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Romance in the air at mega book signing

April 16, 2010|By MARIE GILBERT
  • Fans pack Turn the Page Bookstore Cafe in Boonsboro Friday for a mega book signing event. Romance novelist Nora Roberts' bookstore hosted the event, which included best-selling author Charlaine Harris and local romance writer Gail Barrett.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

BOONSBORO -- With a broken engagement, an increase in her rent and a car that recently required $500 in repair work, all Stephanie Vincent wants is a happy ending.

She might not find it anytime soon in her personal life, the Hagerstown woman said Friday. But she can find it in a romance novel.

"It's an escape from reality," Vincent said. "And, sometimes, you need a little fantasy to lift your spirits."

Maybe that's why the romance fiction market seems to be recession proof.

On Friday, hundreds of people flocked to Boonsboro to meet some of their favorite romance authors.

It was a mega book signing event at Turn the Page Bookstore Cafe, featuring 14 writers, including Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse series, and romance novelist Nora Roberts of Keedysville.

The event was a prelude to the annual retreat of Washington Romance Writers, a chapter of the Romance Writers of America, that serves writers in the Washington, D.C. area.

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According to a 2009 survey by the Romance Writers of America, the romance fiction market generated $1.37 billion in sales, making it the top performing category on the New York Times, USA Today and Publishers Weekly best seller lists.

The survey also estimates that 74.8 million people have read at least one romance novel.

Despite the fact that it was a weekday, about 300 fans lined up to meet their favorite author, said Janeen Solberg, bookstore manager.

"It's exciting," she said. "With the list of authors on hand here today, we were hoping to create a buzz. I think we did it."

Melissa Kemp, Gina Grumbine and Jennifer Hamilton, all of Hagerstown, said they attended the book signing to meet their favorite author, Harris, whose series of vampire books inspired HBO's "True Blood."

"We're big fans," Kemp said. "We never thought we'd be able to meet her. It's very exciting."

Kemp said she initially was "a little leery about reading books about vampires. But then I got hooked and love them."

"The books are a fantasy every woman can relate to -- having guys pine over you," Grumbine said. "I also like Sookie, who is a strong, independent woman."

Hamilton said she liked the idea of being able to meet some of her favorite authors and hopes the bookstore will offer more book signing events.

"It's wonderful," she said. "I've really been looking forward to today."

Women weren't the only fans in attendance. Brian Reed of Frederick, Md., said he is a fan of the futuristic suspense books penned by J.D. Robb, Roberts' pseudonym.

"They're interesting books," he said.

Another man, who asked not to be identified, took the day off from work to have several paperbacks autographed by his wife's favorite author, Harris.

"She wasn't able to be here today and was really disappointed," the man from West Virginia said. "She doesn't know that I'm doing this. So it will be a surprise."

Heather Seibert of Hagerstown also is a Harris fan and took along a camera to have her photo taken with the author.

"I've read all of her books," Seibert said. "I've read all of the Sookie Stackhouse books, but also the Teagarden series, the Lily Bard series and her single mysteries."

Seibert said her 12-year-old son wanted to go along Friday to meet the woman his mother always is talking about.

"But I wouldn't let him miss school," she said. "Maybe he'll have a chance another time."

Seibert said she enjoys reading romance novels "because they're like movies in your head that you're watching by yourself. You can decide what you want the character to look like."

Carolyn Haggans of Smithsburg said she has attended the annual book signing event the past three years.

"It's wonderful being able to meet all of the different authors," she said. "I've picked up some books today by authors I've never read. And I'm sure I'll enjoy them," she said. "But my favorite is, and always will be, Nora Roberts."

Haggans said she's been reading romance novels for more than 30 years and continues to enjoy them even though she's now a grandmother.

"The way I look at it, you're never too old for romance," she said.

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