Do you have things you struggle with? Problems that keep you up at night sometimes?

Things that can’t be tidily wrapped up with a bow, but more the kind of thing that feels like it has to be shut in a chest in the attic, only opened in the middle of the night when no one can see or hear it come trashing out? Unwieldy problems you fight alone in the dark? Issues that are difficult to share with anyone but those closest to you, and maybe not even them?

Yes? Me too.

It’s okay. Whether their names are grief, fear, anxiety, loneliness, or something else, we don’t have to name them. Not right now. I won’t name mine, and I won’t make you name yours. What I want to talk about is something else.

Fiction.

More specifically, romantic fiction.

Huh? Talk about subject whiplash. Or is it?

You are, after all, reading a blog called “The Romance Readers’ Cafe”. Both the readers and writers of this blog are romance fans (or at least, if you’re reading this, I’m assuming you have some sort of interest in the romance genre). So it really shouldn’t surprise that I’m here to talk about romance.

And what I want to talk about today, is Medicinal Romance. Medicinal as in “healing”, just in case you read that as “Medieval Romance”.

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See, I’ve spent the last 48 hours getting lost in Kasie West’s “By Your Side”. If you are unfamiliar with the premise of the book, it’s about two teens, Dax and Autumn, who get locked inside a library on a three day weekend. That’s the only part I had to read before I picked it up. But there’s more.

You see, Autumn has an anxiety disorder, and much of the book centers around how she deals with this (or, to a degree, doesn’t deal with it), and then how those decisions impact her life. Yes, it’s a YA romance and it’s sweet and perfect, and all that. But what I’m left with after closing this book, in addition to the much coveted contented sigh (and a strong desire to name all my future children Dax and Autumn), is thankfulness.

I have experienced panic attacks. I don’t have an anxiety disorder, but I have friends who do. Because of these things, I’m thankful that Kasey West uses her influence as an author (and especially as a Young Adult author) to bring a sense of normalcy to something as big, unwieldy, and scary as anxiety disorders. Because doing that, making it part of fiction, brings healing to readers.

No, it won’t heal your anxiety.

But it might begin to heal the fear that having anxiety will cut you off from the rest of the world. It might press deeper onto your heart that you’re not the only one. That you’re not alone.

And that, in my opinion, is what fiction is all about.

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So, can a romance book heal your anxiety disorder? Nope.

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But it can help put words to feelings you didn’t know you had.

It can gently shine the light on parts of your life you like to hide, but really need to deal with.

It can change your inner dialogue, change the way you see yourself and others.

It can offer escape when you just need a break from your struggles.

It can give hope that things can one day be different.

So you see, romance books can usher in healing, can be medicinal.

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Now, do you agree with me?

Disagree?

Let’s talk in the comments!

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Austin Ryan makes her home in a forest clearing in the nutmegy part of New England.

In love with words, books and all things related, she can usually be found either reading or writing, or even reading about writing.

She wrote her first story at seven, an illustrated adventure about a troll girl retrieving her doll from the moon. The story was self-published in one copy, and most likely still exists in her mother’s attic.

Since then she’s written numerous stories, and now she is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). Austin writes inspirational romance, working her way toward publication one paragraph at a time.

Apart from all things bookish, her favorite past times include going on adventures with the-best-six-year-old-ever, hanging (more) twinkle lights around the house, or simply watching the waves roll in from the ocean.

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