It’s been a long time coming, but finally romance novels have emerged from the single dusty bottom shelf of the bookstore in a blaze of glory. In fact, romance novels have their own freakin’ bookstore, thanks to Leah and Bea Koch, co-owners of The Ripped Bodice Bookstore.
Not to mention Eden Books, a one-of-a-kind online bookstore for romance, specialising in diversity. Because when an Alexa Riley book (Thick) tops Amazon – and not just the romance category, it beat out a former First Lady’s autobiography – we know that romance is coming into its own. 
Not to mention Eden Books, a one-of-a-kind online bookstore for romance, specialising in diversity. Because when an Alexa Riley book (Thick) tops Amazon – and not just the romance category, it beat out a former First Lady’s autobiography – we know that romance is coming into its own. 
Having opened in 2016, The Ripped Bodice is the only exclusively romance novel bookstore in the United States and has established itself as a fixture in the romance community, receiving the 2017 Bookseller of the Year Award from the Romance Writers of America and signing a deal in 2018 with Sony Studios to develop televisions projects based on romance novels.
Both sisters are life-long readers of romance and have created a space where no reader is judged for the bibliophilic tendencies.

“The Ripped Bodice is store for the community of intelligent and outspoken people that write, read, and love romance novels,” explains Leah.

“Despite its financial dominance [this genre accrued $1.08 billion in 2013], romance still has a less-than-ideal reputation as trashy smut,” Leah says. “However, we think that there is tremendous enjoyment and, perhaps even more importantly, actual educational value to be found in the genre.”
Bea adds, “While modern romance novels are known for their sex scenes, they also have depictions of healthy relationships, consent, and respect.”
Located in an unapologetically pink storefront in downtown Culver City, California, The Ripped Bodice’s shelves are filled with “everything from rock ‘n’ roll bad boys brought down by love, to Regency-era parties gone terribly awry,” says Bea. “If someone asks for erotica with cowboys and threesomes,” says Leah, “we’ve got suggestions!”
The girls have a “No blink” policy: readers need have no fear about asking for what they’re looking for – there’s no judgement from the sisters. Except when it comes to publishers and their lack of diversity.

“The publishing industry is not representative of the world and they need to work harder to do that,” says Leah.

“People who are not straight, white and Christian are not adequately represented in romance novels, especially those being released by major publishing houses. Publishers haven’t had the experience where a young Asian woman walks into our store and sees a cover with an Asian woman on it and freaks out.” 
It is this firsthand witnessing of readers discovering a romance that represents them specifically that encouraged the sisters to produce an annual The State of Racial Diversity in Romance Publishing Report (which you can read here).
Lack of diversity was also a factor that prompted Robyn Crawford to launch Eden Books in 2018. It is a website dedicated to providing a safe, supportive, inclusive platform, giving authors of all genders, races, ages, or sexual orientation the opportunity to promote and sell their original stories within the romance and women’s fiction genres.
Robyn was shocked and angered when Amazon banned Kristi Webster’s The Wild in August 2017; “While I understand Amazon has every right to restrict certain products, they offer a vast array of books and products marketed for adults; the decision felt hypocritical. Move forward to January and February of 2018, when more books categorized within the romance genre were banned. Some authors were accused of violating Amazon’s terms of use and their accounts closed, and readers/bloggers were struggling to have reviews posted. I was outraged and deeply saddened for the romance community,” she says.
With a belief that authors should have control over their books, their characters, their content, and their business, she developed Eden Books with the aim of creating a platform that supports authors and encourages their creativity.
“While I understand that not all stories are for all readers, I know that romance readers are smart and savvy. They are more than capable deciding which books they choose to read.”
The Eden website links authors and readers to books, friends, groups, bloggers, events, and industry professionals.
“I think it’s important for stories to accurately reflect the world around us. Our modern communities are made up of people from all walks of life, nationalities, races, religions, and sexual orientation. Romance stories are, by nature, designed to be encouraging and uplifting. As a single black woman in her forties, it’s hard for me to always identify with the 20-something, perky-boobed white heroine. I want stories that represent us all. I think as the face of the romance reader changes, thanks in large part to more blended societies and a greater willingness to learn from others, our stories have to evolve to reflect those changes. Representation is crucial,” she states. ♥

#blushmagazine #romancelandia #therippedbodice #edenbooks

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