R*BY Award Finalists and the availability of the shortlist in Australian Libraries

The Romance Writers of Australia Awards were announced today. These awards are voted on by readers and I was pleased to see so many of my favourite Australian Women Writers listed. As I am saving all my pennies to get my bookshelves built, I thought I’d borrow some of the titles through interlibrary loan so I searched through Trove (the National Australian Library’s database for the uninitiated) and I thought I would share the results with readers of this blog.

Short Sweet
Molly Cooper’s Dream Date – Barbara Hannay (18 public libraries/4 State or National)
How To Save a Marriage In a Million – Leonie Knight (1 public library/2 State/National)
Abby and The Bachelor Cop – Marion Lennox (19 public libraries)
Single Dad’s Triple Trouble – Fiona Lowe (16 public libraries/1 State/National/1 University)

Short Sexy
The Fearless Maverick – Robyn Grady (1 State/National/1 University)
The Man She Loves to Hate – Kelly Hunter (12 public libraries/1 State/National)
The Wedding Charade – Melanie Milburne (19 public libraries/1 State/National/1 University)
Her Not-So-Secret-Diary – Anne Oliver (7 public libraries/1 State/National/1 University)

Long Romance
Midnight’s Wild Passion – Anna Campbell (39 public libraries/2 Universities/3 State/National)
Boomerang Bride – Fiona Lowe (0 holdings – this seems very odd to me)
The Best Laid Plans – Sarah Mayberry (11 public libraries/1 university/National)
The Voyagers – Mardi McConnochie (53 public libraries/4 Sate/5 universities/National)

Romantic Elements
The Trader’s Wife – Anna Jacobs (52 public libraries/2 State/National/2 University)
The Shelly Beach Writers’ Group – June Loves (63 public libraries/3 State/3 Universities/National)
Busted In Bollywood – Nicola Marsh (0 – this seems very odd to me)
Shattered Sky – Helene Young (54 public libraries/4 universities/3 States/National)

I’m not sure how anyone else feels about this list but, with the exception of 5 of the titles, it doesn’t feel as though there are many loan choices. At first glance 15 might seem a lot but break that down by State and it doesn’t represent many holdings. I’m not sure how the authors themselves would feel about this. Is it a case of “Good – they’ll go out and buy my book instead” or “For heaven’s sake! Will librarians start buying up in romance! I want my books to be read by library borrowers who ultimately become buyers”.  Hopefully, now that libraries have a shortlist to select from, this list will look quite different by August when the awards are announced.

NOTE: I know that, in terms of ILL’s libraries do have other avenues to search for titles, but as a reader searching from home, I rarely explore these other options. If it isn’t listed by Trove I either don’t read it or I buy it. I also understand that Australian Librarians can’t all buy every single title that comes out – and perhaps this is where I sometimes get all nostalgic and bemoan that libraries no longer have schemes such as the wonderful Sydney Subject Specialisation Scheme – Fiction Reserve program in place. This scheme gave each library in the Sydney region a Dewey span and a Fiction letter span to specialise in – for example, one library I worked at had the span of authors with surnames Koc – Let (cheeky librarians). The loss of this program has resulted in everyone catering to the middle ground and some less well known, less read but still interesting books are not being purchased.

Retro Romance Reading: Books 10, 11, 12 ,13

I became an obsessive fan of Mills and Boon and other category romance lines during the 1980’s when I was a young teen. So I decided to read some older titles. I also decided to combine this with the Australian Women Writers 2012 Reading and Reviewing Challenge. So here I have 4 Mills and Boon written by Australian Women Authors.


Of the four listed below, my only reread was Lynsey Stevens’ Ryan’s Return. I recall reading this as a teen and finding it – not romantic – but saddened by the actions of the adults around the two protagonists. Perhaps still a sign of the category fiction range at the time, but having a 23 year old sleep with a nearly 17 year old (both of whom were besotted with each other) feels very uncomfortable, though real, to me. For their parents then to insist on a shotgun wedding after which said 23 year old leaves without a word to anyone just worsens the feeling. To add to the mix our nearly 17 year old heroine falls pregnant and has twins. She is lucky enough to have the support of both her father and her in-laws. The main story takes place 8 years later when the hero finally returns to “claim” his wife and children. The strength of the story is that the author does not gloss over the long time the hero is gone. When it comes time to explain his absence to his children (and wife) he talks about how even adults can make mistakes, how having his hand forced made him lash out. How his behaviour during the first two years was abominable and though not excusing himself, it certainly explained some of his actions. As per most Mills and Boon, there is a redemptive Happily Ever After and one that, as a reader, I felt comfortable with. I also liked the sex scenes which, though they were signature torrid, they were not graphic nor did they use eyebrow raising allusions. For a category romance published over 30 years ago, I certainly felt it had aged well and was still readable and I can certainly understand why I have held onto my copy for all these years.

My other 3 choices I found in a second-hand bookshop. 2 titles were by Emma Darcy and one by Valerie Parv.

A Very Stylish Affair by Emma Darcy was perhaps my least favourite of the 4 books though readable enough that I finished it in a day. The out of the bottle red headed feisty heroine grated on my nerves as did the less than professional alpha lawyer hero. Of course, there was the stunning other woman also on the scene with the obligatory lack of communication and misunderstandings between the leading protagonists. I am still not sure why I read this book to completion…perhaps because I really liked the Lindfield/Sydney setting.


On a completely different note, Emma Darcy’s The Shining of Love was compelling. Part of a series of books around a family of fostered siblings, this Mills and Boon has the out of the ordinary set up of the female protagonist being married (to a man she loved and respected) and turning down the male protagonist who fell in love with her at first sight and begs her to leave her husband (which she doesn’t). The book spans 18 months, there are parallel missing child storylines, the obligatory “other woman” and a series of coincidences that could have been trite but were handled very well by the author. Though I didn’t feel convinced by the protagonists as a couple, I did however, love the rest of the story.

Last of the pick was Valerie Parv’s Tasmanian Devil. Here is another book that I really enjoyed. A twist on the “alone on a desert island heiress learning to fend for herself” storyline, this is a classic Mills and Boon in that there was an alpha man saving his womAn, jealousies, misunderstandings and many other over the top, melodramatic scenes which make for a thoroughly enjoyable story. I particularly loved the sex scenes which were not at all graphic but filled with swoony allusions. My favourite line was:

Having read these four titles, I will continue on my journey for more Mills and Boon Australian publications throughout this year.

VaVeros’s Favourite Australian Picture Book Picks

With Aussie Author month coming to a close I wanted to highlight some fabulous Australian authors and illustrators in the realm of children’s picture books. These are my surefire picks.

Gordon’s Got a Snookie by Lisa Shanahan and Wayne Harris

Gordon’s a silverback brought in to service the ladies. The ladies expect an alpha gorilla but they get a beta instead. This book is fabulous. It’s about teasing, loneliness, comfort and lurrve! I have bought many copies of this book – many for family overseas.

Flame Stands Waiting by Corinne Fenton, illus by Sebastian Ciaffaglione

You know those picture books you pick up and start reading and you suddenly feel that you are standing in the illustration as it is incredibly life-like and mesmerising. Well, this book is it. The story of the only horse on the Merry-Go-Round that does not move, the fun park lights come to life and the emotions of the kids seem quite tangible. A gem of a book.


Goodnight Me – Andrew Daddo, illus. Emma Quay

Goodnight Me is a sweet, lovely bedtime book for young children. It’s the kind of book that has your 3 year old curling up to sleep with their board book copy.


Lilli-Pilli – The Frog Princess by Vashti Farrer & Owen Swan

A historical picture book romance with kings, queens, dukes and the search for the perfect match. Poor Lily though has frogs legs. The illustrations are dream like and in keeping with fairytales.


Leaf – Stephen Michael King

Quiet, introspective with a childlike, whimsical perspective of the world. Everytime I read a book by Stephen Michael King I want to climb a tree and watch birds flying around for the whole afternoon. He gets to you that way.


Miss Llewellyn-Jones Goes to Town by Elaine Forrestal, illustrated by Moira Court – I love the cadences and rhythms in this gorgeously illustrated book. I wish I could get a series of prints for my kitchen from this book too. Love it.



Hunting for Dragons by Bruce Whatley

You know how as a child you walk around the house searching for that monster and it is always lurking close by appearing in everyday movements and items. Well, Bruce Whatley has this imagining down pat. I love pouring over all his books but this one, with its dragon hunter, is a standout choice.

Australian romance authors – how many have you read? VaVeros’s list

So I’ve been a lazy blogger and done a straight cut and paste from Bookthingo. Read on!

How many Aussie romance authors do you know?

Australia is home to a lot of talented authors in the romance genre. Here’s a list of romance authors from the Romance Writers of Australia website. How many authors do you know?

Authors in BOLD are authors you’ve tried at least once.
Authors UNDERLINED are in your To Be Read pile.
Authors in ITALICS are authors whose work you’re planning to try soon.
Mark autobuy authors with an asterisk (*).
If an author has written a keeper for you, add the book title next to the author’s name.

This meme was created to celebrate Aussie Author Month 2011.

1. Alison Stuart – Historical
2. Alli Kincaid/Allison Rushby – Women’s Fiction, Young Adult
3. Ally Blake – HM&B Sweet, Sexy Sensation
4. Amy Andrews – HM&B Medical
5. Anna Campbell – Historical
6. Anna Cleary – HM&B Sexy Sensation
7. Anna Jacobs – Historical Sagas, Contemporary
8. Anne Gracie – Historical, Romantic Comedy
9. Anne Oliver – HM&B Sexy Sensation
10. Anne Whitfield – Historical
11. Annie West – HM&B Sexy, Sexy Sensation
12. Astrid Cooper – Speculative Fantasy, Paranormal
13. Barbara Hannay – HM&B Sweet
14. Barbra Novac – Erotic Romance
15. Beverley Eikli – Historical Intrigue
16. Bronwen Evans – Regency Historicals
17. Bronwyn Jameson – HM&B Desire
18. Bronwyn Parry – Romantic Suspense
19. Bronwyn Stuart
20. Carol Warner – Rural, Contemporary
21. Cassandra Cornell
22. Cathleen Ross – Erotica, HM&B Spice Briefs
23. Cathryn Brunet – Contemporary
24. CC Coburn – HM&B American Romance
25. Charmaine Attalla
26. Cheryl Wright – Romance
27. Christina Phillips – Ancient Historical Romance
28. Christine Stinson – Women’s Fiction
29. Christine Wells – Historical
30. Claire Baxter – HM&B Sweet
31. Daphne Clair/Laurey Bright – Historical
32. Deborah Challinor – Historical fiction
33. Denise Rossetti – Erotica
34. Dora Braden
35. Eleni Konstantine
36. Elisabeth Rose – Contemporary
37. Elizabeth Rolls – HM&B Historical
38. Emily Gee – Fantasy
39. Erica Hayes – Fantasy
40. Fiona Lowe – HM&B Medical
41. Fiona McArthur – HM&B Medical
42. Gail Symmonds – Time Travel/Historical
43. Heather Boyd
44. Heather Brown – Historical
45. Heather Garside – Historical
46. Helen Kirkman – HM&B HQN
47. Helene Young – Suspense
48. Isolde Martyn – Historical
49. Jan Colley – HM&B Desire
50. Janet Woods – Women’s Fiction
51. Jennie Adams – HM&B Sweet
52. Jennifer Brassel – Contemporary, Young Adult
53. Jess Dee – Sexy romance
54. Joan Kilby – HM&B SuperRomance
55. Joanie MacNeil
56. Joanna Challis – Historical
57. Kandy Shepherd – Romantic Comedy
58. Karlene Blakemore-Mowle/Karly Lane – Romantic Suspense
59. Kate Loveday – Contemporary, Historical
60. Kelly Hunter – HM&B Sexy Sensation
61. Keri Arthur – Urban Fantasy, Paranormal
62. Keziah Hill – Erotica
63. Kiki Lon – Young Adult
64. Kirsty Brooks – Crime Comedy Romance
65. Kylie Griffin – Paranormal Romance
65. Laura O’Connell – Inspirational Women’s Fiction
66. Lilian Darcy – HM&B Medical
67. Lillian Grant – Romance
68. Lisa Heidke – Women’s Fiction
69. Loretta Brabant – Contemporary
70. Louise Cusack – Fantasy
71. Lucinda Brant – Historical romance & mystery
72. Lucy Clark – HM&B Medical
73. Lynsey Stevens – HM&B Sweet
74. Maggi Andersen – Historical
75. Maggie Nash – Erotica, Paranormal, Suspense
76. Mandy Magro – Australian rural fiction
77. Maree Anderson – Paranormal, speculative fiction, fantasy
78. Margaret Tanner – Historical
79. Marion Lennox – HM&B Medical, Sweet
80. Mary Hawkins – Inspirational
81. Maxine Sullivan – HM&B Desire
82. Melanie Milburne – HM&B Medical, Sexy
83. Melissa James – HM&B Sweet
84. Michelle Douglas – HM&B Sweet
85. MJ Scott
86. Nicola Marsh – HM&B Sweet, Sexy Sensation
87. Nicola E. Sheridan – Fantasy / Paranormal romance
88. Nicole Murphy – Paranormal
89. Nikki Logan – HM&B Sweet
90. Noelene Jenkinson – Contemporary
91. Paula Roe – HM&B Desire
92. Paula Vince – Exciting, mysterious and suspenseful romance
93. Rachel Bailey – Silhouette Desire
94. Rhian Cahill – Erotic Romance
95. Robyn Donald – HM&B Sexy
96. Robyn Grady – HM&B Desire
97. Rowena Cory Daniells – Speculative Fiction, Children’s
98. Sandy Curtis – Suspense
99. Sara Bennett/Sara Mackenzie – Historical, Paranormal
100. Sami Lee – Contemporary
101. Sara Hantz – Young Adult
102. Sarah Mayberry – HM&B SuperRomance, Blaze
103. Sharon Archer – HM&B Medical
104. Shona Husk – Paranormal
105. Stephanie Laurens – Historical
106. Sophia James – Harlequin Historical
107. Suzanne Brandyn – Contemporary
108. Tamara Gill – Historical
109. Tina Marie Clark – Children’s
110. Tina Duncan – HM&B Sexy
111. Tracey O’Hara – Paranormal
112. Tracie Sommers – HM&B Spice Briefs
113. Trish Morey – HM&B Sexy
114. Valerie Parv – HM&B Sweet
115. Vonnie Hughes – Historical Intrigue
116. Yvonne Lindsay – HM&B Desire
117. Zana Bell – Historical, Superromance

Authors read: 19
Authors in TBR: 3
Autobuy authors: 0

I’ve read more Aussie Romance Authors than I thought I had. I tend to choose many of the overseas authors (which probably explains why I have no autobuy authors off this list). I think that I’m also a fly by the seat of your pants reader as I don’t tend to plan ahead with my TBR list.

So let’s see what this month brings!

Australian Romance Readers Convention 2011 – Part 2

In my day to day life, I have a few acquaintances who read and enjoy romance novels but it is a rare occasion to be surrounded by romance novel enthusiasts and authors and attending the Australian Romance Readers Convention gives you a chance to talk talk talk about romance novels without the fear that you are getting tiresome.

Here is the second part of my twitter influenced take (that is: 140 words or less per session)

Dinner – Bling and the 2010 Australian Romance Readers Awards – Winners

The ARRC2011 dinner was a dressed up, blinged up affair. An unofficial bling off had been issued and everyone came dressed to the nines. I felt that my tiara might give me the edge on others but unfortunately, Christine Darcas out-blinged everyone in her ballroom dancing, white sequin dress. It was bright & beautiful and her win was well deserved. For more pics there’s Bookthingo and ObsidianTears13 Flickr sets.

As for the favourite authors – there really was a strong Australian/New Zealand bias. Congratulations to Anna Campbell, Nalini Singh, Paula Roe, Jess Dee, Kandy Shepherd and Helene Young. For more details on the winners go to ARRA or Bookthingo.

The food was lovely and the company was splendid. There was much talking and cheer amongst all that attended.


Keynote: Cindy Gerard

Coming from Iowa, corn-fed Cindy Gerard had no idea that romance was the ugly step-sister of the publishing world. She (naively) sent her manuscript to LaVryle Spencer to critique who suggested CG send it to RWA .

Cindy addressed that she knew that she was talking to readers not writers so her talk was not going to be on her craft. She spoke about how, regardless of what you undertake in your life, it is the ability “to confine, control and dominate self-doubt” that will help you succeed. “Self doubt is a sneaky bitch” and can derail any career.

Cindy Gerard was funny, friendly and a lovely person throughout the convention. Stupidly, on each day I kept forgetting to bring my Marriage, Outlaw Style fave Cindy Gerard Silhouette for her to autograph but we did talk cowboy heroes!

Contemporary – The Resurrection of Contemporary Romances

Cathleen Ross, Amy Andrews, Lisa Heidke, Christine Darcas, Ros Baxter

Moderator: Kandy Shepherd

I was excited about this session as it’s my fave sub-genre. Unfortunately, the title was a misnomer as only 2 of the authors wrote contemporary romance. The rest were chick lit authors writing in the first person not the third. This difference was evident when asked for their fave authors. The contemporary authors listed SEP, Rachel Gibson, Crusie, Roberts whereas the chicklit authors listed Marion Keyes & Maggie Alderson.

That said, discussion was fun and lively. Authors articulated their craft, drawing on life experiences. Lisa Hiedke openly admitted to stealing from her own life, Amy Andrews & Ros Baxter on collaborative writing, the use/non-use of children, how much sexual description is enough (at which point Denise Rosetti’s books were described as 3 knicker reads) and the use/non-use of condoms in romance (do they get in the way or is it necessary).

Overall, a great session which would have set different expectations if it had been named Contemporary Romance vs Chicklit.

Category Series – 100 years and still going strong

Kelly Hunter, Melanie Milburne, Michelle Douglas, Paula Roe, Haylee Kerans (Harlequin staff)

Moderator: Annie West

I adore this sub-genres’s short, intense, contemporary stories so attending an intimate talk with these authors was a bonus. Annie West opened questions not only to the panel but to the audience too. Everyone discussed their first ever category read and why they chose to write in the genre.

The authors discussed how satisfying it is to read about alpha males who are at the mercy of the heroine. Kelly Hunter finds the power balance in relationships is important. Paula Roe is still mourning the cancellation of Harlequin Temptations.

Other topics were male virgins, the economy of words and tightly delivered emotions in the short story, tackling issues and the 40 year shift from low sensuality yet broader moral views to high sensuality with more conservative views.

The love promise has stayed core to the category series. The authors said criticism is fine – the reader always owns their response to the story.

By invitation – delegates panel

Cindy Gerard, Helene Young, Anna Campbell, Nalini Singh, Lexxie Couper, Keri Arthur

Moderator: Pamela Diaz (Convention Co-ordinator)

I chose to not take notes at this session. I enjoyed listening to the authors banter with each other about their writing experiences, their favoured genres, what they imagine they would be doi

ng if they weren’t authors. Bookthingo asked them whether they read the last page of a book (I won’t steal BookThingo’s thunder here but I will say that it was a fifty/fifty response). For more details please go to her website!

The convention was wrapped up at this point. It was another fantastic, intense weekend full of romance reading suggestions. My highlight of the convention has to be meeting all the wonderful Twitter folk I have been tweeting with over the last two years. Authors, bloggers, booksellers and readers….oh – and meeting Cindy Gerard, author of one of my favourite ever category romance rereads.

Australian Romance Readers Convention 2011 – Part 1

In my day to day life, I have a few acquaintances who read and enjoy romance novels but it is a rare occasion to be surrounded by romance novel enthusiasts and authors and attending the Australian Romance Readers Convention gives you a chance to talk talk talk about romance novels without the fear that you are getting tiresome.

Here is my twitter influenced take (that is: 140 words or less per session)

Friday Night Cocktails


The cocktail party was an intimate affair overlooking Bondi Beach with readers, bloggers, tweeps and authors mingling and schmoozing. The funny thing is that I didn’t look out at the view even once. The company was so engaging and enjoyable.

It was very exciting to meet up with friends from 2009 and even more so to meet friends whom I have met through Twitter and with whom I have shared many a twitversation. Some were instantly recognisable due to their twitter pictures and names but others who use a pseudonym or pseudophoto would sometimes be talking to you for a while before you realised who they were.

After the cocktails there was an impromptu meet-up in BookThingo’s room where we continued to talk books, romance fiction and bling.


Keynote: Anna Campbell

Anna Campbell loves reading about intense relationships. Her first romance was by Joyce Dingwell, a Mills & Boon which she read at 8. Anna gave us a who’s who of Australian. Helen Bianchin, Margaret Way, Lindsay Armstrong, Valerie Parv, Emma Darcy. Up until this point, authors were published out of London by Mills & Boon. Then Harlequin published Bronwyn Jameson along with Annie West, Rachel Bailey, Amy Andrews, Michelle Douglas, Paula Roe, Sarah Mayberry and Melanie Milburne.

Australian single title authors are Stephanie Laurens, Anne Gracie, Mel Scott, Keri Arthur, Erica Hayes, Denise Rosetti, Helene Young, Bronwyn Parry, Anna Campbell and many more.

Anna ended her talk saying that Australia is a good place to be as a romance author because it is culturally aligned between the US & England therefore appealing to a very broad audience.

Book Launch – Helene Young’s Shattered Sky

Helene Young launched her new romantic suspense book Shattered Sky set in North Queensland.

This One Time – Panel discussion

Jess Dee (erotic), Anna Campbell (Historical), Shannon Curtis (Category), Helene Young (Romantic Suspense)

Moderator: Erica Hayes (Urban Fiction)

This one Time:

Discussion ranged from where authors get ideas. Both from their life experiences and their reading influences.

All the writers seemed to draw from their own experiences. Helene Young had the tragic misfortune of finding a dead body on the beach which years later acted as the foundation for her latest book Shattered Sky. Anna Campbell though has never met a Spanish duke in the 19th century and finds that she pulls a lot more out of her captive years at a Dickensian boarding school. For Shannon Curtis trying to get published was turned on its head when she took her blind father’s advice to sex up her writing though she w=ould prefer that he didn’t listen to audiobooks of her writing. Australian’s take blaspheming lightly but the American’s don’t. She gets a lot of complaints about the JC’s but not the fucks. This is a stand out in cultural differences.

This was a funny session with some lovely anecdotes from all the authors.

Romantic Suspense – panel discussion

Cindy Gerard, Helene young, Karlene Blakemore-Mowle, Shannon Curtis

Moderator: Bronwyn Parry

The authors talked about character development and the research they did so they can ensure their story was an entertaining escape and researched with sensitivity and authenticity. Keeping the romance story present in the romantic suspense can be difficult. There is an intensity that lends itself to adrenaline when lots of characters are dying that warrants hot sex quickly for others.

Cindy Gerard has a lot of military fans and her characters tend to be ex-soldiers. She’s vulnerable to her readers that have become friends and feels a responsibility in writing for them.

Research for all the authors plays a large role. Helene Young, also a pilot, needs to keep the flight information realistic without boring the layman yet not dumbing it down either. Cindy uses travel guidebooks and Bronwyn loves Google Earth to work out just how isolated can she make her settings.

Another interesting session.

Auction Booty

I bid on several items at the auction. I missed out on the retro Mills and Boon notebooks and Kathleen O’Reilly books. However I won the following

Kandy Shepherd:

Yay, for Kandy! Despite being an Australian author (and Sydney based) Kandy had been published in the US but not in Australia. I fell in lover with her book covers and she is a funny, scream of an author who was just as excited as I was when I got the winning bid *cheering*

Eloisa James’s Desperate Duchesses and An Affair Before Christmas because she’s one of the author’s I suggest for romance novel sceptics.

Sarah Mayberry’s Her Best Friend, Home for the Holidays and A Natural Father because I wanted to trial an author I hadn’t yet discovered.




Mea Culpa Mea Culpa Mea Bloody Culpa (but then again maybe the bookstores will have to shoulder this one)

Last week, RedGroup went into administration and along with it a number of Australian and New Zealand book chains – Borders, Angus and Robertson and Whitcoulls. Of course, the media have gone crazy blaming the darn internet again (my god – prior to 1994 you could only blame society). With the gradual decline of the print newspaper (hell, they’re giving them away at 8am these days) the media are bitter, enraged and ready to snarl at any hint of online business having healthier sales than a bricks and mortar company.

Now I am being implored by the media to “put my money where my heart is” and support my bricks and mortar independent bookseller and stop buying from those horrid online bookshops.

Well, let me say this to the book chains and indies.  You lost me, and a large chunk of the book buying market (romance readers), by being disdainful of our reading choices. I have spent decades struggling to source romance titles and finally have found places that will not only stock them but will sell them to me at a lower price than venerated bookstores can supply them. Why should I change my buying habits. As it stands, I would still have to source my titles through the online bookstore to give to my indie who has actively chosen not to supply them.

Yes, I do love my indie. Their loyalty program is splendid, their staff are friendly and knowledgeable (and all greet me by name) and for years they would order in books for me (back when I really didn’t feel comfortable with online purchasing). These books were, inevitably, romances.  But did this impact at all upon their book stocks? Well – they always stock Jennifer Crusie. But that is it. Despite the fact that they had staff that enjoyed the genre and and that they had customers that enjoyed the genre and that they had genre sections throughout the shop (Sci-fi, Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Crime) my “beloved” indie chooses to not sell Romance. Somehow, I suspect that independent bookshops would prefer to declare bankruptcy than to dedicate any space to the romance genre.

When you have a mortgage or family  or other responsibilities to look after, your book buying priorities change. Thankfully, I work in a public library so access to millions of books is at my fingertips. These same millions of books are accessible to any Australians who visit their public library. To find these books Trove is the best source for titles held throughout the country. That said, I love my keepers and I am all for the adage of “Buy the best, borrow the rest”. So when I find that I have borrowed and renewed a book multiple times and I am deeply in love with it I will go out and purchase a copy for my home.

I find that I buy approximately 20 books a year for my whole family and I buy these books from various sources. Now, the difference between paying $20 per item by going through my indie/chain or paying $8 for the same book through Book Depository/Amazon – it’s a no brainer. And it is insulting to my intelligence to beseech me to stop buying online. Franky, that “leftover” $12 supplies my home with 10 litres of milk (which lasts 3 days) or 1.5 other book titles. A win/win situation for my family.

And if the issue is “Buy Australian” there are a number of generalist Australian online bookstores who do supply romance titles and promote them, discuss them and enjoy them too. They provide a wonderful service and operate in a similar way to indies (except they know what their customers want to read). And their prices are reasonable, too. A shout out to Booktopia and The Nile.

The question is: do I still buy from my indie? That would be a resounding yes though not as much as I used to. I buy all my Australian and New Zealand authors and publications from them. It is the same price (and in many instances, cheaper) than buying those titles online. Will this save the store? I don’t know. Would I return to my local indie if it set up a romance section? Perhaps. I love reading the last pages of a book before I buy it and I also love skimming through a book to get a sense of the language that is being used. Once again, I can’t do that online. So it would really depend on the price and the quality of the titles being sold.

The important point to observe is that readers who choose to buy their books online do so for a number of reasons, be they cost driven, being too busy to be bothered going into a bookstore or quite importantly, inaccessibility of titles readers want to read.

I am putting my money where my heart is – and my heart is with the suppliers of books that I like to read. So if this means that bricks and mortar bookstores will close down I will be amongst the many who will be saying “Mea Culpa”.

Love and the Dead Scientist

“Do you know why you’re afraid when you’re alone? I do. I do.” Vincent Gray

I have recently read 2 novels, both of which had romantic elements and both of which had the female protagonist conducting an imaginary relationship with a dead scientist.

Both books had a great plot, were well written and were engaging but I had trouble dealing with the dead scientist conversation. It was odd. It didn’t sit right with me. I phoned my scientist sister and asked her if she knew any of her male/female scientist counterparts who talk to their imaginary hero/mentor/role model. She told me she was busy and not to bother her with ridiculous concepts. I took this to mean “No”.

The language in Addition by Toni Jordan captured me. The heroine has OCD and is constantly counting. This agitated me but rightfully so as it was able to make me, the reader, understand how the protagonist feels. The protagonist also spends a lot of her time relating her actions back to Nikola Tesla. The dead scientist dialogue is as odd as the rest of the book but it all makes sense as you near the end. The romantic lead totally enamoured me. I liked that he is fashion-challenged, seriously – he wears boaters, and I liked his patience and steadfastness!

In Loving Richard Feynman by Penny Tangey the letter writing to a dead scientist seemed out of place for me. The various storylines worked well and I would recommend this book but I struggled with the concept of a teen finding solace in an imaginary relationship with Richard Feynman. This would ring alarm bells as to my child’s sanity. Nonetheless, the relationships in this book are wonderful and I adored the beautiful ending.

Having come across two Australian publications with a similar premise I hope that this is not going to become a favourite storyline. To me, it made no sense and it detracted from two books that would have otherwise been great. I understand that I am supposed to suspend disbelief and somehow relate to different peoples’ experiences but does anybody know anyone that has enriching and enabling conversations with dead scientists, teachers, Kennedys…..anyone other than the kid from The Sixth Sense?