An afternoon affair

Mary A. Castillo

When Toni Bruner opened her bookstore in 1987, New and Recycled

Romances was one room stocked with her collection of 1,500 paperbacks.

Back then she had no idea the store would break down the walls of the two

adjoining spaces to carry 60,000 titles. Nor did she think it would

attract readers from as far as Riverside or San Diego for an afternoon

tea with some of romance's biggest stars.

Sixteen years later, neither Bruner nor her co-hostess, canine

Scarlett O'Hara, are complaining.

On Monday, cafe tables will replace floor shelves to accommodate an

afternoon tea with writers including Katherine Stone, Glynnis Campbell

and Karen Kay.

Bruner credits the birth of her afternoon tea events to romance author

Kat Martin.

"Back in 1989 when Kat was in town promoting her latest book, she

asked me if she could sign copies at my store," Bruner said.

Sixty readers showed up with their books and found themselves

entertained with tea and scones. On their way out they asked Bruner when

the next signing would take place.

Since then New And Recycled Romances has brought readers together with

best selling authors such as Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jill Marie Landis,

Stella Cameron, Justine Davis and many others.

"The authors are comfortable here because they're not sitting at a

card table in the middle of a mall," Bruner explained. "Here they can sit

and visit with readers and other authors over tea and cucumber

sandwiches."

Now one might think that gathering competing authors in one store

might be a bad idea. Considering that romance novels account for 60% of

all paperbacks sold in the United States, writers should be hoarding

readers. Not so according to author Glynnis Campbell.

"Nora Roberts is the boulder in the middle," said the author of "My

Warrior" and "A Knight's Vow." "There are stones of various shapes and

sizes around her. But there always seems to be spaces between the rocks

for little pebbles."

As much as writers support one another, historical romance author

Karen Kay ("War Cloud's Passion") also finds inspiration from her

encounters with her readers.

"Each time someone tells me that my stories moved them in some way, it

inspires me to keep going, keep writing," Kay said.

Katherine Stone, author of "Star Light, Star Bright," agrees but also

adds, "I don't get to meet my readers too often, but I have such respect

for them. They're smart women who are big believers in the power of women

and the power of love."

Romance readers who frequent New And Recycled Romances are believers

who talk the talk, and walk the walk of happy endings, Bruner said.

A reader, said Bruner, typically starts her addiction with a writer

such as Danielle Steele or Barbara Taylor Bradford. Once that reader

discovers new authors -- with the help of Bruner and her staff who read

everything that hits the shelves -- she is not only greeted by name, but

also with a recommendation.

As Bruner eyes one customer walking in the door with two grocery bags

of paperbacks to trade, she sums up the purpose of her bookstore, "This

is a place where readers can meet others who are as addicted to romance

as they are."

FYI

* What: An afternoon tea with romance authors

* Where: New and Recycled Romances, 143/145/147 Broadway, Costa Mesa

* When: 3 p.m. Monday

* Cost: Free

* Contact: (949) 645-0529 or o7 http://www.geocities.com/newrrbooks

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