Feb 4, 2024 - Things to Do

Bookstores and reading clubs for D.C.'s romance fans

Romance books and cards at East City Bookshop

East City Bookshop's romance and card collection. Photo: courtesy of East City

Dating in D.C. may be notoriously grim, but it's a sweet place for romance fans.

Why it matters: Romance book fan clubs are growing nationwide, and there are more opportunities than ever to connect over the trending genre.

What they're saying: "I think the genre is growing up. It's a lot less self-conscious of itself," says "Pride and Protest" author Nikki Payne. She also credits discreet Kindles and a shift away from bodice-ripper cover art.

  • "These were books that people in D.C. were embarrassed to read on the Metro on their way to their very important policy job. But now you can read the wildest, smuttiest things that you want and still look like a relatively respectable person."

Zoom in: D.C. doesn't have new dedicated romance bookshops like in other cities, but Capitol Hill's East City Bookshop hosts a wildly popular "Really Reading Romance" club run by romance enthusiasts Destinee Hodge and Elizabeth Held.

  • It meets each third Friday of the month at the indie shop, which also hosts events with local romance authors like discussions coming up on Feb. 8 and Feb. 13.
  • Payne also recommends Park Books in Severna Park, Md., run by Melody Wukitch, a "tattooed, badass woman who opened a bookstore and said, 'I'm going to change the culture, one book at time.'"

The intrigue: Washington is the setting for a bunch of recent romance novels and burgeoning authors including Devon Daniels and Thien Kim-Lam.

  • "I think D.C. is a hub for people who deeply give a f--k. It's easier to be blasé about things on the other side of the world," she says. "People who are passionate also have really passionate outlets."
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