That Secret Shame

You don't have to be embarrassed to read romance novels anymore. With modern themes and better writing, Bay Area authors are helping to make the genre almost (gasp!) respectable.

And again, the readers showed up. And again, Hern wasn't surprised. The readers are everywhere, if you know what to look for. Just take a trip to the Financial District during lunchtime, where you'll find a showcase of tasteful cloth book covers -- available wherever romances are sold -- in a magnificent array of colors and patterns.

"What cracks me up are the women who cover them," says Cathy Yardley. "They sell those cloth paperback covers specifically for this, and they're not reading Don DeLillo under there.

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