Chicago’s romance-centric bookstore gears up for Valentine’s Day

The entrance of The Last Chapter bookshop on Feb. 6, 2024, located on 2013 W. Roscoe St. Behind the brick entrance is a safe haven for all things romance.
The entrance of The Last Chapter bookshop on Feb. 6, 2024, located on 2013 W. Roscoe St. Behind the brick entrance is a safe haven for all things romance.
Hailey Bosek

In the Roscoe Village store, patrons laugh, flip pages and peruse the shelves. Hundreds of shiny red hearts dangle from the store ceiling. Pink and red balloon hearts adorn the tables and walls. A giant red and pink balloon arch covers velvet chairs and couches. Most importantly, romance books of every variety line the walls from floor to ceiling.

Skeptics may see Valentine’s Day as just another marketing sham, but for The Last Chapter Book Shop, it is the raison d’être.

“We joke that everyone’s favorite month is Christmas. But this is our Christmas — this is our favorite month of the year,” said Amanda Anderson, the store’s owner and Chicago native. She officially opened her shop after departing from corporate America with no plans — just an undeniable passion and “a lifelong dream.”

 She giggles when she adds “I’ve always joked that I was going to be the little old lady with a bookstore, selling smut in my 80s.” 

 Tired of the repetition of the corporate world, where she worked in publishing, Anderson asked herself, why wait until 80 for her dream? 

The Last Chapter started in 2021 as an online business distributing bundles of romance novels to customers. Anderson then opened the storefront at 2013 W. Roscoe St. in September 2023. It’s been providing Chicago readers with every type of romance book even the most voracious reader could conjure. LGBTQ+, BIPOC, contemporary, fantasy and sports are all featured in the shop.

Anderson said she couldn’t believe her bookstore dream would manifest just a few blocks from where she grew up. She was worried people wouldn’t understand her vision, but her grand opening last fall had people waiting in line down the block and around the corner. Some people flew in from around the country to feel the love at The Last Chapter, she said.

Six months later, the store is gearing up for Cupid’s big day. But it doesn’t end with the extravagant decorations. Book bouquet makings, author visits and rom-com screenings are all included in the V-Day plans.

“Who doesn’t just love to share love with yourself and your friends? If you don’t like Valentine’s Day, to me, you’re a hater,” Miranda DeLapa, a store cashier said. 

The Last Chapter worker Miranda DeLapa sits behind the front desk on Feb. 6, 2024, ready to attend to any questions customers have. DeLapa said this has been her favorite job. (Hailey Bosek)

When DeLapa isn’t stocking shelves and scoping out the newest books for Anderson to buy, you can find her on the floor recommending the best titles to customers. Anderson is proud of her worker’s commitment to outstanding service. 

“I think it definitely starts with our staff,” Anderson said. “if you need a lot of hand-holding, we will hold your hand. If you want more of a very quiet experience, we will also provide that.” 

Whether you would like your privacy as you pick out your next steamy adventure, or want DeLapa to let you in on the sappiest romance there is, The Last Chapter will cater to the customer.

Delcia Norwood, who recently visited the store for the first time, is an avid reader.

“I like this; this is so cute,” Norwood said, who perused the romance table set up for Black History Month. “I don’t have to sort through the aisles; it’s hard at Barnes and Noble where I have to sort through the one rack at the back.” 

Norwood, who debated getting a book she already owned because of a “much cuter” cover, pondered how much she should spend. Options like sweatshirts, candles, tote bags, stickers and other bookish merch can overwhelm even the most insatiable shopper. In the back, dressing rooms have been transformed into selfie rooms filled with Post-it notes of favorite fictional crushes. George Weasley from “Harry Potter,” Rhys from “A Court of Thorns and Roses” and Jeremiah from “The Summer I Turned Pretty” were just a few of the popular ones. 

Norwood commented on how organized and comforting the place felt. Anderson has also placed an author suggestion box, hoping customers will help lead her to queer, BIPOC and local authors that have somehow not crossed her desk. 

Friends and patrons Delcia Norwood and Uryah Oliver browse the Black romance section on Feb. 6, 2024. “Is it fiscally resposible to buy a book I already owned?” Norwood asked Oliver.
(Hailey Bosek)

Other customers, including some husbands, came to the store in search of gift cards for their wives. Others came to peruse the sweatshirts or swiftie merch. 

DeLapa recounted a sassy boyfriend or two who had whined about the selection, but said the majority of people love the shop and all it has to offer. Anderson said she has taken note of some of the recommendations from her male patrons.

Why is a niche romance store so appealing? The consensus according to workers and patrons alike was that romance is deeper than just Hallmark flirtations and sex scenes. 

“Reading romance has just made me so much more empathetic and understanding of people and the different struggles we have in life. Friendships and grief, and learning that grief and happiness can coexist are in romance.”

— Amanda Anderson, The Last Chapter Book Shop owner

Anderson made it clear. Romance is for everyone and every genre. Sci-fi fantasy worlds, historical dramas, and nonfiction can all retell the stories of love and heartbreak. That is why Anderson tries to take a piece of every type of subgenre. It is why DeLapa recommends queer novels to be placed on the shelf. It is why people from every walk of life find themselves in the Last Chapter. Norwood commented that there are deep social issues to be understood in romance.

A photo taken Feb. 4, 2024, shows one of the three photos booths in the store. This booth had sticky notes form floor to ceiling with all the patrons fictional crushes. (Hailey Bosek)

“At the core of it, we should all be readers,” Anderson said. “You wouldn’t want me to downplay what you’re reading.” 

The message Anderson always tries to send is one of acceptance. She says she never wants to “yuck anyone’s yum.” She wants romance to be taken seriously while also enjoying all the sappiness it has to offer. What better way to celebrate on the day of love?

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