As incongruous as these two concepts may seem, bookslingers everywhere recognize the term: romances are to used book stores what fleas are to dog. What glitches are to healthcare.gov. What adverbs are to bad writers.
Jack and I began reducing our romances stock this fall, from their own outbuilding called The Luv Shack to four shelves inside. The goal was to get them down to a single, double-stacked shelf. And that’s when the laws of romantic math kicked in:
- The number of old romances you box up to recycle, donate, or even dumpster after dark when the neighbors aren’t watching equals the number still on the shelves. In other words, the more you box, the more there are in your store.
- The more you reduce the price of your romances, the fewer people will buy them. “NOW ON CLEARANCE, 3 for $1!” goes to “10 for $1” slides to “$5 per box!” Yesterday I looked at two women paying for their cafe lunch and said “How’d you like a free box of romances each to take with you?” Their eyes grew wide with alarm and they all but raced out the door. They’re probably on Topix now, telling potential cafe customers: “Don’t go in there! They foist books off on you!”
- The number of shirtless hunks lounging on–or under–the covers equals eternity–which is how long it will take you to box them. Don’t look. Laughing weakens your muscles.
- The mere act of announcing on social media that you are reducing your romances stock will cause every Tina, Dot, and Harriet to bring you boxes of them. They take it personally when you say no: you’re rejecting romance? From them? It’s a delicate negotiation.
- The amount of time you spend sorting books into families will exponentially expand as the number of books reduces. It takes awhile to realize those little icons alleged to make it easier for readers to see which series they want (like the spade and heart on maxi-pad packages, only different) are cross-referenced. “THIS SEASON: MAITLAND MATERNITY RETURNS TO TYLER WITH THE NEXT MCCORMICK BROTHERS FOR ROYAL WEDDINGS!” Give it up. Once you understand that cowboys are undercover sheiks and time-traveling Scotsmen are undercover Special Forces–there’s a lot of undercover in romances, tee hee–it becomes one big muddle. Plus that’s four hours of your life you’ll never get back again.
- And last but not least, the laugh-out-loud stupidity of any given title you come across will be squared by the next title. I thought “Vampire under the Mistletoe” was the winner this year, until I found this little gem hiding at the back of a shelf:
Happy Christmas, everyone, and may the love in your life keep you warm!
I’d take a box of old Signet regency romances any time!
You get here, I’ll give ’em to you!
I read a Harlequin romance when I was about 12. Then I read a second one. Same thing. Never read another one. Remember when you could join a club and they’d send you “new” books every month? LOL!!!
LOL Wendy…..loved this one. None of those for me though although I might have to read about Fulk just because….
Shoot Wendy, I’m now going to go find the ones I saved from when we opened. Donated books that were so hilarious in title and cover image I kept them just for laughs. But of course now can’t remember off the top of my head. Even so I “totes” agree with everything you said.
A couple were bordering on obscene in felony kind of ways but didn’t mean to be …..
Theory: All that sex has to reproduce something. That is why the books multiply so quickly.
In the early ’80s I worked in a large city library system and regularly took grocery sacks of romances, mysteries and “shoot ’em ups” to shut-in readers. Escape fiction can be a good thing when you live in a chair in one room. BUT, back at the (b)ranch, during long afternoons of pulling books for our routes, we’d have contests for the best dramatic reading / best final clinch scene. All-time runner up involved a dancing suitor whose “feet were all thumbs.” Grand prize winner was an Arabian sheik who, despite the heroine’s “decollete’ de jour,” carefully “kissed her eyelids one by one.” No other way to do it, we thought, unless he had a tremendously wide mouth or, um, she was a Cyclops.
Tina, Dot, and Harriet – love it.