‘The duke swept Lady Daniels into his fierce embrace, her heaving bosom aching against his musky maleness. Then, with one searing kiss …’ OK, I’ll stop now before your ears start bleeding. Clearly, a romance novelist I will never make.
But after visiting an extraordinary bookstore filed away in a tiny arcade in Brisbane’s CBD, I can at least lay claim to a much greater respect for what others narrowly label ‘bodice-ripper’ or ‘lusty-busty’ fiction.
Rosemary’s Romance Books is a beautiful temple to the types of stories where happy endings (after much trial, tribulation and no small amount of titillation) are guaranteed.
An avid reader of romantic fiction since she was 12, Rosemary is considered by many to be Australia’s number one expert in the field. She snorts with derision at the notion that romance novels are all about rakish Regency rogues named Dirk and winsome young women in half-laced gowns called Mistress Desiree.
In fact, romance authors, including several celebrated Aussie writers, span a broad range of genres with their popular stories – everything from historical novels through to the paranormal, crime and humour.
There are even graphic novels among the more than 8000 titles gracing Rosemary’s antique-style bookshelves and not a cheap-and-cheesy little paperback in sight.
Rosemary imports many of the books straight from publishers in the USA, where romance fiction accounts for 65% (yep, 65%) of the fiction market, so you’ll have them on your bedside table long before mainstream bookstores take delivery.
While the words on the page can get your heart racing, the store itself has the power to induce a swoon.
I loved the découpage hat boxes, draped scarves, dazzling chandeliers, velvet lounges and vases of plump roses. And thanks to Rosemary’s uncanny ability to match the right novel with a newbie reader, I walked away with a book I confess has been a page-turner.
OK, it’s no Pulitzer Prize winner, but you can be sure the guy gets the girl in the end.
Shop 6, Level 1, 144 Adelaide St, Brisbane
(07) 3229 0088
Open Mon–Sat 10am–6pm, Sun 9am–3pm