Who Reads Romance Novels?

Elizabeth Camden Ramblings about Romance, The Book World Leave a Comment

A lot of people!  I was very gratified to see the following statistics of what is selling these days:

2010 Romance Fiction Sales in Comparison (source: Simba Information)

Romance: $1.358 billion
Religion/Inspirational: $ 759 billion
Mystery: $682 million
Science Fiction/Fantasy: $559 million
Classic Literary Fiction: $ 455 million

I was pleased to see romance maintain its dominant position in the industry, but was especially pleased to see the strong showing of religion and inspirational titles.  Sales of this category are hard to track because so many titles are sold through churches or Christian bookstores, which are not generally tracked by the traditional measures in the book industry.


Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Pott

A Man with a Capital M

Elizabeth Camden Ramblings about Romance, The Rose of Winslow Street 6 Comments

I am getting pretty psyched about the release of The Rose of Winslow Street.  I am really proud of this book, mostly because of the hero, Michael Dobrescu.  The Rose of Winslow Street is a celebration of manhood.  Michael is a raw, brash hero with blunt edges and an earthy sense of humor.  He is a man with a capital M.   

I am sorry when I hear women in contemporary society denigrate men or emasculate our boys, because Men with a capital M are the fuel and the engine that makes this world go around.  Yes, men often have a crude sense of humor or act like slobs on the weekend when a good football game is on, the beer is cold, and the wings are hot.  So what?  My husband works like a maniac all week, and if he wants to kick back with the NFL on the weekend, I’m happy to bring him a cold one and make the nachos.  

So what makes a Man with a capital M?  This is the guy who will run into a burning building to save a kid, and then be able to joke with the kid until the tears stop.   He will calm my rattled nerves when the roof springs a leak in the middle of a hurricane.  He doesn’t care if his coffee comes from Starbucks or 7-11, so long as it is hot.  He does not whine, he does not hold grudges.  He saddles up and get the job done, whether that means fixing the roof, signing up for a tour of duty in Afghanistan, or coaching kids on the little league teams.  I love Men with a capital M.

If you do too, check out The Rose of Winslow Street.  You won’t be disappointed!


Romancing the E-Reader

Elizabeth Camden Ramblings about Romance, The Book World Leave a Comment

A curious phenomenon is going on in the publishing world.  Unless you’ve been living on the dark side of the moon, you’ve probably heard about the explosion of e-books.  While it is true that e-book sales increased around 150% in the past year, one category of e-books has exploded beyond all expectations.


Romance is far and away the fastest-growing segment of the e-book industry.  There are a couple of reasons for this, perhaps the most obvious is that a person buying an e-book need not confront a store clerk who sneers at the sometimes mortifying covers that are slapped on romance novels.  Please note that I said “person,” not woman.  Although the predominant readers of romance novels are women, we know for a fact that men purchase and read plenty of romance novels.  I have received fan letters from men who loved The Lady of Bolton Hill, and have seen men in the libraries where I work curled up in a carrel with romance novels.

Another explanation for the strength of the romance e-book market is an author’s backlist.  Most bookstores won’t let a new release sit on their shelves more than a month or two before making way for newer titles.  Romance readers are intensely loyal to the authors they enjoy, and once they discover a “new to you” author, they will eagerly seek out that author’s backlist.  In the past, they often discovered those titles were out of print, but the miracle of e-books has made it affordable for publishers to re-issue older books, and those older titles are moving.

Recognizing this trend, publishers are rushing to convert the backlist of romance novelists at a faster rate than other genres.  The typical romance buyer will purchase, on average, three books per month.  That is a valuable customer the publishers want to please.

I confess to preferring a traditionally printed book over an e-reader…..but am planning an experiment for 2012.  I’ll be getting a Kindle with one of those nifty covers for Christmas and giving it a whirl. I’ll let you know how it goes!


Common Romance Plots

Elizabeth Camden Ramblings about Romance 2 Comments

It seems there are a lot of tried-and-true plots that surface in romance novels again and again.  I admit to seeking some out like comfort food.  I love a good governess story (probably deeply rooted in my early fascination with Jane Eyre.  (See here for my other ramblings on this one.)  Another favorite storyline for me is lovers who have been reunited after a falling out.  There is a wiff of this in The Lady of Bolton Hill.  Someday I hope to do a full-blown version of this storyline, although nothing is currently in the works. 

Although I like coming back to these tried-and-true romantic conventions, there are some I find a little off-putting:

Guardian & Ward.  This one is just too creepy for me.  The heroine is usually a vulnerable young orphan who comes to live with the older, jaded guardian.  Feeling uncomfortable by his attraction to the young girl, the hero will send her away to school or to his remote country estate, usually on a dark & stormy moor.  After a suitable number of years, she grows up enough so that she can be considered “fair game.”  The writer will really need to do backflips in order to avoid the problems inherent in this storyline, but it usually sells pretty well.

Ugly Duckling.  Heroine is good-natured lass who has always been on the fringes because she is frumpy, socially awkward, doesn’t know how to wear her hair and maybe she is also overweight or has bad teeth. Readers often respond well to this one because who hasn’t felt on the fringes at some point in their life?  My problem is that the heroine usually undergoes a transformation in order to get her to the happy ending.  This smacks a little too much of appearances needing to be improved before she is “worthy.” An exception is the My Fair Lady type thing, which is slightly different.  Rather than a physical transformation, Eliza Doolittle’s major transformation is one of comportment and education, which is similar, but not quite the same.

Secret Baby. Hero and heroine meet, have a passionate affair, then somehow get separated.  Nine months later the heroine finds herself with a little memento of the relationship, but for some convoluted reason feels she can not let the hero know about the baby.  The story resumes several years later when, whoops! the hero discovers he’s a Daddy and wants to play an active role in the little moppet’s life. This is another storyline that requires the author to come up with some pretty far-fetched scenarios to justify why a heroine keeps a baby a secret.

.  Ugh.  I’m not saying I haven’t enjoyed this one in the past (Mary Jo Putney’s Uncommon Vows remains a guilty pleasure for me), but it is overused, unrealistic, and frankly, a little silly.

Of course, now that I am on the record for my aversion to these plots, I fully expect to wake up some morning with a fantastic idea for a novel that features one or more of them.  The good news is that I reserve the right to change my mind!  And if you have any book recommendations to prove me wrong about the above list, I’d love to hear them!


Sterling Memorial Library at Yale

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The Sterling Memorial Library at Yale certainly needs to be on the list of most spectacular lbraries, as it is simply staggering, not only in its beauty but in its collections.  What a magnificent library. 

Incidentally, some really terrific people work there.  Once upon a time I was in desperate need of a rare book about colonial medicine, and Yale was the only library in the entire country with a copy.  The terrific folks spent a good deal of time working with me over the phone so I got exactly the information I needed.  

Take a close look at the photograph below.  The carvings on the outside of the building depict scholars throughout the ages, with writing in several different languages and alphabets.



And here we have a picture of the inside of the library:

Many thanks to Yale University and altopower for permission to use the photos!

Random Acts of Culture: Hallelujah Chorus

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This one is well worth your six minutes…. I dare you not to have a smile on your face by the end! 

The Knight Foundation has begun funding a series of 1,000 “Random Acts of Culture,” in which performers show up in public spaces and simply begin sharing their art with the unsuspecting crowd.   As the director of the foundations says:

Hearing Handel, or seeing the tango in an unexpected place provides a deeply felt reminder of how the classics can enrich our lives. As you’ll see in our videos, the performances make people smile, dance, grab their cameras – even cry with joy. For those brief moments, people going along in their everyday lives are part of a shared, communal experience that makes their community a more vibrant place to live.

This time they showed up at Macys in Philadelphia.  See what you think!