Zazzle Book Club: Romance

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With Valentine’s Day rapidly on its way, love is in the air. And in many places, lots of snow is in the air, too! Why not get in the mood to celebrate the holiday – and stay cozy indoors, fighting off cabin fever – by cuddling up with a sweet romance novel?

Here at Zazzle, we’re feeling the love with official stores for the book-series-turned-television-hit Outlander and its companion FanMerch store. We’re also pretty proud that author of the New York Times bestselling FEVER book series, Karen Marie Moning, offers official fan gear via her Zazzle store as well!

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According to its popularity, there’s much more to romance than meets the eye. Outlander, also a New York Times #1 bestseller, won the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award for Best Romance of 1991, and the entire series of books have been described by Salon magazine as “the smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting “Scrooge McDuck” comics.” The currently popular Starz adaptation of Outlander was recently nominated for not one, not two, but THREE Golden Globe Awards. Moning’s FEVER books also have been optioned twice for potential franchise development by Twentieth Century Fox and DreamWorks Studios – but she’s still on the lookout for the perfect television series opportunity.

Some may think that romance novels are simply the book equivalent of a “chick flick” – but romance readers know that romance stories are actually much more complex and meaningful than they may seem at first glance. So, what can you learn from a romance novel?

There’s nothing like a brain break

Let’s face it: Not many folks are willing to publicly admit they love romance novels. Meanwhile, romance continues to be the bestselling fiction genre. Ever.” So says the synopsis for “Beyond Heaving Bosoms“, a treatise on the romance genre by popular blogger Sarah Wendell. So, what’s the big deal? Some people might think romance novels are just fluffy junk food reading. Even if that were true across the board, who says that’s a bad thing? No matter what genre of books you’re into, reading is a great brain-booster. When you add in a romantic story with adventure and love, you can help turn your reading time into a time for fun, stress relief and relaxation, too. Read a romance with pride!

We all deserve a happily ever after

One thing that’s nearly a given in many romance novels is a happy ending. While the resolution may be predictable, the journey to get there is different in each story. Immersing ourselves in all of these positive outcomes from romantic fiction can have a positive outcome in real life, too. Another of Wendell’s books discussing the virtue of these stories says, “Romance means believing you are worthy of a happy ending.” Happiness, whether romantic or not, is something we all strive for. Romance stories help us believe in the search for happiness, and believe in the attainability of that search. Happiness and love are worthwhile goals to believe in!

Relationships take work

While most romances end with weddings, babies, and happily ever afters, the journey to get there is not always so sweet. In Everything I Know About Love I learned From Romance Novels, Wendell explains that “romance novels are complex and emotionally driven tales of courtship. And what better way to learn about relationships and how they start, fracture, and become stronger once repaired, than to read about those relationships in many, many permutations and variations?” If a romance story skipped straight to the happily ever after, there wouldn’t be much of a story. Learning how characters work through their conflicts and their problems to become stronger can help us learn how to work through our own interactions with loved ones in real life.

The big conflict is the middle of the story, not the end

Speaking of conflicts, what does the structure of romance stories tell us about the big, scary problems their characters encounter? They’re not the end! Immersing yourself in stories featuring characters persevering through tough circumstances to achieve love and happiness helps us to imagine ourselves doing the same. We learn to believe that we too can overcome big obstacles, either on our own or as part of a team. If a conflict in a romance story is not resolved, that means it’s not the end! We can take this as a little lesson in optimism, and in the value of persevering when things seem darkest.

Fantasy can help us understand our reality

Like any story, romance novels can serve as an easily digestible way to parse our own lives. We know the difference between fantasy and reality – but that doesn’t mean that fantasy can’t help us comprehend our reality. Karen Marie Moning describes the very different protagonists of both her popular book series, FEVER and HIGHLANDER, like so: “Mac had all the love in the world but had no spine. Her story is about finding strength. Dani has all the strength in the world but has never known love. Her story is about discovering it.” We can all connect with stories that show us a journey through life, a struggle and growth as person, whether they’re about discovering love, strength or anything else we humans strive for in life.

No matter what you’re reading, books open doors to new possibilities and new ways of thinking. As Moning puts it, “Books are doors to endless adventure.”

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