Or you could try my no-cost, pandemic-safe, minimal-time-required advice: read a romance novel.
For most of my life, I would’ve been embarrassed to promote romance novels. No longer. These things make me happy, reduce my blood pressure, and put me in a good mood for the rest of the week. And the library has thousands of them.
There’s a happy ending. Guaranteed. Think about that. You don’t have to wonder what will happen at the end. There will be declarations of love. And longing looks. There will be resolved conflict.
There will be sex (if you want it).
Endorphins exploding all over the place.
Real-life romance is great but limited these days. My husband and I don’t currently use a babysitter and the five of us have horrendous – and differing – sleep habits. Our opportunities for wining and dining are few and far between.
Romance novels are free and readily available (via library and ebooks), they can be devoured at all hours of the day (even extended, locked-door bathroom breaks), and they offer something for everyone. They also tend to read pretty quickly so there’s no major time investment.
Whether you want the bodice-ripping stereotypes of old or chaste explorations of modern love, it’s out there. If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few that have kept me company – and happy – this past year.
The Marriage Game by Sara Desai – Layla returns home to San Francisco after a disastrous relationship’s end. She’s forced to share office space with businessman Sam above her family’s Michelin-starred Indian restaurant. Somehow, he becomes her chaperone on traditional dates her father has fixed for her on IndianGirlMatch.com. You know where this is heading but does it matter? It’s all about the journey!
The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenz – It’s hard to imagine a great romance novel stemming from tragedy but this one manages it without bringing you down. This is actually a sequel to The Friend Zone, but it can be read as a stand-alone. Sloan has lost the love of her life in a motorcycle accident but stumbles into a relationship with music superstar Jason. This one is slathered with extreme emotion and over-the-top love but it works.
You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria – Yes, the title is cliché but who cares? Soap opera star Jasmine and telenovela star Ashton explore their chemistry on set in New York and all the conflict that ensues. You’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at filming intimate scenes and a reminder that loving and extended families are to be celebrated.
Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – Does anyone do romance like young adult novels? Every time I read one, I’m transported to adolescence and reminded of first love. Teenaged Simon has yet to come out to his friends and family but an online romance gives him hope for love. Hulu is streaming the movie made from this, but read the book first.
Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin – They pitch this as a modern, Muslim version of Pride and Prejudice. I love Pride and Prejudice but I see very few similarities. Despite this marketing tactic, it’s worth the read. So many of my favorite books this year have been from Canada (I wonder why) and this one made the list. Ayesha is struggling to find her independence and a career that fits and Khalid is a conservative man trying to let his mother find him a wife. I suppose there is some pride and some prejudice but in its own lovely, unique story.
Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn – Ohhh, Meg and Reid. She’s an artist who has found a niche in designing letters for clients, he’s a genius financial wizard on Wall Street who used her services and canceled his wedding as a result. They have some stuff to work through but was there ever any doubt? It’s a love letter to New York City as much as the story of Meg and Reid, and it will help you escape if you need it.
Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert – Titles are the best in romance novels! Chloe Brown suffers from fibromyalgia and struggles to live a normal life as a result of her chronic illness. That doesn’t keep her from falling in love with apartment manager Red, who happens to be an artist. Did I mention it takes place in England? I love a dry, British wit. The best part is this is just the first book in a series so if you like Chloe, you can read about her sisters in books two and three.
This list barely scratches the surface. What’s your favorite romance novel?
*contains affiliate links