Help A Bitch Out

Help a Bookstore Out: Uplifting Fiction

Shop Indie BookstoresToday, if you’re not familiar, is Buy Indie Day, wherein you’re encouraged to shop at an independent bookseller near you.

While I’m definitely going to try to get to Watchung Booksellers today, I wanted to do a special edition of “Help a Bitch Out,” only in this case it’s, “Help a Bookstore Out.”

When I did a signing at Watchung Books this week, I learned from Margot Sage-EL, the owner, that much of what sells in her store is trade fiction, usually of a literary fiction bent. When they have stocked mass market paperback romances in the past, the books haven’t sold well.

Yet, recently, Margot told me that shoppers looking for something to read have in fact asked for “something lighter,” or something “uplifting.”


So here’s my question: with an audience that’s particularly partial to trade fiction, what books would you recommend, uplifting, romance, or both? Margot would love to have a list from our readers of a few books she could stock as “Recommended” for those who are searching for the types of narratives we romance readers enjoy.

Shop Indie BookstoresI would start with Nora Roberts’ new trade paperback, Vision in White which you’d have to see to believe how beautiful it is. Cover flaps and beveled pages – it’s truly a beautiful production. And that may influence a buyer who sees Nora’s name and thinks, “Romance, oh, no thanks.”

It’s not quite a “book that will bring you over to the romance side (cue the sparkle ponies)” but more of a list of romance or SRE narratives which an avid fiction reader might enjoy as they hunt for more encouraging, friendly fictional tales, and (we hope) discover the power of the happy ending.

An aside: I’m a big fan of bookstores in general, and while the independents are suffering, so are, unfortunately, some outposts of the corporate chains, and the folks who work there are often as tenuously employed as the folks who work at indies. So even though it goes against the spirit of today’s holiday, I want to encourage you in general to buy a book today. Call it the Jaye Wells Mantra: any book that sells is good for all of us.


Help a Bitch Out

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  1. 1
    Betsy says:

    My favorite book of all time is I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (actually the same woman who wrote ‘101 Dalmatians’), and it’s wonderfully encouraging and uplifting without being the least bit sappy or trite.  It’s about a 17-year-old girl named Cassandra Mortmain who lives with her sister, mother and stepfather in a tumbledown, disrepaired castle in England in the first half of the 20th century. 
    If I only had one book to give me hope and comfort (and plain old reading funtime), you know trapped on a desert island or what have you, this would be it.

  2. 2
    Betsy says:

    erm, I meant father and stepmother. 
    But my point stands! :)  This book is fan-fucking-tabulous.

    spam word: hes59: well I’m in my twenties, so that might be an issue.

  3. 3
    hapax says:

    Very very strongly recommend the recent re-releases of Eva Ibbotson’s adult novels.  Alas, my favorites (MADENSKY SQUARE and the short stories in GLOVE SHOP IN VIENNA) haven’t had the lovely treatment of the fluffier titles yet, but all of her books demonstrate lyrical writing, strong characterization, exquisite depiction of the period, wry humor, and huggable but plausible HEAs.

  4. 4
    darlynne says:

    In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden has always been my go-to book for comfort, and it’s only available in trade edition. A 40-something woman gives up her successful career in government to enter a cloistered order in England. It’s not preachy, nor is it about religion, strictly speaking; the beauty of it, for me, is the many and wonderfully disparate voices of the women who live and work in the abbey. I open the book and, seriously, all I hear is the church bells.

  5. 5
    rayvyn2k says:

    I have been looking for an excuse to say…

    …anything by Georgette Heyer!

    I got the recommendation right here at SBTB. I went out, bought “The Nonesuch”  and devoured it. Now I am reading “The Convenient Marriage” and I have “Cotillion” standing by.

    Her books are everything you want in a great read: smart, funny and hard to put down.

    I had never heard of her before—so thanks to the Smart Bitches for pointing me in her direction!

    spam word: trying56—I’m trying to read all 51 of Ms. Heyer’s books-but I wish there were 56!

  6. 6
    nystacey@posmans...@work says:

    -Anything by Marian Keyes, especially ‘Sushi For Beginners’.

    -The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, which Michael Chabon himself considers a romance(see an interview with Hadassah Magazine)

    Let me think some more:)


  7. 7
    SonomaLass says:

    I was going to say Heyer too.  Those new editions are yummy looking!

    The new edition of Robin McKinley’s Sunshine is also in trade paper, and everyone I know who has read that book has loved it.

    Finally, I recommend ANYTHING by Guy Gavriel Kay.  There is always some romance in his fantasy, and he is one of the finest world-builders and storytellers writing today. Tigana, a perfectly marvelous stand-alone fantasy novel, is available in trade paper, as is his Fionavar trilogy.  If you can get someone to read the first volume of that, The Summer Tree, they will be back in your store for the other two books sooner than you can imagine.

    I’m taking my 25% off Borders coupon with me today, intending to use it on that delicious new Nora novel.  But I will stop in at the one indie store that’s local too, and see if there’s anything I want.  They are pretty snooty about genre fiction, but we’ll see.

  8. 8
    Kit says:

    I love and adore The Penderwicks on Gardam Street. It’s a stand-alone sequel about four sisters and their widower father; in this book, the mom’s sister gives the dad a letter written by his wife before she died telling him that it’s time for him to start dating again. It’s sweet without ever being sappy, hilarious in places, wonderfully well written, and there’s a totally unexpected shout-out to a classic romance (can’t say more because I don’t want to even take a chance on spoiling it).

    Oh, yeah, and it’s marketed as a kids’ book, since the oldest girl is 13. But if you don’t read kids’ books already, PLEASE don’t let that stop you. It’s a winner!

    ideas44 – I need 44 ideas for possible dinners before I go to the grocery store this afternoon, so I don’t have to keep going back all week for things I forgot.

  9. 9
    Liz_Peaches says:

    oh now see, now I I feel guilty.  I’ve got a 40% Borders coupon that expires today, and I really don’t think I’m gonna go to two bookstores this weekend…

  10. 10
    Wendy Smith says:

    But I went to an indie bookstore yesterday, intending to only buy one book and coming out with three! I’m afraid to go again- lord knows I’ll bankrupt myself.
    As for uplifting books, I’m reading the No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. They’re more mystery with a romance in them, but are they ever good.

  11. 11
    Ahlison says:

    I recommend Secrets of a Lady and Beneath a Silent Moon, both by Tracy Grant.  And if more people discover these wonderful books, perhaps her publisher will give her a contract for books 3 and 4… Set in Regency London – with kidnappers, spies and lovers – what more could you ask for…

  12. 12
    Miranda says:

    All of Lois McMaster Bujold. Miles for fun and Chalion for something a little more serious.

  13. 13
    LizC says:

    Well I totally did my “buy a book” part on Thursday ($30 for 2 trade paperbacks, though. Eep. Can’t do that often).

    I third Heyer. HQN is releasing a lot of titles in absolutely fantastic trade editions and I want to buy every one but so far I’ve confined myself to two. I’m counting the days until they release The Grand Sophy in July.

  14. 14
    KellyMaher says:

    I really enjoyed Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells and The Sugar Queen. I like to call her Alice Hoffman-lite.

  15. 15
    Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    Uplifting.  Let’s see…
    On Writing by Stephen King, which offers great advice and encouragement to an aspiring writer.

    Any of the discworld novels by Terry Pratchett, especially Night Watch and Going Postal (the latter of which is going to be filmed by Sky1—yay!)  Opening those two anywhere and just randomly reading makes me happy.

    And on the Bitches recommendation, I picked up my first Laura Kinsale used yesterday—The Shadow and the Star.  I’m glad I disregarded the terrible cover (not snark-worthy, alas, just boring) and the flap copy which has bupkis to do with the content, and devoured it in one sitting.  Uplifting?  I thought so.  Lovely, lyrical prose style, fascinating protagonists, unique setting—Hawaii in the 1880’s—and a great supporting cast.

  16. 16
    Cyranetta says:

    The Aunt Dimity series of mysteries by Nancy Atherton are often cited as favorite comfort reads.

  17. 17
    Janine says:

    What a shame that Judith Ivory never published anything in trade paperback, as she would be my first choice.

    On the other hand Pam Rosenthal’s The Slightest Provocation and The Edge of Impropriety recently came out in gorgeous trade editions and I think they would appeal to readers of literary fiction looking for something lighter.

    Janet Mullany’s The Rules of Gentility also fits this criteria.

    I second the recommendation of anything by the wonderful Eva Ibbotson.

    And I’ll throw in Emily Giffin and Alisa Kwitney’s chick lit novels which are witty, literate and optimistic as well.

  18. 18
    Harlequin says:

    Oh, you lovely ladies who love Heyer, Pratchett and Keyes as well! And I Capture the Castle is fantastic. I <3 it!

    I’ll put in a good word for Maeve Binchy’s wonderful Circle of Friends. Many of her other books end up in less-than-uplifting places but this one is a winner on the good feelings front.

    And also The Princess Bride by William Goldman, Little Women and one of my own little-known favourites, Abigail Bosanko’s Lazy Ways to Make a Living which is intelligent, funny, clever, indulgent and ro-ro-romantic!

  19. 19
    jinnette says:

    Gabriel’s Bride by Samantha James
    Product Description

    Trapped by duty—and the demands of his cruel,unyielding father—Lord Gabriel Sinclair, the dark and moody Earl of Wakefield, is being forced to find a bride. But Gabriel plans an exquisite revenge on his cold-hearted parent: wedding the sultry, low-born Yankee wench who tried to steal his watch. Ragged and beautiful Cassie McClellan is desperate to escape her life of poverty—and, therefore, willingly accepts the handsome, arrogant aristocrat’s offer of marriage in name only. But neither is prepared for the awakening passions that will bind their fragile, damaged hearts—or the blistering, sensual need that comples them both to surrender body and soul.

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