Jun 24, 2022 - Things to Do

"Fifty Percent" podcast breaks down romance novels

Abigail Rosenthal (left) and Katey Outka co-host a new podcast, "Fifty Percent." Photo: Nicole Cobler/Axios

Katey Outka and Abigail Rosenthal have read enough romance books to understand the secret sauce that makes for a perfect love story — the characters better be kissing by the 50% mark.

The big picture: I caught up with my friends to chat about their love of the genre, which was the catalyst for a new biweekly podcast, "Fifty Percent."

  • For their first episode, Outka and Rosenthal discussed "Book Lovers" by Emily Henry — the story of Nora, an ambitious book publisher who travels to a small town with her sister but keeps running into a brooding editor from the city.
  • While reading on their Kindles, Outka and Rosenthal note each time there's some serious smooching, and they've learned it almost always happens around the halfway point.

Context: Outka, the associate director of the The Drag Audio Production House at the University of Texas, and Rosenthal, an associate editor at the Alcalde magazine, both found their way out of reading ruts with the help of romance novels.

  • They read other genres, but romance is fun, easy and "it doesn't make us less intelligent readers," Rosenthal explained.
  • "We read and write every day at our jobs," she added. "I didn't want to read something dark and serious."

Why it matters: Romance is among the most popular genres, and contemporary novels have become more inclusive, shifting the focus away from young women who are merely the conquests of men.

Of note: The marketing has changed in recent years. Book jackets of shirtless men have been replaced with colorful, Instagrammable covers.

  • And the genre is all over TikTok's "BookTok," where you can find a never-ending supply of recommendations and analysis.

What they're saying: "People are just openly sharing it," Outka said. "It's cool to see that boomerang — from we don't talk about reading it to that's all I see on my TikTok."

ğŸŽ§ The next "Fifty Percent" book club pick: "My Killer Vacation" by Tessa Bailey

💖 One Austin romance read to go: Farrah Rochon's "The Boyfriend Project"

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