The Seduction of Romance Novels in 2023 (2023)

Sexy romance books are ubiquitous on TikTok, leading to a surge in demand for such tasty reads. That's why so many women are getting their hands on them right now.

About a year and a half into the pandemic, Karen Whaley, a 39-year-old mother of two, picked up a thrilling romance novel and flipped through more than 300 pages in one night. It was an unusual experience for her.

Whaley was caught in an all-too-familiar cycle: "I've been rolling in the sinking," she says. "Also, I completely lost the ability to focus on anything - I don't read or watch TV. I can't even get myself started." But after hearinghate gamePodcast by Sally Thorne, Whaley downloaded the eBook because he was intrigued by the workplace drama's plot -- and couldn't put it down. The sudden desire to read surprised her—she had never been interested in romance novels. In fact, she considers herself "too good" for the type. but when readinghate gameWhaley found it interesting to delve into the lives of women very different from her own. After finishing the book, Whaley wrote 20 more romance novels in three months. "It made me start reading other types of work. Somehow, I was able to focus again."

As it turns out, a lot of people have been enjoying hot romance novels during the pandemic. Canadian romance novel sales grow44%Increased from June 2020 to June 2021, thanks in part to TikTok. Trending hashtags in the first few months of 2023#BookTok, where readers share their recommendations and reviews, has been viewed more than 115 billion times. Most of the videos on #BookTok feature readers lyricizing the novel, often getting emotional in the process. The cordial and honest tone of the video encouraged viewers to buy the book and resulted in a significant increase in sales.

It's word of mouth on a hundred levels: viral videos can drive millions of views and sales. Rania Husseini, senior vice president of printing at Indigo, Canada's largest bookstore, said the chain has seen "a surge in demand for books thanks to BookTok." Picking Spicy BookTok, an online community for erotic romance novels, "has gained a lot of traction, especially in the past two years," Husseini noted. Total book sales in the Spicy BookTok category on Indigo will increase by 3,104% from 2020 to 2022. Despite the funky covers, the books aren't all that different from the corset-rippers of yesteryear (you know, the one with Fabio on the cover). They're still romance novels with a fairly predictable storyline, in which two people (usually a man and a woman) fall in love and have outrageous sex. Plus, the tropes that are common in BookTok favorites — like hating the lover or second-chance romance — are the same harlequin romances and rom-coms that were so popular during the birth of those genres.

Jenny Pool, Ownerforever happy book- The only online bookstore in Canada that specializes in romance novels - I have heard from many readers that they have turned to romance novels in recent years because books provide an outlet. Poole says it's the emotional interaction of a couple that draws people in, not some complex plot. "It's not about the goal, it's about what happens at the end of the book. It's the journey that two or more characters take—that's what we care about, and that's the best part of romance. It's about exploration Different dynamics."

But sexy content is also attractive. Hanna Wheeler, a 41-year-old Toronto-based author and translator, said it was other people's desire to draw her to the books. "Having these really open conversations about sex and attraction is inspiring," she says. The sexual content gives her the tools to initiate conversations about sex and relationships in her own life—especially in books where characters take a lighthearted approach to their love lives.

In addition to escapism, readers can be drawn to romance novels, says Jan Cioe, a registered psychologist and associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia. For some, these books can "open you up to something new and different," he explained. He agrees with Wheeler that bold reading can be a source of inspiration. “Typically, most women—but certainly not all—need some kind of nurturing about [sexuality],” Cioe said, “which can happen in the context of reading these novels because they generate sexual arousal, and then It will show in you" physical contact. "

(related:Are your sexual fantasies normal?)

However, Cioe points out that problems arise when readers take the content of their favorite novels as reality. Some BookTok bestsellers like Colleen Hoover'send with us, depicting rough and violent sexual encounters and toxic (mostly male) love interests, which some critics say can romanticize unhealthy relationships. Rough sex isn't negative in itself, but it shouldn't be idealized or portrayed as the best or only kind of sex, and agreeing to express it is key (which is glossed over in many books). "Unfortunately, in our culture, women are under pressure to appease their partners," Cioe said. A lot of romance novels are written by women with female pleasure in mind, but they are written to entertain rather than educate. Mistaking the sometimes extreme sexual content in a book for what you or your partner desires in real life can lead to unhealthy relationship dynamics. To prevent this, it's important to know your comfort zone. "The best sexual encounters are based on clear lines of communication," says Cioe.

These reads, Poole notes, give people a chance to safely explore a situation—whether it's an exciting love story or a short romance. "And you know it's going to be okay in the end. It's a relief that you can really enjoy the character's journey," she said. "You knew there was going to be a happy ending."

The Seduction of Romance Novels in 2023 (1)Image: Christie Vuong

it's hot in here

Find your happy ending with these top titles on #BookTok - all available at Indigo or your favorite independent bookstoreforever happy book.

quotientby Helen Wong
This debut novel is about Stella, a math whiz who dates far fewer times than the average 30-something. She hired a male companion who practiced everything from kissing to more than just missionary poses.22 $,

neon lightsby Katie Robert
Inspired by Greek mythology, Neon Gods is a fast-paced modern adaptation of the story of Persephone and Hades.23 $,

Live Your Life, Chloe Brownby Talia Hibbert
British author Talia Hibbert's novel is about a woman who grows tired of being "bored" - so she enlists her neighbors to help her experience things like drunkenness and casual sex.$21,

Buchley Barbervon emily henry
From a popular BookTok author, this novel tells the story of a sordid relationship between a murderous New York literary agent and a brooding book publisher.$23,

love and other wordsby Christina Lauren
This sweltering read follows a stubborn resident who believes her path in life is set—until she meets her first (and only) love.$23,

happened one summerby Tessa Bailey
This heartwarming read follows a stylish It girl who is suddenly sent away for the summer to run her late father's bar in rainy Washington state. She soon meets the bearded Captain Brendan, her rival, with whom she shares a fiery bond.20 dollars,

winnipeg wall and meVon Mariana Zapata
After a famous football player's assistant housekeeper quits, she's shocked when he begs her to come back...and do something unthinkable.$25,

hate gameSally Thorne
Tensions boil over as two assistants to the co-CEOs, Lucy and Joshua, want to pursue the same promotion.20 dollars,

twisted gameAnna Huang
The second book in the Twisted series follows the forbidden (and fiery) relationship between a stoic bodyguard and a wayward princess.$27,

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