Home Bookselling Bookstore Romance Day bets on the HEA (Happily Ever After)

Bookstore Romance Day bets on the HEA (Happily Ever After)

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Nearly 400 bookstores plan to participate in Bookstore Romance Day, a combination of virtual programming and national in-store events on August 20.

Bloebaum created BRD after a genre-focused Winter Institute panel led to conversations among independent booksellers who felt romance was stigmatized as unliterary. Bloebaum remembers friends asking him, “Why should romance readers support independent bookstores when independent bookstores don’t support them?”

Several booksellers echoed this sentiment. At Neverending Bookshop in Edmonds, Washington, owner Annie Carl thinks the romance has a reputation for being “shameful or guilty reading.” People may call it a book candy, but amid the strife, it’s comforting to remember that this book is going to have a HEA, bliss forever. Carl runs “a feminist, activist, gender-specific store, and romance is one of my best sellers” because it “includes diverse identities.”

True Bookstore Romance Day supporters want to introduce the public, and independent bookstores in particular, to the charms of romance. Bloebaum worked with Sarah High, senior partnerships manager at Bookshop.org, to create a BRD-specific bookstore site with links to participating bookstores and curated listings highlighting themes and identities, including novels BIPOC, queer and religious.

Atria Books, St. Martin’s Press and Avon are promising BRD gift cards, and Sourcebooks will give away two BRD prize packs with a $250 bookstore gift card and a Kate Spade tote. Readers become eligible for the swag if, on August 20, they share a romance novel photo with #IndiesLoveRomance while tagging their favorite indie bookstore and Bookstore Romance Day.

The virtual and live events kick off Friday night at Love’s Sweet Arrow: A Romance Bookstore in Tinley Park, Illinois, where Fated Mates romance podcast hosts Jen Prokop and Sarah MacLean chat with Christopher Rice and the author duo known as by Christine Lauren. “Every day is Bookstore Romance Day at Love’s Sweet Arrow,” jokes Roseann Backlin, who opened the store three years ago with her daughter Marissa Backlin. Favorite hand-sellers include Michigan writer Beverly Jenkins, who writes historical fiction with black protagonists, and Sonali Dev, known for her Indian American tales of Jane Austen novels.

Coincidentally, the Astoria Bookstore in Queens celebrates its ninth store anniversary on the same day as BRD, and its Valentine’s Day in August involves treats, family crafts and gifts from recent romantic galleys. “We are owned by queer women and our staff read a lot of queer novels. We try not to be gender elitists! said events coordinator Laura Torlaschi, who favors “all things Ali Hazelwood; Academic stories from friends to lovers are my favorite.

At Ballast Book Company in Bremerton, Washington, bookseller Miracle Hein curated a list of LGBTQ romance novels. “I chose books that I wish I had had access to growing up in my small town in the Midwest where nobody was allowed to be queer,” Hein said. “Some of my favorites include Red, white and royal blue by Casey McQuiston, The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun, and All that’s left in the world by Erik J. Brown. Ballast hosts a tea party with Western Washington authors Sheila Roberts and Kate Breslin.

Romance fans “are devoted and deliver buyers. They love the books, buy multiple copies and are repeat customers,” said Linda McLoughlin Figal, owner of {pages} in Manhattan Beach, Calif. Its romantic inventory has grown from a few shelves to its own section over the past three years, catering to customers who seek “lighter, nicer, more comfortable reads.”

For BRD, {pages} will feature a photo booth, a conversation between author Jayci Lee (Reserved on a feeling) and Bookstagrammer Lacey Thach, and an event with author Bridget Morrissey (thousand miles). “We’re lucky to have a backyard” for outdoor events, Figel said. Likewise, Inklings Bookshop in Yakima, Wash., will bring no less than 17 Pacific Northwest authors to its outdoor space, including Dark Olympus series author Katee Robert and The beginning of eternity novelist AE Valdez.

Part of the popcorn appeal of novels may be that “many are paperback originals,” Figel said. Paul Swydan of Silver Unicorn Bookstore in Acton, Mass., agrees. He suspects the romance got a boost “when publishers realized customers would pay $16.99 for a [romance novel] rather than $7.99 for a consumer paperback. The romance is both sweet and addictive. And although some bookstores experience a lull in mid-August, Swydan appreciates BRD’s timing: “At this time of year, if you go to Cape Town or the Jersey Shore, this is what you want to read.