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Book Buzz

So what really lies behind the powerful appeal of romance novels?

Nancy Harris, a practicing psychologist of 30 years and voracious reader, offers recommendations on books you might enjoy. In this installment of Book Buzz: romance novels.

Nancy Harris
Nancy Harris(handout)

Readers used to think of romantic novels as mere beachfare, but today the romance genre has a significant draw all year. Smart, capable, adventurous women in all walks of life seek out tales of lost love, unrequited passion, or unexpected second chances. So what really lies behind the powerful appeal of such stories? As a psychologist, I believe they offer more than just escape and entertainment. In these novels we find:

1) Reassurance that we are not alone in our hope that loving relationships can promote personal growth and bring out the best in two people.

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2) Comfort in the fact that the intense, sometimes irrational feelings and behaviors we experience when in love are not so disturbing -- because others feel and behave as we do.

3) Acceptance of our own self concept as smart, capable women who also happen to have a healthy, sexual appetite that we are free to explore and be proud of.

4) Inspiration and faith in the basic concept of love and its power to restore, heal, and reinvigorate.

5) Understanding that we all make mistakes and faulty choices on the journey to find companionship and love.

Everyone has favorites, but I am recommending five novels that are not your standard go-to tales, yet have intriguing plots, likable characters, and definitely add something of a twist!

Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman’s captivating and lyrical novel, tells the story of the Owens sisters, orphans raised by elderly guardian aunts who are witches -- of a mostly benevolent sort. Raised amidst love spells and potions, the girls are privy to the woes of desperate lovers seeking their aunts’ help in enticing true love. While the sisters’ paths diverge, they spend a lifetime discovering that as painful as it may seem to miss out on love, it may be even more dangerous to get the love you wish for.

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The Life Intended, Kristin Harmel’s 2015 novel, brings a dash of mystery to a tale of enduring love. On the eve of her engagement to a handsome, successful man, Kate Waithman is suddenly experiencing vivid, unsettling dreams of her first husband, Patrick, who died in an accident 12 years earlier. But their nightly romantic encounters seem so real -- could they be more than just dreams? Is Patrick trying to warn her? Or is she simply afraid to let go and begin again?

The Curiosity, by Stephen P. Kiernan, is a romantic thriller. When young female scientist Kate Philo and her research crew discover a man buried deep in the icy depths of the Arctic Ocean, the limits of science and imagination are tested as they attempt to bring him back to life. Jeremiah Rice, who perished at sea some 100 years earlier, was once a brilliant lawyer and beloved father and husband. If Kate’s experiment succeeds, how will the scientific community and the world react -- will he be treated as a flesh-and-blood man and allowed to savor his second chance at life and maybe even love? Or will he be treated as speciman to be poked, prodded, and violated? How far will Kate ultimately go to protect and cherish Jeremiah?

Come Back Love, by Peter Golden, is an emotional story of love, loss, and second chances. Gordon Meyers, an aspiring writer, and Glenna Rising, a beautiful, idealistic med student, find each other amidst the chaos and turbulence of 1960s New York. Despite the intense spark between them, they separate. Now, 35 years later, Gordon and Glenna have one more chance to reignite the flame, or extinguish it forever. Will they finally appreciate the uniqueness of their bond?

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Along the Infinite Sea, by Beatriz Williams, set for release on Nov. 3, is riveting historical fiction that illuminates love so strong that it transcends decades. Annabelle Dommenrich is a glamorous socialite who takes young, unwed, and pregnant Pepper Schyuler under her wing and hopefully out of reach of the baby’s powerful father. But Annabelle’s own troubled past, which begins in 1930s Europe, includes a Nazi husband, a Jewish lover, and a memorable flight from danger. When the secrets of both their pasts can no longer be escaped, who will rescue whom?


Nancy Harris can be reached at dr.nancy23@gmail.com or on Twitter @DrNancy_Globe.