For the past few days, I've been very tired and a little stressed as a result, all of which I'm attributing to not getting enough sleep. The solution should be obvious: Go to bed. Preferably earlier than I have been. Sometimes that's not possible—I'm the grown up and have to do the grown up things, after all—and sometimes, well….
OK, I'll be honest. Sometimes, I am really not good at going to bed because I'm reading a book. And I want to FINISH the book. Even if I'm on, like, page 5.
It's not just a compulsion, or a stubborn habit or a unique talent of holding my eyelids open while my brain is hollering for sleep already for heaven's sake: When I'm into a book, I don't want to stop reading it. I want to keep reading, even if I know it's bad for me, both in the immediate and the long-term. It's a self-control thing, and I know it. I admit I have little control when it comes to reading. You know how I feel, right? Of course.
So, when I'm extra tired but my relaxation at the end of the day mandates reading (which it does), what do I read? Novellas! Novellas are, for me, the perfect solution to a stressed brain and a reading compulsion. When I don't have enough brain energy to embark on a novel, or when I know I'll stay awake too long reading if I do, the shorter-length perfection of a novella is ideal. Hence, I have about 16 of them lined up on my Kindle, plus a folder of my favorites.
A well-crafted novella is a wonderful thing. You get the whole story, from the beginning to the dark moments to the happy ending, and I can usually read a novella in about an hour or so. A good novella has all the layers and depth of a good romance, with a conflict and resolution that fit within a much smaller space. Novellas before bed are like hot tea and warm blankets.
Here are some of my favorites:
Unlocked by Courtney Milan (Historical romance. Courtney Milan, 2011)
A twist on the idea that a boy only makes fun of a girl if he likes her. Evan Carlton left town after teasing a girl and giving her a horrid nickname. When he returns years later, he discovers to his horror that his teasing stuck, and she's an unmarried wallflower—a very angry wallflower.
This Wicked Gift by Courtney Milan (Historical romance. HQN, 2009)
This novella is part of an anthology from Christmas 2009. The heroine runs a lending library, and the hero is an overworked, miserable clerk who joins the library in part because he is fascinated by her. The story is tiny moment after tiny moment, with a lovely ending.
Holiday Sparks by Shannon Stacey (Cotemporary romance. Carina Press, 2010)
I don't think it's possible for me to love this novella more than I do. It's a perfect, short romance about a heroine who returns to her small hometown to housesit for her parents. She decides to update the old electrical system as a holiday present. The electrician who does the job had a crush on her in school, and, well, they spend a lot of wiring time together. I can read this story any time.
The Theory of Attraction and The Seduction Hypothesis by Delphine Dryden (Contemporary erotica. Carina Press, 2012 and 2013)
I read these two novellas back to back, and I recommend you do so as well, since you'll get to spend more time with the characters, who are all part of a group of friends living and working near each other. All the characters are ferociously smart, and they also explore BDSM and sexual attraction in a way that I found unique and interesting. Plus, there is a funny streak of nerd and geek humor and culture in each story, which added to the charm of it.
What are some of your favorite novellas? Which ones do you reread?
Sarah Wendell is the co-creator, editor and mastermind of the popular romance blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. She loves talking with romance readers, and hopes you'll share your new favorite romance reading recommendations. You can find her on Twitter @smartbitches, on Facebook, or on her couch, most likely with her eyeglasses turned toward a book.