world for a time. Yes to worlds that allow me to escape, to live vicariously, to really feel my emotions, and for, dare I say it, positive resolution and happy endings.

To all the romance and genre fiction writers out there I say thank you. You’re the best feel-good drug I know for helping me escape for a while and come back to life calmer, more rested and more ready to face the world.

The best thing about your kind of drug? I have you beside my bed, I have bookshelves full of you, and a kindle app loaded and ready to go should I need a quick fix.

I get it now. There’s a reason you’re so popular. You deliver on your promise.

And that feels oh-so-good.

13 thoughts on “Romance Novels and Heroin

    • Love the Thornbirds. Also, am not a sappy romance reader. I love a well-crafted novel, and I don’t read romance every day. I enjoy literary fiction and read widely across all genres. But when my brain is exhausted and my heart is weary from dealing with the trauma, drama and violence of life, it is a pleasure to dive into a story that doesn’t make demands of me as a reader, but that entertains and distracts me, and leaves me uplifted.

  1. I don’t like sappy romance novels I prefer a good mystery and you know for many years I didn’t know what a heroine was I don’t know why I didn’t maybe it was because I was a child and I didn’t think of the books I read as having heroes or heroines

    • Oh, I can’t read mystery and crime after a stressful day. It seems to compound the energy somehow, although I love to read them when I am on holidays. I used to think of all romance novels as sappy, and some of them truly are, but others are beautiful and masterfully written tales. I think there’s a place for everything, and for all kinds of stories, writers and readers.

  2. I get the allure of romance novels, especially those well written. I no longer indulge. I’ve lost my love of love. Broken hearted twice has made me scoff at romance and I’ve turned to murder mystery. But getting lost in a good story is better than any drug out there. Janet Evanovich with her Stephanie Plum series made me laugh out loud. A little bawdy with a bit of language in appropriate places, can have me falling off my chair laughing. Laughing always makes me feel better.

    • I agree, and love those too! I must confess that if I am reading women’s fiction and romance, my emotional battery is flatlined and I am in need of topping up the heartspace well and of holding violence, drama and grit at arm’s length for a while. I am glad Stephanie Plum cusses and is bawdy. The world needs a good laugh.

  3. The best book I’ve read in a decade is The Night Circus! An excellent read I think you’d love! *Warning: may cause lack of sleep due to inability to stop reading!

  4. I agree that reading is the best escape. I like to read sci-fi fantasy but I am very choosy. Just any story won’t do. Currently I am reading The Dresden Files series about a wizard who set up shop as a private eye. They are a fantastic escape and amusing.

  5. Oh my goodness, Nicole, I thought for the first time ever, I was going to disagree with you about something! But then I read on… Thank you for reading romance, and thanks for pointing out the good it can do for people who need a few hours’ escape and reassurance that love and happiness are worth striving for.

  6. Aaaah Nicole, I agree with you wholeheartedly! I am reading Sense and Sensibility at the moment to escape this crazy world for a few precious moments – If Elinor and Edward can find their happily ever after then there’s hope for us all 🙂

  7. Reblogged this on Luna Quirks and commented:
    This blog came across my news feed. I know many writers from all walks of the genre life and this blog sums up exactly why genres like romance have a place in the world. I know romance writers who receive emails that make their day as readers find a way of escaping the real world for a place where they know the story will end in a positive place.

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