Amanda Anderson loves love – and she’s hoping you do too. On Sep. 2, the Chicago native, 28, opened The Last Chapter (TLC), the city’s first romance-only local bookstore, at 2013 W. Roscoe St. in Roscoe Village. TLC opened in 2021 as an e-commerce site, partnering with authors to curate special edition romance subscription boxes. Now, Anderson wants her new brick-and-mortar location to be warm and welcoming to celebrate romance books’ power to change lives. North by Northwestern sat down with Anderson in one of the store’s cozy reading nooks to talk all things TLC, fan fiction and the future of romance reading.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
What inspired you to open The Last Chapter?
I wanted to create a place that celebrated romance and everything that the romance community has to offer, as well as just be a really welcoming, open place for readers.
How did you decide to transition from an e-commerce store to a brick-and-mortar location?
This was always the goal. I started out online to get a better understanding of the community and to just create beautiful things. I loved creating our special editions and working with the authors to bring their visions to life, but I always knew that a storefront was the end goal for The Last Chapter.
How has the community responded to the store’s opening?
It’s been so uplifting and so positive. People love having a very niche bookstore in the city. Even if people aren’t romance readers specifically, they feel comfortable enough to come in and feel out what we’re about.
What have been the most popular romance subgenres with customers since opening?
Definitely fantasy and dark romances, as well as LGTBQ+ stories, which has been cool to see. I get a lot of recommendations from that community. We started off with just a few LGBTQ+ books, and now we have three shelves full of them.
What about the Colleen Hoovers and Emily Henrys of it all?
The best-sellers tend to do pretty well, but the store is special because we pretty much sell half-indie and half-traditional authors. It’s super cool to see the responses that people have to indie books.
Would you say one of the goals of TLC is to spotlight diversity within the romance genre?
Oh absolutely. I’m always thinking about how TLC can be that safe space for diverse voices, whether it's BIPOC, LGBTQ+ or disability representation. I’m always keeping an eye out for those types of books, and I’m always looking for recommendations so we can bring those perspectives into the store.
What’s been a highlight of the time since opening?
The repeat customers and people that I’m starting to establish relationships with who keep coming back have been so fun. When people come in and tell me, “I read the book you recommended and I loved it,” that just makes me so happy.
When did you first get interested in romance literature?
I have been reading romance since I was way too young. I’d say probably since I was like 12 or 13, I would sneakily read on Wattpad, with my mom having just no idea of what I was actually reading as a kid. And then after college, I just really, really picked it back up again.
Can I ask what kind of stories you would read on Wattpad?
I was big into shifter and werewolf stories, or anything sports-themed or with a summery vibe. Also, a lot of mafia stories, which was so random. Like, I didn’t know what the mafia was! I was 15 years old! But yeah, if the title was good, I was all for it.
Where could I find you when you’re not working?
Probably at the movies, watching TV and reading, obviously. You could find me hanging out with my friends or my sister, who’s my best friend. Lately, I’ve been into exploring Chicago more, like going to different festivals, events and block parties.
What’s your favorite reading spot in the city?
I’m big on reading in parks, by the lake or on the beach. Anywhere there’s grass and I could throw a blanket down, I’m here for it. I have my dog next to me on her leash and we just chill; it’s a whole vibe. She’s the cutest little thing but has what I call “big dog energy.” She thinks she's this massive 500 pound dog, and I’m like, “OK, but aren’t you 30 pounds, though? Take a nap!”
What’s the most recent book you’ve read?
Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros. I’ve been in my fantasy era for quite a few years now, so things like that are super up my alley.
Would you recommend it?
Absolutely. I’d give it 20 out of 10 stars, it is so good. I just think the world-building in it is spectacular.
What is your favorite book of all time?
Say You Swear by Meagan Brandy. I always quote that as truly the book that made me believe in love again. It’s just such a phenomenal story.
What book is way too underrated?
Enemies by Tijan Meyer. Whenever anyone comes in the store not looking for anything specific, I’m like, “OK, you have to read Enemies.’’ It’s a second-chance football romance, but the character development was so realistic and profound that I felt like I was the protagonist. I related heavily to so many of the themes, so reading about it was amazing.
(Writer's note: As I walked around the store after this interview, a customer indeed asked for a recommendation. Anderson told them they had to check out Enemies.)
Finally, if you had to elevator pitch The Last Chapter to someone, what would you say?
It’s just a haven for all things romance. I would tell people to just come in, and go where the story takes you. Just jump in for the ride, and know we’re here to help you with open arms.