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Finding and Buying Vintage Romance Novels – Sweet Romance For Real Romantics!

Updated on November 6, 2015

Are you a hopeless romantic? Do you truly adore romance novels – as long as they're the right romance novels? There are a lot of 'hot' romance novels around these days – and getting hotter all the time! There are tons of supernatural and paranormal romance novels in the bookshops and on the virtual shelves too, especially since the advent of the online publishing houses and e-books. I'm all for that, and I love a good werewolfy/vampire love story myself.

Romance novel

Credit: Blurgle Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
Credit: Blurgle Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

But what if superhot romance and spooky otherworldly admirers just aren't what floats your boat? I have to admit that sometimes, what I really want to read is a real old-fashioned romance. By that, I mean the kind where no bodices get ripped, where heroes are manly and upstanding pillars of the community, where a millionaire is quite sufficiently impressive without his net worth running into the billions... where ghosties and shapeshifters are merely the stuff of fairytales and heroines are gentle, modest souls and aren't 'empowered' by group sex or indeed any premarital action. Sometimes I just wanna get in my time machine and head right on back to the fifties to read a little sweet romance! It doesn't make me a prude. Romance is exciting enough. It doesn't always require a little spicing up.

If sweet, wholesome romance novels are your secret vice, too, then how exactly do you go about feeding that vice? I mean, the market for sweet romance is drying up – or you would think it was, judging by what you actually see on the bookshop shelves. You can't get this stuff anywhere! True, there are imprints like Cathedral Hill technically catering to the same market – but eccleisiastical romance isn't really what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the secular original and best, the kind of 50s paperback with a chisel-jawed hero emoting via a moody frown at a blushing, pouting blond heroine in a pencil skirt and a pillbox hat. If you really need a sweet, gentle romance novel, all too often you may find that your favourite authors are completely out of print, with no up-and-coming ones to replace them.

So where can you find your fix of trad non-steamy romances? I personally tend to haunt the charity shops and thrift stores a lot, although these aren't the reliable sources they once were. Since the 'professionalization' of such charity-based endeavours, they seem less and less interested in stocking anything older than about eighteen months old on their bookshelves – thus guaranteeing that everything they sell is worth about a penny... If they were making any money selling the older stock online I wouldn't mind, but judging by the dearth of decent vintage pulp and romance novels on Ebay etc., they're probably just throwing them out with the trash and assuming that 'junky' old paperbacks couldn't possibly be worth anything. It makes me wince to think of all the ten dollar (at least) pulp novels literally pulped in the trash, because charity shop staff didn't check values first!

You can still find the odd gem, though, especially at smaller charity shops and thrift stores in non-prime locations, with less of an image to keep up. I find small-town markets also useful: their bookstalls often have bargain bins filled with non-standard oddments and stuff the stallholder couldn't identify as of any value. I haven't tried estate sales yet, but I guess that's a popular option and something I mean to check out in the future.

So why are you on the lookout for traditonal sweet romance paperbacks? As a consumer, if you simply have a taste for them I can empathise. I love them myself, but they're not easy to find: haunting second-hand bookshops is a way of life for a devotee! Or maybe you're a book dealer who's found that a genuine vintage romance can often command surprising prices on online auction sites or Amazon. Catering to obscure tastes can be profitable! If you check the listings for your favourite sweet romance author on Amazon – especially if she's completely out of print – then the prices charged can be truly hair-raising. Plus they're surprising fun to read.

What kind of condtion can vintage romances be found in? To be honest, when you take into account the age of some of these books, it's not surprising that the condition is sometimes not everything that might be wished. But if all you're looking for is a readable copy, then as long as the text is complete then it's not that big of a deal. If you're looking to sell a vintage romance on, then conditon may become more of an issue. Sell the prime nice condition ones, keep and read the shabby -read-only copies, that's my policy!

How about abridged versions? Women's weekly magazines have in many cases been in the habit of issuing book-length collections of novels they have serialized in their weekly format. In some cases, books may only be available in this format e.g. Lucilla Andrew's 'The White Walls' or 'The Silver Lamp'. Is it worth grabbing hold of these in order to read or sell them? Well, if you're a devoted fanatic for sweet romance or a particular author thereof, then you hardly need me to answer that. And if you're a vendor, then all I can say is, that some of these books are sufficiently rare that I would have any stallholder's hand off with the speed with which I would be laying down some dosh and making off with them.

So, vintage romance novels: there's the low-down on my advice on how and why to track 'em down and buy 'em. Now get out there and get hunting: and if you find a copy of The Silver Lamp, first dibs on it from me!

Photo credit: Blurgle


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      8 years ago

      Great hub for us hopeless romantics. I enjoy romance novels: sweet/traditional as well as the more spicy ones today.


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