BETHEL - The colorful cover illustration said it all.

Wrapped in the arms of a dashing, young 19th Century suitor whose open shirt revealed his wide, muscular torso, the slim, shapely woman with the deep cleavage was clearly in love. "We call that kind of book a bodice-ripper," laughed Jenny Tesar , president of The Friends of Bethel Public Library . "It makes for a very romantic book." The slim book was, in fact, one of more than 600 paperback and hardcover stories of love, lust, romance and mystery that were offered Saturday at the Friends' fifth annual Cupid's Romance Book Sale inside the library lobby. "We always have it just before Valentine's Day," Tesar said. "Some people find the books make very good gifts as well as a good read." Along with raising money for the group, Tesar said the sale also increases public awareness of the library and its work and often helps the Friends to recruit volunteers. Still, unlike their other yearly book sales, Saturday's market focused on only one topic: romance. Along with the "bodice rippers," there were other inviting covers promising Regency romances, contemporary love stories and sweet seductions laced with mystery and intrigue. "An affair of the heart can be most maddening," wrote one publicist on the jacket of a story about a man challenged by his peers to win the affections of a newly arrived young woman in a country village. "The Bride and the Mercenary," a tale of romance and suspense, followed the fraught emotions of two lovers caught between duty and passion. Paperbacks sold for 50 cents each or three for $1, while hardbacks were priced individually. Bethel resident
Barbara Durkin
, who left with a large plastic shopping bag filled with paperbacks, chose novels that dealt with emotions such as "sensual passion" and "the heartache of love." "I prefer romantic books to stories of blood and gore," said Durkin, 72, who reads about 12 books a month. "Romances have always been my cup of tea. They're nice, pleasant reading." For Kathy Vujs, 35, a Bethel mother who took her 6-month-old son, Nathaniel, to the sale, romance shaken with a twist of mystery is her favorite genre. "It's a fun way to escape from everyday activities," said Vujs. "It allows me into other people's lives and that's exciting." Helen Poole , who was among the first at the library door when the sale opened, reads about 10 books a month that are mostly romances. "They make me feel good and forget any problems I have," said Poole, 75, who also lives in Bethel. "If I want violence I can watch it on TV. I don't need to read about it," Poole said. "Besides, it's nice to enter someone else's world and find a little romance in it. The world needs romance."

Contact Brian Saxton


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