Romance no longer needs to be a dirty word in the literary world with a new Illawarra club ready to celebrate the genre loud and proud.
Olyvia Ryan was sick of being ridiculed for loving to delve deep between the pages of romance novels, despite it being one of the top fiction genres in the country.
"We were always reading crime, thriller and other similar genres despite romance being the overall best-selling fiction genre," she said.
In 2023, the Nielsen BookScan Australia report showed growth in adult fiction, mostly driven by sales of romance books (up 37 per cent in the year to June 17), while international research group WordsRated found romance novels generated more than $1.44 billion in revenue worldwide (making it the highest-earning fiction genre).
And so was borne an inclusive, dedicated monthly space to share the love.
"I originally got into romance as a way of escapism," Ms Ryan said.
"I grew up in a very hard lifestyle with a lot of abuse present, and to be able to read about characters finding their true loves and living happily ever after made me have hope as a child, and I still find it uplifting and it makes me feel good to this day."
The Romance Book Club is run by Ms Ryan and another eager reader Riley Coad, and has so far had one meeting in September. The next meetup is scheduled for October 28 to discuss October's voted novel, Flawless by Elsie Silver.
Ms Ryan said having a space in real life to chat about a favourite hobby was a great source of connection with other like-minded people.
"A lot of us read different sub-genres of books so we all got the chance to speak about different things," she said.
"Multiple of our members have disabilities, one ... is in a wheelchair, so we plan to always have our meetings in accessible venues."
You can find the Illawarra Romance Book Club via Facebook groups for now, with the next meetup scheduled for Saturday October 28 (venue TBC). The book for discussion is Flawless by Elsie Silver.