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How romance novels got me back into reading

After a years-long reading slump, all it took for Hannah to get her nose back into books was one very particular genre and the promise of a happy ending.

I’ve always called myself a book lover. My beautiful vintage bookshelf with its rainbow colour-coordinated display takes pride of place in my living room, and I’m never without a towering stack of books on my nightstand. But up until recently, those shelves and stacks of books were simply gathering dust, as life took over and my love of reading fell by the wayside. That was until I delved into the world of romance novels. Here’s how this often highly scrutinised genre helped rekindle my love of reading.

Picture of by Hannah Mills

by Hannah Mills

If I could go back to a time in my life, I’d transport myself to the year 2015, and more specifically, to the five weeks of maternity leave I had before my first child was born. Five solid weeks where I had nothing to do but ponder which cafe I’d like to go to that day, whether I should binge-watch an entire series, maybe read a book in one sitting, take an afternoon nap or perhaps get my hair and nails done (because you know, those type of things are very important to newborns). Oh and of course, the whole growing a baby thing.

Up until recently, those glorious five weeks were the last time I had managed to actually get some solid reading done. Since my first child was born, I’ve been lucky to manage two to three books within a calendar year, while hiding behind my phone screen incredulously laughing at every book nerd I’d see who had somehow ticked off over fifty books that same year. They say that we all have the same amount of hours in a day (even Beyonce), but clearly those people weren’t wiping bottoms, feeding round the clock or prepping snack after snack.

I’ve always loved reading, but life had other plans for me over the past eight years and that once-loved pastime took a back seat. That was until I decided to give one particular genre a go – romance.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a hopeless romantic. I can’t get enough of romantic comedies and if a television series I’m watching doesn’t have a romantic subplot, no worries – I’ll create one of my own. I later learned that’s called ‘shipping’, and boy – let’s not go into the heartbreak I experienced when one particular pairing I was hardcore shipping didn’t actually get together. But that’s okay, there’s always fanfiction (a topic for another day).

"I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a hopeless romantic. I can’t get enough of romantic comedies and if a television series I’m watching doesn’t have a romantic subplot, no worries - I’ll create one of my own."

But when it came to novels, I’d never really gravitated towards the romance genre. Undoubtedly, there’s an unspoken stigma when it comes to this category. Many seem to view it as lacking substance or intelligence, or perhaps the colourful, often-cartoon-ish covers of two lovers in a romantic embrace are enough to turn people away.

A few months ago, after having heard the name online multiple times, I downloaded Book Lovers by Emily Henry – in hindsight, an incredibly fitting title to rekindle my love of reading. I was pretty much immediately hooked. Set in the literary world – tick. Small town vibes – tick. Grumpy male character vs sunshiney female character – tick. A modest amount of spice – tick. Happily ever after – tick. What’s not to love?

Since then, I’ve managed to work my way through almost 30 other romance novels. Yes, that’s right – 30. I am now that person I once laughed at. While yes, some of them have been extremely predictable and some have basically just been smut disguised as a story, I’ve also been surprised by the smart and witty characters, the humour, the heartbreak and the genuinely clever stories I’ve worked my way through. I can’t get enough.

While life is unpredictable and stressful at times, I’ve found an incredible amount of solace in these love stories and their happy endings (in more than one way, if you catch my drift) and while I’m blissfully happy sticking to romance for now, I’m stoked to have invited reading back into my life and I’m proud of the way I’ve found the time to get the chapters in while managing the chaos of day-to-day family life.

Here's 5 romance novels i've enjoyed recently:

Funny Story

By Emily Henry

I’ve now worked my way through all of Emily Henry’s novels, and I can safely say that they’re all just as good as each other, but I really enjoyed her latest - Funny Story. Henry is truly gifted when it comes to the smart, funny main characters she creates and the worlds she puts them in. After being brutally dumped by her fiance, Daphne winds up moving in with her ex’s new girlfriend's ex, Miles - yep, sounds messy but ends up being absolutely delightful.

The Love Hypothesis

By Ali Hazelwood

I’m so glad I discovered Ali Hazelwood, and again, I’d recommend working your way through all of her novels. Hazelwood herself is a neuroscience professor, and as such, most of her stories are set in the world of STEM. The Love Hypothesis is about Olive, a PHD candidate who falls into a fake dating situation with the grumpy but incredibly smart and handsome professor, Adam. The tropes are aplenty in this one but so are the laughs and the wit.

The Soulmate Equation

By Christina Lauren

Another romance story set in the science world that I absolutely devoured. Starring single mum Jess - a data and statistics wizard, who has been burned by previous dating encounters and struggles to find the time to even entertain the idea of a partner while busy looking after her young daughter. She hears about a new dating app which is using DNA samples to pair people up, and is shocked to discover she’s found a 98 percent match with another user (the highest ever on the platform so far). I loved how this story beautifully portrayed the joys and struggles of a single mum, and gave its main characters a second chance at love in a really unique scenario.

Part of Your World

By Abby Jimenez

Small town boy vs big city girl who fortuitously meet on the side of a dark country road. Alexis is an Emergency Room doctor whose family holds strong ties to one of her city’s major hospitals. It’s expected that she will continue on the family name, following both her parents’ recent retirements. She loves helping people but she’s tired of the pressures being placed on her and her family’s impossible expectations. She meets the dreamy Daniel, who is a talented carpenter and owns a small inn in a sleepy tourist town a few hours away. Again, lots of familiar tropes here but very easy to read and gave me all the warm fuzzies.

Love, Just In

By Natalie Murray

A love story set right here in Newcastle? Say no more. I really enjoyed this story which follows Josie, a fresh-faced news reporter from Sydney who takes on a secondment with a local television station in Newcastle and ends up rekindling a friendship with her childhood bestie, Zac. There was so much I could relate to in this book and I loved seeing Newcastle through Josie’s eyes. I also loved the way Murray tackled some important topics like health anxiety, but wrapped it all together in a beautiful love story.

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