Tag Archives: romances

The Monday Book: HAUNTING JASMINE by Anjali Banerjee

♪ IIIIII’m in the moooooooood ♪ for Fluff! ♪

ganeshAlthough I like most novels and memoirs about India or Pakistan, I tend to avoid the Bollywood-in-print end of that continuum. But Jasmine is about a woman who watches her aunt’s bookshop for a month. So I had to read it.

If you read Sarah Addison Allen’s charming romance Garden Spells, in which an apple tree chucks fruit at Mr. Wrong and rains petals down while wafting heady perfume at opportune moments, you have the concept of this book. The shop has a mind of its own, guarded by Ganesh, the Hindu remover of obstacles, who works in collusion with the ghosts that haunt the place.

A LOT of ghosts haunt this place. There are no surprises in this book. If it were food, it would be cotton candy. PINK cotton candy.

And very well made. Not your clumpy spun sugar, but the smooth, fluffy, cloud of sweetness that dissolves even as you start to taste it. This is a fast read, a light read, fun and fluffy.

I can hear regular readers of this blog thinking, “Yes, okay, but how is the WRITING?”

Practically non-existent. Like that spun sugar, it disappears as you’re reading it. You don’t remember turns of phrase, just the story line. And you can kinda see what’s coming, but that’s party of the pleasantness–anticipation of that next mouthful of dulce ethereal.

You don’t have to own a bookstore to enjoy the inside jokes about books, bookshops, or the customers who frequent them. But if you do, you might laugh at more places than the rest of the world. There are plenty of laughs as Jasmine struggles with her mysterious suitor, her scumbag ex-husband, and her inability to believe that Horatio and co. were right- there are more things under heaven than we might already know about.

Two cotton candy cones up for this pink-lit, chick-lit romance.


Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, humor, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, Sarah Nelson, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, writing

Romantic Math

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.

    Spot the Bookseller

    Spot the Bookseller in this photo?

  • 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:DSCN0278

Happy Christmas, everyone, and may the love in your life keep you warm!


Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, humor, publishing, Uncategorized, writing

The Romantic Code

This morning Jack prepared to depart into the basement and pursue renovations, but before he headed down the stairs he updated me on the boxes and bags of trade-ins people had brought, that he “hadn’t had time” to get to yet.

Among them were a bag of romances from one of our regular customers, a woman we call “The Lady.” Always well-turned-out, this elderly woman brings in her exchanging romances in rubber-band-wrapped bundles of five, and takes her time going through the stash to see what she’s read.

“We had that dinner on last night [The SOUL FOOD OF LOVE] so I didn’t have time to help her look, and I asked her to come back today. It would take for bloody ever for her to go through our romances.”

I gave him an odd look. “She only has to look for her initials.”

He gave me a befuddled look, as if I had suddenly spoken in Yiddish with a lisp.

“Don’t you know how women keep track of which romances they’ve read?” I asked, laughing. “Six years in the book business and you haven’t got this?”

“I rather left them to get on with things at that end of the shop,” Jack said, looking at the floor.

So I have now let him in on the secret codes, ladies, and I realize normally we don’t share the rules with men, but heck, he’s a bookslinger, so it’s in your best interest.

And in case anyone else didn’t know about this, think of it as the equivalent of that intricate hobo hieroglyphic system, the one that distinguishes nice women from people with mean dogs, etc. Women initial, or leave stickers, or write a shortened version of their first name, in romance paperbacks they have read, before returning them to second-hand book shops.

IMG_3605“The Lady” actually looks for the initials D.J. in the books she reads; as she said, “If D.J. liked it, so will I.” But she eschews ARD (a scrawl run together).

“That ARD woman.” The Lady said, shaking her head over a Sandra Brown mystery. “I don’t understand her tastes. Who wants to read such garbage?”

Follow the signals, and you can’t get too far off the trail.


Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, humor, small town USA

Gotta Love Romances

I spent the weekend reorganizing the bookshop’s Luv Shack. I may need therapy now.

The strange story of why this  50-square-feet wooden barn, stuffed to the gills with Harlequins, adorns our front lawn is in my book. What I can tell you here is that those paperbacks are bonking like bunnies, out there in the dark with the shed doors closed, the larger novels begetting slim volumes of “Silhouette Special Editions.”  When we open each morning, I swear there are more of them.

Between My Beloved Pirate, My Beloved Viking, and My Beloved Yankee, it gets the wee bit tricky to maintain a sense of respect toward this genre–even though it really does deserve it. Romances account for a third of all new book sales. More importantly, any book that gives a reader what she or he needs is a good one. And, in an era of cynicism that ridicules human affection, it’s too easy to dismiss these little guys as triumphs of marketing over substance. Not all of them are.

Just some of them. I admit some of the things I saw and read in the Luv Shack provoked sneers. (Sometimes I had to read the blurbs to know where to shelve the book…) Amid the Saxon warriors and Norman princesses, Arab spies and Israeli agents, and plantation owners’ daughters tenderly caring for wounded Union  soldiers, I found my new favorite romance title: Fulk, The Reluctant (a nobleman has to get married or lose his inheritance).

Here are some other titles that stick in my mind–more’s the pity:

Silent Knight – medieval guy from wrong side of the tracks gets imprisoned by father of nubile–sorry, noble–young woman from Raphael painting; she has really great hair. (Also A Knight in her Arms, and It Happened One Knight, and… well, there were more.)

Mail-Order Bride — six books so far with this exact title, and they’re all about a woman–plain but with her own special kind of beauty–who answers an ad and loves his children tenderly until the crisis–a fire, a bad guy, the coal company–shows him just how important and wonderful she is. I wonder how many romance writers read Sarah, Plain and Tall as children.

Her Wounded Warrior — Do I really need to summarize this one?

If I were giving advice to a romance writer, it would be:

1) Bypass the “Knight” puns; there are only so many good ones, and they’ve all been used. Badly.

2) Have fun. Enjoy the writing, because the rest of us–even if we secretly read you–are going to make fun of you in public.

3) Do not, under any circumstances, title your book “My Beloved” ANYTHING. This goes triple for “My Beloved Knight in Paris.”

4) Be proud. You are providing something important. The world needs love–and lust, and sex, and affection–to keep itself turning with joy. And we all know it.


Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, folklore and ethnography, humor, small town USA, VA