Romance novels are a booming business in 2011.
Analysts believe book sales are increasing because romance novels provide a perfect escape during tough times.
A recent New York Times article by Motoko Rich indicated, “At a time when booksellers are struggling to lure readers, sales of romance novels are outstripping other categories of books.”
Romance novels revenue topped $1.36 billion last year, while religious, self-help and inspirational books combined sold only $770 million. Romance novels accounted for 55 percent of all the popular mass-market fiction sold.
"Twilight," which was named one of the Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Children’s Books in 2005, was the top-selling book of 2008 and to date it has sold over 17 million copies. The "Twilight" books and other children’s books like them are not considered part of the romance book genre, though they are romantic.
If the “Twilight” numbers were added to the romantic genre, the number would be considerably higher.
Shaunti Feldhahn, a best-selling author, was concerned to learn that many romance novels are not as harmless as they look.
“In fact, some marriage therapists caution that women can become as dangerously unbalanced by these books’ entrancing but distorted messages as men can be by the distorted messages of pornography,” she wrote.
According to author of “Finding the Hero in your Husband” and psychologist Dr. Julia Slattery, there are similarities between what happens to a man when he views pornography and what happens to a woman when she reads a romance novel.
“There is a neurochemical element with men and visual porn, but an emotional element with women and these novels," she wrote.
Men are very visual, and viewing pornography produces a euphoric drug in the body. This drug is the reason pornography becomes addictive. When the natural high wears off, a man will crash and feel depressed (as happens with any drug) and crave another hit.
Women are more stimulated by romance than sex, so they read romantic stories (and they don’t have to be explicit to work) they can experience the same addicting chemical release as men do.
She said she is seeing more and more women who are clinically addicted to romantic books.
The Romance Writers Association said, “Romance readers are a very dedicated audience who don’t see these books as a luxury, as much as a necessity."
These books may be more than a necessity; they may be an addiction.
Many women do not see their love for reading romantic books as a problem, while others are admitting dissatisfaction in their marriages that may stem from reading these types of books.
“For many women, these novels really do promote dissatisfaction with their real relationships,” Slattery wrote.
Women may find their standard for intimacy begins to change over time because may not be able to get as satisfied with their partners as they can reading a book.
Pornography addiction counselor Vickie Burress said reading romance novels or viewing pornography may eventually lead to an affair for some women.
"Women involved in pornography have a hard time keeping their family together,” she said.