Why I Read Romance: The Healing Power of a Good Love Story

Romance is my favorite home remedy. Reading about love has been a juicy and effective part of my recovery from serious cancer. Combined with the loving attention of my husband and other wonderful healers, tales of passion have helped make me whole and vital again. Of course you don’t need to be ill to benefit from the uplifting effect of reading romance. Love stories provide an inexpensive, non-pharmaceutical way to lighten your heart and make your senses sing.

My adventures in romance started one day in 2003 at Copperfield’s used bookstore in Sebastopol, California. I was looking in the Sci Fi section (my long-time reading genre) for something to read while getting an infusion treatment at my doctor’s office. I discovered the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. These are time travel stories of a decades-long love relationship. The books are deeply emotional, beautifully written, and consistently exciting. They remain on my list of top romances. As I immersed myself in the Gabaldon stories, I found myself forgetting my concerns and discomfort and having a brighter outlook. A big part of the boost was the pleasure I got from reading the sex scenes. In the midst of the scary reality of cancer, it felt great to escape into a world of passion.

My husband, David, noticing how this cheered me, helped me find more good books. Over time I transited from sci-fi stories into pure historical romance. Now I read contemporary and every other flavor of love story. Luckily, we romance readers are legion, and fine authors abound.

Nine years and many hundreds of stories later, I can testify that love is an amazing tonic. Even reading about romance releases elevating bio-chemicals in our bodies and awakens emotional well-being. A good love story lifts us out of our troubles and nurtures our souls.

Here are six (the Lover’s number) reasons why I think romance is good for the body and the spirit:

1. Love stories draw us into our senses.

The heroine of a love story always revels in the smell of the lover’s skin, what he looks and tastes like, the textures of his voice. We get to participate in the sensory delights, not to mention the dramatic challenges that our protagonists encounter. While reading, we can drop out of the mental and physical stress of life, and into a colorful, sense-arousing world. Even this vicarious experience of delight can turn on the pleasure chemicals in our bodies. Cells bathed in pleasure-endorphins are happy cells.

2. Romance shows that we can heal against the odds.

The best stories are emotionally rich and authentic. They reveal the lovers grappling with intense limits from their families and cultures. Often there is a physical or emotional wound that seems incurable. Then we are shown how forgiveness and embrace overcome that limit. As I faced an illness that could have been fatal, I was inspired by these stories. Now that my illness is past, a good romance still helps me face the daily challenges of life on this planet.

3. Romance fosters acceptance of others.

No matter where or when a story takes place, we discover love there. No barrier of tribe, religion, or station can separate determined lovers or faithful allies. From the drawing rooms of Regency England to the shores of future worlds, people have hearts that awaken through love. In the face of the divisive visions that come to us via the news, the universality of love is a message that unites us. This openness of heart also spills over into our relationships with animals and Mother Earth. Love one, love all.

4. A good love story feeds our imaginative minds.

For me, great writing is a big part of what makes a story healing. Some authors use words like painters, creating beautiful pictures for the imagination. There is mounting evidence, in the health domain, that our envisioning minds can help us heal. Being drawn into the created worlds of my favorite authors let me exercise my imagination in the midst of physical challenges. I believe this helped me envision a positive outcome for myself.

5. Romance helps us resolve anger and have a good laugh.

Most stories have a villain you can love to hate. Many have elements of danger and intrigue. We human animals all have anger and shadowy emotions that need to be owned if not dramatized. Facing the demons in my own past was part of my recovery. I still find it liberating and enlivening to join in the rousing adventures of my fictional friends. On the flip side is the wicked humor that many authors bring to their stories. I laughed my way through many a cancer treatment by reading a good book.

6. Reading about love helps us embody love.

Traditional wisdom says that we become what we contemplate. Given the state of our world, I say, “Meditate on love”. Read about it and practice it in the flesh. Let it turn you on and make you feel good. As I see it, every minute spent dreaming of love is time well-spent.

So boogie on over to your local library or bookseller and dig into the feast of romance that awaits you. Don’t be embarrassed. Early in my romance reading career, I had to confess to a stern-looking librarian that I was there to pick up a big stack of romances I had requested online. She gave me a long look over her half-glasses. After I fidgeted a bit, she broke into a huge smile, and said, “They’re wonderful, aren’t they?” I couldn’t agree more.

So Lotus Mandala

"So Lotus" Mandala


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