Dec 5, 2023 - Things to Do

Tropes & Trifles: The Twin Cities gets its first bookstore fully dedicated to romance novels

The store spotlights authors with Minnesota ties. Photo: Audrey Kennedy/Axios

A new bookstore is courting Twin Cities readers who love to read about love.

What's happening: Tropes & Trifles, believed to be the metro's first brick-and-mortar shop solely dedicated to romance novels, opened in South Minneapolis in late November.

  • The light-filled 500-square-foot storefront already stocks about 1,100 copies of 900 titles, hand-curated by co-owners Lauren Richards and Caitlin O'Neil.

State of literature: Specialty bookshops focused on the genre are popping up across the country in response to growing consumer desire for romance reads.

What they're saying: "We need a place where readers and writers can find books with happy endings," said Richards, a lifelong romance reader who quit her day job as a political consultant to launch the business.

What's happening: Recent data from the consumer research firm Circana shows print sales of romance novels as of last summer were up 52% year-over-year. Industry experts say the growth is fueled in part by TV adaptations and #BookTok (readers who use TikTok to discuss books) bringing new and younger readers into the fold.

Between the pages: The genre has evolved beyond so-called "bodice-rippers" featuring a shirtless Fabio on the cover. Modern romances feature a wide range of races, sexual orientations, gender identities, and storylines.

A woamn in a purple top and grey cardigan in glasses stands next to a taller woman with a blue shirt and black sweater in front of a row of books
O'Neil and Richards met in a romance book club. About a year ago, they decided to pursue a dream of opening a brick-and-mortar shop together. Photo: Audrey Kennedy/Axios

Zoom in: That diversity is on display at Tropes & Trifles, with everything from those classic paperbacks, which are beloved by many diehard romance readers, to a series about queer werewolves who are passionate about both canoodling and destroying capitalism.

  • "As people are finding their way into the genre, they're finding that it's much wider and more varied than maybe they realized," said O'Neil, a veteran of the publishing industry. "There really is something for everyone."

Plus: The store has shelves dedicated to Minnesota authors and young adult titles that deliver the romance without the explicit scenes. Readers can leave their recommendations using cards available on-site.

What we're watching: Whether local demand can sustain a permanent storefront.

  • O'Neil and Richards are happy with the response so far, thanks in part to their current location's foot traffic and transit access.

They hope to finalize a permanent location soon, and plan to online buying options and events in the future.

Details: Tropes & Trifles, located at 2709 E. 38th Street, is open Thursday to Saturday from 11am to 6pm and on Sundays from 11am to 5pm.

Recommendations for a romance newbie

two book covers side by side
Photos: Torey Van Oot/Axios

The shop's owners are voracious romance readers β€” they met through a book club focused on the genre β€” with decidedly divergent tastes.

  • Richards prefers "chaotic and soapy" stories β€” she says she loves a historical sickbed scene β€” while O'Neil likes her picks to "feel like a warm hug."

We asked both to share a recommendation for a romance newbie:

"The Bromance Book Club" by Lyssa Kay Adams: After his wife leaves him citing a lack of satisfaction in the bedroom, a professional baseball player turns to an all-male romance book club made up of "Nashville's top alpha men." He uses the gestures and skills learned along the way to try to win her back.

  • "We love that one because it's also very 'metafictionally' aware of the genre so it's a really good introduction to the tropes," O'Neil said. "You're dissecting the romance novel with them."

"We Could Be So Good," by Cat Sebastian, follows the story of an "incredibly grumpy newspaper reporter" and the "hot mess of a publisher's son." Set in the 1950s in New York City before the famed Stonewall Riots, the same-sex historical romance explores themes of family and anxiety over living and loving openly.

  • "It goes from enemies to friends on the first page and then it's a very long slow burn, from friends to lovers," Richards said of what she called a beautifully written book.

Be smart: "Spice level" in the genre varies from explicit sex scenes that will make even the most seasoned romance reader blush, to love stories without the lust (on the page at least).

  • O'Neil and Richards say they can help guide shoppers to titles that suit their personal comfort levels.

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