A woman in a police-department sweatshirt approached, holding a copy of “The Pagan Stone.” “It was awesome,” she said. A woman in her twenties handed Roberts a copy of “Morrigan’s Cross,” from 2006. She is known for her particularly believable heroes—according to Wendell, “100% real dudes.” Her female characters frequently possess an entrepreneurial streak, and they are more independent than many of their peers, and certainly their predecessors, even if some among them still have a propensity for crumpling like tissues at the sight of bodily fluids. Oh my,’ was all she managed before her eyes rolled back,” Roberts writes, of Faith Lavelle, who, in “Carolina Moon,” has agreed to help the bachelor veterinarian Wade Mooney perform an operation on an injured sheepdog.

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” One morning in December, Roberts was at Vesta, a pizzeria that her older son, Dan, runs with his wife in Boonsboro, Maryland.

She had driven into town from nearby Keedysville, where she lives with her husband, Bruce Wilder.

Penguin, Roberts’s publisher, shipped six hundred and thirty-seven thousand copies of last year’s hardback release alone, for a total of more than eight million books in 2008. Roberts grosses sixty million dollars a year, estimated in 2004, more than Grisham or Stephen King, who is, incidentally, a Roberts admirer.

In addition, Roberts sold five and a half million copies of backlist titles, and J. “Nora Roberts is cool,” King said, on the jacket blurb for “Tribute,” last year’s big Nora.

Last summer, Sarah Wendell, an editor of the Web site Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, posed a question to her readers: “So what line of dialogue from a romance has rocked your socks to the point that, long after those socks were lost in the dryer, you still remember it? One reader nominated “Carnal Innocence,” in which the plantation heir Tucker Longstreet is questioned by an F. Their adoptive father, Ray, dies suddenly, leaving a younger boy, Seth De Lauter, in their care. I’ll change my name to Raoul, and no one will know I was ever related to a bunch of fools.

” Jane Austen got a few votes (“You pierce my soul. There were nods to Georgette Heyer (“I remember every word you have spoken to me”) and Connie Brockway (“You are my country, Desdemona. Cam (a peripatetic speedboat racer), Phillip (an advertising executive), and Ethan (a commercial fisherman) are forced to move back into the house in which they grew up. I’ll dump the bodies in the mall parking lot and drive to Mexico. S The first time she read it, Wendell wrote, she laughed so hard that she fell out of her beach chair. Robb, also writes futuristic police procedurals, has written a hundred and eighty-two novels, in addition to short stories and novellas.

Roberts has never depicted a male virgin—at least not that she can remember—or an abortion, but Parker Brown, the heroine of “Happy Ever After,” which will come out next year, is a wedding planner, “of the Connecticut Browns,” and her love interest is a mechanic. Robb in 1995, as a way to capitalize upon Roberts’s rate of production.

Roberts’s predominance is a feat of marketing as much as of style. And I said, ‘Well, she’s not Mickey Mouse yet.’ “ The parties compromised on a book every six months, a publishing schedule that they have adhered to since. The effect of the ploy was not only to turn up the pace of the treadmill for the publishing industry but also to conjoin the genres of romance and crime, along with their readerships.

Together, they drive to the mall to get some shoes for Seth: : Cut it out! I’ll learn how to weave mats and sell them on the beach at Cozumel. One reader, a court reporter, confessed that she planned to “feign sickness for the next three to six days so I can lay in bed and reread all my NR yet again.” As a Quinn brother might say, it had better be one hell of a cold. In a typical year, she publishes five “new Noras”: two installments of a paperback original trilogy; two J. Robb books; and, each summer, what her editor, Leslie Gelbman, refers to as the “big Nora”—a hardcover stand-alone romance novel.

Cut it out right now or I swear I’m going to pull over and knock your heads together. To keep track of Roberts’s output, Amy Berkower, her agent, maintains a dry-erase board in her office, along with a running catalogue of factoids.

“The classic British romances focussed on the war between the sexes,” Isabel Swift, who edited Roberts for years at Harlequin, said.