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The "R" word...Romance novels

I love romance novels. Yes, I said it…the “R” word. I think the romance genre has come a long way from the beginning of mass market paperbacks and there’s a comfort in predictable fiction that is like eating your favorite dessert. The romance novels I recommend have fiery heroines, spicy love scenes and are definitely also comedies. The True Love Experiment by Christina Lauren asks readers to look at the flaws in relationships with the characters of Fizzy and Connor, and also the bravery in trying again despite your fears. Christina Lauren is a nom de plume of two friends who write together, Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings, who are New York Times bestselling authors.

I am a longtime fan of romance novels. I recognize how misogynistic and ridiculous some of them can be, but I can finally say publicly that I love reading romance novels. Being in middle age has the advantage that you no longer care about what others think of you. In addition, romance novels have one of the highest grossing sales in the publishing industry. There are hundreds of romance genre books published a year for billions of dollars.

The True Love Experiment by #ChristinaLauren is one of the most honest romance novels I have ever read for portraying the anxiety of romance. I truly loved both the main characters of The True Love Experiment because they were so vulnerable and flawed. Fizzy is a romance writer and her love interest,Connor, is the British t.v. producer who is tasked with creating a romance reality show to improve his company’s ratings. I think the beauty of Christina Lauren’s writing is that they give their heroes and heroines troubles that anyone can find relatable. These characters were relatable to me because I met my spouse on an online dating app. However, I didn’t meet him until much later in life compared to my friends. This was after probably a decade of on and off relationships and online dating experiences, the good, the bad and the ugly. Thus, I can relate to Fizzy’s laments as the oldest single person at her sibling’s wedding and her insecurities about trusting another person in a series of relationships. I liked the way Christina Lauren’s characters fall on their faces and make mistakes and then have to summon the courage to reveal their feelings and show persistence. As Fizzy says, “How are the heroines in my books so sure of themselves and the person they fall in love with? How does anyone really know what and who they want? It’s all such a risk. Who chooses to fling their heart out into the blackness of uncertainty, blindly hoping someone catches it?” I think persistence in love is not what you see in Hollywood movies, but this stalwart feeling is the key to a good relationship in my experience.

The first romance novel I ever read was given to me by my grandmother and it was Montana Sky by Nora Roberts. From that moment as a high school student, I was intrigued by the escapism of romance novels. I continue to find myself enamored by their HEAs (Happily Ever After as they say in publishing). I have decided to normalize this search for a happily ever after in reading. The romance world gives people a chance to make believe and to smile. Netflix’s production of “Bridgerton'' showed the world that people love a steamy romance. Good romance novels give us the experiences of falling in love and great romances show us how to be brave. Fizzy reveals, “It’s weird to be thirty-seven but only now learning how to do this: confess my feelings, go after who and what I want in my romantic life, manage rejection.” Romance novels like The True Love Experiment give readers an imaginary world to visit and control “...seeing yourself as the main character in a very interesting life…It is, my friends, the fantasy of significance.”

(The True Love Experiment by Christina Lauren will be published on May 16, 2023)

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