For the last few months, many people, even the most avid readers, have been having trouble picking up a book and getting through more than a few pages before their minds start to wander. My colleague Kasey wrote about this recently and I can certainly relate.
One way that I have been coping with the anxiety of these uncertain times, besides my weekend stress baking, is reading more romance novels. Romance is often considered an escape. It tends to be about regular people living their lives, and you know there will be a happy ending, whether it’s happily ever after or happy for now. There’s something comforting about that, and even the predictability of the story lines can be reassuring – you know what’s likely to happen but you get invested in the characters and you continue the story to its satisfying conclusion.
For me personally, reading Romance also reminds me of what now feels like a simpler time. Before I became a librarian, I used to work for a leading romance publisher as a proofreader. As my colleague once joked, we made sex grammatically correct. It was a fun job and I still have a lot of fond memories of working there. It was also during that time period that I met the man who is now my husband, so in a way, romance novels remind me of those early days of getting to know someone and the excitement of wondering when you will see them again. In the years since then, the romance genre has come a long way, with more diverse stories being published, especially in eBook format, further widening the genre’s appeal.
Another way in which COVID-19 has impacted many of our lives is travel. A lot of us, myself included, have cancelled vacations and visits to family in other provinces or countries. There’s no telling when we’ll be able to make those trips, so for now I am going to “travel” by reading books set abroad. If you’re looking for a romantic getaway via reading, here are five recommended reads:
This one hits me right in the feels. My sister is celebrating a milestone birthday this summer, and we were supposed to go to Greece in September on a girls’ trip. It’s a place she’s always dreamed of visiting, but that dream will have to wait a bit longer. Meanwhile, if I can’t travel there physically at least my mind can travel there through this book. One Last Greek Summer is about Beth, who is 31, recently divorced, and not sure where her life is going. To take her mind off her troubles, her best friend, Heidi, suggests a trip to Corfu, the Greek island where the two friends used to party. When Beth runs into old flame Alex, her feelings quickly resurface.
After a high-profile breakup with her politician boyfriend, fitness trainer Tori Alvarez decides to head to Aruba for some much-needed relaxation. She has no intention of meeting a guy, but when she finds herself sitting next to an attractive man on the plane, she can’t resist flirting with him, not realizing that he is Hollywood star Carter Stone. Carter could use some help getting back in shape after drastically changing his appearance for his last role, and Tori is just the person for the job. When Carter’s identity is revealed by the paparazzi, Tori starts to question whether she really wants another high-profile relationship, and it’s up to Carter to show her why they should be more than just a holiday romance.
American Ella Durran has dreamed of studying at Oxford since she was 13. Now 24, Ella has been offered a position working on a political campaign that comes with the ability to work remotely from Oxford until she returns to DC after her year of studying abroad. Her plans are upended, however, when what should be a casual fling with her English professor, Jamie, starts to become something more. Things are further complicated when Ella learns a devastating secret about Jamie that will force her to choose between the life she’s always dreamed of and the man she’s falling in love with. Recommended for fans of Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.
Ever Wong dreams of being a dancer, but her parents have other plans for her. They want her to become a doctor even though she can’t stand the sight of blood. When she is sent abroad to study in Taipei, she can’t help but feel that once again her parents are taking over her life. Upon arrival, however, she learns from the other students that this experience is really an opportunity to live without rules and experiment with love. Loveboat, Taipei blends romance and adventure while exploring what it means to be Asian-American in Asia. The film rights for this book have been optioned by the producers of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.
As the only Muslim in her class, Zayneb is tired of dealing with racism. When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher about his racist remarks, she is sent to stay with her aunt in Qatar for spring break. While there, she meets Adam, who is trying to hide his multiple sclerosis diagnosis from his family, as well as the fact that he has dropped out of college. As the two begin to form a relationship, they must figure out whether staying together once Zayneb returns home is possible. While this book touches on a number of heavier subjects, such as racism, cultural appropriation, chronic illness, death of a loved one, and the meaning of home, Adam and Zayneb are well-written characters and the romance between them is heartfelt.