Can’t Spell Treason Without Tea author, Rebecca Thorne, on the Rise of Cosy Fantasy

"Writing about an established sapphic couple who flee their lives to open a bookshop that serves tea was my escape. I wanted their happy ending. I wanted their cozy life."

This post was written by Rebecca Thorne, author of Can’t Spell Treason Without Tea

If you’ve been around Booktok or Bookstagram in the last year, you’ve probably heard about the latest trending genres: romantasy and cozy fantasy. Considering their meteoric rise and instant adoption into mainstream channels, I’d be surprised if you missed it. They dominate entire tables in our local bookstores, and they’re fresh on everyone’s tongues in reader videos.

But the lingering question remains: how do these trends take shape? How did an entire collection of diverse readers simultaneously agree that romantasy and cozy fantasy would be their next obsession?

Well, I have some theories.

Hi, everyone! My name is Rebecca Thorne, and I wrote the Tomes and Tea series, a quartet of bestselling cozy fantasies. Those books—starting with Can’t Spell Treason Without Tea, following with A Pirate’s Life for Tea, and ending with two unreleased sequels—were self-published in 2022, and are currently being republished by major publishers around the world.

What some readers don’t know is that I carefully positioned Can’t Spell Treason Without Tea to take advantage of the rise of cozy fantasy, well before most other authors realized it would be huge.

So, how did cozy fantasy find its stride, with romantasy hot on its heels? Well, let’s back up and explore a novel concept (haha): that the pandemic sucked, and we all wanted a bit of quiet comfort.

I really think it’s that simple.

During the pandemic, we were forced into isolation by a rampant, worldwide virus. Populations all over the world were shoved into crippling loneliness and lack of contact. It’s no shocker to me that the “found family” trope is a major staple in cozy fantasy. Sue us for wanting books that had happy endings and made us feel good, even as our societal structures collapsed around us.

And romantasy… I have another (somewhat dark) theory. The pandemic forced a lot of people into the same tiny space as their spouses or partners. Many of those people thrived on vivacious social lives—and in close proximity, they realized that their lovers weren’t as kind or compatible as they thought. One study identified that domestic violence reports climbed from 21% to a shocking 35% in 2020.[1] And that’s only what was reported… we have to wonder what never left some peoples’ houses.

Point is, when an entire generation is forced to examine their chosen partner in such close quarters, under such stressful situations, it doesn’t seem surprising that readers turned to a fantasy world where idyllic romances reigned supreme.


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I think that wildfire genre trends often reflect our societies at large. When I was writing Can’t Spell Treason Without Tea, I was in a bad place in my life. A job offer fell through and left me living at my parents’ house, unable to afford anything myself. All of my belongings were in storage. I lived really far from my friends and was persistently single. Writing about an established sapphic couple who flee their lives to open a bookshop that serves tea was my escape. I wanted their happy ending. I wanted their cozy life.

Can’t Spell Treason Without Tea came about because I saw an opening in the market. I watched as Travis Baldree’s Legends & Lattes created a genre, one that was instantly accepted into traditional publishing. I knew upon its re-release, cozy fantasy would be on every reader’s tongue… and every editor’s wish list. So, absolutely, I wrote a new book.

But Treason was as much a dream for me as it was an escape for my readers.

In my opinion, that’s what fiction does for us. It lets us dream—it gives us an avenue to imagine a new life, or hope for something better. A world where we aren’t confined to our houses. A world where we can choose our own families. A world where our partners are everything we need.

My novel, Can’t Spell Treason Without Tea, actually straddles both of these genres. I didn’t intend it to be sorted as “romantasy” at the time, but it fits well—and with the sapphic representation, it offers the diverse cast most queer folk desperately desire. My characters, Kianthe and Reyna, are badass lesbians who fight a disapproving world to protect their lives together. They abandon what they “should” be doing, career-wise, to focus on what they actually want: opening a bookshop that serves tea. And along the way, they meet the family they always desired, and find the love they always craved.

If my readers take one thing from this book, I hope it’s the realization that nothing and no one can impede our dreams. Most of the time, the biggest thing we have to fight is our own inner doubt, that malicious voice that whispers, “You can’t do this.” It might have solid reasons… but are those reasons good enough to forego everything you could be?

The pandemic was awful, but for many it became a fresh start. A true beginning. We’re seeing more novels surfacing that were written during our solitary time inside our houses. We’re seeing creatives—most of whom spent years dominated by their corporate lives—finally clawing into who they truly are.

I think that’s absolutely fantastic. And I think that’s where romantasy and cozy fantasy find their audience: in the dreamers, the doers, the creatives. The ones who refuse to let society dictate who they want to be.

We all deserve that, don’t we?

Get your copy of Can’t Spell Treason Without Tea by Rebecca Thorne here.

[1] Smith-Clapham, Amber M et al. “Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Interpersonal Violence Within Marginalized Communities: Toward a New Prevention Paradigm.” American journal of public health vol. 113,S2 (2023): S149-S156. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2023.307289
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