Where do you keep your romances?

Modern-Wooden-Style-Custom-Home-Library-Design-IdeasI lived a transitory, small-apartment life for a number of years, and my romance keepers lived in the spare room of my mother’s house. Now I’m living for the first time in my own home, and it’s showed me something I didn’t know about myself: I’m still not completely sure how public I want my romance reading to be.

In my small apartments, book shelving was entirely dictated by space. Sometimes, there was room in the bedroom, sometimes in the main room, but I never had an apartment in which I could choose. Now that I have a whole house, I have a plethora of choices, but each has their own problems.

I could put the books in the living room, but between my re-reading and the fact that many of them were purchased secondhand, my romances are ugly paperbacks with shattered spines. My nonfiction hardcovers and museum books are much more attractive.

The family room is where kids hang out. Do I really want a kid going home and asking Mommy and Daddy what a “scandalous mistress” is, or why the books at Aunty Caroline’s house have half-naked men on the covers? I think it’s healthy for kids to sneak peeks at romance – I certainly have fond memories of midnight readings when I slept over at one friend’s house – but the nature of sneaking is that you have to be old enough to know what romances are and to seek them out on your own. It’s a built-in defense against traumatizing someone too young. Putting the books on the shelves in the playroom next to Charlotte’s Web is definitely not sneaking.

Keeping inappropriate books away from children is a valid concern, and yes, I want my living room to look nice, but honestly, those are excuses. I’m actually worried about being judged for what I have on display. That’s probably shallow, and certainly a bit neurotic, but that’s what I’ve found out about myself.

I’m not in the romance closet. I don’t deny or hide my romance reading when it comes up in conversation. Still, in conversations, I have control over what aspects of romance reading I disclose. I can end the sentence “I love romance! Have you read…” differently based on the context and audience. To students, I give a mild YA novel, like Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss or Eva Ibbotson’s A Countess Below Stairs. To friends, I might recommend something funny and sexy, like Charlie All Night by Jennifer Crusie. With close female friends, late at night, and maybe after a few glasses of wine, I could discreetly reference Emma Holly. But with shelves, you don’t have that kind of filter. Everybody can see everything. The question is, do I care? Well, more than I thought.

So what should I do? Shelve books in the living room? Family room? Cave in and hide them in the bedroom? Shelve some books in public rooms but more explicit books elsewhere? Where to I draw the line for “explicit” – does a risque title or a raunchy cover image count, or does it have to have “burning” level content? If I don’t choose soon, I’ll either have to keep everything in boxes forever or never invite anybody to my house ever again. Possibly both.

Where do you all keep your romances? How did you decide? Or is this not something anybody else worries about?


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21 Responses to Where do you keep your romances?

  1. elaine s says:

    I am lucky. I live in a 4 bedroom house and there are only my husband and me. The non fiction and literary fiction are shelved downstairs, on view, but I admit my romances (and some of his adventure fiction) are shelved in the small 4th bedroom along with supplies of toilet paper, toiletries and other household goods, a couple of unpacked boxes from when we moved in 11 years ago and other household detritus. I keep the door firmly closed! It’s great, though, because I can go and browse whenever I want. The book club in the village would tut tut at what’s on the shelves in my hidey-hole but I read what I like including a lot of serious non fiction history and biography as well as some literary and loads of popular fiction like Philippa Gregory, Kate Mosse, etc. I sometimes feel a bit of a hypocrite though.

  2. MelindaCee says:

    Having finally succumbed to the e-book generation this isn’t really an issue for me any longer in terms of space or what I feel inclined to display in public and what to hide away. As with the ‘book covers issue’ (what would you be happy to be seen reading on the bus), e-books have solved a lot of potential problems. Of the many books I do have, I’ll admit to giving a more prominent placement to the books I would be happy to be ‘judged’ on and to hiding some choices away in a dark corner…though I’d like to think I don’t judge others on their choice of reading matter!

  3. lauren says:

    Now that both are kids are gone and we are “empty nesters” our 3 bedroom home has become a quite substantial space. The biggest of the rooms of course is our bedroom, my son’s former room is my knitting room and sewing room, and my daughter’s former room is our office. The CLOSET is my pride and joy with books shelves loaded top to bottom with my treasured romance novels and other books.

  4. I buy my books in digital format these days. However, I have a few hundred keepers that I just can’t bear to get rid of. They mark my reading discoveries. So I had shelves built above the doors. If you have a house with ceilings higher than around 8 feet, then have some shallow shelves built over the top of the doors. you will need a stool or a small ladder to reach them, sure, but they actually look pretty good up there, I think.
    This picture isn’t mine, but it might as well be. Mine look a lot like these: http://tillyscottage.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/over-door-bookshelf.jpg

  5. AARJenna says:

    I have the same issue. At the top of our stairs, on our second floor we have an expansive, open loft that we’ve converted to a reading lounge. We lined all of the walls with bookshelves, even building mass-market-deep shelves in a narrow space that won’t allow deeper shelves. I store all of my romance novels here because they fit so nicely, however, it means that anyone who walks up the stairs gets the full force of my romance novel habit. Since only close friends and family members ever go to our second floor, I don’t really worry about their judgments too much. However, I don’t shelve any “embarrassing” romance novels (those with silly titles or half-naked people on the cover) in the more public places in my home. I wish I didn’t care at all, but I don’t like the idea of strangers judging my reading habits.

  6. Katja says:

    This is where reading English books in a non English speaking country comes in handy ;-)
    All my English romance books, along with the crime novels, the thrillers, the fantasy and science fiction are stored in the same room, alphabetically and for all to see. The thing is, over here most crime novels, thrillers as well as fantasy and scifi are seen as lowbrow as romance novels anyway. There may be some exceptions due to popularity, such as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Agatha Christie. But overall, as long as it’s not Shakespeare or Dickens it will probably count as fluff.

    So I prefer to have easy access to my books if someone wants to borrow something and quite frankly most people are so impressed by the sheer amount of books I own and read, they don’t really look at a single title.

    But I do admit, the few black lace erotica I possess as well as the German romance novels and the Barbara Cartlands are somewhat hidden behind the settee. So casual visitors won’t immediately see those.

  7. Mark says:

    Having accumulated more than 20,000 paperbacks (roughly half F&SF & half romances) before I switched almost completely to getting ebooks for new releases, shelving was a major issue several years ago. We have most of the paperbacks in two 10′x12′ metal sheds on our back patio, with tall shelves and narrow aisles. One wall in my bedroom has higher rated romances (likelier to be reread), and one wall and some freestanding shelves in my computer room have some tbr.
    The whole issue vanishes with the ebooks.

  8. anon1001 says:

    the large closet with bookshelves and closet doors in the living room of my small apartment. I don’t have children but I don’t want the books on display where people can see for the reasons mentioned. And I don’t like answering questions from the curious even though people (like reading is a less desirous way to spend my leisure time…

  9. Joane says:

    My TBR pile (romance & non-romance) occupies two shelves in the living room, for anybody to see them.
    I have children, but I have never put romances or erotica or violent books in any ‘special’ part of the house. It would surprise me if they even try to look what’s there on the shelves. Books? In paper? No pictures but just a funny-looking couple on the cover? They couldn’t care less.
    My Sandra Brown’s hardcovers are in the fiction section in the living room, just before Bulwer-Lytton and after the only Dan Brown book I’ve ever read (and bored my to death!). The rest of Sandra’s, plus Kinsale, Kleypas and Susan Elizabeth Phillips are on another smaller living room in a closed cabinet. And the rest of my romance novels are in a little room that we have in the basement. There we have more shelves with more books, specially non fiction books.
    I don’t know what you should do, but I guess you can put the most discreet (suspense, Heyer, and that kind of books) with the rest of your fiction books. And those with embarrasing covers in another place. A closed cabinet could be a good solution.

  10. Jonie says:

    I had books all over my house. I finely put all of my books in boxes. I have moved over to e-books. I don’t like to even read a book anymore. I like that I can change the font and carry 50 or 100 books in one little package.

    I really thought that I would never change over to e-books. But, I have.

    I don’t know what to do with all of my books. When I look at them I can’t part with them. But, I don’t know that I am ever going to read them again. Almost every book I have has been put out in e-book format.

  11. CarolineAAR says:

    True, ebooks would solve this problem, but they don’t work for me for other reasons. I have lots of old non-digitized books, and also no budget for the luxury of rebuying books I already own. I also have yet to figure out how to make ebooks work with my great love of bathtub reading – I can’t relax holding valuable electronics over the tub!

  12. Eliza says:

    Like Jonie, I have books all over my house, in every room in fact, and like Katja I get more comments on the sheer volume and also diversity of what I have more than anything else. I organize my books by what best suits me instead of what any visitors may see or judge. To be blunt, it’s my home and my opinion and lifestyle that matters most to me–thoughts amply supported from being a book reader.

    One comment I can recall was from a visiting Columbia professor friend who seemed delighted to see Fanny Hill in among the classics, and also on the diversity of what I had. No snob that Lit professor. Another comment from a different friend (also a reader) was on why I kept so many books, as if they were so much clutter. Different strokes… I much prefer books to all the other “stuff” out there for a home.

    Many/most of my TBRs are in my reading area for my convenience, but not far away is also a built-into-the-wall bookshelf for favorite books of all kinds I’m likely to scan again or look at for reference. However, I do have so many other backlist TBRs–Jo Beverley, Madeline Hunter and Nora Roberts for instance, in boxes labeled by author that they’re in a small bedroom turned into a book storage room. IOW, my “first tier” TBRs are nearby; the books for later are likely to be in labeled boxes.

    What one person’s lifestyle may see as book clutter, I would instead call an abundance of riches; and what some may see as sleek and more stylish, I may see as sterile and spartan. Again, different strokes…

  13. msaggie says:

    Yes, I am a segregator too. My living room bookshelves are full of non-fiction books, mainly cookbooks, travelogues, religious books, textbooks and work-related books. There are occasional Pulitzer winners and other improving literature, including my favourite Shakespeares. All my romances (all paperbacks, some with lurid covers) are in the bookshelves in the bedroom, where casual visitors would not venture into. My fantasy/scifi books are there too! Hang on,I just checked – I do have 2 romances on display in the living room – Tim Farrington’s The Monk Downstairs and The Monk Upstairs!

  14. erika says:

    I live in a small 1 bedroom condo. I keep the romances shelved in the bedroom which is rather large.
    A neighbor has a wall of shelves in her living room that I envy.

  15. Elizabeth Rolls says:

    It’s varied over the years, mainly according to which bookshelf fitted where in whatever house we were living in. Particular genres have been shelved according to how many of them we have and therefore which shelves will hold the lot. And also who owns/reads them. My reference books, whether musicology, teaching or writing, have always lived in whatever room I was using as a study/office. We renovated a year or so back and I now have a separate studio away from the main house. (Bliss! No TV noise out here.) DH seems to think all the romance genre should also live out here. A lot of them do at the moment, but once our new shelves are built in the back hall of the house, they’ll migrate back as I need the shelf space for research books. Like Lynne, my attitude is – my books, my home – I don’t much care what other folks think. Since I have sons who panic at the mere thought of being forced to read one of Mum’s books, I’m not too fussed about the chances of the kids picking up Shayla Black’s Wicked Ties, which is probably the steamiest book I own. Except for the Pop-up Kama Sutra of course.

  16. Beth says:

    I have books everywhere: 3 bookshelves in the family room , where I keep my bibles, daughter’s Harry Potter, homedecor, classics, etc…; one bookshelf (3 shelves)in the bedroom, where I keep current and to be read and humor books like Celia Rivenbark, Sweet Potato Queens, etc… I may need a pick me up at the end of the day. Two bookshelves (a 5 and a 3)in my craft room which houses all craft, paint, how-to, woodworking, cabinetry, antiques, magagzines divided by title, year. In the office/daughter’s room when she comes home I have one bookshelf (5 shelves)where I keep all hardbacks, large paperbacks. My dilemma is I have 5 huge rubbermaid tubs in the office where I keep a my favorite romances. I have to find a permanent space.

    I admit it, I am a book whore, I do not own a ereader nor do I want one. I am 48 and embrace technology but not a reader. they give me a headache. I love the smell of books, the feel, my eyes going across the page. I do try to sort like with like and as for visitors. I don’t give a flip. I have a degree in English and I still have all of my reading from college. I will read just about any subject (except horror, not wild about paranormal, vampire, and mathmatics) The first thing I look for at garage sales, thrift stores etc.. is books.

    Don’t even get me started on my daughters children’s books. I have all of them. I still have her favorite first readers etc..She wants to get them when she has a house and kids. Yep we have issues.

  17. Eliza says:

    Wow, Beth! I feel like we’re twin sisters of different mothers! I have the same exact opinions as you, including love of physical books, being an English major who still has all her reading from college, not reading horror, paranormal or mathematics, looking for books very first thing wherever, and not giving a flip about what others may think. The only difference I can see is a teeny tiny one–you use rubbermaid tubs while I use boxes. It’s so comforting to hear from a fellow book whore. :)

    BTW, as for looking for used books, I picked up two at the library just today when I went to get a library book.

  18. Elizabeth Rolls says:

    LOL! I still have a lot of my sons’ favourite children’s books, Beth. And I think the description “book whore” fits me perfectly. If and when my sons have their own children, I will have plenty to read to the grandchildren on sleepovers. Actually Son #2 and I packed up a lot of the old toys into our storage cupboards yesterday. A pirate ship, the castle and all the knights, the barn and farm animals. You get the picture!

  19. Blythe says:

    My books are all over. My study is full of books from college and more general fiction from recent years, though I did a huge purge and got rid of many books I didn’t think anyone would read at all. I have romances under my bed and in my basement. Many, many in the basement and those are survivors from another purge a few years ago.

    Now basically every new book I add is in electronic form if I can possibly help it. I am actually annoyed if I have to buy a print book for some reason.

  20. Beth says:

    Book Whores of the world unite! We can start a club! For my most special books that I really want someone else to read I keep a lookout for another copy (used) because I really don’t like to loan books.

    To the shock of other mom’s as my daughter was growing up I did not censor my daughter’s reading. I don’t believe in it. I would print the lists of the top banned books from each year and would check out books for my daughter to read. We always would discuss books together.

    When I was a tween and teen my reading went from Judy Blume to Jackie Collins, Judith Michael, Sidney Sheldon, Flannery O’Conner, Nora Roberts, and Florence King.

    While I don’t like horror I did read Stephen King’s biography and I was great. I love to read about while inspires writes and what they like to read.

    I’m off to the library (in the next county where I pay $70 a yr. to be a member but it is worth every cent!) to pick up more books!

  21. Eliza says:

    Wow, Beth, more similarities! I too buy second copies of favorite books I want to give to friends (there’s no such thing as a 50 cent Mr Perfect, Open Season or Outlander sitting lonesome in a bin!), and I also have never censored books nor believe in it. That’s what I meant about folks who read enough books should have the ability–and freedom–to judge for themselves. My son has different tastes, though, and he alerts me to horror, violence, vampires, etc., that don’t sit at all well with my nature! :)

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