It’s March and my fiction reading still has not taken off. I’m a tad busy at the moment (understatement) as I have my part-time librarian work, I have taken on teaching a new subject which is slightly shifted from my previous subjects, and of course I am still chipping slowly away at my PhD meanwhile I am continuing with my whole family’s habitual 2 episodes a night of How I Met Your Mother (priorities peoples!) while trying to perform motherly duties, so there will be no self-flaggelation over my lack of recreational reading. That said, I still wanted to contribute to SuperWendy’s TBR this month as I really love the comfort reads theme so I dug out an old draft post I had started writing on my favourite librarian romances which are high up on my comfort reads list.
There are quite a few librarian novels and SuperWendy, who is also a romance reading librarian, has an ever-growing Librarians in Romance Novels page with over 125 novels listed. I’ve read many on her list but I’ll only discuss my favourites.
Karina Bliss wrote What the Librarian Did which became an automatic buy up for libraries with a Mills & Boon buying plan (ahem!) I think this was a favourite because we were all wondering “What did she do!?!?!”.
Let’s just say that Rachel Robinson was a great academic librarian but a little bit reluctant in the relationship game because, you know, life decisions can sometimes suck and come back to haunt you.
But this book isn’t my absolute favouritest librarian comfort read…..
I do love Victoria Dahl’s naughty librarian novels. Fire fighters (Fanning the Flames – excellent older librarian heroine), tattooed heroes (Looking for Trouble – another excellent librarian heroine and phew! what a back story to propel the tension in this one!) and agony aunts (Taking the Heat – a rare librarian hero who was eerily like many of the young male librarians I’ve met entering the profession). Dahl writes wonderful stories with sex scenes which were just a tad hard core for squeamish me (it is not the sex that made me squeamish but the accompanying sex talk that made me blanche). But I still read her books because no-one, No ONE in romance fiction today writes such amazing heroines in contemporary fiction as Dahl does.
Yet her librarian books are still not my favouritest librarian comfort read…
Ahhh….but I do love Bonnie Drake (AKA Barbara Delinsky)’s Moment to Moment. Dana (the heroine), like me, is an asthmatic librarian. The heroine is always breathless (I think that there are a lot of asthmatic heroines in romance if breathlessness is a sign). One day, she is out jogging alone when she has an asthma attack and another runner sees her. He helps her while she takes her medicine and then runs off to get his car to help her home but Dana recovers and goes home before he returns.
Drake has her heroine working a sedate, quiet job, one suitable for asthmatics as only a dustmite-ridden library can be (I speak from experience here *sad face*).
So one day, the still “a helpful stranger” hero, Russ and heroine Dana meet when he enters the library and he looks across the circulation desk and their eyes meet.
A note here: This has never happened to me (though a late friend did meet her own husband in exactly this way.) I must say there is the occasional goodlooking borrower but eyes have never met and sparks of lust have never sparked. And ever the professional I have never ogled any of my borrowers (we don’t count mental ogling do we?).
Of course, Dana and Russ have some obstacles to overcome, especially her over-protective parents who don’t feel Dana should get *ahem* physical (we are talking about her running here OF COURSE!) because of her asthma. But love does prevail.
And yet! YET Moment to Moment is STILL not my favouritest librarian comfort read!….
My bestest favouritest librarian romance which continues to be my turn to comfort read always is Lillian Peake’s The Library Tree c1972, though my copy here is from 1980.
I think I read this book when I was in my early teens. And up until Victoria Dahl’s 2015 pub Taking the Heat (mentioned above), it was the only romance librarian novel I had ever read that had a male librarian – Richard Hindon (of course) is the head librarian (no lowly librarian position for him) and Carolyn Lyle is the overqualified library assistant – she has Bachelor of Arts no less. But not only was she overqualified for the job but she was incorrectly qualified!
And to make things worse, she only got the job because her local councillor, bombastic and cringe-worthy uncle went against workplace regulations and insisted she be given the position. To add to all these sins, Carolyn is also rather naive in what constitutes Librarianship:
“So you’re coming to work here,” he cut in, “for psychological reasons, to compensate for a lack of books in childhood, to fulfil a lifelong need?” His incredulous smile unnerved her as much as the contempt implicit in his words.
“I feel it necessary to emphasise, Miss Lyle, that far more than a liking for books is required to make a successful librarian. It isn’t a job where you keep your hands clean and can quietly go to sleep. It requires stamina, dedication, a willingness to learn and to take orders. Intelligence is vital, so is accuracy, orderliness and —I must repeat this— persistence.
There are sooooo many reasons for Richard to hate Carolyn.
It is good to see that even in the 1970s head librarians despised nepotism and this constitutes the major obstacle for Carolyn and Richard as is he cannot bear that his power in the workplace was taken from him. But Carolyn’s willingness to learn all about library work and cataloguing – with an especially hot scene where Richard teaches her to catalogue a book on the history of train engines (!!) – enamours her to him – as does her long hair.
The two of them talk and connect, he buries his face in her long hair, I get a sense of frisson. Carolyn babysits for his sister where again they bond and connect, and he buries his face in her long tresses.
Eventually, Carolyn ends up wink winking and nudge nudging with her boss. Richard – is indeed a hunkster.
Another note: no disrespect to any of my colleagues or past managers (male and female) but they have never set my heart a pitter pattering (this is, of course, a good thing). A quick run through I can list them as Removed, Jolly, Funny, Despotic, Brilliant, Creepy, Awesome and Awesome. Please note that among all those descriptions the word “hot”, “hunky”, “phwoar” and “pass me the smelling salts as I have swooned” have never been uttered by me in relation to my managers. Authorial license was definitely at work here.
So the sparks continue until they argue and Carolyn quits the library and cuts off her hair much to his shock.
After a few passionate kisses, with Carolyn agreeing to enrol in library school to sit for her librarianship exams and to find a job in another library district, Richard is finally brought to his knees by the sheer power of beauty and lurrrve and thy woman whose name is Carolyn. And of course, the power of local government and courting the councillor’s niece also gets him his new library (a love declaration and a dodgy organisational win on the same day!). And in his quintessential Englishness, he states in that moment of pure joy:
My word, this is a day.
So yay, Richard. Dude knows how to party!
Having reread The Library Tree numerous times – I still love it. I love how accurately Lillian Peake depicts library work at the time and there were some particularly strong ideas about readers advisory, allowing all staff and members of the community to make purchase decisions, the need for having the correct qualifications – an arts degree does not a librarian make, and neither does a love of reading.
Lillian Peake’s library was one were the information needs of the community are at the centre of the library’s objectives – which is exactly how libraries today tend to function, with their user at the core of their service. Which I guess is why I get the fuzzy wuzzies when I reread this book. Two of my favourite things in the world – romance novels and library missions, all in the one comfort package.
I own every single one of my librarian comfort read titles.