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By Subject What To Collect

Romance Novels: The Forlorn Collectibles

by Glenn A. Hazelwood, G.A. Hazelwood–Booksellers

The most enduring theme in writing: romance. Yet the romance novel has generally had as pitiful a plight in stature amongst the book community, as the western movie in the film industry. Critics seldom pay any attention in scant review, and when they do take note, it seems only to use them as a grinder upon which to sharpen their axes and nails. The “lowly stature” of romance novels puts their defenders who would uphold them as literature in the position of being made a laughing stock and exorcised from the hallowed halls of book-dom.

Okay, a bit of overreaching there. But in reality, few seem to take the romance novel with much seriousness, except their readers and fans of the genre.

Hungry for Love by Barbara Cartland

For distinction here, I’m not addressing all novels with romance as an aspect to the story, that would most probably include nearly every novel written in known history. I’m referring to the genre usually placed in the “pulp” category. Not the stuff of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Carson McCullers, or John Steinbeck, and the like. I’m referring to writers such as Eleanor Hibbert (who wrote under at least 8 pseudonyms including Victoria Holt and Jean Plaidy ), Dame Barbara Hamilton Cartland (Writing as Barbara Cartland), or Phyllis A. Whitney. We can see their modern-day proteges, so to speak, represented in Danielle Steel and many others. Though prolific–which in this genre the successful certainly are–is not always a good quality of a great writer, I believe popularity may be. Combining these two characteristics gives us an arguable standard for writers of a genre that is indeed enduring literature in its own right. Much great literature has come from similar circumstances. Shakespeare was considered only a popular playwright of the common people by critics of his day, and Dickens but a serial writer for newspapers.

How to Collect Romance

And this is where the forlorn romance novel becomes the collectible. If you are just starting out with collecting, it’s always a good idea to start with a genre or era you are drawn to. It does not need to be a costly or time consuming endeavor. You can simply begin with a favorite author genre, or era.

As for romance authors, most are well-represented with scores of works. Putting together a complete library of a favorite author’s first editions can be a wonderfully consuming task that will fit almost any budget. Will a complete library of any one romance novelist ever be worth a fortune? Probably not, but who can ultimately say? In the final analysis, collectors acquire books for the love of collecting. The romance collection is the reward itself, far more than monetary value. And books are a bit like real estate, over the long haul they seldom lose more than they gain. And, the more collectors, the more elevated the genre in the collecting world.


G.A. Hazelwood–Booksellers is located in Louisville, Kentucky, and represents first editions, first printings, antiquarians, vintage, rare and collectible books for sale. You can browse their inventory here.

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