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There were too many times my mom would catch me reading a book with a flashlight under my sheets, demanding that I go to sleep already. I can’t say romance was ever my favorite genre because I (ironically) fell in love with reading as a kid. I loved fantasy, mystery and historical fiction, of which I would devour physical copies. Some of them are still on my shelves, and they were clearly loved.
Romance has always been like this thing that would derail my plans to save the world. But as I got older, the genre started to interest me more. And since it’s cliché, I have to be honest and say it: the book that made me fall in love was Pride and Prejudice, which I’ve read about four or five times at this point. But just as I was delving deeper into romance books in high school and college, I was also developing my interest in more “respectable” literature.
Getting a degree in English was one of the best decisions I ever made as a young adult. But it certainly made me a little embarrassed about the books I read because I wanted to appear scholarly in front of my classmates and teachers. In fact, I wanted nothing more than to appear as a Shakespeare aficionado who spoke without irony of irony to anyone who would listen. My cute romance novels had no place in this world, or so I convinced myself.
But hey, a girl has to read what she likes, so I downloaded the Kindle app and started enjoying love books on the sly between lectures and even when I should have been studying for that final of organic chemistry.
It took me an embarrassing time to admit that I found reading The duke and me by Julia Quinn just as enjoyable as Jane Eyre. Are these two different experiences? Yes. But the former was a great comfort during a stressful time in my life while the latter helped me realize how much I loved literature. I just loved how the romance books expected nothing of me but to believe in love and meet cuties.
Over time, I realized that reading romance books on my phone had certain benefits. For one thing, I love reading love books while snuggled up, and my phone is the perfect size for such reading. It’s also a bonus that I have my own apartment now, so my mom can’t stop me from reading late at night. Do I drop my phone on my face from time to time? Yes.
I also realized that even though I read books of other genres from start to finish, sometimes I liked to read my romance books asynchronously. I don’t know why, but I think it’s because I love the anticipation of happily ever after and want to make it last (I strictly read happy romances, by the way). My phone also facilitates this, because in less than a second I can go from reading Mr. Malcolm’s List from Suzanne Allain to The wedding game by Sarah Desai. And my weird brain just finds comfort in that.
The Kindle app also gave me access to Amazon’s huge selection of books, not to mention those published by independent authors, which quickly gave me access to something amazing: authored novels. color, which honestly didn’t have room on the shelves when I was in college. Say what you want on Amazon (and there’s a lot to say), but it gave me access to books that helped me see myself in love books. To be honest, I always thought that this amazing romance in Pride and Prejudice probably wasn’t for me, until I came across a host of authors writing contrary stories. I now immerse myself in comforting love books like Gods by Mary Ting, The date of the wedding by Jasmine Guillory The problem of hating you by Sajni Patel, and The bride test by Helen Hoang. These days I feel like it’s so much easier to access romance books by authors of color, but that wasn’t the case when I was in high school or even college. ‘university.
While the shame of reading romance books has faded, I still find myself turning to my phone to read them. I don’t do it anymore to hide the fact that I read romance; in fact, I proudly display hard copies on my shelves. I think it’s a habit: the idea of pulling out my Kindle or Libby app and reading a romance comforts me. My brain now has a habit of expecting a comforting read every time I check out an ebook on my phone.
And it turns out that reading Nalini Singh and LJ Shen’s books after a long day at corporate America is just as enjoyable as after studying for that organic chemistry final.