I have always loved romance novels. In fact, reading was basically my whole personality as a teenager. I had an embarrassing encounter in high school where I was reading on my kindle, and other kids noticed I was blushing. I was accused of reading porn, and got made fun of for a few minutes. In truth, my favorite character had simply held hands with the protagonist. That was enough to sweep me away as an awkward 16 year old. To be honest, that’s enough to sweep me away now.
Romance novels can be so fun to read. More than that, romance novels can be a way to help build intimacy and imagination in your marriage. Here are our favorite romance books, as well as how these books can help your marriage!
How Can Romance Novels be Helpful?
As mentioned above, I was not very popular due to my reading habits. We as a society have a habit of stereotyping readers as nerdy. We particularly stereotype women who read romance novels as silly or unserious. But this isn’t true! Reading romance novels can help awaken our sexual desires. For both men and women, reading about romance can help normalize sexual desire, unlock fantasies, and help engage our mind in the lovemaking process.
Reading romance novels can help you learn about what fantasies appeal to you. Roleplaying and sexy storytelling can be great ways to connect intimately and playfully with your spouse, however many people feel like they don’t know where to start. Reading about princesses falling for commoners, or football players falling for nerds, could help you understand what themes, scenarios, and details help to get you in the mood!
For a lot of Christians, we grew up in an environment where no one talked about sex. We got a law of chastity lesson, and after that learned from example that sex is taboo. Reading romance novels can help us see that intimacy, romance, and sex are normal parts of life. In fact, in a marriage these things can be absolutely fantastic! Romance novels can help us feel less awkward as we explore what we want.
Part of foreplay
Foreplay is so important to both spouse’s feeling aroused and pleased during the sexual experience. A large part of foreplay is engaging the mind and switching into the right mindset. With the craziness of life, our brain needs cues that it’s time to stop fixing problems and to start focusing on desire and intimacy. Reading a romance novel is an easy and fun way to help your brain transition to wanting to have sex.
Disclaimer: It’s About Finding Balance
As helpful as romance books can be, some couples have felt that romance novels have set unreasonable expectations, pulled their spouse away from the relationship, or are worried it may lead to pornographic material. Remember, intimacy is a two player game. Everything we do can help us grow closer to our spouse or farther away.
When it comes to romance novels, my advice is to keep your spouse in the loop.Tell him/her about the books you want to read, discuss together what level of “spice” you are okay with (see below for help determining the contents of romance books), and share the fantasies you discover. Keep in mind that romance books are just that, romanticized. This means real life can’t be as uncomplicated as the words on the page. Use these books to fuel your imagination, not as a yardstick for your own marriage.
How to find the Right Books
If you’re reading a book to help you with your intimacy, you will want something with a little spice. However, too much graphic detail could feel immoral, potentially harming the intimacy you are trying to build between you and your spouse. There are no “ratings” or set guidelines for written media. Here are a few terms to look out for that could help you decide which books are appropriate.
The terms “closed door romance” and “proper romance” are not widely recognized or standardized genres in the literary world. However, based on the general understanding of these terms, here’s a possible distinction:
Closed Door Romance
This term usually refers to a type of romance novel where the intimate or sexual scenes between characters are not explicitly described or portrayed. The focus is primarily on the emotional connection and development of the romantic relationship rather than the physical aspects. The narrative tends to use euphemisms, fade-to-black techniques, or subtle hints to imply romantic encounters without depicting them in detail. The closed door approach allows readers to use their imagination to fill in the gaps while maintaining a focus on the emotional aspects of the story. This is compared to an “Open Door Romance”, which allows the reader into the room (and all the graphic details) when the characters have sex.
The term “proper romance” is more subjective and could imply different things depending on the context. In some cases, it may refer to romance novels that adhere to a set of traditional or conservative values, often avoiding explicit sexual content and favoring themes of courtship, love, and emotional connection. These novels might emphasize chivalry, purity, and a focus on the development of a romantic relationship within societal norms.
It’s important to note that these terms are not widely recognized or defined within the broader literary community. Authors and publishers may use various labels or descriptions to categorize their novels, and the content and style can vary greatly within the romance genre. It’s always a good idea to read book descriptions, reviews, or sample chapters to get a better understanding of the content and tone of a particular romance novel before making a decision to read it.
Young adult novels can also be a good resource. These books are generally targeted at teeneagers, but because they are targeted at teenagers they tend to be “cleaner” than adult books.
As always, the most important note is to communicate with your spouse. The purpose of this exercise is to build intimacy in your marriage. So tell your spouse about the books you read. Ask them to read passages that excite you and fantasize together.
Romance Novel Suggestions
Armed with these suggestions, hopefully you can start looking for romance books to spark your imagination! Here are a few suggestions I’ve gathered from my own bookshelf, others at GYMO, and trusted friends. As always, rely on your own moral compass and the guidelines you have set in your marriage to inform what books you read.
- The Selection Series by Kiera Cass: Picture the Bachelor, but with a prince and a heroine who fights for what she believes in.
- Tiger’s Curse by Colleen Houck: An average girl gets pulled into a mystical world when it is revealed she is the only one who can break the curse of two Indian princes stuck as tigers.
- Kiss of the Royal by Lindsey Duga: In a world where kisses have power, romantic love is forbidden. But what if true love is the most powerful magic of all?
- Anything by Jane Austen: Okay, now I know I am labeling myself as a nerd here. These books do have language that can be tricky to get through. But Miss Austen was a maverick in the romance genre and I can’t bring myself to leave her out of my list.
- The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer: Shopy knows exactly what’s wrong with everyone and everything, and she is ready to turn it all upside down to fix it.
- Where the Stars Meet the Sea by Heidi Kimball: Juliet is forced to choose between breaking the promise she made to herself years ago or lose the man who has captured her heart and soul.
- The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E Smith: Hadley and Oliver meet on a plane and have a marvelous time. But will fate bring them together again? And can love really occur at first sight?
- Shuffle Repeat by Jen Klein: June wants high school to end and real life to begin. Oliver is soaking up senior year’s glory days. They could have coasted through high school, knowing about—but not really knowing—each other. Except that their moms have arranged for Oliver to drive June to school. Every. Single. Day.
- Better than the Movies by Lynn Painter: This teen rom-com follows a hopelessly romantic teen girl and her cute yet obnoxious neighbor as they scheme to get her noticed by her untouchable crush.
- The Bodyguard by Katherine Center: He’s an actor. She’s a bodyguard. But to keep his family from finding out he’s in danger, they pretend to be dating.
Written by Amanda Severson with Get Your Marriage On!