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    Get swept away by a whirlwind romance (novel)

    A Whirlwind Romance, a romance book pop-up shop run by booksellers Clarissa Murphy and Paul Swydan, will debut on Sunday, Feb. 10, in Somerville’s Union Square.
    The Silver Unicorn Bookstore
    A Whirlwind Romance, a romance book pop-up shop run by booksellers Clarissa Murphy and Paul Swydan, will debut on Sunday, Feb. 10, in Somerville’s Union Square.

    After several enjoyable weeks binge-reading all 10 books in the Kate Daniels fantasy series by the husband and wife team of Ilona Andrews, Clarissa Murphy felt as though she was missing old friends.

    “You spend so much time with [the characters] that they seem real to you,” said Murphy, a bookseller at the MIT Press Bookstore and codirector of Metro Boston Bookstore Day. “I was feeling totally bereft, so I said to Facebook, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to do a romance pop-up shop?’ ”

    Her social media challenge was promptly answered by Paul Swydan, owner of The Silver Unicorn Bookstore in Acton. Their joint venture, A Whirlwind Romance, will be open Feb. 12 through 18 at Bow Market, located at 1 Bow Market Way in Somerville’s Union Square.

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    The shop will also be open during Bow Market’s Galentine’s Day event celebrating gal pals on Sunday, Feb. 10, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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    The 150-square-foot space will stock hundreds of romance titles, including contemporary, historical, LGBTQIA+, regency, fantasy, western, urban, paranormal, mystery, romantic comedy, young adult, and graphic novels, plus children’s books and love-themed gifts.

    Customers can create and snap photos of their own romance novel covers, as well as learn from the pros during two book signings on Saturday, Feb. 16. Nicole Gallard, whose latest novel “On the Same Page” is set on Martha’s Vineyard, will visit at 1 p.m. and Meredith Goldstein, author of “Can’t Help Myself” and Love Letters columnist for The Boston Globe, will follow at 6 p.m.

    Swydan said his partnership with Murphy blossomed from their mutual desire to give the romance genre the attention and appreciation it deserves. After all, it’s a billion dollar industry, according to Romance Writers of America, accounting for one-third of the US fiction market.

    Despite the massive popularity of romance books, Swydan says the stigma that they aren’t “real” literature has kept readers from browsing their aisles, causing bookstores to offload the genre onto supermarkets and superstores. Even Swydan admits past difficulty in stocking the right titles at his Silver Unicorn Bookstore — but not for lack of trying.

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    “The pop-up shop won’t change the world in one week,” Swydan said, “but we’re hoping to shine a light on romance books so people know it’s OK to like them, to ask for them if they don’t see them, and to read them — in public.”

    Murphy, an independent bookseller for the past 10 years, says the appeal of romance books is twofold. In addition to strong characters and storylines with an impact she believes is as powerful as any great American novel, readers enjoy a much-needed escape from reality.

    “I’m really excited to see the reaction to the pop-up shop,” Murphy said. “It’s an innovative way for us to do something special to help readers be loud and proud about what we all love.”

    For more information, visit silverunicornbooks.com.

    Cindy Cantrell can be reached at cindycantrell20@gmail.com.