From Love Antagonist to Romance Obsessed: How the Romance Genre Changed My TBR

Are you a secret fan of romance? Do you hate romance tropes but find yourself curious to read one? You have come to the right place!

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three romance book titles surrounded by hearts and flowers.

I have always considered myself the least romantic person. Ever. I hate romance; I find flowers and chocolate cringy. Personally, I think Valentine’s Day is a cash grab for couples to buy useless gifts and trinkets from gigantic corporations and leave the lonely hearts out to dry. In a nutshell, I would describe romance as silly. This was especially true for my reading and TBR collection. A few months ago, if you saw my book/TBR collection, you would find it bone dry of any sort of romance. I always loved children’s books, graphic novels, and maybe an occasional thriller or mystery. These have been my general genre collections for quite some time… until now. Come join me as I regale you with a little tale of my journey from anti-romancer to ordering over fifteen romance trope novels in a matter of days.

When was Romance so Popular?

Before I started at Bookstr, my reading list was spotless of any love triangles, enemies-to-lovers, and forbidden love tropes. But when I began my Bookstr journey, I noticed many of my coworkers were obsessed with the romance genre. From fantasy romance to high school sweethearts to pure, steamy smut, my fellow bookworms were on a whole different reading journey than I was!

Person with a thinking face on surrounded by question marks and hearts.
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For a few months, I sat back and read countless articles from other Bookstr members about their love of smut and romance. I found myself feeling curiouser and curiouser about these genres. I didn’t even realize the variety of romance books until I joined Bookstr. I did not understand that fantasy romance was entirely different from contemporary romance. That’s how lost I was in the romance world. And there are SO many tropes that I have never even heard of — secret royalty romance, opposites attract, dark secret romance. Though I was growing questions about the world of romance, I kept telling myself there was way too much to choose from; therefore, I should just pass on giving it a try. 

New Year, New Me! 

A book with two pages folded together, making a paper heart.
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 As the weeks went on and the articles kept piling in, I found myself reading snippets from other book companies on romance books I would hear about at Bookstr. To be quite honest, I felt a bit embarrassed when I would catch myself browsing any romance-related book. I felt that because I was so anti-romance, it may be hypocritical of me to nose-dive into the world of love-swooning and cliche romance tropes. I denied any sense of curiosity about reading romance until the last day of 2023. I was asked by a friend about my New Year’s resolutions. I don’t know if it was the holiday wine I was drinking or the new confidence in myself, but I instantly thought of a new reading goal for myself: follow your gut and try some romance books.

So, coming into the new year, I decided my goal would be to indulge more romance.

In all honesty, I did not start this goal of mine until the end of January. I had some previous thrillers and graphic novels I wanted to finish up, and I kept pushing off my new goal for quite some time. Was I nervous to enter this new genre of love? Or was I just not as interested as I’d hoped to be? Who knows? All I know is that the first romance book I picked up… flopped. 

The Actual Reading Experience

I hate, hate, HATE leaving a bad review on any book. I do not consider myself to be a Negative Nancy unless I absolutely have to, and for this book review, I had to. This was my own fault. I should have started this New Year’s resolution with a recommendation. Maybe I should have done more research. But at the end of January, I went to my local bookshop and picked up the first romance book that was on sale for three dollars. The book, Rescue Me, looked like every other romance book in my eyes. Cheesy cover, silly book blurb, and a cringy book title. I thought, “Just buy it and give it a shot.”

Two people connected by a dog and two separate leashes, surrounded by a blue heart.
IMAGE VIA BOOKSHOP

To be frank, this sort of romance is NOT for me. The book follows two lonely hearts and their experience of owning the same dog. The two decide to share a dog from a shelter, which soon leads to the question: Will the dog help these two fall for each other? It is a very contemporary will-they, won’t-they, romance storyline, and as someone who LOVES fiction, action, and fast pace, this book did not last long in my hands. I pushed through more than half of the book before I completely gave up. The characters were very unlikeable, and the storyline was way too slow for my reading pace. I did not, however, want to give up on my romance resolution, so I pushed as far as I could before throwing in the towel completely. 

After experiencing that novel, I crawled back to my graphic novel TBR collection to help my reading light come back on. Once Valentine’s Day rolled around, I realized that my New Year’s resolution had only a half-read book under its belt. I couldn’t let myself give up that easily just because of one bad book experience. I spoke to my romance-obsessed friend, and she gave me great insight into the romance world. You have to find the writers who speak your love language. You need to find the tropes you love. You need to find the love experience you know will strum your heartstrings. But most importantly, you need to get over the cheesy feeling. She made it clear that I would not love every romance book I picked up, and some books are just not for everyone. And if I will only be seeing these books as a cringe-read, what is the point in trying?

After this eye-opening conversation, I decided to give the romance world another try. But this time, I decided to start with something I knew I would love. I drove to the local bookshop, but this time, I went straight to the YA romance section. I knew exactly what I was going to buy: The Summer I Turned Pretty series.

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han Changed my Life Twice!

For some reason, this book series was one of the only romance books I LOVED as a teen. I remember when I was eleven or twelve, I went to my local library in hopes of finding a new series to read for the summer. One of the librarians recommended The Summer I Turned Pretty, and I remembered her so clearly saying how it would be perfect for the summertime. Boy, was she right. That book series took over my life. I had the entire series checked out any chance I could. I couldn’t get enough of Belly and her insane love triangle with the Fisher boys. I loved every character and all their changes, tropes, and dynamics. I felt like I was there, experiencing the storyline myself. Then one day, I stopped rereading it.

Various seashells scattered and surrounding the words "The Summer I Turned Pretty."

 I began to feel self-conscious about reading a romance book, especially a book with a title like The Summer I Turned Pretty. It sounded cheesy and cringy, and my love for the book series dwindled, but we will get to that later. The main point is I grew out of the series and found myself falling for graphic novels and illustrations.

It has been years since I read that series, so I thought, “why not start there?” It would be the perfect warm-up for re-entering the world of romance. I managed to find the entire collection in one big book, so I picked it up and brought it home. This was the best decision I could have possibly made. 

I ate that series up in under two weeks. It was amazing, like I was re-experiencing the book all over again. I remembered almost nothing from the book, so it was like I was taking it all in again for the first time. It took me a few pages to get into it, but once I got to the second chapter, it was like I was falling in love once more. The only problem was… I found myself only reading it in my room. I felt weird reading the book out in public, like everybody’s eyes were on me and judging my book of choice. So, I kept it to myself in the safety of my home.

I finished the series so quickly, it was like I blinked, and it was over. After I finished, I knew it was that feeling I was looking for. I wanted to find books that were so addictive to read they felt like they would be over in a matter of seconds. I knew after finishing this series that I was destined to fall into the world of romance; I just had to find a series with a similar feel.

Heartstopper Stopping my Own Heart

I decided to bring my favorite genre together with my least favorite, and so I was on the hunt for the perfect graphic novel romance. I heard a lot about the popular series, Heartstopper, years ago. The plot follows two boys in high school and their path to finding each other. The book greatly captures the beauty and struggles of being a part of the LGBTQ+ community, especially at a young age.

two students stand facing away from the reader, with leaves falling around them.
IMAGE VIA BOOKSHOP

I loved the TV show when it originally came out because it was such a heartwarming and cutesy romance with a serious, life-changing storyline. I watched a bit of the first season, but I never finished it, so I thought, why not give the book a chance? WOW. Such an incredible story. The characters were so detailed, and I absolutely loved the two love birds, Charlie and Nick. Something about this series had me wrapped in a warm blanket with a cup of comfort. 

I was so content with this series that I devoured the first book in a matter of hours. I started to read it digitally since I was zooming through the story, and I felt nervous to show off my book in public. 

It was so heartwarming and comforting, and I fell in love with the entire story. After enjoying this series for a week or two, I decided, “Why not try another romance series while I read this one?” Little did I know what my future held because my next pick of choice was the A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

How Sarah J. Maas Altered my Entire Meaning of Life

To be quite honest, I had never heard of Sarah J. Maas or any of her series until I joined Bookstr. I rarely read fantasy, and you already know about my relationship with romance, so Maas was never on my radar until I started looking for another romance to dip my toes in.

I knew I had to be careful with my next book of choice, so I decided the best way to find the right book was to talk to the book community. Every bookshop I checked out, every bookseller and librarian I chatted with, everyone kept pushing me to try one of Maas’s series. So, I caved and bought her A Court of Thorns and Roses novel. The book follows a human girl and the consequences of her shooting a wild wolf in the forest.

A wounded wolf with an arrow shot in its neck.

At first glance, it didn’t seem like my cup of tea. I noticed many of the reviews described it as “Daring, sexy, luscious…” — three of my least favorite words! I honestly had small hopes for this series. I had never gotten close to reading a sexy book until I read this one, so I really did not know what my reaction would be. 

Oh. my. God. 

I could talk about this series for hours. I can’t get enough. I seriously have never been this obsessed with a book series in my life. I read the first book in a week. I loved it so much that I realized I had to slow my pace to enjoy the storyline more. As soon as I finished the first book, I went out and bought the remaining series. I cannot even put into words how much the second book changed my life. I could not believe the sudden change in character and the surprising twists Maas had in store for me. I finished that book way quicker than I should have, but it was one life-changing experience because all I wanted was MORE ROMANCE.

I am currently on the third book, and I have to limit my reading times every day, so I don’t ruin the book’s sweetness. The previous books I read for my resolution may have been page-turners, but this series has kind of changed me for the better. This book was the turning point for me. Now, I can’t stop reading romance content. Some other honorable mentions I have consumed in the last few months are These Hallow Vows, Throne of Glass series (So far just the first book), Pride and Prejudice, and The Selection.

 Though I could go on for hours on how every one of these books has impacted me differently, I must keep myself from writing a whole novel myself! I have ordered countless other romances, and I am patiently waiting for every one of those to show up. I am most looking forward to Zodiac Academy and Once Upon a Broken Heart, though I have about eleven other books coming in too!

I love reading blogs on upcoming romance books and previously released series. But most importantly, I started reading my books outside of my room. I brought them on the train for my commutes, and I’d bring any of my current reads to the shop, to the beach, anywhere that I could possibly ingest a chapter or two. I went from contemplating my likeness for romance to ordering about fifteen books moments after I finished A Court of Thorns and Roses. So, what happened? Let me explain.

What’s so Wrong with Romance?

A stack of various books with six red hearts placed on top of the books.
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I have always felt cheesy reading romance, especially when I was younger. I almost felt ashamed for liking romance books. But why? I remember when I was young and I first read The Summer I Turned Pretty series. I had brought the second book, It’s Not Summer Without You, on the school bus. As I was reading, a boy in my grade noticed the book’s title and began teasing me about the book’s silly name. I never thought of the book as being silly until he pointed out the title. 

Though I loved reading this series with all my heart, I suddenly felt this embarrassment that I shouldn’t be enjoying a book with a fictional romance and a ‘silly’ title like that. This was definitely a setting stone for my hatred of romance books. If he thought the book was silly, then maybe everyone else did to. And it must be weird that I enjoy it. Why am I reading this series anyway? Do I even like it? 

Thus began my disfavor of anti-romance. I denied any liking to the idea of love tropes and dramas, and it all started when one silly boy on my silly school bus told my silly mind that my romance was… silly. 

I started to take in every comment any person would make about any romance book I read. Though I love my sisters dearly, their slick and joking criticisms of my tween romance books did affect my little tween head. Why don’t they think it is cool like I do? Is it me? Am I weird for wanting to read a book with lovey-dovey content? Some of my school friends would giggle at my reading list. Maybe I should think it is funny too.

So, what has changed? Now that I am in my twenties, I have begun my journey of having less doubt about my interests and more passion for myself. Why must I deny my love of romance? For a community of people who may find books on love odd. To be frank, who cares about their opinions? What matters is that I LOVE it, and the best way to mesh my love of romance is by surrounding myself with peers and pals who not only encourage my love of romance but might like it more than me! I went from refusing to read any sort of romance for YEARS to reading them in my bedroom in my own comfort and slowly feeling comfortable enough to read my romance collection in public. This may sound silly, but I consider myself one silly person with a very silly romance collection! 

Bloomed flower sitting on top of an opened chapter book.
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This was one of the best pieces of the Bookstr puzzle, and joining this team of book lovers. I have never actually felt comfortable enough to share my opinions on books with other people (anxiety queen!), but being able to share my love of these books with people who love them too is, in one word: beautiful. So, I want to thank all my fellow romance lovers (especially the Bookstr team) for helping me rekindle my love of romance and opening me to a whole new world of books that I never imagined I’d love. I wanted to write this article to help encourage all you secret lovers of romance, or pretty much any genre you might struggle to admit that you love. Who cares what you love? All that matters is you and your perfect collection of dream books. 

I love my reading time. I absolutely love the feeling and entering my own little realm of adventure and excitement…especially when I find a book I fall head over heels for. So please take my advice when I say, read what you love. If a book is catching your eye or there is a genre you avoid, give it a chance. And please, don’t avoid something you secretly love just because you are fearful of someone else may not like it.

I spent years avoiding the whole romance life solely because of what others might think of me…but why even care when they aren’t the one reading? Though I love reading with all my heart, I have never felt this excited before about my TBR collection…and I cannot wait to continue my romantic adventures with my endless future reads! I might hate a few, or I might obsess over every single one of them. Hate me if you will, but I will never stop my love for the romance genre (even if I still find flowers and chocolates a bit cheesy)!

I can finally say, after five months since I made my resolution, I am a sucker for romance! 


Are you a secret fan of romance? Check out more articles on romance here!

Check out Bookstr’s Bookshop for some heartwarming romance recommendations!

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