Romance readers are often accused of giving in to escapism. You’ve heard those critics, the ones you want to roll your eyes at. They don’t get it. They seem to think that escapism is a bad thing! In fact, reading a Romance set in a place or even a time far, far away from your own is the next best thing to taking a long trip and immersing yourself in a different culture.
I first started reading Romance in high school, when I was definitely trapped in one spot. My daily fantasies of running away from the mean girls and indifferent boys, hopping a ship, and going to England, where I would hide in the countryside until a handsome aristocrat noticed me met their imaginative match in romantic stories of Regency pirates. The freedom that I found in reading about pirates (the ultimate gateway drug to the world of alpha heroes and feisty heroines) carried me through a difficult time in my life. It also peeked my curiosity about the times and places I was reading about.
Traveling the world is a prospect that most of us can only dream about, but just because we might not ever be able to ride across the Scottish Highlands or visit Mayfair in London or even see the wide, sprawling prairie of the American west doesn’t mean we can’t travel through the pages of a book. Romance novels in particular are rich with detail about the sights and sounds of worlds we would visit if we could.
More importantly, through Romance novels we learn about our world in ways that we never could sitting at home and watching tv. In the Historical Romances I’ve written, both The Noble Hearts medieval series and the Montana Romance historical western series, I’ve worked hard to capture the essence of times and places that may have been glossed over in history class. What did a day in the life of a medieval village look like? What would you have seen if you had walked up and down crowded streets lined with taverns and booths selling everything from vegetables to baskets to the latest quills and inks to write illuminated letters? What would the wind have felt like on your face as the train pulled into a distant frontier station in 1895? What wonder would you have experienced when you saw a light bulb shine for the first time? Just how cold was a Montana winter when you had to ride a horse through a blizzard to warn friends of coming danger?
You don’t find those sorts of things on The Travel Channel. There is a level of deep involvement in books, a level of emotional commitment in Romance, that carries us right out of tour everyday lives and takes us as far as our imagination can go. By escaping into the world of these love stories, we aren’t just indulging in brain candy, as the critics mistakenly like to think. We’re voyaging. We’re learning. We’re committing these places and people, these times and these venues to our hearts and minds and imaginations. What a blessing to be able to travel the world, now and then, while lounging on our sofas at home! Romance readers may very well be some of the most well-traveled people in the world.
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