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Romance-Only Bookstores Are on the Rise: All About the Stores and Why Readers Love Them

Plus, why best-selling authors like Tessa Bailey are sick of people not taking the romance genre seriously

Romance readers are certainly taking the book world by storm. Not only is the genre currently sweeping best-seller lists, but it was also the top-selling genre of 2023, earning over $1.44 billion in sales. Because of this, independent booksellers across the country have opened romance-only bookstores. To find out where they are and why they are on the rise, keep reading.

What is a romance-only bookstore?

A romance-only bookstore is exactly as it sounds. It is an independent bookstore that primarily sells romance books. This shift in the book-selling world comes as quite a surprise, though, since despite the genre’s smashing success, many people still don’t respect it as much as say mystery or nonfiction . So, by opening romance-only bookstores, publishers and readers are forced to realize that romance books are important and here to stay.

Why romance-only bookstores are breaking barriers

Most of these stores have pink-painted walls, with hearts and flowers lining adorning the space. They also often have massive LGBTQIA+ sections, showing customers that love is love, no matter who you’re with. Romance-only bookstores also tend to feature more independently published authors, dark romances, supernatural stories and romantasy books that most mainstream bookstores don’t carry.

These bookstores also have large merchandise sections filled with candles scented like popular book boyfriends, stickers, tote bags and even playing cards.

The Ripped Bodice in Brooklyn, New York
The Ripped Bodice in Brooklyn, New York The Ripped Bodice/Instagram

All of these elements blend together and make the magic and mystique that allows readers to feel as though they have finally found a place where they can be themselves without feeling ashamed.

“You can go into a romance store, and the bookseller is like, ‘Do you like spice? Do you like historical?’” romance publishing manager Jane Nutter noted about the rise in romance-only bookstores. “They’re going to know what you want, and they’re not going to judge you for it.”

The rise of romance as a book genre

Book lovers, and those firmly on #BookTok, know that romance as a genre has seen an increase in attention and support in recent months. Genre duo Christina Lauren noted that in an increasingly stressful world, romance novels allow readers to leave their stresses behind and indulge in uplifting stories.

“I think that’s something we want to make sure we’re talking about. Why are we giving more intellectual weight to stories of suffering when stories of joy and celebration and community are just as valuable?” Christina Lauren pondered. “Sometimes there’s this discussion where people will be like ‘Oh, romance doesn’t have to have a happily ever after.’ And we are like, ‘No it does. I mean, yeah, it can be fluffy and fun and silly, but the reasons we can tackle so many serious life subjects within romance is because we do all this — we show the reader we can do hard things while also promising the reader they’re going to be safe in their happily ever after.”

Tessa Bailey, the author behind a number of best-selling novels, gave more insight into why sales are spiking.

“In recent years, the genre took a massive leap during a time where we were desperately in need of escapism,” she explained. “Romance is important to a lot of people and that’s because you can depend on it 100% of the time. No matter what journey you go on throughout the book, whether it’s sad or even devastating, you have this trust and this knowledge that you’re going to have a safe landing.”

She further noted that romance novels rarely let the reader down, saving them from feeling “gutted” after putting the book down.

Book page decorate to heart shape with celebration bokeh light for love and romance of valentines day concept

Where are the romance-only bookstores?

Currently, there are over 20 romance-only bookstores across the United States, which is a massive jump from 2020 when there were only two.

Stores that may be recognizable to romance fans are Tropes & Trifles in Minneapolis, Minnesota and The Ripped Bodice in Culver City, California and Brooklyn, New York. Others include Meet Cute Romance Bookshop in San Diego, California, The Last Chapter Book Shop in Chicago, Illinois, and Steamy Lit Bookstore in Deerfield Beach, Florida.

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