Over the past week, there’s been a spirited discussion on Romance Twitter (yes, it’s a thing) about the way the industry and publishers treat authors of color as well as readers of color. Authors told stories about being shunted to “ethnic” imprints, seeing books by white authors featuring characters of color with racist tropes in them, and, in one thoughtless thread, someone asked if people of color even wanted to read or write romance.
If you’re wondering how to find an author of color writing good romance, here are some great recent choices available at the Seattle Public Library:
Alisha Rai writes contemporary romances set in California, following a multi-generational family saga that involves internment camps, secret romances, and a supermarket chain. The relationships amongst the characters (even those not in love) are multi-dimensional and realistic, and the love scenes are scorching and creative. NPR says “Given her penchant for writing sex-positive, body-positive, and diverse romances, part of what makes the Forbidden Hearts series such a standout is the way Rai seamlessly integrates her characters’ social, racial, political, and economic experiences into the plot without compromising the storytelling.”
The godmother of romance authors of color is Black author Beverly Jenkins, who writes both historical Westerns and contemporary family sagas. Her most recent title is Tempest, about a Howard-educated doctor and a stubborn, smart woman in Wyoming territory. Jenkins writes mature, intelligent, and self-sufficient characters that stay with you long after the book is done.
The ALA Reading List Council‘s winner for romance this year was author Alyssa Cole’s An Extraordinary Union, a standout title in a year of excellent romances. Elle is a Northern spy who goes undercover as an enslaved mute woman in the house of a Confederate politician, carefully slipping information North. When a guest of the politician turns out to be a spy as well, they must navigate their shared cause as well as the attraction between them in a nation that doesn’t see her as deserving of equal rights. Cole strikes a perfect balance between a spy novel, a civil war novel, and the romance between Elle and Malcolm. For readers who prefer contemporary settings, A Princess In Theory is the story of a woman who finds out about a childhood engagement to the prince of a wealthy African kingdom.
Finally, I’m going to suggest the debut novel from Alexis Daria, Take The Lead. It’s set on a reality show about ballroom dancing, a thinly-veiled Dancing With The Stars. The heroine is Gina Morales, a professional dancer who’s on her fifth season and has never been part of the winning team. She’s been warned that if she doesn’t win this season, she’ll be off the show. Who’s her partner? An backwoods Alaskan reality show star who doesn’t know a waltz from a foxtrot. As Gina and Stone work together, the producers begin hinting heavily that they should be this season’s “showmance,” a trope that Gina refuses to buy into because she’s afraid of being boxed into the stereotype of the oversexed Latinx. Can she listen to her heart and still stay true to her standards? Both Gina and Stone are sympathetic, multidimensional characters who are fascinating to follow.
Still want to find more romances from authors of color with characters of color? Try checking out WOC in Romance for more recommendations.
~ posted by Jessica W.