BROOKLYN (PIX11) — Park Slope’s newest bookstore is an ode to the misunderstood and often overlooked literary genre: romance.

The Ripped Bodice opened its New York location in August and was met with a legion of romance lovers and book enthusiasts ready to explore a new independently owned bookstore. 

Founded by sisters Bea and Leah Koch, the two opened their first location in Culver City, California in 2016. They hope to build another “temple to romance” in Brooklyn.

“My sister and I have always been romance readers and we wanted there to be a bookstore completely devoted to the genre,” Leah Koch told PIX11 News.

The bookstore is certainly romantic.

Readers can embark on a blind date with a book, as well as purchase other goods like candles and tarot cards along with Ripped Bodice merch such as totes and t-shirts. Those in the book community can also participate in the store’s free book club. Their first meeting was a complete success.

While romance has made great strides in the past decade, Leah Koch acknowledged that the genre still has a lot of work to do. 

“We have a long, long way to go. It’s just ridiculous to think we’ve reached the pinnacle, this is the best we can do,” she said.

The name of the store comes from the term “bodice-ripping,” which has a controversial past. It means “historical or Gothic romance typically featuring scenes in which the heroine is subjected to violence,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

The phrase was born out of a specific set of sexually explicit books from the mid-70s that was not generally viewed as “good literature.”

However, the Koch sisters are reclaiming the phrase with their brick–and–mortar locations and plan to make romance accessible to more people.

“Romance can feel a little overwhelming for people. Don’t be intimidated, we can help,” Leah Koch said. “Don’t count yourself out.”

The store is shelved into several sub-genres, including contemporary romance, historical, fantasy romance, picture books, young adult, LGBTQ, and more. There’s even a non-romance section for adamant non-romance readers.

Nonetheless, for those looking for “another community, another home for romance readers, another place that they can gather,” The Ripped Bodice is the place to go.

Charline Charles is a digital journalist from Brooklyn who has covered local news along with culture and arts in the New York City area since 2019. She joined PIX11 News in 2022. See more of her work here.