By Jenny Bullough, Manager of Digital Content for Harlequin and Carina Press, occasional insomniac and dedicated bedtime reader.
A terrible thing happened to me the other night. I was reading in bed, as I always do, when the light-and-fluffy historical novel I was reading suddenly turned bleak and depressing for a minor, secondary character (and I mean REALLY depressing, like young-child’s-pregnant-mother-raped-and-killed, child-suddenly-orphaned-and-sent-to-the-workhouse depressing). I kept reading for a while, hoping that things would start to improve so I could turn off my ereader, but things just got worse and worse!
Bedtime is just about the only quiet, uninterrupted reading time I get in an average day, but more than that, I need to read in bed before I go to sleep. It’s the only way I can gently turn my brain away from thinking about the day’s worries so I can fall asleep and sleep soundly. If I don’t read, I get insomnia from thinking too much. Did I send that email or is it still in my drafts folder? Did I remember to lock the back door? Is that my daughter coughing? Is she getting sick? Maybe I should make a doctor’s appointment…
But if what I’m reading before I turn off the light is in any way scary or sad, the whole system breaks down. Instead of gently lulling my brain into a pre-sleep state of relaxation, the stress of reading about characters under duress kicks everything into high gear. What if that cough is an early sign of something more serious? What would I do if someone broke into the house? What was that noise?? Not exactly rational thoughts, and definitely not conducive to a good night’s sleep.
What’s ideal bedtime reading for me is contemporary romance, historical romance, or erotic romance. Genres where I know the characters are not likely to be in mortal or physical danger, where the only palpable threat is the possibility of a (temporarily) broken heart, where I know things will work out okay.
Although even within these genres, if the emotional stakes are too high, I will keep reading until I come to a satisfying stopping place. Which is partly why I’ve been known to read late into the night – sometimes the book is just too good to put down, and sometimes, I just have to keep going until things get better.
When things started to go downhill for this poor kid in the historical, I had to stop reading it – but I couldn’t go to sleep with THAT being the last thing I read. Luckily, with two e-readers and a small paperback TBR pile on my bedside table, I was able to switch over to a palate-cleansing erotic romance. After just two and a half chapters, I was ready to turn off the light, and entertain some very enjoyable dreams
What’s your ideal bedtime reading?