i_love_romance_heart_custom_personalized_mug-r91cbb7bd78b14209bc34a7e89f2e34ca_x7jgr_8byvr_512They say–they being a psychology professor writing in the New York Times–you may be able to keep yourself from desperately seeking Black Friday bargains by giving thanks for what you already have. Don’t believe me, believe Dr. David DeSteno who writes,

So if you’re looking to avoid impulse-buying this year, take time not only to celebrate with your friends and family, but also to count your blessings. You may find that the easiest way to thwart retailers’ enticements as you peruse the shopping aisle isn’t to try to resist what you want; it’s to be thankful for what you have.

Thus today, on Whatever Color Wednesday, I’m counting my blessings. And one of the things I am grateful for is all that reading romance has brought into my life.

I am of course thankful for all of the lovely people I’ve encountered. If there is a field with warmer, smarter, funnier, more insightful people in it, I’ve not experienced it. Almost to a person, every writer, reviewer, editor, publisher, and reader I’ve met, both in person and on the net, has been worth meeting. I’ve laughed with and learned from so many in Romancelandia it’s hard for me to imagine a group I’d rather spend time with.

But today, I’m thinking about the books, the thousands–last year I read or reread almost 400 romances and I’ve been reading romance, off and on, for almost forty years–of romance novels I’ve read. I’m fond of so much about this genre but, were I to pick my top five things, they would be these. (This list is in no particular order.)

1) Obscure facts. Thanks to Elizabeth Essex, I know swaths of info about early 19th century naval vessels–this has been wildly useful when doing crossword puzzles (mizzen!). From reading one of Courtney Milan’s lovely novellas, I now understand how to plot the course of a comet. Carolyn Crane vastly expanded my understanding of how a linguist places a regional accent. One of Jill Shalvis’s heroines spouted so many random factoids, I began to write them down. (My favorite: “A man’s forty-seven percent more likely to die from a fall than a woman.”) I like to believe my romance reading has enabled me to chat with confidence at cocktail parties.

2) Sex tips. I, like many romance readers, see a connection between my reading and my life in the boudoir. If you read as many love scenes as I do, you’re bound to pick up a thing or two. Whether it’s improved techniques (Jackie Ashenden), innovative approaches to personal grooming (Victoria Dahl), or reimagining the great outdoors (Patricia Gaffney), reading romance has helped keep the spark alive in my fifty something, ah, heart.

3) Giggling. Pity my poor spouse (or don’t: see #2). He has sat next to me countless times as I giggle helplessly over a book I’m reading. “What’s so funny?” he’ll ask. My answer never amuses him. It’s impossible–without over-explaining–to share just why, when Julie Ann Long’s Moncrieffe’s says “whores” rather than “horses,” it cracks me up. I laughed so often while reading Maisey Yates’s Untouched, he got up and made for the guest bedroom. I’ve annoyed fellow passengers by reading Rachel Gibson and Kristan Higgins while on quiet flights. My romance reading makes me laugh and makes getting through the no fun times in life a little bit easier.

4) Crying. Sobbing through the tragedies of others helps me face my own. Reading about pain and loss in fiction deepens my ability to empathize and understand heartbreak and heartache in real life. I’m bettered for reading about Meredith Duran heroine’s bone deep depression in The Duke of Shadows, the horrors inflicted on the Caches–children brutalized by cruel spymasters in Napoleonic France–in Joanna Bourne’s Spymasters series, Daria’s recovery in R. Lee Smith’s Heat, the snuffed out or destroyed lives of female victims of violence explored by Pamela Clare, and the limits felt by Brian as he cares for his sister in Mary Ann River’s The Story Guy. I treasure the tears my books have brought me.

5) A-ha moments. There’s nothing like reading a good book or series and suddenly getting it. You feel smart, connected, and you must keep on reading. This happened to me while reading Joanna Bourne’s Rogue Spy: I realized where two scenes in this book precisely fit into two others of the series. It happened when I understood what Chase was in Sarah MacLean’s One Good Earl Deserves Another. Many of Jo Goodman’s books have made me abruptly catch my breath when I’ve realized whom the bad guy is and how great the danger he or she presents is. A well-plotted story is a boon and I’ve found many in my romance reading.

So, I won’t be shopping on Black Friday. I’ll be reading romance and feeling appreciative for all its gifts.

Happy Thanksgiving and, as always, happy reading.

P.S. What has romance reading given you?