Day 9 Ruthie Knox – In Praise of Escapism

In Celebration of Escapist Fantasy

I somehow managed to make it through high school without ever going on a date or kissing a boy. I feared at the time that I was too unattractive, essentially unappealing in some way I couldn’t put my finger on. My boobs were too small, maybe, or Ruthie Knox Covermy hips were too big.

Now that I’m older and wiser, I suspect there was actually nothing wrong with me except that I was in high school, which blows regardless of who you are and how many boys ask you out. It also didn’t help that I had two older brothers who were friends with nearly the entirety of my potential dating pool.

It’s no coincidence that in high school I had a bottomless appetite for category romance. I craved the story it tells so well, again and again: flawed people find love. Men appreciate women for their bodies, yes, but also for their minds, their character, their essential selves. Women appreciate men for these same reasons. Lonely people find each other. Happy endings are possible.

It’s such a reassuring message. And I was smart enough to know then — just as every reader of romance I’ve ever met is smart enough to know now — that real life rarely works precisely like a romance novel. It is possible, even likely, that one’s real-life Mr. Right will not have six-pack abs, or that he won’t be capable of intuiting the Path to Multiple Orgasms the first time you ever climb into bed with him, or that he’ll be disinclined to confess his every tortured thought and reveal the secrets of his heart to you at the precise moment you want him to.

Which is to say, I knew the difference between life and fiction. I mean, duh. I read a lot of fiction. Of course I knew the difference.

But I also knew the power of fiction to transport me, to buoy me and comfort me and remind me of truths I needed to be reminded of.

I was fourteen, I was lonely, and romance helped. A lot.

Once I went to college, I left romance behind for several years. But when I was in grad school, I went to live in London for nine months, and it was an isolating experience. I was there to do historical research, so I lived in a small flat with a roommate who didn’t seem to like me much, and I spent forty hours a week in archives, taking notes on my laptop and talking to nobody except, occasionally, a friendly coat-check man. I spent another twelve or fourteen hours a week on trains, moving from place to place. I took up running. I went on weekend excursions. But there were still hours and hours to fill, and I checked about a dozen books out of the library every week. I rediscovered romance, as well as chick lit.

Those books helped.

While I was still in London, a male friend of mine came to visit, and the next thing I knew I had a boyfriend. Then I had a husband. Then I had a Ph.D., a new city, a new job, a new life. I set the romance novels aside for a while. I didn’t need them.

Then I had a son.

When my son was eight months old, he was supposed to be sleeping through the night. Everybody said so. Instead, he was Ruthie Knox Coverwaking up six, seven, eight times every night. He had to be nursed and bounced back to sleep on a giant ball. I hadn’t slept for more than three hours in two hundred and fifty days.

To make matters worse, he wouldn’t nap for more than thirty minutes straight unless you held him in your arms or hovered over his crib, waited for him to stir, and then resettled him with shushing and bouncing and songs.

I know this is ridiculous. I know. But I was strung-out and desperate and so, so tired.

That’s when I downloaded a free six-pack of books from Harlequin.

You see where this is going, right? After I finished those books, I bought one romance after another after another after another. They made me feel better, but in a different way this time. This time, I needed the purity of the escape. I craved the simplicity of the journey from meet-cute to ecstasy to disaster to happily-ever-after. I was a wreck. I needed an out, and I needed it badly, yet I hardly ever left the house, and when I did, there was this baby who needed to be brought along. I disappeared down the rabbit hole of romance novels and emerged revived.

(Sleep training also helped.)

That was in 2009. In the fall of 2010, I started writing my first romance novel. I sold that book the following July. I’ve published more than half a dozen since.

My relationship to romance has evolved a lot, both as a reader and a writer, but what strikes me looking back is what a positive thing romance has been for me at times in my life when I needed it. It is unfair on a lot of different metrics for people who don’t read the romance genre to mock it as an escapist fantasy. It’s sexist and condescending. But it’s also unfair because there is absolutely nothing wrong with escapist fantasy.

For the person who needs to escape, it’s a gift of incalculable value.


Erotic romance readers should check out Amber Lin and Shari Slade’s THREE NIGHTS WITH A ROCK STAR. (Amber and Shari created RARM content. Read Amber’s here and Shari’s here.)

Barbara Samuel’s THE SLEEPING NIGHT is a beautiful blend of contemporary and historical.

I love the complex, multilayered contemporary worldbuilding in Molly O’Keefe’s (8/8) WILD CHILD and Mary Ann Rivers’s Burnside series, the first two novels of which are LIVE and LAUGH.

 Questions for the Author:

Describe the most daring, adventurous or inspiring thing you ever did.

Most of the daring things I’ve done have ended badly — cliff diving into a river and bruising my tailbone comes to mind — but I would say that my nine months living in England to do dissertation research was adventurous. I learned a lot about myself and what I require to thrive.

Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer. (How did you decide to get started? Did you always know or was there a specific moment when you knew?)

I talk a little bit about this in my essay, but the simple version of the story is that I liked to write when I was a girl but didn’t feel as I got older that I had any fictional stories I wanted to tell. I had this idea that writers walk around with stories in their heads, and since my head didn’t contain stories, that was that. What changed things was reading a lot of category romance after my son was born — so much that I began to see that the structure of category romance was something I could hang a story on. All I needed, then, was a seed of an idea, and I could take that seed and plant it in the category romance structure and see what grew. Over time, I came to understand that all a writer needs is the seed of an idea. What writing is all about, for me, is taking that seed and nurturing it into a book by asking one question after another of the idea.

 Tell us about The (or A) Book That Changed Your Life. (Why?)

The first romance novel I ever read, Warm Fuzzies by Joan Eliott Pickart, introduced me to the genre that has given me so much enjoyment and comfort, and has also led me into a career I’m not sure I’d have found otherwise.

Ruthie Knox is generously giving away two signed copies of HARDER by Robin York (her New Adult romance alter ego), one for U.S. readers (entry below) and one for the international drawing (enter here).


Ruthie KnoxNew York Times bestselling author Ruthie Knox writes contemporary romance that’s sexy, witty, and angsty — sometimes all three at once. After training to be a British historian, she became an academic editor instead. Then she got really deeply into knitting, as one does, followed by motherhood and romance novel writing.

Her debut novel, Ride with Me, is probably the only existing cross-country bicycling love story. She followed it up with About Last Night, a London-set romance whose hero has the unlikely name of Neville, and then Room at the Inn, a Christmas novella—both of which were finalists for the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award. Her four-book series about the Clark family of Camelot, Ohio, has won accolades for its fresh, funny portrayal of small-town Midwestern life.

Ruthie moonlights as a mother, Tweets incessantly, and bakes a mean focaccia. She’d love to hear from you, so visit her website at and drop her a line.

Buy Ruthie’s Books:

availableon-amazon  availableon-nookavailableon-kobo


a Rafflecopter giveaway

  • TrishJ

    Hey Ruthie! I was sooo shy in school. Books were my friends. I started reading Trixie Nelson and Nancy Drew in grade school and romance in high school. I read books to a crying baby when the sound of my voice seemed to be the ONLY thing that would calm him down. No matter what, books have always been my escape, comfort, and/or hope. I have high praises for all the authors who put words on pages for readers to enjoy.

  • May

    Your books are so much fun!

  • Judy C.

    I enjoyed reading your blog. I love my romance books to give me that escape I need, then I can go back to real life and be re-energized.

  • Anna

    I too started reading romance in high school. Then I grew up and realized how much I like the stories that I read, in addition to the romance.

  • Ruthie, I have appreciated a lot your words. I remember all the times that romance novels were my escape too, and how much good it was both for me and for the others (my son…), as they are a powerful recharge. I have translated your words in my language, you can see the result here: I hope that your books will soon be published in Italy. I have especially loved Room at the Inn!

  • Emmel

    I think all of us have used romance to escape every once in a while. It’s one of threat things about romance! But Ruthie, you’ve made me curious now to know what your dissertation was on! 🙂

  • Patty Vasquez

    After several years that included being a first year teacher with a year old baby and completing my M. Ed. at the same time, the death of my dad, taking my sons to counseling every other week (a long story), tonsillectomies, tubes in ears, blended family issues, and challenging classrooms, I, too, learned the necessity of escapist romance reading. Now the kids are grown-up and home life is less complicated. However, work has continued to be a challenge. Romances are still my lifeline!

  • Linnea Bassin

    I spent a lot of time reading when my girls were little also. Then I had my own classroom and slacked off until a couple years ago. I have always found romances to be a great escape and allow the stress to disappear.

  • Kim

    It sounds a bit intimidating to move to a foreign country where you don’t know anyone and stick it out in your new job.

  • MK

    Kudos to you on your travels to England for your dissertation. Do you think of that when you read the Pink Carnation books?

  • Glenda

    Escaping into a book or 20 has always been my way of handling the stresses of life. Iam jealous of your team researching in England!

  • Quinn Fforde

    Brilliant and moving, as always.

  • Sharlene Wegner

    I absolutely loved Flirting With Disaster & loaned it to a friend who likes romance and is a speech therapist! I plan to go back & read the other books in that series & check out your new book!

  • rebecca moe

    Awesome post, Ruthie! Romance is definitely my favorite form of escape. And some days, I need a lot of escape 🙂

  • Hannah B

    Hi Ruthie, I really enjoy your books and I look forward to reading Harder. Thanks for the giveaway.

  • Debbie Oxier

    Really enjoy your books.

  • Martha B

    Great post…thanks for sharing how romances helped you survive the birth of your son. So many times, we really CAN’t leave home. We are forced to alter our circumstances (without leaving home) just to stay sane!

  • Joan Varner

    Thank you for sharing your story about romance and escapism. I have found this time and time to be true for me, too. It helps to leave the “real” world for a while and just enjoy a well written story of love and romance.

  • Marcy Shuler

    Everyone needs an escape and reading romance is neither illegal, immoral or fattening. LOL

  • M Kuxhaus

    I hope you’re getting more sleep now!

  • Brenda E

    Absolutely loved reading your story. Sometimes the demands of our daily life can get us down in more ways than one, and reading is my stress-reliever. Romance novels, my drug of choice. It allows me to recharge.

  • Rochelle

    What a great story! I’ve read the Camelot series and really enjoyed it. I especially loved the follow up of Amber and Tony and finding their way back to each other after years of marriage.

  • Michelle Harlan

    Ms. Knox, your stories are one of my favorite escapes! I love that your characters experience every day issues. Thank you for writing such honest relationships! BTW…congrats on the recent release of Truly. May is one of my favorite characters!

  • Eileen Aberman-Wells

    Your journey to reading romance books is quite similar to mine, except for one major difference. I stopped reading them when my children were born. I had 4 babies, taught high school full time during the day & a husband who worked from 7 pm to 11pm-ish after being home with the kids during the day. So my evenings had me feeling like a single parent & no time for me – that wasn’t doing something kid oriented or grading papers. I finally decided I needed to start reading again because I needed an escape. Nothing was wrong with my marriage or my husband, but those books did give me ideas of ways to freshen things up, so to speak. Now my youngest is 22 & I recently retired & have lots of me time, but I still love to read romance & women’s literature.

  • Sue G.

    I found out years later that my brother (one year younger) used to threaten any boy who wanted to date me while I was in high school. Maybe that is why I had to find a boy at a different high school, whom I eventually married! 🙂

  • “To make matters worse, he wouldn’t nap for more than thirty minutes straight unless you held him in your arms or hovered over his crib, waited for him to stir, and then resettled him with shushing and bouncing and songs.

    I know this is ridiculous. I know. But I was strung-out and desperate and so, so tired.”

    I understand your pain. My youngest daughter had colic/acid reflux. She was a horrible sleeper. I couldn’t lay her down hardly at all. I used to sleep sitting up with her in the baby Snugli. That’s when I really got into audio books.

  • Courtney Cogswell

    Reading is one of my favorite escapes in general and romance specifically because I know that I can count on a happy ever after to leave me feeling satisfied. I’m so glad that you found your way to writing because I really enjoy your books 🙂 Thanks for your essay and participating in RARM!

  • Toni Linenberger

    I love this. Categories have such a great place in romancelandia. They are short and finish in short settings. Sometimes that is the best thing EVER!

  • donnas

    Great post and so very true.

  • Stephanie M.

    I loved reading your article. I take an escape everyday with my romance books. Thanks for all the recommendations. I will be adding you and them to my TBR list.

  • mariannewestrich

    I read every day during lunch. I leave my office and travel to other lands, times, places and come back to work feeling like a new woman!

  • Ann Mettert

    Some days, even now, I just want to run away. And I can’t. So I dive into a book. It takes me to a different place. 🙂

  • Margil Pondicüs

    Another author that I love. You writers inspire readers so much it’s not even a joke. It’s nice to hear you guys tell us your journey and sometimes, I could actually see myself taking that journey from being a reader to becoming a writer too and it’s so inspiring.

  • It is the greatest pleasure I get from reading. Escape. Which is why I rarely read anything but fiction.

  • Heidi D

    Great interview. I love this series! I could never, ever cliff dive. I’m not that brave.

  • Erin F

    I love, love, love Ruthie’s books. They have all the “feels” and are the closest to real life I’ve ever read w/out losing the spark and shine of a romance. thanks for the awesome post!

  • Cheryl Hastings

    Love your books…you are an automatic buy for me, don’t even need to know what the book is about!!

  • Ruth

    One of my favorite authors! You are an auto buy for me.

  • Meredith Richeson Hillenbrand

    I like what you said in your post about romance novels. However, they aren’t necessarily just stories. You can learn from them too. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Judy Goodnight

    Just from reading your entertaining blog post, I know I must try your books!