I'm starting to see a personal trend. Romance novels work their magic on me when I'm not in a position to get into those wild and wacky situations.
When did I most enjoy reading this genre? In my early teens (no real romance to speak of) and now (that I'm happily in a relationship).
But in my early twenties and late teens, when all of this dating and playing the field was supposed to happen? Romance novels annoyed me. I stayed away from the genre, mostly. Maybe it was the pressure, because each story could have, in theory, easily happened to me if I just put myself out there a bit more. I don't really go for drama in real life, so that made for a day-to-day existence not worthy of a chick lit chronicle.
Why do I enjoy it again now? I think it's for the vicarious thrills. Being a teen and knowing I couldn't have those relationships yet, I enjoyed knowing one day I might, if I chose to. And being in a relationship now, I don't think of these heroines as mirroring my life too closely, and can enjoy each misadventure without thinking of what I should be doing.
The other day I finished Shoes Off by Katrina Ramos Atienza, and got caught up in being a Bridezilla, flirting with naughty balikbayans, and running off with island guys. None of which I'm inclined to do, personally, but I can appreciate how fun it all can be for girls who are the types who would.
Because it's not about me, when I read these books, but about the girl whose life I step into temporarily. When it's written in a way that feels right, I get her crazy decisions, even though I don't think I'd make the same ones.