The Book Nirvana series centers around an indie bookshop in Eugene, Oregon. Why Eugene? Honestly, I sort of picked the location out of a hat. I’d heard what an interesting college town Eugene is, and that turned out to be true. For those familiar with Eugene, Book Nirvana was not patterned on the iconic bookshop Tsunami Books. In fact, I still haven’t visited that shop. Rather, Clara’s shop is a mash-up of various charming bookshops I’ve visited over the years, including Salt Lake City’s The King’s English, San Francisco’s Green Apple Books, and the funky bookshops in many a small town.

My hometown favorite: King’s Books in Tacoma, Washington. Meet Herbert, the fat, friendly shop cat.

What makes Book Nirvana special, besides Lulu the shop cat, is its extensive collection of historical erotica kept behind a locked red door. Before you’re allowed inside, you must pass muster with Clara, the shop’s owner. Here’s a peek inside from the point of view of Laurel, the heroine of Runaway Love Story, Clara’s newest employee.

Laurel rolled the cart to the rear, gulped, then turned the key. The door swung open into darkness. A fat silk tassel dangled at chest level. She tugged the cord, flooding the little room with pink light.

“Oh. My. Goodness.” A scene from a fairy tale greeted her. On the floor, a faded Persian carpet in rosy hues. In the center, an antique settee, upholstered in faded red velvet, whose S-curved seatback would place a couple shoulder to shoulder facing opposite directions. She imagined lounging there, leaning over the divide to gaze at a book in a handsome man’s lap. Maybe a tall man with a shaved head… [Doug, the story’s hero, shaves his head.]

On three sides, volumes of erotica packed the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. A wooden stepladder stood ready to help patrons reach the highest shelves. She half expected a secret door to creak open, revealing some brocade-clad hero from a romance novel, with mischief in his eye and a most ungentlemanlike bulge in his tight buff breaches.

Want to see more? Pop over to and sign up for my quarterly newsletter. I’ll send you A Peek Behind the Red Door, an annotated bibliography of artwork and stories mentioned in the series, with links to the naughty pictures.

I love to visit bookshops when I travel. What’s your favorite local bookshop?

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