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CW: discussion of depression

I’ve recently been through a lot, medically-speaking. I have a very rare disease called idiopathic subglottic stenosis. Basically, my airway grows closed with scar tissue for no known reason. I have had multiple surgeries to open up my airway again. The impact of the diagnosis and the surgeries has been emotional as much as it has been physical, so much so that I found myself in a very depressed, very hopeless place. Did I stay there? No. I booked myself into a psychiatric clinic for 9 days. Hours of intensive therapy later, I’m stronger, more confident, and ready for the next hurdle in this medical maelstrom that I find myself in. Or, at least, more ready than I was.

A Week to Be Wicked
A | BN | K | AB
But you know what made it all manageable? Regency romance, specifically the Tessa Dare school of Regency romance. When I was not in group or individual therapy, I was reading. Reading provided a much-needed respite from the hard graft of excavating my soul in my therapist’s office.

Since I’ve been discharged, I’ve wrestled with a few worrying thoughts (What now? What does my future hold?) and a few more ponderous thoughts – in this case, why Regency romance – a genre I haven’t read in years? While my answers to the latter question are by no means definitive or complete (and my answers to the former questions remain a mystery) I wanted to share some of them with you to see if this resonates with you, too.

The Duchess Deal
A | BN | K | AB
First, I asked myself, why reading? Do I read to escape? Is it the escapism that gives me the space and time to heal? Maybe. While my subconscious wrestles with the truth bombs dropped on me by my diligent, insightful therapist, I can relax in a world of flounces and fops. Yes, there are emotional upheavals, but I’m held safe in the knowledge that peacefulness will triumph over uncertainty and fear. How often does that happen in real life?

Reading generally gives me the space I need to heal and process things. It also gives me a break from staring into the proverbial abyss. But why did I find myself buying (figurative) stacks of Regency romance novels?

Regency romance, while popular, is not without its justified critics. Let’s be real: it can be very White and very privileged. Regency romance presents us with such a carefully constructed interpretation of the past that it often has more in common with fantasy. There are far greater minds than mine who have read and said things on this point.

So why did I turn to Regency romance in this, my hour of need? I came up with a few reasons.

Reason, the first. I needed bold heroines who stood out from the crowd. With a pipe in my neck (aka a tracheostomy) and a fat body, I do not blend in. I stand out and that’s something I’m still getting used to. People stare, they ask questions, they comment, and it’s all exhausting. Heroines in these books become admired and praised for what makes them different. It is that very difference that the hero may find attractive. Yes, please!

The Wallflower Wager
A | BN | K | AB
Reason, the second. I needed to exist in a space that had no ties at all to my real day-to-day life except emotional resonance. Regency provides a glorious fantasy wonderland of balls and dukes and breeches that I can slip into, in much the same way that I slip into a hot bath. But instead of the fear and potential terror of fantasy elements such as special powers, fairies, werewolves, or terrifying abominations, the tension often stems from emotions and internal conflict. Their emotional journeys feel real, and this connection I feel to the characters soothes my deep need for fulfillment and comfort.

Reason, the third. I needed a brooding hero and not because it’s what I find attractive (my partner is a cinnamon roll IRL). I think it has to do with something Sarah pointed out to me in edits: I’m a bit envious of those brooding dukes. I, too, want to be angry, taciturn and grouchy. I want to just let my emotions BE and not constantly manage them based on societal expectations. I want that freedom! And Regency romance gifts me with a plethora of brooding heroes. They’re all tousled curls and dour faces, with hearts of gold underneath. Bliss!

Bitchery, what about you? Do you love reading while you’re recovering from illness or surgery? Anyone else out there find themselves reaching for the Regency?

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