Romance books are in the air, and not just because we are heading into our Valentine’s Day month of February! This has been a publishing phenomenon for decades.
And according to sales data and industry experts, it isn’t ending anytime soon. A 2018 study revealed that romance novels accounted for 25% of all books sold and 50% of mass-market books sold, making it the most popular genre of book. But those sales figures have steadily grown since 2020. While enjoying a long history of popularity and success, the genre has become an even stronger presence over the past few years.
An avalanche of romance books has been released by all the big publishing houses. The days of the mass market bodice-rippers are now a thing of the past. This resurgence is aimed at a younger, hipper market with much more modern themes and diversity. Protagonists in today’s romance novels are LGBTQ, African American, Asian American, and working women. They include paranormal romances, with a smattering of Victorian novels and some emerging erotica. Why the uptick? We can credit BookTok, Colleen Hoover, and the pandemic, which gave many people more time to read. We found that more and more readers turned to romance as an escape and the happy ending was, and continues to be, incredibly comforting during hard times.
At Gramercy Books we saw the thirst for romance accidentally when I scheduled to host two local romance authors, Jen Devon (Bend Toward The Sun) and Kerry Winfrey (Just Another Love Song) in the summer of 2022. The evening was pegged: “Two Authors. Two Love Stories. One Night.” We filled almost every seat and sold a lot of romance books. Most of those attending had never been to Gramercy Books, and their favorite reading selections were romance novels. Bookseller and co-manager Nikki Snyder approached me immediately after the event and asked if we might start a book club for romance readers, alongside our more traditional book club featuring literary and popular fiction. For that next year, we offered quarterly gatherings for romance book lovers to discuss a current romance novel, moderated by Nikki and fellow bookseller Katie Cerqua. Says Nikki: “We have built a strong community of women (and even some romance-loving gents!) that look forward to each meeting for weeks beforehand. They come early for our social hour (graciously hosted by Kittie’s) and stay long after our discussion has wrapped, browsing the Romance section and chatting happily with new friends. They’ve chosen to come to our book club on perfect summer evenings, yes, but even more telling is when they braved a wild January rainstorm to be with us!” Gramercy Book now has book clubs for romance readers bi-monthly, and they are fully registered well in advance every single time. “With the rise of BookTok and Bookstagram, people are realizing there’s no shame in loving love!” Nikki adds.
Gramercy’s Romance Book Club gatherings are full of loud laughter, excited interjections, and always hilarious commentary on the genre. Nikki says there are normal book club questions, such as “What did you think of the relationship between our heroine and her mother?” but also questions that only Romance Book Clubbers can enjoy, such as, “Is a sunflower tattoo on a man hot or not?” or “Am I the only one who pictured Jeremy Allen White when they described him?” At the end of every book club, Nikki and Katie do dramatic synopsis readings of three upcoming new releases, and each clubber votes for their favorite.
Upcoming, Gramercy Books will celebrate Valentine’s Day featuring Jason Dutton’s charming debut romance, How to Dance, where opposites attract and sparks fly, as a passionate dancer and a ladies’ man who’s given up on love fall for each other—one tango at a time. Jason will be in conversation with romance novelist Jen Devon. Jen has a new novel coming out on June 18, Right Where We Left Us, a searing and unforgettable romance where once-in-a-lifetime love demands one last chance to finally get it right. We will host Jen back in the store this summer to learn more about it!
The latest romance releases, typically paperbacks, include:
- Midnight Ruin by Katee Robert
- All Rhodes Lead Here by Mariana Zapata
- Love, Naturally by Sophie Sullivan
- House of Flame and Shadow by Sarah J. Maas (hardcover)
Current Indie Bestsellers (all paperback unless stated) are:
- Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros (hardcover)
- Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros (hardcover)
- A Court to Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
- A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
- A Court of Wings and Ruins by Sarah J. Maas
- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
During the week of Valentine’s Day, we’ll be bringing back our very popular “Blind Date with a Book!” If you are interested in attending a Romance Book Club, follow Gramercy Books on Eventbrite so you are notified as soon as the new book club opens. They fill up quickly!
Written by Linda Kass
About the author: I began my career as a magazine writer and correspondent for regional and national publications and am now an assistant editor for Narrative, an online literary magazine. My debut novel, Tasa’s Song, was inspired by my mother’s early life in eastern Poland during the Second World War. My second historical novel, A Ritchie Boy, was inspired by my immigrant father's role as a military intelligence office in World War II. My third novel, Bessie, a fictional portrait of Bess Myerson's early life, was released in September of 2023. I am also the proud owner of Gramercy Books, serving all of central Ohio!
Learn more about me on my personal website.