Feb 9, 2024 - News

Romance lit's having a moment in Boston

Twins Hannah, left, and Lily, right, Barrett raise winge glasses as they sit in front of a table filled with various romance books. They're starting a romance-themed book pop-up.

Hannah and Lily Barrett with some of their romance book collection. Photo: Courtesy of Spencer Gurley-Green

The latest bookseller pop-up coming to the Boston area is romance-themed for people of all ages, races and backgrounds.

Why it matters: Romance is having its moment in online literary circles, thanks to "BookTok," and fans are demanding stories that defy age-old tropes and stereotypes.

What's happening: The Read My Lips booksellers host their first pop-up Saturday at Idle Hands Craft Ales in Malden.

  • The owners, sisters Lily and Hannah Barrett, say they not only carry a variety of romance subgenres but also stories whose characters come from a diverse set of backgrounds.

Zoom in: Lily and Hannah, who both work in tech, started building the business after reading "The Whispering Dark" by Kelly Andrew.

  • Like the Barrett sisters, the main character has a cochlear implant.
  • "We realized we hadn't had that experience before and realized that's probably an experience a lot of people have not had," Hannah told Axios.

Between the lines: It's not enough just to have diverse representation, Hannah and Lily say.

  • They have pored through their books analyzing the authors' background and expertise on the experiences they're describing, the plots and what stereotypes, if any, the main characters portray.

Zoom out: Indie bookstores, including those with niches like romance, are bouncing back since the pandemic. Many are promoting more diverse and inclusive selections.

  • Perhaps the best-known example is the Ripped Bodice, a woman- and queer-owned bookstore.
  • Steamy Lit Bookstore in Florida highlights women romance authors of color, as well as nonbinary and genderqueer authors.
  • Minneapolis is getting its first romance bookstore, Tropes & Trifles, later this year.

In the Boston area, new bookstores and pop-ups are also coming alive, including the Porter Square Books and East End Books in the Seaport, the fantasy-themed pop-up Side Quest Books & Games and Rozzie Bound Co-op.

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