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I Buy New… Do You?

Monday, August 28, 2006
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With the demise of the Harlequin Bombshell line, many authors are suggesting that readers start buying new, rather than used, to stop other lines from being discontinued.

Personally, it’s been well over a year since I bought a book that wasn’t new. I’ve calculated that I buy an average of seven books a week, at an average price of £6.99 ($12.60) per book. Now work this out over a full year, and that means that I’ve spent over £2,544 ($4,579) in the past year. But I have to say, I didn’t feel inclined to even look at Bombshell books, so my pennies certainly wouldn’t have helped save the line.

I think Bombshell’s demise had less to do with readers buying used books, and more to do with ineffective marketing, and a premise that didn’t appeal universally to romance readers, after all, why go to Harlequin to read a non-romance book, when there are far better choices out there? Incidentally, since Evelyn Vaughn’s A.K.A Goddess, I haven’t heard of anybody raving over any other Bombshell book.

Personally, I think that Harlequin’s attempt to garner a younger and hipper audience, was bound to be at the cost of die-hard older Harlequin fans.
I’ve been reading Harlequin since I was 14, and I know that I probably wouldn’t have picked up a Bombshell book based on the fact that it wasn’t a romance. I do read non-romance books, but just as I don’t go to my doctor for a tooth complaint, I don’t go to Harlequin for non-romance books.

So how many of you guys tried the line? In fact, how many of you still buy series romance books period?


  • Jane
    August 28
    2:34 pm

    I have started buying a few more series books since Harlequin started releasing them in ebook format. There were a couple of reasons I shied away from buying series:

    a) so few reviews
    b) seem to be all the same
    c) rather spend my money/time on a full length novel
    d) shortness of shelf life. By the time I found out about a good book, it was out of the bookstore and required major effort to obtain it (i.e., trolling half.com or something like that).

    I remember when they debuted the Bombshell line. I hated the name of the line. I felt that the goal of the stories were to have these physically phenomenal women with all the same virginal angst of the other series romances. Yeah, I probably didn’t give Bombshell a fair shake but since when is it the reader’s responsibility to ensure the life on an entire line, let alone a specific author within that line.

    I don’t see a number of reader blogs angsting over the demise of the line because so many of us never read them.


  • Kristie (J)
    August 28
    3:36 pm

    I buy quite a few Harlequin Historicals. When that line was in danger of folding a couple of years ago, I sent an email to the publisher stating what a huge mistake I thought it would be to end that line. Since they did decide to keep it going (and I like to think I had a small part in that decision 🙂 ) I’ve made it a real point to buy at least one or two a month. As for the Bombshell line, I never tried one and although I feel for the authors, I just didn’t care to read them. I like my books with a HEA and it wasn’t guaranteed with that line. As for the other lines, Tempation was my favourite and they did away with that one, so I have bought very few since then. I’ve tried a number of Blazes but I’m just meh about most of them. I think they sacrified character development to concentrate on more sex. I think a good book needs both. They are coming out with a paranormal line in the next few months though that I’m anxious to try.


  • Rosie
    August 28
    3:52 pm

    I never tried a Bombshell either. I’ve picked a few up when I recognized the author name, but the story premise just didn’t appeal to me.

    When I started reading eons ago I purchased many books at a used book store and garage sales. It was the only way I could keep up with my reading habit. My library was so small and it took forever when you requested a book.

    I think I’m a good example of a person who started out with used books and discovered favorite authors. While I’m not quite in your league Karen, I too spend quite a bit on books each year and buy almost exclusively new now. The only used books I buy are out of print or hard to find older titles.

    While I discovered some of my favorite authors in series romance (Roberts, Brockmann, Howard, Gardner) I rarely purchase them any more. Even if you look at the reviews in Romantic Times who I believe is generous, the quality just doesn’t seem to be the same.

    Most recently I purchased all the back list of Nalini Singh who writes for Silhouette Desire because I was curious to try her books before the single title release.


  • Dawn
    August 28
    5:19 pm

    Funnily enough I read a Bombshell this weekend – “Code Name: Dove” by Judith Leon. Although I know that the Bombshell series did not adhere to the usual HEA, since I spotted it in the library I thought I’d give it a try.

    It was an OK story, but I did not like it as a romance at all. I thought that since it was one of the Sensations that it might be a romance, but it wasn’t.

    I was actually thinking of contacting Mills & Boon to ask what the hell they were thinking including in their Silhouette Sensations line.

    If they’d released it under one of there other lines like Mira or whatever that is not obviously romance, then I could stomach it.

    Anyway, I don’t know the last time that I bought a book new – I’ve been buying mostly e-books or sometimes second hand. My book buying has cut down considerably anyway, due to lack of funds.


  • Anonymous
    August 28
    5:38 pm

    Karen, I buy Blaze, but the quality of those have gone way down in the last year or so. Like Kristie said, they seem to have exchanged plot for sex.

    I was never interested in the Bombshell books at all, so I think you are probably right about the level of marketing that went into promoting the line.

    I probably buy around 15 new books a month, but the price increases are killing me, and as my husband is due to be laid off soon, I know this will have to be one of the areas where the belt will have to be tightened.



  • Wendy
    August 28
    5:48 pm

    I make it a point to buy western Harlequin Historicals new. I’m not sure it makes much of a difference, but it’s my way of sending a message that yes, readers still like westerns – so where the hell are they?

    I also like to read the HSR line because I like to get teary-eyed every now and then. I also like the fact that the characters in this line read like REAL people most of the time. No Navy SEALS, secret agents, sex-toy stop owners etc. Just nice stories about nice people falling in love. Boring? Not to me.

    As for Bombshell, I’ve tried a couple and found them very meh. Didn’t hate ’em, didn’t love ’em. Also I’m kinda burnt out on the whole secret agent thing – so that weeds out numerous Bombshells right there. I still have a couple in my TBR, but frankly I’m not in a huge rush to get to them.

    And like you, I don’t think it has anything to do with buying used and everything to do with bad marketing.


  • Sandra Schwab
    August 28
    7:18 pm

    During my 10 months in Ireland six years ago, a friend of mine got me hooked on category romances, but I usually only buy titles from the M&B Modern Romance and Tender Romance lines. It’s the shortness of these novels that I love: they’re perfect for reading in bed on a Sunday morning! :O)


  • Ellie M.
    August 28
    9:12 pm

    I read several really good Bombshell novels. I didn’t (couldn’t afford) to subscribe to the line, but when there was one with something other than the typical “government agent/superspy” thing, I’d pick it up and usually enjoy it. Bought new, too!

    I have a limited book budget I consistently manage to blow every month, earning frowns from the hubby who cut his comic budget in a dutiful fashion and has stuck to it. I’m rotten and greedy!


  • Anonymous
    August 28
    10:05 pm

    Wow – I haven’t bought a category series book in years. Matter of fact I cannot remember the last time I bought one. They are difficult to find in drug stores etc… which is where I used to find them and the writing tends to be crap. Maybe if I were still 16, then they would do it for me, but how many fricking wealthy Australian Sheep ranchers can there possibly be in the world?

    Although it is strange when I think back on it because I used to find great authors through the category stuff, Nora Roberts, Stephanie James aka Jayne Ann Krentz, Linda Lael Miller… and I am not reading them as much either.

    Life changes – get over it. Plus the marketing for all category has gone into the toilet. Move forward or be run over! And quit blaming the readers – I could probably support a third world nation on what I spend on new books annually. I have never really looked at it because it would frighten me.



  • Lori
    August 28
    10:10 pm

    I still buy series occasionally, although I’m loyal to just a couple lines and, really, it turns out, a few authors within those lines.

    As for Bombshell, I read a couple of them when they first came out, but nothing really got me going, so I haven’t bought anything since.


  • AngelaDionne
    August 28
    10:33 pm

    I haven’t bought a series book in years and was never even tempted to try the bombshell line. I guess if the marketing were there and there were storylines that caught my eye I would be tempted to try a catagory series again.

    I spend a small fortune on my book habit every year… buying both new and used. I usually only buy used if I can’t find a book new or find that it is out of print. Thank God I have been blessed with a husband that never says a word when I bring home more books to add to my TBR pile, WHICH IS GETTING OUT OF CONTROL!


  • Bam
    August 28
    11:50 pm

    I used to subscribe to Blaze, but they kept putting out these books that revolved around online dating and I just got sick of it, ’cause it was the same thing all the time.

    I do subscribe to HQN and Harlequin SuperRomance.

    And Kensington’s Aphrodisia line.


  • Mad
    August 29
    12:37 am

    The Bombshells never interested me so I never tried them. I still do buy series books and I have to say about 90% of my books are bought new and the other 10% are older books that can only be found at the UBS.


  • Kat O+
    August 29
    2:11 am

    We still get Temptations down here. 🙂 I’ve discovered some of my favourite authors through this line. I’m sure at leastone of Jennifer Crusie’s standalone novels was just a rebranded category novel.

    I’ve bought a few Lunas, which I’ve loved. I’d buy more if I could be sure of a HEA but some of them aren’t even really romances.

    I’ve bought some Blazes that were absolute shite. To be fair, I just read some gIRL-gEAR books from Alison Kent’s backlist and totally enjoyed them so not ALL Blazes suck. Just the ones Hubby buys for me, for some reason. I told him to buy Black Lace next time.

    I mostly buy used now, or borrow from the library. Or my friend and I swap books. If I like something in a series, I’m likely to buy the rest of the series new (case in point, Lover Awakened coming out next week). In general, I reckon I’ve paid for so many crap books over the years, I don’t feel bad buying used at all.

    Authors should have the equivalent of online tip jars for readers who bought their book used, enjoyed it, and would like to show their appreciation.


  • Laura
    August 29
    2:48 am

    I buy my books new, unless I’m buying backlist, or I’m re-buying an older book I want to read again.

    I don’t read a lot of category. The Blaze line never rattled my cage; the length just doesn’t seem to allow for character development, a good story, and sex. Not to mention, the sex in Blaze titles is pretty boring.

    I’ve found Bombshell to be all over the map. Some have HEAs, some kill of the guy. There are cops, there are vampires, there are psychic vampire cops. There are rich supermodel spy chicks.
    Lots of interrelated books. Some violent, some not. Lots of “misfit” books. It seems like good authors trying to fit square pegs in round holes.


  • Stacy~
    August 29
    2:59 am

    I’m voting with the majority here – never read a Bombshell and actually never had the desire to – the line just didn’t interest me. I want my HEA when it comes to romances.

    I do read categories, most notably Harlequin Presents and Silhouette Intimate Moments (for Brockmann’s SEALs) which I understand is going through a name change, or already has, or something. I also buy the Aphrodisia line, but not as many as I thought I would. I think I like the Brava’s better.

    And I almost always buy new – 99.999% of the time. In fact I just got home from buying 4 new ones @ Borders.


  • Karen Scott
    August 29
    2:29 pm

    Jane Wrote:
    I don’t see a number of reader blogs angsting over the demise of the line because so many of us never read them.

    Exactly Jane, I don’t recall one single reader blog lamenting on the demise of the line, and I think that’s very telling. Although Blaze seems to be the evil step-child as far as Harlequin goes, I can’t see readers being as blase, if the line was discontinued.

    Kristie, I honestly think that for the biggest name in romance to produce books that don’t end in happy endings was an absolute nonsense, and they were bound to come acropper. As it happens, it occurred sooner than later.

    Rosie wrote:
    Even if you look at the reviews in Romantic Times who I believe is generous, the quality just doesn’t seem to be the same.

    I think you hit the nail on the head Rosie, Vanessa Jaye feels that if the books are good enough, they will sell, and I totally agree with her. Not having read any bombshells, I can’t honestly say if quiality was an issue, but I’m hearing the same thing over and over again, about people trying them when they first came out, then never bothering to go back, after a few disappointing reads. This tells me that they definitely failed to capture the public’s imagination, one way or another.

    BTW Rosie, have you read the other Nalini Singh books? If so, what did you think?

    Dawn wrote:
    It was an OK story, but I did not like it as a romance at all. I thought that since it was one of the Sensations that it might be a romance, but it wasn’t.

    Dawn, I’m convinced the non-romance angle must have impacted on sales. Romance readers want romance. BTW how do you read your e-books?

    Incidentally Dawn, I was on a late train to London last night, and we stopped at Milton Keynes, as we set off, the train suddenly braked, and the alarms started sounding. People started panicking, but we managed to set off 15 minutes later. Apparently some twat had only just realised that it was his stop, and pulled the frickin alarm thingie. Fuckwit.


  • Karen Scott
    August 29
    3:09 pm

    Mia, when I first started buying Blaze, I loved them! I used to lurve AK’s gIRL gEAR books, and VLT’s, but there seemed to be a spate of new authors, and the quality seemed to fall by the wayside. I recall reading a book by Debbie Rawlins about an Italian virgin who wanted to be a slutbag, and although the premise was a bit questionable, I totally loved it.

    Wendy wrote:
    I also like to read the HSR line because I like to get teary-eyed every now and then. I also like the fact that the characters in this line read like REAL people most of the time. No Navy SEALS, secret agents, sex-toy stop owners etc. Just nice stories about nice people falling in love. Boring? Not to me

    Not to me either Wendy, I’ve had it with Vamps, werewolves, navy seals agents, and BDSM books. I too want a story where boy meets girl, they have a few issues, and they fall in love and live happily ever after. I used to love vamps, but I can’t read them anymore, maybe in about 10 years when they have a revival.(yes, I know they’re still hot, but mark my words, they’ll die off, and then come back again)

    Sandra, Mills and Boon Modern romances, I can just about handle, but Tender romances, make me want to shoot myself in the head. I find the heroines weak, and they let the heroes ride roughshod over them, and for me, that’s a big no-no, totally drives my feminist sensibilities crazy! The last Modern Romance I read, was The Italian’s Trophy wife, by some author I can’t remember. I tore it to shreds after getting halfway through, I was that annoyed.

    Having said that, I did used to enjoy Miranda Lee’s stuff, but I suspect this was because her books were a lot sexier. *g*

    Ellie wrote:
    but when there was one with something other than the typical “government agent/superspy” thing, I’d pick it up and usually enjoy it.

    Ellie, I thought they were all about superspy/govt agents? What were the ones you enjoyed? And who were the authors?

    Bam wrote:
    I do subscribe to HQN and Harlequin SuperRomance.

    How do they mix with your usual fare of two-dicked alien stories? *g*

    Bam, So far I’ve enjoyed the Aphrodisia books that I’ve read. I believe I’m the only person buying them from my local Borders, but I’ve noticed that they keep buying more and more in. When I tried ordering them online as ebooks, for some reason I couldn’t do it, have you ever had this problem?

    Mad, I’m hearng more and more that people just weren’t interested in the Bombshells. I totally blame the premise and the crap marketing.

    Kat wrote:
    We still get Temptations down here. 🙂 I’ve discovered some of my favourite authors through this line. I’m sure at leastone of Jennifer Crusie’s standalone novels was just a rebranded category novel.

    Kat, I used to love Temptations, that’s how I discovered Vicki Lewis Thompson, and a host of others. Silhouette Desires were the first Harlequin books I ever read, it was only recently that I discovered that Stephanie James (a fave at the time) was Jayne Ann Krentz.

    I’ve come by many of my fave authors via series romance.

    I’ve also started buying Black Lace books, (although they are expensive) but I find that they are very hit and miss for me. Unfortunately, not all of the BL writers are as good as Emma Holly.

    Laura wrote
    I’ve found Bombshell to be all over the map. Some have HEAs, some kill of the guy. There are cops, there are vampires, there are psychic vampire cops. There are rich supermodel spy chicks.

    Laura, it sounds like they were trying to be all things to all men, and quite frankly, how many times does that kind of strategy work? n I feel sorry for the aspiring authors out there who were about to be contracted, only to find that the linbe was going kaput. I can’t imagine how devastating that would be.

    Stacy wrote:
    I’m voting with the majority here -never read a Bombshell and actually never had the desire to – the line just didn’t interest me. I want my HEA when it comes to romances.

    It would be interesting to find out exactly how many Bombshells were bought, in comparison to the rest of Harelquin’s other lines…

    Does anybody know what the next big thing in Harlequin will be? Also, does anybody know how their AA romance line is doing? I’ve bought a few books from Kimani Press, but I have noticed the distinct lack of marketing for the Arabesque line, since they were bought from BET a while ago. Monica? Do you know?


  • Lynne Simpson
    August 29
    5:20 pm

    Of all the Bombshells I bought (and there were quite a few), my favorites were Stephanie Feagan’s. I definitely recommend them.

    My major Harlequin habit is Luna.


  • Karen Scott
    August 29
    7:50 pm

    Maria, I couldn’t have said it better, the marketing was obviously crap, so what did they really expect? As for the rich Australian ranchers, dude those books were dull!

    Lynne, I have heard that Feagan is pretty good, I haven’t tried her yet tho, never tried Luna either actually.


  • Sandra Schwab
    August 30
    7:41 am

    For a really different M&B Modern Romance read, try Julie Cohen’s books. I’ve just finished “Delicious”, which is, well, delicious! Not only is the hero a totally gorgeous, charming, and funny (!!!!) guy, no, he is also a …


    Can you believe this? A cook as a romance hero! In addition, the novel has a totally sweet and funny first love scene. And as you can probably tell from all that gushing, I really enjoyed that book! :O)


  • Anonymous
    August 30
    11:43 am

    Hi Everyone
    I buy used whenever available, for the convenient reason that it ships faster. Amazon.com and others take forever to reach Zurch, Switzerland and since I’m a ravenous reader, my “hunger” needs to be sated immediately or as close to….



  • Dawn
    August 30
    1:00 pm

    Hey Karen. I download my my ebooks onto my laptop, but then put them on a Compaq Ipaq. I had to use something that has Microsoft Reader as that is the format of the majority of my ebooks. I like it a lot, the text is not too small to read and of course it’s easier to cart around than a laptop. The only thing I’d get for it is a trickle charger as when the charge runs out everything is wiped – I have to keep it plugged in all the time, but if I use it without the backlight on, I can get quite a few hours reading.

    I think that there is quite a hefty fine for pulling the emergency cord frivolously (sp?), and somehow I don’t think “I almost missed my stop” is going to wash.

    BTW a Borders is opening up in MK soon – I hope that they’ll stock EC books.


  • Ellie M.
    August 30
    5:21 pm

    Stephanie Feagan’s series
    Stephanie Doyle’s THE CONTESTANT was fun.
    AKA GODDESS and sequel
    KISS OF THE BLUE DRAGON and sequel
    URBAN LEGEND wasn’t bad, but a bit bland
    Madonna Key series is interesting.
    Got a kick out of STELLA GET YOUR GUN and sequels

    Also have a bunch of similar ones in my TBR stack. None of the “superspy” stuff, and burned out quick on the series like Athena Force by various authors. But I didn’t go into these books expecting a traditional HEA, and I choose the ones with more humor and everyday heoines. I guess I expected Stephanie Plum? I’ll continue to buy them in UBS’s and I hope they continue to have, I don’t know, mini-series of Bombshell books, like maybe one a month published in the other lines. I liked the variety. Oh, well! I’m a slow reader and I still have a lot to look forward to.

    Anyone interested in the Nocturne line? The focus on what appears to be dark, alpha heroes is a turn-off for me because of my preference for variety. But I’ll try it. I’ll try anything once 🙂


  • Desiree Erotique
    August 31
    2:20 am

    I might have to try one of the Nocturnes. I like dark alpha heroes lol.


  • LorelieLong
    August 31
    7:08 am

    I buy new pretty much exclusively now, but that’s due to a lack of used bookstores. When I move back to the states, I’ll probably start frequenting them again. It’s a great way to lighten up groaning bookshelves.

    Anyways, I don’t really read series. Once in a while, if I’ve read everything else in our teeny excuse for a bookstore, I’ll feel desperate enough to pick one. And they’re just as crappy as I expected.

    Here’s my attitude: If the author’s any good, they’ll move on from the series. At which point if I really love them I can glom their backlist.


  • Dramedy Girl
    August 31
    2:24 pm

    I read quite a few of the Bombshell line — at least in the beginning. I found a few gems, like Vaughn’s Goddess series, but overall the stories were just meh.

    It’s hard for me to get interested in the series books because they are so short. It’s difficult to believe the falling in love in such a short time-frame (for me). I am looking forward to trying their new Nocturnal line in October.

    Sometimes I buy new, sometimes I don’t but I keep track and last year I bought about $4,500 in new books. I don’t feel guilty when I buy used — mostly the used ones are the category romances!


  • Karen Scott
    August 31
    8:29 pm

    Sandra, I don’t think I’ve read Julie Cohen, but having a chef as a hero, is a bit of a departure, especially for M&B Modern, seeing as their heroes tend to be stereotytpically rich Greek bazillionaires!

    Chandra, I always think that here in England, we’ve got it bad in terms of the amount of books available, but I guess it’s worse in Switzerland huh?

    Dawn, a comnpaq Ipac huh? I may just have to look around for one of those, it would be so much easier to take loads of e-books on hols with me, TTG need never know how many books I’d brought.
    My local Borders doesn’t stock EC books actually Dawn, to be honest, because I get them so cheap, with the conversion rate and everything, I’ve never thought of looking properly.

    Ellie, never read Nocturne, what’s the premise again?

    Des, are they ‘dark alpha heroes’ as in vamps?

    Lorelie, I’m the same, there aren’t many decent UBS’s in my little town, so I have to rely on Amazon, and Borders mostly.

    Shelly, I think that’s exactly what the problemn was, the Bombshells have been described as ‘meh’ by many people, which is worse than people saying they were crap. It indicates to me, that people just didn’t feel strong enough about them either way, which is actually quite a terrible indictment.


  • kathyb
    September 1
    4:10 am


    I haven’t read much series romance in the last few years. Most of my fav authors left series romance and started mainstreaming.

    I simply haven’t been able to hook up with any one author since then that has caught and held my attention. but then I began reading series with authors like:

    Elizabeth Lowell
    Sandra Brown
    Linda howard
    NOra roberts
    Ruth Wind
    Iris Johansan
    Kay Hooper
    Tami Hoag
    Deborah Smith
    Judith Duncan

    All of these were really strong voices in series romance and I just have not found any that compare. The last one is very missed. She has completely stopped writing. Judith Duncan.

    I think the shorter format does not help me much. Most series romance were almost the length of mainstream books when I first started reading them. Now they are just too short for me.

    As far as the Bombshell line, I bought only one book and that was by Ruth Wind. I actually didn’t care for it. Action/Suspense is not Barbara Samuels specialty and I felt that she was not in her prime with this book. Relationships and romance are her specialty.


  • Karen Scott
    September 1
    5:58 am

    Wow Kathy, I totally forgot that that was how Tami Hoag started up, I FREAKING LOVE HER! I do have to say though, that along with Linda Howard, she seems to have adpted to the Rom Sus, perfectly well, I’ve read quite a few of her books, and have plenty more on the tbr list.

    As for Nora Roberts, well, when I was a wee lassie, she was a staple diet for me, when it came to books, and then I started getting bored, but this year I discovered her agin via JD Robb, and I’m a fan again (plus she strikes me as the kinda person to call a spade a spade, and you know, that appeals to me).

    So, it’s not just the newer authors whose Bombshells weren’t particularly good, interesting. I’m certainly not lamenting over the loss of them, but I do feel for the authors who nearly made it.


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