Every other day, it seems as though I get an email inviting me to start a “financial diet” or telling me about ways I can save and cut back. I’m no economist (my background is in law and history), but the more I read about the economy, the more nervous I feel. I find myself less willing to spend money that I don’t have to spend. After all, who knows what will happen next?

It’s not a comfortable feeling, but even so, there are certain things I just will not give up. I can do without the cute shoes or the bag that I really don’t need. However, I just can’t stay away from the bookstore. I can do without a lot of things, but I need my romance fix. Escaping into another world, whether it be the Old West, Tudor England or a planet far, far away, lets me recharge my batteries a bit.

If I step away from reality for a little while and take a break by going somewhere that I KNOW will lead to a happy ending, I feel just a little more ready to face the day. I liken it to the popularity of movies during the 1930s and 1940s. My grandmother often tells stories of how she and her sisters looked forward to their Saturday afternoon jaunt to the movies. They got to visit all kinds of imaginary places and it was a break from wondering if everyone would have work. what would be for dinner, endless chores and so on.

The same holds true for me. Settling in for a good read helps me feel ready to make it through whatever challenges await. I discovered this when I worked in Bosnia and read Harlequin Historicals like mad(you’d be surprised how many of these one can fit into a small bag), and it still holds true today. The other worlds that authors create have an element of escapism to them, but the best writers create strong characters whose actions and thoughts inspire one as well.

Normally, I range pretty freely through romance, historical fiction, sci-fi/fantasy and some literary fiction. Lately, though, I find myself needing a guaranteed HEA of some sort. I’m not suddenly turning into a diehard fan of light romps, but I like to know that, at the end of all the grueling quests and adventures, my heroine will wind up happy.

I’ve noticed that the romance section in my local Borders has been a little more crowded lately, too. Perhaps more of us are feeling that need for optimism and happy endings in our reading. I know that, no matter what, I’ll be finding a way to keep books in the budget. It’s rather like keeping hope in my life.

How about you? Do you notice your reading habits changing at all? Does reading help you through tough patches, too?

-Lynn Spencer