Many women dream about becoming romance authors. But how about becoming romance booksellers? Meet – Bea and Leah Koch – the proud owners of The Ripped Bodice bookstore. And they LOVE what they do.
The Ripped Bodice is the only exclusively romance bookstore in the United States. Based in downtown Culver City (in the greater Los Angeles area), the store offers a wide selection of romance novels from every sub-genre. It also sells jewelry, stationery, beauty products, cute t-shirts and unique gift items.
The store is owned and operated by a dynamic sister duo – Bea and Leah Koch. The sisters have loved reading romance novels since they were teenagers and have always dreamed of opening a romance novel bookstore. Originally from Chicago, Bea went to Yale and NYU, where she wrote a graduate thesis titled, “Mending the Ripped Bodice.” Leah moved to Los Angeles to attend USC, graduating cum laude with a degree in visual and performing arts.
LP: Why did you want to open a bookstore that sells romance novels exclusively?
TRB: Quite simply, it’s what we love to read. But more seriously, we believed that it was long overdue and an important thing to bring to the romance community.
LP: When did it open and how did you get it off the ground?
TRB: We soft opened a week before March 4th, which is our official grand opening date. Our opening weekend was one long party with author signings and events – it was the perfect way to launch.
LP: Are there plans in the works to open at other locations?
TRB: Not at the moment, but we get asked all the time about expanding. We’re excited that so many readers want a Ripped Bodice in their town, but we’re focused on building the best business we can before we open another location.
LP: How has the romance community responded to your store?
TRP: The romance community has been so welcoming. We get customers from all over the world travelling to the store and it’s so exciting when they walk in and tell us they’ve come from Italy, Australia, you name it.
LP: How do you define a romance novel?
TRP: We use the Romance Writers of America definition – a central love story and a happy ending.
LP: When did you start reading romance and why do you love it so much?
TRP: We both started reading romance in our early teen years. I think for me (Bea) it was so incredible to see women’s stories and search for love centered. And I just fell in love with historical romance. I love the blend of fact and fiction and the way authors use their research to enhance their stories.
LP: What sorts of events do you hold in the store and what do you have coming up?
TRP: We have traditional author signings and readings, but we also try to offer a broad slate of events. We’ve had essential oil classes, ladies night out, and movie screenings. As I type this, we’re getting ready for our community book-club meeting, and we have an author signing this weekend with Alisha Rai, Carrie Ann Ryan and Alyssa Cole.
LP: How has business been so far and is it everything you expected and more? How are customers reacting?
TRP: It’s so much more than we expected. When someone walks in and says something like, “I’ve been waiting my whole life for a store like this” there is such a feeling of pride, but also kinship. I’ve been waiting for a store like this as well! Of course, there are customers who aren’t as familiar with romance but we love that too because it’s what we’re most passionate about and we love sharing it. We hear variations of “you guys are so enthusiastic!” pretty regularly.
LP: What is your favourite aspect of running the Ripped Bodice?
TRP: I love recommending books. I feel so lucky that I get to introduce my favorite authors to new readers, and discovering new authors through our customers is incredible.
LP: Besides books what else do you sell at your store?
TRP: We sell jewelry, candles, cards, prints, pins, bookmarks, etc. We try and merchandise beyond books in a thoughtful way. Everything fits together in some sense. We work with so many amazing female creators and makers beyond just authors.
LP: Have guys figured out that your store is a great place to meet women? Is it mostly women who shop in your store or do you get men too? Men on their own or with a spouse or girlfriend? How has the reaction been from guys who visit the Store?
TRP: We’ve had lots of gentlemen come in with romantic partners or friends. The reaction is definitely different depending on whether they know what they’re walking into. We certainly welcome men into the store but we are primarily a space for women and that will always be our first priority.
LP: Are either of you interested in writing romance novels? If so what are you working on?
TRP: Bea has always wanted to publish a romance novel (and she will one day!) but right now we are focused on the store.
LP: When boxes of books arrive – that is when your stock arrives – who gets to open the boxes first? And is there any “squeeing” involved?
TRP: There is, in general, a good amount of squeeing. It’s just such a joy to take these books out of boxes – and it wasn’t something we had really considered before opening. We were readers and fans first, so having a favorite’s new book a few days before it’s out is like having the most wonderful secret.
LP: Bonus: Who do you fangirl over?
TRP: How much time do you have? So many amazing authors, Courtney Milan, Christina Lauren, Beverly Jenkins, Lisa Kleypas and Julia Quinn to name just a few.
It’s the first book in an exciting, and romantic new series called the Auriano Curse. You will love this book as much as I do. Beautifully written and full of steamy romance, adventure, and of course a hero and heroine who are perfectly matched, MOON DARK has recently won the Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence.
What It’s About:
Lady Sabrina Dunfield is desperate. Widowed and destitute, she must rely on the dubious benevolence of her secretive uncle, an art collector living in Venice. Determined to make her way and provide for her young son, Sabrina is forced to take on clandestine and dangerous errands for her tyrannical relative. But when a mysterious shadow man saves her from an assassin’s blade, she knows she must do everything in her power to keep her son safe.
Alessandro D’Este, Prince of Auriano, is cursed. Doomed to live a life half in shadow, he is determined to free himself and his family from the evil that stalks them. When Alessandro saves the English woman’s life, he is captivated by her beauty and shocked at her ability to touch him in his shadowy form.
When Sabrina meets Alessandro in his human form, heady attraction sparks between them. She has no idea he is her shadowy savior, and she wonders what her life might be like with this charismatic man. Alessandro has never met a woman who affects him this way. Although life has taught him to trust only family, Sabrina might be the key that could deliver him from the diabolical darkness.
After the man of her dreams, Scotsman Aidan Sinclair, walks into her bread shop, The Hole in the Wall Bakery, in Providence, Rhode Island, Melina Cameron’s life takes a sharp left turn. But then Melina’s entire life veers off course when she finds her temperamental landlady in her best friend’s psychic shop next door, lying in a pool of blood, with a crust of bread sticking out of her mouth!
Which means she and her friend BettyJo are suspects in the murder. Unless, Melina takes matters into her own hands and finds the killer herself. But finding a killer is a heck of a lot tougher than baking bread!
“Trust the man who wears a flaming crown and possesses the golden touch. Beware the blacksmith.”
Cast out of Wales after her mother’s death, Keely Glendower travels to England to find her natural father, the Duke of Ludlow. She wears her magical dragon pendant and carries within her heart her mother’s prophetic words. Though there is no love lost between the Welsh and the English, Keely cannot resist the heated gaze of Richard Devereux, England’s wealthiest earl, the English queen’s “Midas”.
Despite, her eccentric ways, Richard is drawn to Keely. Just gazing at the raven-haired, violet-eyed beauty kindles a passion he’s never known. Richard is a very determined man, but when a long buried secret is revealed, can the earl use his power to protect them or will his enemies destroy them both?
Patricia Grasso is the author of eighteen historical romances including the Douglas Series which follows the love stories of the amazing Douglas sisters (Angelica, Samantha and Victoria) in Regency London and the Lords of Stratford Series, Regency historical romances with a fairy-tale twist about the aristocratic families in Stratford-on-Avon.
PAUL TALBOT, Viscount Leed, is set on avoiding the marriage trap. Though his family has money troubles he won’t marry an heiress and dance on her leading strings.
LADY MICHELLE THOMAS is a spirited heiress, piqued with the rules of Society which dictate that a woman must be seen and not heard. And if she has opinions on politics or finance? Well, she had best keep them to herself. Sparks fly when she meets Paul —she believes she’s found a man interested in more than her face, form and finances.
They wed but when Paul refuses her generous dowry she’ll do anything to see her money settled on him, even if it means going to his rival and putting more than his career in jeopardy.
READ AN EXCERPT:
“Lady Michelle,” he said again, holding his large hand out to her. “Would you do me the honor of a dance?”
She couldn’t speak as she lifted her hand to his. No sweaty palms here, just strong fingers grasping her hand as he led her out onto the floor.
The dance went on for a while, allowing time for Michelle’s nerves to steady. Earlier she’d spied him standing with the Earl of Chester, whom Michelle remembered from her visit to Kanewood. They were accompanied by two young ladies, each one prettier than the other. Lord Leed certainly seemed at ease in their company.
His smile, dazzling even from that distance, had caused her heart to seize. He wasn’t smiling now. He’d spotted her then, she knew. He’d turned his head toward her. His blue eyes had glittered as they ran over her, and her skin had flushed hot.
Yes, she’d seen the masculine interest clear in his eyes. He wasn’t so indifferent after all despite his curt nod of dismissal. It was just shy of a cut! Her skin had swiftly cooled then, and was chilled now.
He continued to say nothing to her as he expertly turned her about the room in the predetermined steps. “You are supposed to engage me in some pleasant conversation, Lord Leed.” She watched him from beneath lowered lashes. “One would think you havenothing to say.”
He arched a dark brow at her and looked straight
ahead once more. “What would you like to discuss, Lady Michelle?”
“The tuneful music, perhaps?” She stepped away and back again. “The excellent company in attendance?”
“Hmm,” was the only answer he made.
After a few more attempts to strike up a conversation she fell silent. She must have imagined the heat in his gaze. He was as cold as ice. When would this dance finally end?
At last the music ceased. She curtsied to Lord Leed and all but ran off of the dance floor. Let him wonder why she was in such a hurry. Bothersome man!
Ten years ago, Emily Miller went missing when she was only five years old. Everyone in town thought she had either drowned in the lake near her house, or had been kidnapped. Some even whispered that her father, Frank Miller was responsible.
No one suspected the old boathouse behind the Miller property, except Emily’s father. Frank Miller knew what had happened to his little girl. He knew the boathouse had her.
Ten years later, thirteen-year-old George Morgan wanders into the same boathouse and discovers a magical secret. At first he’s thrilled. He reveals his secret to his fifteen-year-old brother Eddie, thinking it will bring them closer together. After all, George and Eddie used to be best friends, before they moved to town, and before Eddie started hanging out with a bunch of older boys—the same boys who make it their mission to bully George on a daily basis. But, when Eddie tells his friends about the boathouse, everything starts to go wrong.
Suddenly the cool, magical secret of the boathouse isn’t a secret anymore, and the mysteries of the past come back to haunt them, putting their lives in great danger.
For a Short Time is about a young woman who goes through many changes in her life, including realizing whom she truly loves.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
Keri has no idea who she really is anymore.
Raised in the Midwest, where catching frogs and shoveling manure is common practice, then spending several adult years traveling the country and hob-nobbing with celebrities and the elite, Keri returns to her roots. She now lives in her sister`s basement, wondering just who she really is anymore.
After a peculiar meeting with the Quinn cousins, Keith and Jeremy, Keri is determined to capture Keith`s attention. An actor, a tall, compelling man, elusive, even abrasive at times, Keith is particularly intriguing to a woman like Keri who is accustomed to capturing the heart of any man she`s ever wanted. Yet it was Jeremy, the humble cabinet-maker and owner of a misshapen dog named Scalawag, who leaped into a bon-fire to rescue a scrap of an old coat that had sentimental value for her.
Following two episodes with the facial disorder, Bell`s Palsy, and after Jeremy has moved out of state, possibly to run from his heartbreak over her, Keri finally realizes not only who she really is─but who she needs to become.
But is it too late . . .
“It can’t be over between us, all the signs were there for you to finally be the right one for me,” Keri insisted.
“What signs?” Keith asked.
Keri stared into his shadowy face. Clinging tatters of mist drifted across it, obliterating his eyes for one moment, his mouth the next moment. The fog was cool and clammy to the skin in the dismal mist.
“The signs,” said Keri. “You know, the signs.” But, suddenly, she couldn‘t think of a one.
He turned his back on her, and began to fade away into the mist.
“Keith, come back!” Keri said. “I‘ll remember them, I know I will. It‘ll make a difference!”
But Keith continued to shrink into the fog. Soon he was only a dark patch in the distance, then that was swept away by the wisps of lonely swirling mist.
Keri was left in silence. A silent world of emptiness and chill.
“Keith . . .” she whimpered, “come back, I need you . . .” Only silence.
Keri heard her heart beating against her chest.
“Keith.” she whispered, tears trailing down her cheeks. Her knees went weak, and she sunk into the ground. “Don‘t leave me, I need you, don‘t leave me.”
“Straighten up, Keri,” came a voice behind her.
“What—who?” Keri asked, and slowly turned around. It was clearer where he stood, almost as though the sun was ready to break through the mist that was strangely falling away from him.
“Please, stand up,” Jeremy said again. Something about the tone of his voice, oddly authoritative yet gentle at the same time, made Keri gather her strength and stand.
“Come here,” Jeremy said, and held out his hand. “
Keith left me,” Keri sobbed, but found herself drawing nearer to Jeremy. He seemed spectral as she stared at his hand, his comforting hand, and it drew her closer. When she reached him, she took his hand, and he pulled her close.
A jolt of something indescribable, joy mixed with peace and an incredible calmness pulsed through her at Jeremy‘s touch. He held her hand tighter, pulled her closer, and Keri began to quiver as she found herself face to face with Jeremy, gazing into wonderful eyes radiating a calm assurance and wisdom she had never before encountered. Heat raced through her and her legs became weak.
Jeremy‘s eyes glimmered. It paralyzed her to stare into them. Those eyes seemed to search into hers, gently probing, as though trying to connect with her soul. Keri became lightheaded, intoxicated, the poison of Keith‘s rejection now drained away.
“You‘re going to be all right now,” Jeremy said, and his voice seemed to roll like thunder and yet felt like a breathy whisper at the same time. It echoed as he continued, and suddenly the fog parted and a warming blaze of sun fell across them.
“I‘ll stay with you,” said Jeremy. “You don‘t have to be afraid anymore. You can finally be yourself.”
Those words flowed through Keri in cascades of relief. Finally, finally she felt it. She couldn‘t quite grasp what it all meant, but a weight had lifted.
“Thank you, thank you, Jeremy,” Keri said, gulping in great breaths of air. “What would I do without you? You‘re the one I need, you‘re the one I was meant for all along”
At those words, Jeremy smiled. Keri‘s eyes strayed toward his lips, and lingered there. His mouth smiled, his eyes smiled, and Keri was sure his heart smiled, too.
And so did she. Keri let go of his hand, and slowly wrapped her arms around his neck. He put his arms around her shoulders and drew her tighter to him. When they fully connected, the warmth of their touch was explosive, and Keri could scarcely control herself. She closed her eyes and suddenly, tantalizingly, his lips were pressed against hers. She gasped inwardly as the warmth and movement of his kiss sent shivers down her spine and into her toes. At first Jeremy‘s kiss was sweet and gentle, but as it became more urgent, its passion leached all of the strength from Keri‘s limbs until she was practically hanging limp in his embrace.
All she could think was—how did he learn to kiss like this? Was it the way it was supposed to be when two people were genuinely . . . in love?
No—it couldn‘t be! Jeremy was just her dear friend, like a brother, really.
Yet . . .
“Aunt Keri, get up!” said a wee voice far, far away. “You promised to play opera lady with me this morning.”
“What?” Keri moaned.
There was a soft shaking on her shoulders. “Aunt Keri, Keri, get up, sleepyhead! Take the pillow off your face.”
Reality crawled back to Keri in a lazy wave. Jeremy‘s embrace vanished, and the scene dissipated into fragments as Keri awoke, reluctantly pulling herself from the dream. Only a dream.
“Jutht a minute, Kate,” Keri mumbled. “Have thum patienth.”
“What?” Katie asked. “You sound weird.”
“It‘th the pirrow on ma face,” Keri said, rising slowly as she removed the pillow. “I like ta thleep like dat.”
Keri noticed the oddity just as Katie‘s eyes bulged at her.
“What‘s wrong with your face?” Katie cried.
Keri‘s hand flew to the right side of her face, which felt heavy and numb. It seemed dragged down, contorted. She could barely see out of her right eye.
“There‘s drool coming out of your mouth, just like Rover‘s,” said Katie. “I think your pillow got too heavy! It melted your face!”
Keri tried to gasp, but her mouth would not work correctly. It seemed weights were pulling her lip down on the right side, making it lopsided.
Dear Lord . . . had she had a stroke?
She flung off her blankets, twisted to the side of her bed, and sat up. It seemed her right arm worked fine, as well as her leg. And she could think clearly. But the horrified look on her niece‘s face confirmed the frightening fact that something was drastically wrong.
Erik Knight, a small time private investigator, always knew he was different from everybody else. Keener senses, heightened awareness and an enhanced physical strength that could be called upon by his sheer will.
Erik becomes involved with a team of high profile investigators and local police trying to locate a girl who was kidnapped in the middle of a playground amongst dozens of adults and children. None of the adults saw anything and what the children claim to have seen is too far fetched to be believed. The search evolves into a full-scale manhunt into the dark and desolate woodlands of the Hopedale Mountain.
After a lethal encounter and a fatality, Erik, the investigators and police realize that what they’re dealing with isn’t a man and possibly isn’t of this world. What they’re dealing with is a sentient evil that has an appetite for young children.
“Erik!” Shanda whispered in alarm. “Something’s here, stalking the girls. I can’t see it, but I can sense it.”
Erik looked throughout the park grounds, focusing his vision, but he couldn’t see anything. Fifty yards away, the children played unaware of anything but their innocent fun. Erik walked quickly over to where the party was, Shanda following close behind him. As he closed the distance he noticed that his daughter was staring at something and pointing. Erik looked in the direction she was pointing and saw a patch of darkness. His mind shrieked with panic and he ran toward his daughter, screaming for the other girls to leave the park area. The girls looked at the direction Brianna was pointing at and froze. They were terrified, frozen into inaction.
After a quick sprint, Erik was beside his daughter. Several of the other mothers had gone to their children as they all pointed out the closing patch of darkness.
“Get your children back!” Erik commanded. “It wants your children.”
Mothers and children were panicking. Children were crying with fright as the afternoon sun seemed to dim and the temperature in the park suddenly dropped twenty degrees. Brianna hadn’t moved since Erik came by her side.
“What do you see, honey?” he whispered.
Brianna’s eyes were transfixed on the corner of the park. Her finger still pointed in that direction. “It’s a tall man, I think. I can tell that it wants me. It’s calling to me, Daddy. I’m scared. Please don’t let it take me. I can tell it wants to take me.” She screamed in mindless terror.
Erik reached behind his back and pulled his Ruger from its place of concealment. He wrapped both arms protectively around his daughter, his gun pointing in the direction of her finger.
“Bri, point me in the right direction. I won’t let it hurt you. No one is taking you anywhere.”
She gently guided his hands so that the pistol was aiming at the heart of the dark anomaly.
“Daddy,” she whispered, “it’s coming right for us.”
“Go back with Shanda and the others, now!” he told her.
“Daddy, I don’t want to leave you.”
“Go, honey! Please,” he whispered. “Shanda!” Erik shouted, breaking the eerie silence. “Take Brianna.”
Shanda came up quickly and took Brianna. “I can just barely see it, Erik; it’s just like you described. It stopped when you pulled the gun. All the children can see it, but the parents can’t. All they can see is the darkness, and they can feel the cold.”
From behind them, the ponies were shrieking in panic.
“All right, you two, get back!” Erik stood up. He holstered his weapon and began walking toward the darkness.
“I know you’re there!” Erik called out to the inky darkness. “Maybe you can hide from them, but you can’t hide from me!” Erik focused his eyes; concentrating his extra senses on the darkness as he continued forward. Slowly he saw the man-like figure materialize. The figure had stopped its approach and assumed an aggressive stance. Erik paused a scant twenty feet from it and assumed a basic combat stance he used in Kung Fu.
“You can’t have the children!” he shouted, his voice booming above the silence, challenging the being of darkness. “You can’t have my daughter or any other child here.”
The thing responded with silence. Erik finally saw the blood-red eyes looking right through him. He could feel the hatred, the sheer malevolence; yet, now he also felt desperation, a hunger that was beyond his ability to define. The hostility threatened to overwhelm him. Erik fought his own emotions, fought down his own fear and doubt. He knew he couldn’t defeat this thing physically, but he would not let it have his daughter or any other child there, not while he drew breath.