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Experts warn that romance novels can be as addictive as porn

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The escapist lure of a good romance novel continues to be a lucrative proposition for industry executives and popular authors, as happy endings (not that) and lack of adultery led to more than $1.36 billion in revenue last year, with romance novels alone accounting for more than half of all popular mass-market fiction sales. But, experts warn, there can be a dark side to the ostensibly innocent pining for a certain long-haired Italian man (hint: he's flabbergasted it's not butter), a problem you might call Harlequin Crack Syndrome.

According to Shaunti Feldhahn, best-selling author of For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men, "Some marriage therapists caution that women can become as dangerously unbalanced by these books' entrancing but distorted messages as men can be by the distorted messages of pornography." It seems that those sweet euphoric endorphins that kick in when men (who are more visually stimulated of course) watch porn, also do the same when women (who are more stimulated by romance than sex) cozy up with a bodice-ripping romance. (Or bodice-gently-removing romance.)

And this can lead to marital problems, as a once-casual pastime crosses over into the consuming grip of addiction. Just ask Dr. Juli Slattery, psychologist and author of Finding the Hero in Your Husband, who writes that "for many women, these novels really do promote dissatisfaction with their real relationships." Listen, the shirtless guy on the beach/windswept moor/palatial estate with the horse in the background is not going to bring you chicken soup when you're under the weather. That's the job of the guy who's fantasizing about unrealistic women on the computer.