Almost 400 bookstores plan to participate in Bookstore Romance Day, a combination of virtual programming and national in-store events on August 20. BRD founder Billie Bloebaum says that’s up from around 160 in 2019, the event’s first year.

Bloebaum established BRD after a genre-focused Winter Institute panel led to conversations among independent booksellers who felt romance was stigmatized as non-literary. Bloebaum recalls friends asking her, “Why should romance readers support independent bookstores when independent bookstores don’t support them?”

Several booksellers echoed that sentiment. At the Neverending Bookshop in Edmonds, Wash., owner Annie Carl believes romance has a reputation as “shameful or guilty reading. People can call it book candy, but in the middle of strife, it’s comforting to remember that this book is going to have an HEA,” a happily-ever-after. Carl runs “a feminist, activist, genre-specific store, and romance is one of my top sellers” because it is “inclusive of diverse identities.”

Bookstore Romance Day’s true believers want to introduce audiences—and especially independent bookstores—to romance’s charms. Bloebaum worked with Sarah High, senior partnerships manager at, to create a BRD-specific Bookshop site with links to participating bookstores and curated lists spotlighting themes and identities, including BIPOC, queer, and faith-centered romances.

Atria Books, St. Martin’s Press, and Avon promise BRD gift cards, and Sourcebooks will give away two BRD prize packs with a $250 bookstore gift card and a Kate Spade tote. Readers become eligible for swag if, on August 20, they share a romance-novel photo to #IndiesLoveRomance while tagging their favorite independent bookstore and Bookstore Romance Day.

Virtual and live events kick off Friday night at Love’s Sweet Arrow: A Romance Bookstore in Tinley Park, Ill., where Fated Mates romance podcast hosts Jen Prokop and Sarah MacLean speak with Christopher Rice and the author duo known as Christina Lauren. “Every day is Bookstore Romance Day at Love’s Sweet Arrow,” jokes Roseann Backlin, who opened the shop three years ago with her daughter Marissa Backlin. Favorite hand-sells include Michigan writer Beverly Jenkins, who writes historical fiction with Black protagonists, and Sonali Dev, known for Indian American retellings of Jane Austen novels.

Coincidentally, the Astoria Bookshop in Queens celebrates its ninth store anniversary on the same day as BRD, and its Valentine’s Day in August involves treats, family crafts, and giveaways of recent romance galleys. “We are queer-woman-owned, and our staff reads a lot of queer romance. We try not to be genre elitists!” said events coordinator Laura Torlaschi, who favors “anything by Ali Hazelwood; academic friends-to-lovers stories are my favorite.”

At Ballast Book Company in Bremerton, Wash., bookseller Miracle Hein curated a list of LGBTQ romance fiction. “I chose books I wished I had access to growing up in my tiny midwestern town where no one was allowed to be queer,” Hein said. “Some of my favorites include Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun, and All That's Left in the World by Erik J. Brown.” Ballast plans a tea party featuring western Washington authors Sheila Roberts and Kate Breslin.

Romance fans “are devoted and are book buyers. They love books, buy multiple copies, and are repeat customers,” said Linda McLoughlin Figal, who owns {pages} in Manhattan Beach, Calif. Her romance inventory has grown from a few shelves to its own section over the past three years, catering to customers who seek “lighter, happier, more comfortable reads.”

For BRD, {pages} will offer a photo booth, a conversation between author Jayci Lee (Booked on a Feeling) and Bookstagrammer Lacey Thach, and an event with author Bridget Morrissey (A Thousand Miles). “We are lucky in that we have a courtyard” for outdoor events, said Figel. Similarly, Inklings Bookshop in Yakima, Wash., will bring no fewer than 17 Pacific Northwest authors to its outdoor space, among them Dark Olympus series author Katee Robert and The Beginning of Forever novelist A. E. Valdez.

Part of romances’ popcorn appeal may be that “so many are paperback originals,” Figel said. Paul Swydan of the Silver Unicorn Bookstore in Acton, Mass., agrees. He suspects romance got a boost “when publishers realized customers would pay $16.99 for a [romance novel] rather than $7.99 for a mass-market paperback.” Romance is both sweet and habit-forming. And although some bookstores experience a lull in mid-August, Swydan likes BRD’s timing: “At this time of year, if you're going to the Cape or the Jersey Shore, this is what you want to be reading.”