Help A Bitch Out

PhD Student Looking for Nora Roberts Books

Here’s a unique Bitchery request: old editions of Nora Roberts novels – for academic study!

An writes:

I’m a graduate student pursuing a PhD on romance, genre and authorship based on Nora Roberts’ oeuvre. For my research I need old editions of Nora’s novels and I have some difficulty getting my hands on old romance novels. I analyze both the text and the paratext – cover, blurbs, etc. – of romance novels, which means that each new edition of a book is important to my analysis, even if no changes to the text have been made.

For example, Nora’s first novel, Irish Thoroughbred, was published in 1981 as Silhouette Romance # 81, reissued in the Language of Love series (# 1) and reissued again in 2000 in a Silhouette mass market compilation volume. I’m looking for all three editions of this book – and many others – but while one can rather easily buy the 2000 edition, it’s far more difficult to get the 1981 or language of love editions.

So, my question is: how should I go about gaining access to old editions of romance novels? I live in Belgium, which makes onling buying of large quantities of novels quite expensive because of shipping costs. As a graduate students my funds are limited.

I asked for more info about her project, because, whoa, dude. Here’s the scoop, if you’re curious and nebby, like I am:


The project is an absolute delight; as a long-time Nora fan I kind of get to turn my hobby into my profession, which is a blast.

Re paratextual analysis, what I’m looking at is how both the genre and the author are represented on the cover and how this changes as the position of the author changes within the genre and within (popular) culture in general. Very basically, if you look at original editions of Nora’s early categories, she’s published just like any beginning category romance author (back then) in a line. The books’ paratext is completely dominated by the line – to the extent that the individual author seems to not really matter; or at least, she’s not focussed upon. The book is presented and sold as “a Harlequin” or “a Silhouette” from a specific line – i.e. it is identified and categorized in terms of genre.

As Nora became more popular, her position within the genre changed. She started publishing single title romances and emerged as an individual author within the genre – which was reflected in the paratext: e.g. her name on the cover became bigger and bigger. The more popular she became – and becomes – the more the focus shifts to the author name ‘Nora Roberts’ instead of the line/publisher/genre – so, eventually the very same novels which were originally sold as romances in a partciular line, are now re-issued and presented as romances by Nora Roberts. Her readers no longer necessarily buy/read ‘a romance novel’ but ‘a Nora Roberts’.

To map and track this change and how it came about – e.g. the role of different publishers played in the process, Nora’s tendencies to write connected books – I want to compare paratexts of different editions of novels.  I’ll complement this analysis with a textual analysis – looking at Nora’s particular use of genre conventions, her renegotiating and changing some of those conventions, her tendency to mix in different genres while still respecting and skillfully using the romance framework, etc. In that way I hope to eventually be able to demonstrate how Nora Roberts has “outgrown” the romance genre – her name has become a brand name in itself – both in terms of what she writes, as how this is presented and sold to the reader.

That sounds like a very savvy project. I hope that’s very well received by your professors, An! So what’s the issue?

Well, since An’s in Belgium, and as a grad student, the fundage, it is limited. Hence An is looking for a number of things: “I want to buy all editions of all of Nora Roberts’ novels in English, published between 1981 and 2008. I have two questions: how do I determine which editions exist (I do have the Companion, but only covers reissues until 2003) and how do I get my hands on them?”

I recommended: Paperback Swap, AbeBooks, and Alibris.

Oh! And the Harlequin shop at Lughnassadh Books, which specializes in old Harlequins. If owner Derek Stafford doesn’t have the books you’re looking for, he might be able to find a source for it, or at least trace all the editions you may need.

Any other sources you recommend, Oh Wise Bitchery?

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    karmelrio says:

    Would digital pics of the books people have in their personal collections be at all helpful?

  2. 2
  3. 3
    Meril says:

    PBS doesn’t work outside of the US. Try BookMooch instead; remember, though, it’s a trade site, but there are lots and lots of Europeans on it wanting to trade, and she can use her within-country points for international mooches.

  4. 4
    Sara says:

    Along that same line, I’d recommend talking to someone who does Interlibrary Loans at your university library.  Besides being able to actually get copies of specific editions from libraries around the world (though you may have to pay shipping costs), they might be able to get scanned copies of covers, title pages, etc for you for free. 

    You also might be able to find at least the front covers on different library catalogs (check out to find out which library has which edition)

  5. 5
    NancyB says:

    I agree on BookMooch (Meril’s post is missing a tag, I think), though the harder to find versions will be, duh, hard to find.  BookMooch doesn’t have nearly the inventory of PBS.  However, BM does allow things like specifying the exact edition, and also she can ask for contributions of credits from people who are interested in her project.

  6. 6
    Chris says:

    The Paperback Exchange in Minneapolis, MN, has an entire Nora Roberts section – I’ve picked up some of the old Silhouette/Harlequin stuff there.

  7. 7
    Jocelyn says:

    Hi An – I’d suggest talking to the reference librarian at your university library about this.  I’m a law librarian and your question got me all hot and bothered – I can only imagine the number of suggestions someone who works in academia could come up with.  Anyway, here are some suggestions on how to locate various editions (if not get your hands on them):
    – Books in Print: This database lists almost all the books that have ever been printed, often with edition information (your library should have a subscription)
    – WorldCat: this “union catalog” lists books held in libraries all over the world.  Most titles have publication dates and ISBNs that will help you determine how many editions there are out there.“roberts,+nora”&qt=facet_ap:  Use the advanced search to narrow results.
    – is a wealth of information – and has user-scanned covers.
    – You might check the Library of Congress online catalog as well, though most of their books should be in WorldCat.

    See if you can get copies of these books through interlibrary loan!


  8. 8
    Joni says:

    Bookmooch is available for international book swapping, but you can’t buy points the way you can in Paperback Swap, so she’d have to have some books to post. It’s easy to send people emails in order to verify that it is the version that she wants.

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  10. 10
    Cori says:

    I’d take a look at and see what’s available there, especially if you can get bundled shipping from providers with large libraries. My husband got me quite an old version of Irish Thoroughbred there for my birthday (he thought it would be a safer bet than a new one I’d likely have already bought myself!)

  11. 11
    ksquard says:

    La Nora herself has a bookstore and may carry old editions of her own books…or be able to direct the way towards those editions.

  12. 12
    Keri Kaeding says:

    I have four old Silhouettes (For the Love of Lilah, Untamed, Secret Star and Courting Catherine) I’ll give An (they were headed for anyway).  Just contact me personally.

  13. 13

    I agree with Jocelyn above about all the library searches.  I used to work in Interlibrary Loans at a University of California and we had one of the largest lending libraries.  We often got overseas requests for items and they can very often copy the few pages that you needed and emailed it out (at least at my library). 

    At the UC library, professors, researchers and grad students received this service for free.  You may want to check with your university to see how they handle this sort of thing. 

    Good Luck!

  14. 14
    Lita says:

    I have a good used bookstore near me – The Book Trader in East Meadow, NY, and a credit slip large enough to make an impact on Citibank’s debtload.  If I can get a list of the books you are looking for, I’ll be delighted to do some searching for this project.  This store is packed to the rafters with really ancient category romances.  The older, the cheaper, including some really antedeluvian Mills & Boon.

    A PhD in Nora Roberts, what a total HOOT!

  15. 15
    DS says:

    I don’t know if I still have it, but I had a true first of Irish Thoroughbred and loved the fact that the author advertised in the back was Janet Dailey who was then a well established romance writer and who had, AFAIK, not plagiarized anyone yet.

  16. 16
    DS says:

    Wish this blog had an edit feature:  Not firsts but you need to be on the look out for the “plaid” editions of one of Ms. Roberts family sagas (O’Hurleys?).  They tend to be HTF but they were published with an orangish plaid where the usual purple was on Silhouette books of the time.

  17. 17
    Ros says:

    Presumably you’ve done this but just in case, I’d say it would definitely be worth contacting Nora herself.  I’m sure she’d be thrilled to hear about the research anyway and she might well have spare copies of some of her older editions or be able to talk to her publishers about helping out as well.

  18. 18
    Jo says:

    If scanning covers/backs would help, I have UK editions of some books including the ‘Born in’ Trilogy written as Sarah Hardesty from the mid 90’s – I can’t remember if the cover states it’s Nora Roberts writing as.. (like some J D Robb’s) or if it explains this inside.

  19. 19
    mearias says:

    If karmelrio’s suggestion works, I have all her books in one version or another.  I can scan the covers (back and front) if that’ll help.  If not, I’ve always had luck getting books from alibris and Emerald Coast Book Haven.

  20. 20
    EmJay says:

    The Browne Popular Culture Library at Bowling Green State University in Ohio claims to have over 10,000 category titles in its romance collections:

  21. 21
    Marianne McA says:

    Sadly, I had a huge clearout in September, and only saved my absolute favourites. (And I did get rid of a copy of Irish Thoroughbred…)
    However, I’m happy to send scans of those I kept. Even if scans aren’t entirely satisfactory, they might limit the number of books you had to buy. For instance, I seem to remember that the MacKade books came out close together in the UK. If the imprint didn’t change the format of the covers during the series, perhaps you could work from one actual book, and scanned images of the other three?
    Otherwise, it’s a lot of books to find…

  22. 22
    jude says:

    BookMooch is a possibility if she needs to have the actual copy in hand.  The problem is, in order to receive books, she has to have books to give away and thus build up points to request the ones she needs.

    If she only needed copies of the covers, backs, blurbs, etc., LibraryThing might work.  She could post her needs to the BookMooch group on LT as well as to the Book Talk group.  Depending on what people have and if they have scanners, they may be willing to help.

  23. 23
    Cait says:

    I have original Mckades and Calhouns and Cordinas, some McGregors, all the O’hurleys and others.  I would love to downsize.  If someovne was interested to collect and colate, maybe we could all help.

  24. 24
    Jean says:

    I have the 1991 Silhouette ed. of “A Man for Amanda”, and the “plaid” version of “Winning Hand” if An wants them. Just email me.

  25. 25
    Midknyt says:

    I’d try using  It’s what I always used for textbooks and paperbacks before I got my Sony.  You can look up a book by its ISBN and it will search about 50 sites and give you the cheapest one that has that book.  (You can look it up by title too, but if you’re looking for a particular edition, ISBN is the way to go – I usually use Amazon to find those).

    They also have a spot to search for rare and out of print books.

  26. 26
    Kay Webb Harrison says:

    I put most of my NR Silhouettes (the ones I didn’t send to SB Sarah) in my BookMooch Inventory. If An joins or is already a member, she can check out what I have to see if there is anything listed that she needs (userID=KayWebb). Other members and I could work out a point sharing/donating strategy to get books to An.

    Also, Fiction DataBase has lots of info about the books, including cover pictures.


  27. 27
    Evelyn Nodal says:

    There is a great little used bookstore in my neighborhood that specializes in romance and mystery novels.  They have a great collection of older romances and I’m happy to see if they have any of the Nora titles you’re seeking.  Just contact me by email.  I’m happy to ship on my dime… I believe in scholarly pursuits, especially if it expands the world’s perception of my beloved romance stories!

  28. 28
    Diane/Anonym2857 says:

    I have a complete set of first editions. While I am unwilling to part with them, I could certainly scan some for you if needed. 

    I also have quite a few spares (not sure of what offhand, but can look) to add to a collection, if someone wants to start a box.  In fact, I’d even print up the complete list of reprints on my Byron program to reference, but I don’t have the time or the organizational skills to do all the consolidating/shipping.

    If An were to list the books she needed, then it would be easier for others to know what to look for/offer up.

    And my OCD nature compels me to point out that if memory serves, there are actually two white editions of Irish Thoroughbred that came out prior to the purple one (different ads and ‘filler’ pages in each… maybe it was a regional thang or just a second run?); the plaid editions are for the first reprints of the original MacGregors (and continued for a few grandkids in later years) introduced when For Now, Forever was released; TTP, Nora’s DH’s bookstore, deals only in new books, not used; there were several connecting stories which skipped across series lines (MacKades and Calhouns come to mind); and the Sarah Hardestys don’t mention Nora (except maybe on the copywrite page—I am loo lazy to climb the stairs to look)—the publisher didn’t think “Nora Roberts” was a name that would bring in sales, so they changed it to Hardesty, just for the Born Ins.

    who actually has more to do in life than compile NR trivia…even tho this particular comment wouldn’t show it. LOL

  29. 29
    Avocado says: has many book cover scans on it; they’re kind of across the board, and it’s hard to tell which printing they’re from.  Still, it’s a good source for a lot of covers.  (There are several small scans on the main Nora Roberts bibliography, and larger ones when you click on each title).

  30. 30
    dl says:

    I have a copy of “Reflections and Dreams” (Silhouette 2001), which includes the titles “Reflections” and “Dance of Dreams” both originally published in 1983.  I’m willing to:

    1.  Donate the book and postage.
    2.  Scan the front cover, back cover, and title page and forward to An.
    3.  Donate PBS credits, it there is a way to be useful.

    “Cause it’s an honor and a rare privilege to help a fellow bitch get her PhD by way of La Nora.  Best Wishes An!

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