Kiss and Tale: Collingswood to Welcome Romance Bookshop


Katie Cunningham plans to bring her love of romantic fiction to 688 Haddon Avenue before summer’s end.

By Matt Skoufalos | June 11, 2024

Kiss & Tale: A Romance Bookshop logo. Credit: Katie Cunningham.

Ever a voracious reader, Katie Cunningham confesses that she’s had her nose in romance novels “probably earlier than I should have been.”

She credits a curious mind and a love of the genre’s plot tropes with keeping her hooked.

“I love all books, but if it has romance in it, it’s going to be a better read for me,” Cunningham said.

This summer, Cunningham will parlay her interest in the genre into a retail space, opening a Collingswood storefront dedicated exclusively to the romance novel in all its forms.

“If it exists, it’s going to be in my store,” she said: “every genre and category, all romance.

“If you want to read it, I’m going to find it for you.”

The decision to try her hand as a bookseller isn’t Cunningham’s first foray into small business. Originally an entrepreneurship major in college, she graduated with a communications and marketing degree, but pivoted further into the culinary field in a down jobs market.

After perfecting a bagel recipe, Cunningham opened K & A Bagel Café in Cherry Hill together with her husband, Andrew. When the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic happened, she stepped back from the business to be a full-time mom.

Once the kids’ school schedules normalized, however, Cunningham began planning a return to the workforce around her love of reading.

“Honestly, my passion is reading and telling people about it,” she said. “No matter where I’m at in life, romance books have always been there.”

Part of the charm in the genre lies in its predictability, Cunningham said. However suspenseful the plot, it must resolve in a “happily ever after,” or it doesn’t qualify.

“You have to still achieve that,” she said. “The [romance] community goes wild when somebody tries to suggest a book with a heavily romantic plot, but the characters don’t end up together. There can be so many different ways to get to that goal.”

As subgenres of nearly any kind of literature, from fantasy and sci-fi to historical and contemporary fiction, romance novel characters, settings, and plot details can be as varied as their authors’ imaginations. Cunningham said she is immersing herself in as many as she can, the better to serve her customers.

“I delved deep into genres that weren’t really mine so that I could be a person who’s a safe spot for people to come up and ask for a recommendation,” she said.

“Sometimes you need a little drama or some dragons and aliens; I want some more action in mine,” Cunningham said. “We’re all looking for our characters to end up together.”

The romance genre is itself on the upswing, she believes, thanks to the explosion of interest in sci-fi and fantasy after the popularity of series like George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, the television adaptation of which became the HBO flagship dramatic series Game of Thrones.

The current standard-bearer in the romance genre, Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses, popularly abbreviated as ACOTAR, “really brought a lot of people out,” Cunningham said.

“You might have hidden a Fabio book in the past, but now you’re not ashamed to talk about it. ACOTAR brought a lot of romance readers out, and it shifted from there,” she said. “Fantasy romance is huge right now.

“I think it’s helping people be more open-minded and accepting of different things; showing us there’s other ways of living, other ways of romance.”

The space at 688 Haddon Avenue is cozy, and Cunningham said she intends the storefront to host reading events as well as retailing books and other merchandise. In a community that she describes as “the most charming small town in New Jersey,” Cunningham foresees Kiss and Tale as another component to its shopping district.

“They have everything for everyone,” she said. “I want to celebrate books and authors.”

Kiss and Tale: a Romance Bookshop is targeting an August 2024 opening at 688 Haddon Avenue in Collingswood. Hours of operation will vary daily Wednesday through Sunday. For more information, follow the store on social media or send an e-mail.

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