books · romance

Books are my bag, and why #thisbookshop in Saltaire is my favourite bookshop

Books Are My Bag is a UK-wide campaign to celebrate bookshops. The three day campaign began on the 7th October and runs until Saturday October 11th, culminating in Big Bookshop Parties with all sorts of author events lined up.

As part of the campaign the book reviewers’ website Bookbridgr is asking  book bloggers to write a short post about their favourite bookshop. What a great idea! I’m delighted to take part in this excellent campaign, and here’s a photo of the premises of my favourite bookshop, which is based in an old woollen mill in my village of Saltaire.

Books Are My Bag
View from a window in Salt’s Mill

Could you think of a more perfect location? I’ve already written a post about Saltaire, Salt’s Mill, and the history of the woollen industry in this region, with lots more photos, so please feel free to check it out. As you can see from the photos shown below, the bookshop in the converted Salt’s Mill is in a beautifully light and airy space. I’ve spent many an hour here browsing, and some of the many things I love about the bookshop are the collections of stationery which I regularly salivate over; the fabulous children’s section; the collection of craft books; the collection of local interest books; the section of favourites especially chosen by the owners, which is regularly updated.

books are my bag, helena fairfax
Beautiful stone floor. Note the neon sign for Salt’s Diner, the mill’s cafe


helena fairfax, books are my bag
Collection of books, plus original mill machinery


books are my bag, helena fairfax
An old school desk in the children’s section

I have discovered many an author browsing in this bookshop that I would never have found by browsing online. The beauty of bookshops! The main author that springs to mind is Angela Thirkell. I discovered her here when Wild Strawberries was part of the owners’ favourites selection, and I fell totally in love with her.

If I have one gripe – and it’s quite a large gripe, which sadly applies to a lot of other bookshops, too – it’s that the bookshop in Salt’s Mill has no romance section. Shortly after the Romantic Novelists’ Association announced their shortlist for the 2014 Romantic Novel of the Year, I took a few leaflets to the bookshop, showing details of the nominees and their novels. I asked the manager if  a handful of leaflets could be left on the counter for readers to take away, and was told rather dismissively that ‘they didn’t sell that type of book here.’

To say I was nonplussed is an understatement. I opened the leaflet and pointed to the first few books I saw – all printed by respected publishers, by authors who are household names in some cases. What is the problem? I really don’t understand this. Romance authors such as Julie Cohen and Rowan Coleman give Masterclasses on writing for the Guardian newspaper.  Why are their novels not good enough for my local bookshop? In the end, by dint of this sort of persuasion I was grudgingly allowed to leave my leaflets.

I repeat, I really don’t understand this attitude, and to be honest, this snobbishness does mar my enjoyment of many bookshops where romance novels are looked down on. The romance genre is the best-selling genre in the world. Why do so few booksellers not make a point of having a romance section? Plus, readers who read romance are also avid readers of many other genres, in my experience. If romance readers were attracted to Salt’s Mill by a well-stocked romance section, they’d soon be spending their money on lots of other books, too. If booksellers continue to have this blinkered attitude, then it’s hardly surprising that they are starting to lose money.

Still, I’m loathe to end this post on a rant. The bookshop at Salt’s Mill is still one of my favourites ever, for its location, its beautifully laid out interior,  and for the many authors I’ve discovered there. If they included romance novels it would quite simply be the perfect bookshop.

Do you have a local bookshop? Do you buy your books online, or in your local shop? And does your bookshop stock romance novels? If you have any comments at all on this subject, I’d love to hear from you!


17 thoughts on “Books are my bag, and why #thisbookshop in Saltaire is my favourite bookshop

    1. It’s a lovely building, Kate, and a great place to browse. As you say, though, it’s baffling why they scorn the romance genre. Thanks for your comment. Hope you get to visit here some day! On Oct 9, 2014 9:24 AM, “Helena Fairfax” wrote:



  1. What a great bookshop, Helen. Sadly, I don’t have any bookshop in either of the larger towns nearest to my village – have to go to Glasgow and that’s mainly Waterstones. Agree about the lack of romance – after the complaint at the RNA about Waterstones, I believe some were added at last to at least one of their shops!


    1. Oh that’s great that Waterstines have started to add a romance section in some shops. I didn’t realise that had happened. And what a shame you have to travel so far to find a bookshop. I hope the Books Are My Bag campaign has some effect. Thanks so much for your comment. On Oct 9, 2014 10:00 AM, “Helena Fairfax” wrote:



  2. I don’t see why they look down on romance, either. DRUSILLA’S ROSES was a romance – the girl just happened to be a vampire – and I’ve recently been rewatching some of DOWNTON ABBEY. Those scenes I’m interested in? The ones with Matthew and Mary…


    1. Hi James, yes, I really don’t get it, either. A lot of great books have some element of romance. There’s the obvious Jane Austen and the Brontes, but also War and Peace and The Three Musketeers, or the Angela Thirkell novel I bought in that same bookshop. People hear the word “romance” and think it’s all bodice rippers and purple prose. Buffy had a great romantic thread to it, too. Thanks for your thoughtful comment. On Oct 9, 2014 10:27 AM, “Helena Fairfax” wrote:



  3. Hi. I blog on behalf of my local book rental shop, SS Readers Corner. Books are expensive in Malaysia & libraries are not well-stocked. So we have book rental shops, which is like DVD rental shop. The shop has many romance books because the customers enjoy reading romance and owner sees growth in the genre. :)

    I rent books but occasionally I buy books that I truly enjoy reading. I source for bookshops that offer the cheapest price.


    1. Thanks for your interesting comment, Easyasofia. What a great idea to rent out books and make them available to readers. I would hate to live in a place where books aren’t readily available. Here in the UK our libraries are very well stocked. We are lucky, and we tend to take it for granted. My local library has a large romance section, too. I’m so happy to know romance is popular in Malaysia also! It’s the most popular genre in the world. Thanks for coming by. I look forward to checking out your blog!


  4. Visitors can also browse the exhibitions upstairs and have some lunch or coffee in the vast cafe. Nice little town and park too, if a bit disconnected viz public transport.


    1. Hi Jeff, yes the cafes are great, and they exhibit a lot of David Hockney’s work. And Roberts Park is lovely, too, as you say! The whole village of Saltaire is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Transport links are actually quite good. There are trains to Leeds, Bradford and Skipton every 20 mins or so. The road through the village is often quite congested, though. Thanks very much for calling in, and your comment. Much appreciated!


      1. Yes, now I look, you’re right. My partner and I discovered the train station after taking advice at Leeds to take a bus because it’s quicker. We ended up with a long walk from the nearest (so the driver said) bus stop. The signs weren’t intended for pedestrians, so it took working out. Perhaps the misdirection was a ruse by the staff member at Leeds! If we were going again, we’d research the town itself a bit more. I now notice there’s a secondhand bookshop:
        I’m going to try and get some comment from the bookseller about business since his Facebook appeal so I can do a blog post – wouldn’t have come to doing this without your post here, so thanks Helena!


      2. Hi Jeff,
        Thanks so much for that interesting link. I hadn’t heard the story about the second-hand bookshop. What a great shame. I hope his business is still picking up, as he runs a great shop. Now I have a good excuse to buy more books in there myself! And the town of Saltaire is definitely worth researching. The second-hand bookshop often has local history books. I hope you enjoy your next visit to Saltaire. Thanks so much for your interesting comment!


  5. This looks like the kind of shop where I could happily spend a whole day, Helena! It’s a shame about their attitude to romance, but there are so many people – and not just booksellers – who look down on the genre as being inferior. Anyway, it does look like a wonderful place to explore and they should be glad you giving them a mention on your blog!.


    1. Hi Marie, it is such a shame about their attitude to romance novels. I was quite surprised at the time, but I suppose by now I should be used to it :( I hope people’s attitudes will change in time. We can hope! Thanks for your comment!


  6. What a lovely place to visit and browse. However with that attitude about romance novels, it may not stay afloat. I would think romance novels would add to their income because keeping a place like that in the black means making lots of sales. Methinks, this bookshop will make a perfect setting for one of your romance novels.??


    1. I’d love to set a story in Salt’s Mill, JQ. Perhaps a historical romance, either in Victorian times or in the fifties, when the mills were at their heyday. Not sure if the book would ever be found on the shelves at Salt’s Bookshop, though :( Thanks for your comment!


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