Karen Kingsbury loves bookstores. She loves the smell of ink on the page, the feel of the books, the experience of stepping into a place that feels like home. But the prolific author of myriad bestselling novels also knows that bookstores are struggling in an evolving marketplace.

“As I watched bookstores close, I began to wonder how that felt for the owners. Owning a bookstore was their dream and now they’re struggling and seeing those dreams fall apart,” says Kingsbury.

The Bridge (Simon & Schuster/Howard Books, Oct.) is Kingsbury’s tribute to bookstores and their owners, who still dream of bringing books to eager readers. While she created a fictional store in Franklin, Tenn., it was modeled on a bookstore she visited in that town while on a book tour.

Kingsbury adds her signature touch of romance to the tale of Charlie and Donna Barton’s bookstore, The Bridge. The store becomes a second home to Molly Allen and Ryan Kelly, college students whose paths diverge after two years at school, but whose futures don’t look promising until they meet once again at The Bridge, which is perilously close to closing forever.

Simon & Schuster, parent of Howard Books, is taking The Bridge deep into the general market, a plan that thrills Kingsbury. Her books have appeared repeatedly on the Publishers Weekly bestseller lists, but her primary market has been Christian readers.

“The general market wants what I do,” says Kingsbury. “I haven’t changed anything and will include a faith message. Simon & Schuster wants to introduce me to the ABA world. I pinch myself every morning; these people are passionate about books, so it’s cool that this book is about a bookstore.”

Kingsbury has signed a 10-book deal with Howard, and says, “I feel like the New York group is a family; we come together on the point that a story should change our lives and give us hope. I could not be more excited.”

Kingsbury says she’s taking her same story and same brand into the ABA market, not glossing over the faith message or pasting faith into a story. She’s delighted to include spiritual elements in these novels, as she always has.

“I come to visit and they get tears in their eyes, and this is New York,” says Kingsbury. “Simon & Schuster loves the idea of a story of redemption, but they also love my relationship with readers. Reader loyalty will stay because I’m not changing.”