magic · used book sale

The absolute magic of used book sales.

I never say no to a used book sale.

Who would? Stacks upon stacks of previously loved literature for a low, low price. There’s nothing better than perusing dusty stacks of books, looking for a treasure or twenty, and know that you’ll be able to haul a ton of them home without breaking the bank. Used book sale? I’m in. I’ll be there. Putting it in my calendar now.

This past weekend was one such sale. A women’s education nonprofit holds used book sales every few months around here. “Do you want to sign up for our emails, to know when our next sale will be?” the charming lady who took my money asked me at the previous sale. YOU BET I DID. I signed up immediately, and when the email hit my inbox, letting me know that there would be a sale on May 4th, I slapped that baby in my calendar and then showed up as soon as the sale opened on the second day. The second day, you see, is bag sale day. Everything you can cram into a bag for ten dollars…but if you’re on their email list and show them the email, you get a discount: everything you can cram into a bag for seven dollars.

Even better.

So what followed me home this weekend? First, a picture; then, a story.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone and Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen, I’ll share with my son; Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson is his outright (I’ve already read it, and if you haven’t read it yet, you NEED to. It’s incredible). The rest are mine, and I also grabbed a few things for my daughter. Not bad for seven bucks and about an hour of my time. 🙂



There’s a bigger story here, one that’s so wacky, I can barely believe it.

You might not be able to tell from what I’ve read so far this year, but I love a good romance novel (I recently finished reading Jennifer Crusie’s Welcome to Temptation; she’s been one of my favorite authors for ages). I love watching a couple get together, I love one person pursuing another, I love romance tropes, I love happily-ever-afters. All of this started with the stack of books my mother kept stashed in the coat closet, and which I began raiding when I was about twelve years old. Recently, Book Riot had an article titled ‘The Books That Turned Us On to Romance,’ and that, along with my love of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and their amazing podcast, brought to mind yet again the nameless book from that closet stash that introduced me to my love of the genre.

I’d thought of this book many times over the years, but I could never remember the title. I’ve known about Smart Bitches, Trashy Books’s Help a Bitch Out feature, which helps romance readers remember those forgotten titles via crowdsourcing, but I feared I didn’t have enough information for them (I mean, I was twelve when I read this, so my memory is pretty fuzzy), and I didn’t want to be disappointed if no one knew what I was talking about. Here’s what I had: there was a character named Dulcy who was a pretty heinous bitch, but she wasn’t the main character; it took place during the Spanish-American war; one of the male characters, at least at one point, had some sort of involvement with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders; a vague detail about a sex scene that could have happened in basically any historical romance.

And that was it. Not much to go on there, huh?

So this unnamed book had been rolling around my brain lately, moreso than it usually had over the years. It wasn’t anything I was actively considering when I was at the book sale: I started at the YA and kids sections, stopped by the cookbooks, browsed the romance novels, hit up the classic fiction section, perused the mysteries and general fiction, then made the loop again.

And there, sitting on top of the paperback romance novels, that I had somehow missed in my first go-around, was a book that looked…familiar.

I paused.

Was that it?

Was THAT my book?

I flipped through it briefly, very briefly, because I was running out of time (I had two more errands to run and only an hour left). I thought it *might* be it, but I wasn’t entirely certain, but for seven bucks a bag, I could afford to take a chance. Into the bag it went, and I’d figure it out when I got home.

And later on that afternoon, once I got a chance, I opened the book and flipped through it. SHUT THE FRONT DOOR.

YOU GUYS. I found it! I found the book that got me into romance, all on my own! THE BOOK GODS AND GODDESSES HAVE SMILED UPON ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now, I am FULLY prepared for this book to be absolutely terrible and problematic as hell. Obviously, my tastes have changed and matured after twenty-six years of heavy reading; this book was published in 1982 and romance (and what romance readers are willing to tolerate in their books) has changed substantially. And just read that blurb from Goodreads:


Sultry Tampa, crossroad for gallant soldiers of the Spanish-American War, was the beloved home of young Jessica Manning. Her elegance and delicate beauty entranced the most valiant men, but fate gave her the most ruthless–hot-blooded Brill Kroger. Ignited by selfish passion, Brill abducted Jessica, then swept his anguished prize on a blazing seaward quest for Aztec gold. Through it all, Jessica dung to one aching wish–a return to her glowing moments of surrender in the strong arms of dashing Rough Rider Lieutenant Neil Dancer. Neil’s heart burned wildly for his lost Jessica, and his fury now drove him to pledge his very life to rekindle the flames of their glorious love.

OH MY GOD, is that not awful???????? (Including the typo of ‘dung’ for ‘clung,’ which comes straight from the Goodreads blurb. My back cover reads ‘clung,’ fortunately.) I’m in love. I’ve got, of course, a stack of books to read before I get to this, but I’m absolutely going to read it and review the crap out of it for all of you. I feel more giddy than one of those puppies that wags its tail so hard, it pees a little. This is BEYOND exciting!

Have you ever spent years wondering about a book you lost track of, only to have it just pop up seemingly out of nowhere? I don’t know that I’ll ever get over how seamlessly this reappeared back in my life. Serendipity at its finest. 🙂


14 thoughts on “The absolute magic of used book sales.

    1. It’s also where I got my love of time travel romance! She had quite a few books about women being thrown back in time to live with some dashing, overly muscled, shirtless man, and they always ended with the woman deciding to stay in the past when she had the chance to return to her own time. I was always left wondering, “Wait, won’t you miss antibiotics and not dying in childbirth???” 😀

      I’ll see my mom tomorrow, I’m going to ask her if she remembers the book!!!


    1. Isn’t it fabulous? Now that I think about it, I had a suspicion that the cover was blue, but I wasn’t entirely sure. This was absolutely one of those books that I stole from my mom’s stash and then HID UNDER MY BED when I discovered exactly what was inside it. She came across it one day when she was in my room and I was horrified, but she was just all, “Is that good? I haven’t read that one yet.” I’m not sure if she ever did read it, I’ll have to ask her.


    1. YES! Used book sales, thrift stores, and rummage sales are where I find the majority of books that grace my own shelves. Some of my favorite places on earth. 🙂


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