Monday, 5 March 2018

Romance Novels Are Good For You

By Alyssa J. Montgomery


                                                                   Image courtesy of Pixabay.com


We all know that romance novels are good for us...don't we?

According to Susan Quilliam, a British relationship psychologist, this isn't the case! She says they "offer an idealized version of romance which can make some women feel bad about themselves because their relationships aren't perfect" and that they "may lead to women making poor health decisions including not using a condom during sex." She slams the "deep strand of escapism, perfectionism and idealization (which) runs through the genre."  https://www.livescience.com/14985-romance-novels-bad-womens-health-psyche-psychologist.html.

Critics have fired rounds of bullets at our genre since the first romance novel was written. Consider the following points to deflect them.

1. Reading romance novels can inspire healthier relationships
Romance novels are a celebration of love and highlight many obstacles that must be overcome in achieving love. The characters are flawed and yet they find their HEA. Central to our genre are important messages about the importance of communication, trust and loyalty. We read that mistakes are made and that forgiveness and compromise are vital ingredients to a successful relationship. I believe application of these lessons to our own relationships will make them healthier.




                                                                                                                               Image from Freepik.com
2. They provide comfort and inspire hope.
Yes, romance novels provide a form of escapism from mundane and stressful tasks of daily life. Yay! Reading is a little bit of "just-for-me-time". Romances allow us to mentally unwind - to de-stress - and to emerge from the story with renewed freshness and energy. Subconsciously, seeing characters achieve their goals despite adversity may also give us confidence that we can conquer challenges we face in real-life.


3. There can be positive effects on love life.
Readers say that a steamy love scene can inspire intimacy, make them feel more confident in their sexual self-expression and lead to their relationships being spiced up in the bedroom.


                                                                                    Image Courtesy of Pixabay.com


4. Positive Physiological Effects
Reading, in general, has been shown to enhance brain function. Romance reading has the added benefit of emotional stimulation.
Neurological chemical processes occur when we are with loved ones. These cause the release of oxytocins and dopamine (good for the heart and for lowering blood pressure). The feelings of pleasure we have when reading a romance can also be linked to increases in these chemical levels. Nikki Logan discusses this in her book, The Chemistry of Reading - Arousing Your Reader.




5. Romance novels have helped empower women.
This statement is a topic all in itself and as I'm now at my word limit, I'll be exploring this topic in my blogspot here on October 8th. Stay tuned...

What other points would you add to the list in support of romance novels being good for us?


Love to Love romance stories that have ideals and provide escapism.

Love to Laugh about the misconceptions people have about those of us who read romance. (Fabio fantasies indeed!!)

Love to Learn that romance novels are physiologically good for my health!

49 comments:

  1. I couldn't agree with you more Alyssa. I love reading and most of all romance novel (hopeless romantic). It is an escape from everyday dramas and actually nice to have that feeling of happiness and escapism.
    Tania

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    1. Thanks for visiting Tania. I can't imagine a world without a good romance book!

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  2. Alyssa, I *knew* there was a reason I love reading romance! I particularly love the hope and comfort they give. Another reason is that they’re mostly well written, so give a good story. Oh yes, there is the occasional dud, but isn’t that true of any genre? I also love the romance writer and reader communities. They’re positive, vibrant, supportive and a simply wonderful place to make new friends. You bond over common interests and share new discoveries. Everything to enjoy!

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    1. Wonderful points Malvina. Romance readers are very special and empathetic people who have a great sense of fun!

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  3. Hi Alyssa! One reason (among many) that I love to read romance is because I get to have a 'happy cry' at the end. I think we all need a good cry every now and then. ;)

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  4. I "love" (NOT) the way Ms Quilliam assumes that 'women' can't tell the difference between fiction and reality!!

    Many a time I've sunk into a romance for the sheer joy of escapism, to be carried away by the story and the characters. I don't view it as an indulgence, but a mental health necessity. And rest assured, the book has never made me feel bad about myself, or influenced my birth control decisions... though it may have spiced up the old love life once or twice :D

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  5. Hi Alyssa. Romance novels are a joy to read. Despite the conflicts love wins and the HEA gives readers that 'aaah' feeling we all love and hope for. I especially love stories that tug at my emotions so I cry with happiness at the lovely endings.

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    1. I'll join you in reaching for the tissues for the happy cry!

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  6. Yes...yes and yes, I couldn't agree with you more. I love reading most of all romance novel (beside thriller n detective novel also). It is for me is an therapist escape from everyday routine and actually I feels kinda enjoying n nice too.

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    1. In a very busy lifestyle, I have to say I'd far rather read a romance novel than sit in front of the television. I can put everything else out of my head, unwind, be entertained, live vicariously (!), and be guaranteed of the HEA ending.Thanks for commenting!

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  7. As unrealistic as romance novels may or may not be, the genre is fictional, not factual...and if readers take the plot at face value and use it as an instruction manual for their own lives, then we should be questioning their intellectual prowess, not the benefits of reading romance. It cannot be disputed that romance novels leave readers with a 'warm and fuzzy' feeling...and isn't that why we read fiction? For enjoyment? And to expand our own creative scope! If romance novels were consistently true to real life relationships, then they would fail to enhance a reader's creative viewpoint and offer anything new or different.
    And yes, Alyssa is quite right when she says that the real-life situations these novels do present can often offer advice on how to deal with conflict or misgivings in a relationship.
    A thought-provoking and well written post, thank you Alyssa!

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  9. Hi Alyssa

    Great post and I am a firm believer in romance novels they certainly make me happy and take me away from the everyday stress :)

    have Fun

    Helen

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    1. Thanks Helen! They're great fun to write too! I wonder what sort of chemical reactions happen in the romance writer's brain while we are writing away? We'll have to ask Nikki Logan about that one!

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    2. If you're empathetic enough, your body goes through the same process writing romance as reading it. It's why authors of very deep, emotional books burn out more regularly because they're putting themselves through the emotional wringer day in and day out. For reading, that emotional rollercoaster is maybe a day or two long. When writing it it's much more protracted. But the trade-off is that you also get to enjoy the highs for longer too. In fact, for me, it's the measure of a good/effective story if I can still get the tingles or the gut punch after I've read it over two dozen times...

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    3. That must be why we find writing romances so satisfying. It's not just the satisfaction of the achievement of finishing the story, it's the journey with the characters, and as you say, Nikki, experiencing those highs and lows that the characters go through.

      Good point also about writer burn out. I'm not a full-time writer as I still have my speech pathology private practice. My writing is a pleasurable escape from the energy output of the day and a very different emotional pull from the emotions I burn with the success and struggles of my clients. I won't give up my day job any time soon!

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    4. That must be why we find writing romances so satisfying. It's not just the satisfaction of the achievement of finishing the story, it's the journey with the characters, and as you say, Nikki, experiencing those highs and lows that the characters go through.

      Good point also about writer burn out. I'm not a full-time writer as I still have my speech pathology private practice. My writing is a pleasurable escape from the energy output of the day and a very different emotional pull from the emotions I burn with the success and struggles of my clients. I won't give up my day job any time soon!

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  10. Thank you for a wonderful post Alyssa. Much food for thought there. Reading Fiction is escapism and entertainment, Reading romance just happens to be my choice of that escapism and entertainment that makes me happy and really isn't that what it is all about? I think Romances actually show in many ways that relationships are neither perfect nor easy. That people are neither perfect nor easy.

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    1. Absolutely Cassie! It's nice to have flawed characters and romances that win against the odds because that's far more reflective of real life. If our characters weren't flawed we probably wouldn't relate to them as well!

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  11. There is nothing wrong with novels that inspire people to lead a more enjoyable life. Keep up the good work Alyssa. Keep writing and inspiring.

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  12. Thanks for sharing- interesting read

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    1. Thank you for reading the blog! Hope you enjoy all the blog posts by the writers. We're quite a varied group in the types of romance stories we write and I think that makes for a better variety of perspectives!

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  13. I agree with all of your points Alyssa. Who doesn’t like to sit down to a good read where the story takes you to another place and time. Love conquers all in the end which leaves you feeling happy and does wonders for your psyche.

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    1. Thanks Kim! Glad you enjoyed it. Romance definitely does wonders for the psyche whether it is real or read!

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  14. Love your novels, Alyssa, and will continue to read them.

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    1. I'm very glad to hear that! Thanks for stopping by on the blog.

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  15. Hi Alyssa, I love the interplay of characters in romance novels. The journey of personal growth the heroine and hero undergo can be inspiring. The main reason I read romance novels is very simple. I enjoy them.

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  16. You've put it in a nutshell, Sharon!

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  17. Agree with all the above blogs. I feel sorry for Susan Quilliam that she can’t just read for enjoyment without having to analyse the “real world”. I’ve been reading romances for over 40 years, am happily married with 3 adult kids and read a few romance novels a week. And Alyssa you are right some of them have spiced our love life!!! After 28 years, my hubbie – who is not young, ripped and arrogant (as in the books) still does it for me!!! It is possible to ‘read(look)’ fiction without being disappointed in your own life. I actually resent Susan for thinking that I or any other woman would be so stupid.

    Keep writing your wonderful romances Alyssa – and I’ll keep reading them.

    Elaine

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    1. There'll always be critics of romance novels, but yes, some of the comments about readers can be insulting. You keep enjoying them, Elaine. I'll definitely keep writing them!!

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  18. Love to demonstrate to my husband that the couple of hours I spend reading romances reward him greatly in so many ways!!!Keep giving me ideas Alyssa

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    1. That's funny but oh dear! The pressure now!!

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  19. I love reading romance, especially your books Alyssa! I agree with everything you've said about the therapeutic benefits. I can't wait for your next one. When can I expect to be able to read it?
    - June, Rockhampton

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    1. The Irresistible Royal will be released on May 12th and is available for preorder now. I hope you enjoy it June!

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  20. Bring on the oxytocins and dopamine! No wonder I love a good romance novel. Even better than chocolate because the book lasts for much longer. Thanks Alyssa for improving our health with your books!
    - Marita, Brisbane

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  21. Hi Marita! Even better, try romance books WITH chocolate!

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  22. Good post, Alyssa. I look forward to the one on the 8th, too. I once had a discussion with a counsellor about how many women had unrealistic expectations of love courtesy (she thought) of romance novels. She judged all women by the ones she saw in her office. I argued that the women she was seeing in her office may not be the most emotionally equipped examples and that she might find that their disconnect from the real world may well play out in other areas of their lives, too. For her argument to be valid she either had to change her statement to 'some women' or she had to examine a much broader sample of romance-reading women. She also had a weird book prejudice -- she didn't harbour any concerns about cinematic romances/HEA, just novels. In the end we had to agree to disagree :)

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    1. That is very interesting and very valid, Nikki. I'm frequently amazed at the conclusions drawn by "scientific researchers" on the basis of skewed population samples.
      With a science background myself, I would've thought a representative sample was one of the first and most important priorities after ethical clearance!
      Thanks so much for dropping by. Love your romance novels, and found the Chemistry of Reading very interesting reading!

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    2. That is very interesting and very valid, Nikki. I'm frequently amazed at the conclusions drawn by "scientific researchers" on the basis of skewed population samples.
      With a science background myself, I would've thought a representative sample was one of the first and most important priorities after ethical clearance!
      Thanks so much for dropping by. Love your romance novels, and found the Chemistry of Reading very interesting reading!

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  23. I love reading romance novels... I love how you can get lost with characters and they can become someone special...and you want them to to have a happy ending...
    These novels takes you on great journey and I have lost many hours of sleep because I won't put the book down..till the very end.
    Thank for sharing love the post and your books too

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    1. Thanks for visiting the blog, Toni. Oh yes, those page-turners that make us cheat sleep...know them well! In fact, I haven't read a Tom Clancy novel since my twins were babies, because I already got precious little and very interrupted sleep in those days and one night I got started on a very thick book of his, and ended up not sleeping at all! Now I stick to faster reads because I'm undisciplined when it comes to putting a good book down.

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  24. I agree they are great for not only enjoying some time out but also inspiring hope and stimulating a deeper understanding of people's psychology, especially when it comes to relationships, which can only benefit us in real life. I don't believe anyone of sound mind would make poor health decisions because of what someone in a story did or didn't do!

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    1. Totally agree! Thanks for your comments.

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  25. A great escape from the worries of everyday life.

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    1. They certainly are! Thanks for visiting the post!

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