7 Reasons to Read Romance Novels

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In her post Why Smart Women Read Romance Novels, Anne Browning Walker makes the point that the romance genre gets a bad rap it definitely doesn’t deserve. Wondering why it’s so smart to read romance novels? Read on.

Romance reminds us to question our own expectations.

No, not everyone’s life story ends up looking like a romance novel. But love can come from the places we least expect. Books like The Cinderella Deal by Jennifer Crusie illustrate the magic that can happen when we leave behind our expectations about people and circumstances and give them a chance. That can make all the difference in your love life or in your perspective on work, friendship, or diversity.

Romance novels remind us of the ways love helps us grow.

Every romance teaches us something–about ourselves, about the world around us, and about the personalities that catch us off guard and take our breath away. Sometimes the lessons we learn from love are beautiful, and sometimes they’re more painful than anything we’ve ever experienced. In both cases, our own romances and the romances we read give us a perspective on our own growth that we wouldn’t have otherwise.

Novels teach us empathy.

Reading fiction and exploring new worlds with our imagination makes you a more empathetic human being. When you’re reading a romance novel or being told a story, your sensory cortex lights up just like it would if you were experiencing the events of the story firsthand. You imagine what it’s like to be standing in that person’s shoes, feeling that person’s exhilaration. Or love. Or fear. You gain perspective and understanding from people you’ve never met.

Romance novels relieve stress.

For decades, medical professionals have been documenting the importance of keeping stress under control. So while reading a romance novel might seem like a guilty pleasure (or to some, a waste of time), it can be therapeutic in the right doses. The world’s most successful disengage from their responsibilities so they can recharge their batteries. In other words, curling up with a feel-good book and a cup of tea might be the best thing you can do for your health this evening, so go ahead and indulge.

Reading fiction helps you stay sharp longer.

Studies have shown that those who read on a regular basis later in life tend to stay shop longer. Readers have a 32% slower mental decline in old age than those who don’t read regularly, and they show fewer symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Reading fiction can treat many mental health issues.

Depression, mild alcohol abuse, communication issues, anxiety, and even eating disorders can be improved through bibliotherapy–the use of literature to support good mental health. Maybe this is why readers stay sharp longer and often relate to others better.

Romance novels aren’t what they used to be.

If the thought of a romance novel makes you think of a scantily-clad woman on the cover of a Harlequin romance novel, you need to re-think your romances (or pick up a more contemporary book). Today’s romances offer a depth and perspective, along with more well-developed heroines (like Ronda!) that actually have a personality of their own. Hello, modern woman! The stereotypical alluring heroine of 30 years ago doesn’t have anything on today’s romantic fiction.

So if you’ve been on the fence about ordering Two Weeks in Spain, maybe you should just look at it as an investment in your brain function, mental health, and understanding of the world around you. It’s cheaper than the alternatives, and it’s a feel-good guilty pleasure you won’t have to feel guilty about.

Pick up your copy of “Two Weeks in Spain” at CreateSpace or Amazon today!

And the Winner is…

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Congratulations go out to Mayda from the beautiful country of Costa Rica.

Mayda has won a paperback version of “Two Weeks in Spain”    

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Enjoy!

The next monthly drawing will be held on 02/29/2017.

Recipe Roundup: The Cuisine of Tarragona

img_3891Tarragona’s food has everything to do with its location on the Mediterranean sea. Shellfish, a local bluefish, and a variety of other seafood make up a large portion of the local diet. The surrounding area’s soil also grows olives, many fruits and vegetables, and nuts in abundance.

Vegetables and seafood in chestnut or almond sauces aren’t unusual. Seafood paella is another traditional favorite. And at many city restaurants, breathtaking views of the ocean combine with salt-scented air to create the perfect atmosphere to savor the local cuisine.

Calçotada

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Calçots in Tarragona, via Xauxa on Wikimedia Commons

In Tarragona, Calçotada is as much a tradition as it is a dish. These small, sweet onions are harvested and grilled, then served with a savory nut-and-pepper romesco sauce. Locals are so crazy about the dish that the calçotada has become an annual outdoor BBQ ritual, not unlike our Memorial Day celebrations.

This recipe brings the flavors of Calçotada home using ingredients you shouldn’t have trouble finding in your town.

Cassola de Romesco

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Seafood with Romesco Sauce, via FineCooking.com

The most typical traditional dish in Catalonia (the region in which Tarragona is home) is cassola de romesco, a type of casserole typically made with local seafood (usually the catch of the day) and a rich nut sauce crafted from locally-grown nuts. Try this recipe with a glass of Tarragon wine for the perfect Spanish evening, no matter where you are!

For more inspiration–particularly if you want to prepare a palette of Tarragon recipes for a dinner party (or your own enjoyment!), visit TarragonaBlog.com or TarragonaTurisme.cat. You’ll find more culinary and cultural ideas than you could possibly use.

 

Destination 4: Tarragona

More beaches, magic, and romance awaits in Tarragona.

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Archaeology Museum in Tarragona, Spain

By Carme Ribes Moreno, Wikimedia Commons 

Tarragona’s ancient Roman history and modern, vital personalities mesh in unexpected ways to create a one-of-a-kind atmosphere. Often called the “balcony of the mediterranean,” Tarragona offers a picturesque escape, thriving night life, beautiful beaches, beautifully-preserved Roman ruins, and a depth of history that’s almost tangible as you walk the narrow streets.

In Tarragona, cultural and archaeological tours are some of the biggest attractions, but walking tours of the countryside and beautiful beaches are also tempting ways to spend an afternoon. A massive Roman amphitheater, ancient plaza, and archaeological museum are fun for history buffs as well as those who love beautiful architecture.

The next day we set out toward Barcelona, stopping in Tarragona for a couple of days. The days are spent playing on the beach and hiking the beautiful countryside.

Two Weeks in Spain 

Tarragon is just a quick two-day stop on the way to Barcelona for the couple of Two Weeks in Spain. Here, Ronda and Vidal spend most of their time enjoying the sunshine and the water. At night they spend a few hours exploring the dancing opportunities at Tarragona’s many bustling nightclubs. Every club has its own style, music, and personality. Sampling all the different options feels like trying out different worlds for a night.

By the time Ronda and Vidal leave Tarragona for their final destination, they know each other better than ever–and they’re ready for all the adventures that Barcelona has in store.

 

The Flavors of Valencia

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While Ronda and Vidal enjoyed their time in Valencia, they also dined on amazing traditional Valencian food.

If you’ve always thought of Mediterranean food as its own distinct category of cuisine (along the lines of Mexican, Chinese, or Indian), it’s time to set a few things straight. The Mediterranean region encompasses thousands of square miles and many cultures. Every single one has its own cooking style.

Mediterranean cuisine is loosely characterized by lean meats, lots of seafood, and an abundance of olives (olive oil) and grapes (wine), which are prolific in the area. But Valencian cuisine has a flavor all its own–after all, it’s where paella was born! —and the dishes that Ronda and Vidal enjoy during their stay in Valencia can’t be found anywhere else in the Mediterranean world.

The foods of Valencia range from sweet (almond-honey brittle) to savory (seafood paella) to tangy (salt-preserved cod). These are a few of Valencia’s staples.

Paella

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Valencian Paella. From rorodinoz on Wikimedia.

Paella was first made in Valencia, so it’s not surprising that there are as many different varieties of the dish as there are chefs to prepare it. The most traditional varieties include Paella Valenciana with Rabbit and snails or Paella with Llobaro (a seabass-type fish) and veggies.

If you’re not feeling that adventurous, try this traditional recipe for paella con pollo y mariscos (paella with chicken and seafood).

Horchata

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Traditional Valencian Horchata, served with Fartons.

Traditional Valencian Horchata, served with Fartons. Photo via Nacho Pintos on Flickr.

If you’ve sampled Horchata at a local Mexican restaurant, you’re probably not thinking of quite the same thing as Valencian Horchata. In Mexico and central America, Horchata is most often made from rice, with added sugar and cinnamon to create a sweet, creamy, milky drink.

In Valencia, Horchata is made from chufas—tiger nuts—instead. The resulting drink is like a sweet, thick, creamy version of almond milk. You probably won’t find Valencian Horchata in your town, but you can order chufas online and make your own tiger nut Horchata! The drink is often served with fartons, which are long, slightly sweet pieces of bread perfect for dipping–into Horchata, coffee, or fruity drinks.

Turron

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Turron de Jijona, via Randalfino on Wikimedia.

Turron de Jijona, via Randalfino on Wikimedia.

If you’re in Valencia and you need to satisfy a sweet tooth, Turron is the natural choice. This sweet almond candy has roots that go as far back as the 8th century when the invasion of the Moors brought almonds to the area. Almonds combined with honey form the base for this sweet concoction.

Many different versions of Turron abound, from a brittle candy much like peanut brittle (Turron de Alicante) to the soft, fudgy nougat candy (Turron de Jijona) made from honey, egg whites, and almonds. You can find recipes for both versions here.

Every book is better with a cuppa (whether your preferred drink is Horchata, coffee, or herbal tea) and something to munch on, so whip up something new, then kick back with Two Weeks in Spain!

 

 

And the Winner is…

Congratulations go out to Becky H. from the great state of Kentucky.

Becky has won a paperback version of “Two Weeks in Spain”    

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Enjoy!

The next monthly drawing will be held on 01/31/2017.