Romance lovers everywhere have heard of The Ripped Bodice, the romance-only bookstore in Crescent City, California. After years and years of facing judgement in bookstores around the world there is now a safe space for us to call our own! For those of us in the Midwest it's a bit of a trip, but now us landlocked folks have our own place to get our romance-fix: Love's Sweet Arrow.
Love's Sweet Arrow is a mother-daughter owned romance-only bookstore, located right outside Chicago, that sells new and used books and hosts a multitude of events ranging from live podcasts to author release parties to book clubs and more.
We could all buy our romance novels from Amazon, sure, but why would we when we can give our money directly to an amazing small business run by fellow romance readers? As a Chicago-living romance reader I felt it was by duty to use my platform to bring awareness to some an amazing duo, Roseann and Marissa, who dared to turn their dream into a reality.
So, please enjoy the interview and information on how to support them during this difficult period of self-isolation!
Romantically Inclined Reviews: You don't open a romance-only bookstore without being fans of the genre, so how long have you two been romance readers? What do you love about the community? And, the question I'm sure you two get a lot: Can you each name a romance novel coming out soon that you're most excited about?
Roseann: I have been a romance reader for as long as I can remember. My mom read them, my sisters read them, hence so do I. I am really looking forward to The Rakess by Scarlett Peckham. We just got a copy and I read it and enjoyed it.
Marissa: I read my first romance novel at 12 and I'm 31 now, so quite a while! I love how supportive the romance community can be and I see authors cheering each other on and raving over each other's books. It reminds you that romance writers are also romance readers. I find books all the time to read because someone has raved about it. One of the romances I am most looking forward to is Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: I, also, started reading around the age of 12! How did the idea of running a romance-only bookstore first come up between the two of you? How long from the blossoming of the idea to actually opening up the store? And how did you two decide on the name Love's Sweet Arrow?
Marissa: We were daydreaming about two years ago what we would do if we won the lottery (which was millions of dollars the whole summer) and one of the things we talked about was opening a romance bookstore. Obviously, we did not win, but we decided to go for it anyway! It took about a year from the idea to the grand opening, a very busy year! We spent quite a while brainstorming a name and had a dry erase board filled with names. With Love's Sweet Arrow, we happened upon it while I was googling love words one day. It stuck around in our brain and we liked it and went with it.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: I can't even fathom the difficult of starting a small business from scratch. What sort of research did you have to do prior to opening? Did you ever have any doubts that you'd be able to bring your dream to fruition?
Marissa: We tried expanding out knowledge of romance authors, especially independent authors and how to access their books for the store. We also researched the major publishers of romance and, honestly, how to run a business. Roseann had experience. She and my father ran a small business when I was little, but I had to learn. With regards to doubt, we had them. Especially after the Kickstarter failed. But we worked our plan and found a smaller space and used other options for funding, like our Patreon.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: After all the hard work you two put in, how amazing was that first day and how was the support from the romance community? Do you have a favorite memory since the opening you'd like to share?
Roseann: The first day we were open was amazing! The support from local romance writers and people who had been following us on social media, friends, family... we were floating high! Meeting authors whose books we have been reading and getting to know them, and making friendships has been my favorite thing!
Romantically Inclined Reviews: My mom is my best friend, but I'm not certain we'd be able to run a business together and not drive one another crazy. How has your mother-daughter relationship changed since opening the store? Is it strange navigating the move from family to coworkers?
Roseann: Marissa and I have always been close, being in business together is sometimes challenging. We each bring different skills to the table, so we try to stay in our lane, and do what we are good at. We try to turn off the bookstore and do fun things as well.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: As you well know, romance readers get a lot of flack for the genre. Have you faced any difficulty being a bookstore that only sells romance novels? What would you say to those who look down on the romance genre?
Marissa: Sometimes we get people in the store who say things like, "Romance only? Why?" And we explain why romance is awesome and how its actually the backbone of the publishing industry, etc. Sometimes people come in and make fun of romance, but we politely inform them of all the wonderful things romance is and can be. Most of the time people come in and are so happy to find all of the romance. I always talk about the little older woman who came by in our first month and exclaimed that she was so happy because it was a place where she wanted to read everything! We get the occasional sneers, but those are rare, especially now since we are closed to foot traffic.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: Your store sells new and used books, as well as some autographed books, but what other products would customers find if they walked into your store?
Roseann: We have some signs and decorative wall hangings made by my sister Wendy and I have cards that I make for sale in our store.
Marissa: We also have t-shirts, tote bags, and other swag. We sell BestFriendKelly's stickers and buttons in the store as well and we are hoping to get more stickers of our own for more swag. We have soaps in the store made by Perennial Soaps and several different candle vendors (Big White Yeti Candles, Novelly Yours, Heart and Hammer). We are hoping to expand our swag and had big plans before we had to close to the public, but we are hopeful to pick up those plans in the next six months.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: I've been to a few events at your store, but for those who have yet to visit can you tell us what sort of events you hold at the bookstore and what events you have planned for the future?
Roseann: We currently have three different book clubs running at the bookstore: a paranormal book club that just started with Julie Block, the book club run by Jen Prokop (@JenReadsRomance), and the Fresh Pick 'no book' book club run by Danielle Dresser. We have author events 2-3 times a month and we hope that our summer events won't have to be cancelled, but we are working on virtual options for the events. Once we can have readers again we are hoping to have more panels as well.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: As small business owners, it must have been especially difficult to have to shut down for the state-mandated quarantine, but you've posted on social media that you're doing mystery boxes to help support the store during this time. Can you tell us more about those boxes?
Marissa: It is scary and we want to do our part to support social distancing and people staying at home, so closing to the public was a necessary decision. We are focusing on online orders to help us with our bills, as we are not likely to receive any rent relief.
The surprise boxes will remain available through through April 7th at the moment. Readers can get mini-boxes for $20 and a full-size boxes for $50. They are filled with books and other bookish items and each size can get a candle if the readers requests it. All surprise boxes and book orders will be shipped for $1 at the moment and if someone pre-orders a book that is to be released later they can still get $1 shipping in the future.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: Finally, what is your favorite part about co-owning a romance bookstore together?
Roseann: My favorite part of owning the bookstore is working with my daughter! She is a wonderful person and I am so lucky to have her in my life!
I've been to Love's Sweet Arrow a couple of times now and it is truly amazing to walk into a bookstore and know that you're not going to get judged for walking into the romance aisle (because they're all romance aisles!). It's a good feeling to go to the front of the store and ask for a recommendation and know that you're not going to be the recipient of a not-so-subtle eye roll (because Marissa and Roseann are happy to give you all their recommendations). Nothing beats walking into a bookstore that sells nothing but what you love, sold by people who share that love. It's special.
If you can afford to shop, shop from them. Support small businesses whenever possible. It's truly a gift that we are able to have two romance-only bookstores in the world. So... let's help keep them in business!
Some additional information:
To pre-order books through Love's Sweet Arrow, click here.
To check out their recommendation page, click here.
And to check out their monthly Fresh Fiction Fresh Picks, click here.