Summer of Romance


LoveCats DownUnder

The LoveCats DownUnder blog brings together fourteen Australian and New Zealand romance authors, six of whom appear on our list of 50 books. Team Shelfie wants to thank the LoveCats’ Rachel Bailey for blogging about the project:

“And their list includes our very own LoveCats Amy Andrews, Bronwyn Jameson, Michelle Douglas, Kandy Shepherd, Annie West and Stefanie London (plus a couple of our Cats in the Wild)”

We received some great ‘author shelfies’ during the project’s first month including:

Thank you to everyone who has participated in our worldwide book hunt so far! Our official Summer of Romance data collection period has only just begun. You have until 1 March 2017 to find books, photograph them, and share your shelfies. You can also help us, of course, by promoting the project far and wide.

Thank you and Happy New Year!


Questing for Books

I spent a couple of weeks in my home state of New South Wales in December, and as well as going to academic conferences and seeing friends and family and celebrating the holidays, I decided to add something else to my agenda: going on book quests.

I was determined, in my time in NSW, to find at least a few of the fifty books on our Summer of Romance list. I thought this was something I could do idly – that if I saw a secondhand bookshop or a library or something, I could just pop in and browse their books and see what they had. (And, I should point out, this is a totally valid form of book hunting!) But for me, as it turns out, there was nothing idle about it: hunting for books became totally addictive. Hunting down these fifty books became my own personal form of Pokémon Go – I was determined to catch ‘em all!

I tweeted all my adventures at my personal Twitter account (@JodiMcA), and later turned them into Storifies using our project account (@ShelfieSummer). I’ve included links to all these Storifies at the bottom of this post.

As you can see, some of these quests were pretty fruitless. On my first book quest around Marrickville and Dulwich Hill in the inner west of Sydney, I visited six places before I finally hit the jackpot. Some, like the quest I did with my mum in Shellharbour and Warilla in the Illawarra, were an absolute bonanza of books. I guess it goes to show that you never know what you’re going to find!

Fruitful or not, I decided to document all my experiences. I used our project hashtag #loveyourshelfie for the books I found (of course), but – because I really like taking shelfies – I still took a few photos in places where I didn’t find books and used the hashtag #no50books instead. Feel free to do the same if you decide to go on a book quest of your own.

One thing that all my quests had in common was that I had a lot of fun doing them. I mean, who doesn’t like a good quest? Finding one of the books on the list became incredibly satisfying: so much so that, after dragging my mum on a quest around my hometown of Kiama on the South Coast of NSW, she got just as addicted as me. The next day, when we were supposed to be cooking for our enormous family meal on Christmas Eve, we went out questing in the nearby municipalities of Shellharbour and Warilla instead. You can see what we found in the fifth Storify below.

My mum’s not a romance reader (although I did turn her on to Betty Neels over the holidays). So if you’re not a romance reader either, never fear. All you need to go on a book quest is our list of fifty books and the drive to hunt them down!

– Jodi

Jodi’s book quests

Quest #1: Marrickville and Dulwich Hill

Quest #2: Ashfield

Quest #3: Sydney CBD and Newtown

Quest #4: Kiama

Quest #5: Shellharbour and Warilla

Swan’s Moonah Bookshop

The banner photos on the Summer of Romance website, our Facebook page, and our Twitter account were all taken at Swan’s Moonah Bookshop, Tasmania. The Moonah Bookshop is the best source we have found for backlist popular romance fiction in the Shelfie Summer home state.

We’d love to hear about your favourite bricks-and-mortar (romance) bookstores. Where will you search for our 50 Books this Summer of Romance?

By the way, the wet, grey weather in Tasmania this week has reminded us that it may well be the Summer Winter of Romance where you are! Everyone is welcome to participate in this research. Please let us know if you have any questions.


Category romance published more than 12 months ago.
Paranormal romance – all those black spines!
Historicals – this is also where you’ll find Harlequin Historicals
Rural romance shelved as Australiana


Hunting at Home

Christmas is one of the few times I manage to head to my home town of Latrobe in North-West Tasmania. Small town life being what it is, many of the op-shops (volunteer-run) have already closed for the Christmas period.

Not too dispirited, I headed to my local library (built in 1883), a gorgeous old building albeit with a very small library collection. Looking around for a collection, or at least any books with a small heart sticker on them, I quickly come up short.  Latrobe

Contained within, unfortunately for our research purposes, were only three Mills & Boon novels of any type – the librarian explaining that category romance is most often bequeathed to the larger libraries in Devonport and Launceston.

I head back outward to the last beacon of literature in Latrobe – the liquidation centre and I’m in luck! Well, sort of. They do have a dedicated Mills & Boon section, which has bled into the Wilbur Smiths and Alistair Macleans with a highlight display to one side.

Unfortunately for me, it’s a #no50books for today, though the shopkeeper tells me the Mills & Boons are on high rotation, so perhaps another look before I journey back to Hobart is in order. Here’s to hoping the next adventure yields some more results.

Happy hunting!


Finding my first Barbara Hannay

I can still remember the first Barbara Hannay book I ever read. I picked it up in an op-shop when I was collecting Mills & Boon titles for my PhD. I bought a whole bunch of Mills & Boons at the same time, and I wasn’t being particularly picky about what they were, but I remember that this was the one I picked up first from my newly-purchased pile.

The book was her 2001 title Outback With The Boss, where heroine Grace and hero Mitch go scouting film locations in the outback together, and, because of circumstances beyond their control, have to survive in the wilderness for a few days before they’re rescued. And of course, during these few days, they find more than enough time to fall head over heels in love.

My copy was significantly more battered than this one!

It’s one of those books I have a really clear memory of reading. I remember exactly where I was sitting (outside, next to the pool at my parents’ house). Our dog Ziggy came and sat next to me at one point and fell asleep with his nose on my leg. I was taking notes as I read for my thesis, but I couldn’t see my laptop screen properly in the glare, so I started underlining passages I wanted to take note of and dog-earing the pages so I could make note of them later. It was late afternoon in early summer, and as the sun slowly began to set, my dad brought me out a glass of wine. I’d half-finished it when I finished reading the book. It was a lovely afternoon.

And it made me wonder – just how many other people have fond memories like this of reading Mills & Boon novels?

I haven’t kept every Mills & Boon I’ve ever read, but I still have that dog-eared, much-underlined copy of Outback With The Boss. It’s currently sitting in a box in my sister’s cupboard in Wollongong to be transported down to Tasmania the next time someone I know makes the trip. I can’t wait to get my hands on that box again so I can go through it and see how many of our fifty books are hidden inside!

Outback With The Boss isn’t one of our fifty books, but there are four other titles by Barbara Hannay on the list: Outback Baby (2001), Claiming the Cattleman’s Heart (2006), Rancher’s Twins: Mum Needed (2011), and The Husband She’d Never Met (2016). This is just a small sample of Hannay’s total work – she’s written over forty romance novels in her career.

Many of Hannay’s romance novels have been reprinted in collections and anthologies – those of you that followed along with the most recent season of The Bachelorette will recognise this edition!

Spoilers: that handsome gentlemen bachelorette Georgia is with on the horse is Lee, the eventual winner.

Our 2006 title Claiming the Cattleman’s Heart is in this Bachelorette anthology, listed under the name of the couple (Daniel and Lily). So if you see it – or any of our other Hannay titles – snap it and send us a shelfie, because we want to know!

– Jodi

What is a “shelfie” (for the Summer of Romance)?

Search Instagram for #shelfie and you’ll find over 535,000 images, most of them depicting books. But what is a “shelfie”?

In 2014, the Wall Street Journal identified the shelfie – a twist on the selfie – as “Instagram’s next craze.” You won’t find “shelfie” in a standard dictionary (yet), but some internet sources define it as an image of artfully styled shelves, often but not always including books.

The Summer of Romance does not require artful styling!

The top definition on Urban Dictionary credits Rick Riordan with coining the term: “A picture or portrait of your bookshelf. Showcasing literature IN ALL IT’S GLORY!”

Summer of Romance shelfies do not need to depict books on shelves! Thank you to Shallowreader for this market box #loveyourshelfie showing Angela Devine’s The Perfect Man

And the Macmillan Dictionary website offers two crowdsourced definitions:

  • a picture which is taken, usually by a smartphone or a similar device, of somebody with a bookshelf or bookshelves behind them
  • a picture which is taken, usually by a smartphone or a similar device, of a bookshelf or bookshelves
Starring in your Summer of Romance shelfies is entirely optional! Thank you to Erica Hayes for this shelfie of one of our two Margaret Way titles, snapped at the The Green Shed, ACT

The Summer of Romance has adopted the “shelfie” as a research tool to collect images of contemporary Australian Mills & Boon romance novels “on location.” One of our guiding principles is not to anticipate this project’s findings in advance; to quote the American sociologist Howard S. Becker, “It’s better not decide before you begin [research] what the ‘important’ things are.” Therefore, we have no strict rules for the content, composition, or quality of shelfies for the Summer of Romance. In short, a #loveyourshelfie photograph depicts one or more of our 50 selected books where ever they are found.

How many shelfies will you share this summer?


Where do books travel?

We’re one week into the Summer of Romance and so far we’ve received shelfies of our titles in bedside reading piles, in libraries, on personal bookshelves, in bookshops and in a recycling shop.

Mills and Boons turn up everywhere: in holiday houses, on train seats, on the towels of those lying besides us at the beach (except in Tasmania, but I digress).  We encounter Mills & Boon all the time, whether or not we’re active readers.

When I sit next to someone on a plane or on public transport, I always steal a peek at what they’re reading, be it on a Kindle or in paperback form. I’m now lucky enough to have a job where my colleagues’ offices are lined with books—my book voyeur takes over every time I sit in a meeting. I take notice of the titles and authors, but also pay attention to how the books are categorised. Do they colour coordinate? Arrange by genre, then alphabetize? Are they like me and have a completely impenetrable system yet know where each book belongs?

One of the things that really excites me about this project (they are many!), is tracking such a well-known type of book, which all of us would have a memory of coming across, whether or not we’ve even read a romance novel. While the uninitiated may only see a Mills & Boon on a seat next to them, the avid collector may have a complex system that the untrained eye couldn’t make sense of. In this project we’re interested in all ways of finding those fifty books.

So where will you find a title?

– Kathleen

Australian Women Writers Article

“One stifling summer day in the early 1990s, I opened the glove box of my boyfriend’s mother’s car and it exploded with paperback Mills & Boons. I didn’t take a photo, but I’d finished reading one of the novels before we’d reached the beach.” (Lisa)

It has begun! The research team has been eagerly watching the first few shelfies come in from a range of sources, places and platforms. We’re still working hard to spread the love, and find even more participants. Lisa has written a call-to-arms for the Australian Women Writers site (which can be found here), and we’re still hankering to explore the lives and “afterlives” of the 50 Books . We can’t wait to see which books you’ll dig up.

Happy Hunting!




The Summer of Romance begins!

It’s finally here! The sun is shining, the birds are singing, summer is upon us, and it’s time to get hunting!

If you have a moment – obviously you’re very busy looking for our fifty books – have a look at this guest post on Book Thingo by Jodi, where she takes you through everything you need to know to participate in the Summer of Romance.

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