My high school history teacher asked a question one day and was met with silence. We were discussing the events leading up to World War II and how what in retrospect seemed like a clear escalating power grab, seemed at the time to enough people to be some guy doing stuff that the other countries didn't care about much. (She may have implied that included Poland, saying that people were always taking over Poland. Or I may be embellishing this in my memory.) And she mentioned that the French were not worried because they thought they had defenses in place after the Great War. Did anyone know what? This brought on the silence. And then I remembered reading something. Not in the history book (although one imagines it was there.) In Judith Krantz's Til We Meet Again there is a conversation between Delphine and Armand during where she (with a certainty not dissimilar to what my teacher was describing) says that France will be fine, they have the Maginot Line. My teacher was happy to have elicited an answer and the class went on. And let me tell you, I still remember the Maginot Line.
Now, I am not going to suggest that reading romance or other novels is a substitution for doing your homework. But, sometimes those little facts placed in the context of an intriguing story can help make them more memorable. (And it is possible, that being a fun bantery conversation I may have read it, you know, multiple times.)
I still know quite a bit about the Civil War as a result of my extensive reading of John Jakes' North and South trilogy. (I have stopped torturing the tour guides in Harper's Ferry who all bring up the story of how the one church on the river didn't get destroyed because they flew a British flag. (No, no one seems to know why that worked once the British allied with the South. It is apparently not in the tour guide manual.)
Til We Meet Again also inspired me to read a biography on Amy Johnson. And to read more World War II based novels. One of which (the name escapes me at the moment) introduced me to Jackie Cochran and the Women's Air Service Pilots.
Certainly a basic knowledge of HIPAA or law procedure can make a sane person want to cry while reading some contemporaries. (Or rant.) But, contemporary novels have offered me the chance to experience some different professions, locations and experiences.
So, a book titled Everything I Know I Learned From Romance Novels was in my wheelhouse, as it were, already. Make it by the lovely Sarah Wendell, aka Smart Bitch Sara and it was a done deal. The book covers things less from a will it help you in history class perspective (shocking, I know, maybe there will be a sequel) and more from the ways that romance novels can offer opportunities for readers to escape but also evaluate the situations for themselves. While it seems likely that I will not have to fight off a horde of zombies with the aid of my demon protectors (for example) books offer the opportunity to walk in those shoes and even the moments that make you want to say, "Oh, honey, no," are useful for just that.
I may keep a copy around for the next time someone says, "Oh I figure I'll just write a romance since they don't have plots." At the very least I can smack them upside the head with it.