Thu
May 10 2012 1:00pm

Race and Romance: Choosing Between White, Off-White, and Beige

Rue from the Hunger Games sparked a controvery about race in the YA communityThe question of whitewashing in publishing and the presence of people of color in fiction has been bubbling to the forefront of people’s minds within the last couple of years. Most recently, the debate has blazed up within the YA community, with several scandals involving white models on the covers of books with non-white protagonists.

In the romance genre, these arguments don’t even come up that often, and they should—because frankly, romance is whiter than sour cream. The vast majority of historicals take place in Europe or America. Ditto for contemporaries. You don’t see a lot of black vampires or Asian werewolves in paranormal romances. The fact that heroes who are Greek or Spanish or Mediterranean are considered “exotic” should really be a clue as to how romance has remained whiter than Bon Jovi’s teeth.

Actual heroines and heroes of color are the exception, not the rule, and they’re often used as examples of the otherworldly and exotic—the half-Roma hero. The half-Native-American shapeshifting heroine. A lot of halves, you’ll notice. Not a lot of wholes (minds out of the gutter, ladies).

The only explanation I can come up with is that white people (and I include myself in this category) have been subconsciously raised to believe that stories about white people can be about anything, but stories about people of color will always be about (or at least involve) race and racism. Stories about people of color have to be Big, Serious, Significant Stories that are Supportive of Their Respective Ethnic Communities, like Beloved or The Joy Luck Club. Great for high-minded book clubs and English literature classes, but too “heavy” for light, fluffy beach reads. I’m not stuffing The Book of Negroes into my purse for my flight to Cancun!

Kathryn Stockett, author of The HelpHeaven forbid an Asian heroine should worry about her stock portfolio or her sister’s upcoming wedding! We have to add a subplot about her idiotic boss assuming she’s good at math or about how her white boyfriend doesn’t understand—because if you weren’t planning on making the story about race, why didn’t you just write her as a white person?

See, even in this day and age, “white” is considered the default, the norm, from which any deviation needs to be explained in the narrative. If you have a non-white heroine, there has to be a particular reason. You can’t simply have a black hero or a Latina heroine or an East Indian hero simply for kicks. It’s confusing. Are we just supposed to relate to these characters like they have problems similar to ours?

In a word: yes. I’m especially confused as to why the romance genre hasn’t had more people of color in their novels, because what’s more universally desired and respected, across cultures and racial lines, than love?

From the perspective of historical romance readers, I’ve heard the argument that it’s too difficult to believe in a happily ever after for a person of color in an historical time period. It ruins the fantasy. Because as everyone knows, no-one who wasn’t a white person experienced any happiness, love, or success prior to 1960. You’ll happily swallow stories about Dukes who marry penniless street urchin prostitutes and maintain their social standing, and yet the idea of a Latina couple in 1942 finding love and happiness sticks in your historical-accuracy craw?

Hilarious, Quirky, and InterracialAnother argument is that white authors have no authority to write about characters of color. In response to that, I’d love to point out the enormous number of tea-jettisoning, independence-declaring, 20th-century-born American authors who (authoritatively!) write stories exclusively set in Regency-era Britain. They do this because they research. I’m not talking about re-writing The Help. I’m talking about fantastically fizzy and heartbreaking romances where one of the protagonists happens to be Asian or Latino. How about more historicals that take place in feudal Japan? Brazil? India?

I’m just saying that we should think about adding a little more variety to our characters beyond whether they’re going to be dark and swarthy (for a white person), blond, or tempestuously red-headed (but only for the ladies). Let’s even think about interracial romances—the sitcom Happy Endings has spent two seasons with an interracial couple as main characters without once resorting to the “Very Special Episode” about how they don’t belong. If “Caucasian” is still the norm, it’s because we still make it the norm. Let’s test our boundaries and explore.

What romances come to mind when you think of people of color?

 


Elizabeth Vail hails from Alberta, Canada. A book reviewer and aspiring YA writer, she currently runs the review blog Gossamer Obsessions under the screenname AnimeJune.

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39 comments
TammyE
1. TammyE
Shelly Laurenston's Pride series features many interracial and interspecies romances!
TammyE
2. Diane Dooley
I read a lot of science fiction romance, where there are plenty of characters of a variety of races. For example, Heather Massey's Latina heroine in Queenie's Brigade. Many of the books written by KS Augustin feature non-white main characters. My own stuff. Race is not a defining characteristic in these stories. BUT I have recieved feedback that I'm kidding myself if I think that race will be less important - even in the far future.
Miss_D
3. Miss_D
Don't get me started on the Rue racism drama nor the current kerfluffle regarding the campaign to get Jesse Williams (Avery on Grey's Anatomy) cast as Finnick in the second movie. And with Harlequins (which I still read occassionally), I find Sheikhs and Russians are the new Greek and Italian "exotic" other when it comes to heroes. Quien sabe.

Anyhoo, I actually touched on this topic a few weeks ago in a column I wrote for H & H because my desire to see someone more like me physically & culturally became a fierce need in the past year, but there's definitely a lack of diversity in a sense. I think with romance books, there are more options now than say 10-15 years ago, especially now with e-readers. I think having one makes getting POC-centric books easier cause when you walk in to a bookstore, you don't really see them. Sure you may find some Urban romances in the African-American Books section or some Kimani Romances in the general romance section but overall, it's pretty dismal.

I've read a large amount of multicultural romance books in the past year, mostly those featuring a Black heroine and I think I've been able to only because I can easily purchase them for my kindle. If I had to walk over to Barnes & Noble or an indie bookseller, I'd pretty much be SOL. Go on to Amazon and one can find a very large amount of multicultural romances to choose from, both in print and for Kindle. I don't believe Nook options are quite as broad as Amazon's but I could be wrong on that score.

I look at the issue that it's difficult to find print books to buy easily in a store but I think the online selection is actually pretty good. Those POC-centric books are out there. Or at least with books with Black heroines, which is my main focus since I personally feel Black women tend to get the short end of the stick regarding desirability potential in mainstream society that's only increased since Michelle Obama became FLOTUS but that's a debate for another day.

"Zoe" by T.A. Ford is a historical with a Black heroine. Your comment about POC characters in paranormals has inspired me. =)


Lack of diversity on TV is definitely a problem, though. I feel like there was more diversity in the 90s than there is now. I'm not sure what's happened there but it definitely feels like things have moved backwards. Now, most shows just have a token minority character but is otherwise terribly vanilla. I think the most diverse shows on TV now are all of Shonda Rhimes' shows. She seems to be the only creator out there who casts multiple actors of colors and puts them in main roles, not just as the best friend or comic relief. Props to her on that. Also, as an offside, I love her new show Scandal.
Brie Clementine
4. Brie.Clem
One book I really loved was The Highest Price to Pay by Maisey Yates. It features an interracial couple, but his race is never an issue, he’s not defined by it, no one complains about cultural differences, nothing. It was refreshing and a great story. Unfortunately it’s a Mills & Boon book and as far as I know you can’t find it here. That story, btw, got a lot of negative feedback from UK readers who didn’t want a black here. You can read more about here: http://maiseyyates.tumblr.com/post/12724002327/crankyashley-this-publishers-of-this-book-cover

One author that I think writes great Latino characters is Jill Sorenson. I like that she makes them true to their cultural roots but not stereotypical. I enjoy her books a lot.

And speaking of Mediterranean characters passing as exotic; the last Harlequin Presents book I read, featured an Italian couple. Both were Italian and yet they spoke English. And I don’t mean that the book is in English but we’re supposed to imagine they are really speaking in Italian, I mean that they have a son and he asks the heroine what language she uses to speak to him and she says English, and everyone else speaks English also. I didn’t get that at all, not to mention that half the time I find the portrayal of these Italian men and Greek tycoons to be quite cartoonish and offensive.

@Miss_D: they want Jesse Williams to be cast as Finnick?! *dies* I need to sign that petition now!!!
TammyE
5. Grace S
I think the two most adept authors who mention race as an aside like it's an eye color are Shelley Laurenston and Naligni Singh.

Both have non-caucasian heros and heroines in their books. In
THE WOLF, THE WITCH, AND HER LACK OF WARDROBE
by SL, the fact that the heroine Jamie is black is mentioned once in passing, whereas her former status as a NYD cop is touched upon several times. Her hero Tully is a white shifter. Nobody blinks an eye at their interracial romance despite it taking place in North Carolina. There is more concern over her perception of being a mean Yankee witch and him being a laid back good old boy wolf!

Her female lead in Here Kitty Kitty is a latina businesswoman who ends up married to a Viking tiger. Again, personalities are much, much more important that ethnicity.

Nalini Singh's Psy Changling and Guild Hunter worlds are filled with diversity of race and ethnicities, seamlessly. Not to beat a horse that's nearly dead, but the characters are so much more than their color.

Both these authors treat race as an afterthought and focus on the characters themselves. As a reader, you don't care what those charcters look like because you are so wrapped up in who those characters ARE.

Wouldn't the world be a much better place if we all had our priorities like that? Seems to me Dr. King said something along those lines about 50 years ago.
Rakisha Kearns-White
6. BrooklynShoeBabe
Maybe I've been brainwashed by the media at large, but I'm wholly unbothered by the lack of people of color in romance novels written by white authors and I'm Black. Despite any physical descriptions, in my mind the hero and heroine resemble Hugh Jackman and me. Or, in case of the African American romance novels, Idris Elba and me. Also, I'm not a fan of the "Exotic" hero stories. It is kind of fetishistic.
TammyE
7. Grace Sandvigen
I love Brooklyn's comment.......and kudos to her good taste in men! :)
Wendy Lewis
8. wsl0612
For YA fans I really enjoy the Tiger's Curse series by Colleen Houck. It features two Indian princes who are cursed to be tigers for part of their lives and the white girl who tries to save them. I don't recall any part of the stories having any angst because of race, it just seems appropriate to me that the young men would be Indian because that's where the tigers are :-)

I don't normally think too much about the racial aspect, but I honestly get bored if the story tries to push the cultural issues at me too much. I read fiction for escapism.
TammyE
9. Carol A. Strickland
I'm all for a little variety in my romance heroes and heroines, which is why I try to make sure my universes are never all-white. The closest I ever got to breaking this rule was one book in which I had a great time detailing the way my Chinese-heritage heroine had been surgically remodeled with caucasian features—just like all other females in her future society—because that's what their culture dictated. In the end, of course, her world realized that people should celebrate their true selves.

In addition, my one historical violates the most basic rule of all: neither my hero nor heroine is a member of royalty! Horrors!
TammyE
10. Suleikha Snyder
What's really interesting to me as both a reader and an author is that the "exotic" books about biracial heroes or "NQW" (Not Quite White, as a friend of mine who fits that bill likes to say) heroines, paired with white characters, are still the ones that get the most traction. Obviously Jeannie Lin, Brenda Jackson and Beverly Jenkins are just a few of the notable exceptions, and I am SO thankful to them for carving out niches on an otherwise homogenous bookshelf!
Rakisha Kearns-White
11. BrooklynShoeBabe
@Grace Sandvigen

Why thank you. My husband is pretty handsome as well. ;-)
Carmen Pinzon
12. bungluna
I love Shelley Laurenston and her shifter world. I also enjoy the world of the Lupi by Eileen Wilks, which features an Asian heroine and a white hero and multiple racial makeups for the various characters.

I'm with Brooklyn; I cast my mental movies of stories with a diverse universe of people who are not all necesarily lily-white.
TammyE
14. Jamie Quaid
My romance alter ego has written Native American/Mexican heroes and historical romances with characters of mixed blood. It's a tough sell because romance editors want to nab 50% of the genre market, and that means a majority of white readers. Or did. And there are entire lines of African-American romances these days.

As Jamie Quaid, I'm writing an urban fantasy character of Middle Eastern descent, although she's pure American culture because it's difficult enough introducing readers to a fantasy world without adding a different culture as well.

While ideally, we would write about all colors and cultures, I think most authors prefer to write what they know. When our country becomes a true melting pot, we won't be having this discussion because it will be moot.
TammyE
15. robinc
I like Eileen Wilks World of the Lupi series. Her Lily is of Chinese extraction and she's married to a shifter, Rule Turner who is not.

I love Seressia Glass's books and her main characters in her shadowchaser sereis are black. Although it took two books before it even dawned on me because it's just not a big deal, to me or to them.
TammyE
16. Lza
They have both been mentioned, but Shelley Laurenston's books have many multiracial heroines. Sometimes' I don't even realize a heroine is supposed to be ethnic. I also love Nalini Singh's books.

Eileen Wilks Lupi series has a Chinese heroine. It's also a heritage that the heroine respects and is part of her identity.

These aren't really romance, but more in the fantasy line, but NK Jemisin writes about multiracial and ethnic characters.

Oh, and Jacqueline Carey's latest trilogy has a Chinese hero!
Robbie Thornton
17. Button
Romance writers I've read lately with ethnically diverse heroes and/or heroines:
Nalini Singh (Psy Changeling and Guild Hunter)
Lara Adrian (Midnight Breed)
Christine Feehan (Ghostwalker)
Marjorie Lui (Dirk and Steele)
Eve Silver (Otherkin)

Hummm, I was going to argue that I had been reading alot of books lately with interracial couples, or non-white couples, but upon looking at my list, it appears I've been reading more than my fair share of paranormal lately, and that every example I can think of came from the paranormal genre. So it appears that folks who gravitate to writing or reading paranormal tend to care lass about old school racial boundries.

I mean, look at it this way. Paranormal romance has taken 500 year old prejudice and fear against fanged bloodsucking monsters of the night and turned them into the most celebrated of modern day romantic heroes. Talk about the major PR job. Then of course, there's also the topic of interspecies dating, marriage, even procreation. Werewolves hooking up with vampires, demons marrying druids, and all manner of combinations. Really, in light of all this, interracial romance is pretty blase` stuff in the paranormal universe.
TammyE
18. AlisaKwitney
Great post! I think I first became aware of this issue when I was writing comic books. And by the way, I still don't see too many Jewish heroes or heroines in romance -- and no Buddhists or Muslims. (Paranormal fans must know the old joke about the vampire who smiles at the girl holding up a cross and says, "Sorry, bubbeleh, but that's not going to work with me.")
TammyE
19. Karen D.
White by default. Interesting concept. A lot of whites unfortunately for themselves believe the more white blood in a biracial person, means the more intelligence. So unless a hero/heroine has the majoirty of white blood an intelligent believeable happy ending is imposible. The question was raised in this posting how can someone write with any authority about such relationships. If you research historical novels you would be surprised at the psuedoymns used by minority writers who couldn't get published as themselves, but did write believeable best sellers about all white characters. What does THAT say, take a heart and soul, put it in anybody's body and the outcome will be the same. And they lived happily ever after. I come from an interracial background. The only real problem interracial people have when it comes to love is what others assume; how they feel and think. Or better yet, looking inside themselves and suprisingly come up with the same answers. Do they want the same things out of life for themselves as whites, yes. Do they get angry, hurt, discourage when facing unfair situations, yes. Another unfortunate fact is there have been rich successful minorities, royalty, heroes etc that just aren't in the history books. The so called white majority are afraid if word got out minorities are just as good if not better at success, the whites would have no one to look down on. Ever hear of the Tuskegee Airman? They weren't put in the history books until the 1970's. They were fighter pilots in WWII who the white bombardeers insisted on having as back up because they knew they were more dependable than the white fighter pilots. If it weren't for the Tuskegee Airmen a lot more white American soliders would have lost their lives than did. Are the Tuskegee Airman portrayed as romantic heroes, you better believe they are in my neighborhood, and especially when I was growing up. Do research and get a good look at them. I had the honor of actually meeting some of them face to face. The words elegant, sophisticated, sexy, proud, intelligent or just plain wow come to mind as I write this.
Ever been to the musical Apollo Theater in New York? The hardest audience in the world to please is a black audience. Meaning if you're not the best, you will be embarraessed off the stage, white, black or otherwise. So what whites ignores is one fact. In order to be one of "us" you better be the best at whatever you do to be accepted by us and wining by default isn't winning at all as far as we're concerned. That didn't get it done historically and won't get it done today. Being the best, earning the top prize for your ability and not expect it to be given to you just because your skin happens to be white is and always will be unacceptable.
In closing let me tell you what happened to me: One little white girl called another one "black" as an insult. I stepped forward and said to both of them, no she's not black, I am and believe me sweetheart, you should be so lucky to be inside of this skin. It's like being caressed by the softest velvet imagineable and I would never trade the feeling for the world.
So for all of you, who wonder what it's like to be loved by us, start there.
TammyE
20. Farrah Rochon
What romances come to mind when you think of people of color?

The entire Kimani Romance line. All of the books feature people of color.
TammyE
21. KW
WHOO a topic near and dear to my heart! First off even though she doesn't write them anymore the best books I've found with multiple races was Kate Douglas' Wolf Tales series. I quite seriously shrieked when I saw the cover for the second book, it was everything I wanted!

As a black female who loves loves paranormal romance I have to say that about half of the time it doesn't bother me, the whitewashing. It bothers me more in fantasy novels because you're ALREADY writing about a world that doesn't exist so FFS why does everyone look the same? How is that an alternate world?! One of my best friends is a writer and when I asked her why she never wrote POC she told me she
was afraid because she didn't want to sound like she was trying too hard and was afraid to get mannerisms correct. I asked her if I talked or acted differently from her, she said "OF COURSE NOT" and when I stared at her I could see the light bulb go off. I'm glad to see that writers are trying to be thoughtful but I would imagine most women would react the same toward a vampire, black, white or asian. I REALLY dislike the whole african american specific erotica or asian specific erotica or whatever. Last I checked we all had sex the same way :)
Heloise Larou
22. Heloise
I am a bit late, but Kiru Taye and her Men of Valor series definitely deserve a mention here - very enjoyable novellas (two so far, but I hope she'll write more!) which not only feature an all-coloured cast but are set in pre-colonial Africa.
TammyE
23. JenM
UF, not romance, but I just wanted to mention Jenna Black's new series Dark Descendant (and Deadly Descendant). The heroine is white, but her potential love interest is an African American guy named Jamaal. The story is all about people who are descended from various gods and goddesses (she's a descendant of Artemis and he's a descendant of Kali) and I love that not only are the characters diverse, the mythologies are also - it's not all about Greek mythology.

I'm also a big fan of Shelly Laurenston and Eileen Wilks. Even in UF, there still aren't that many racially diverse characters, but what I love about these authors is that race isn't used as a shortcut to define the characters. I wish I could think of more romances offhand, but they are few and far between unless you are specifically reading Harlequin's Kimani line.
TammyE
24. Gowanus queen
I have been asking why JR Ward in her BDB series doesn't develop a black love interest for her Shadow characters. Only because black women tend to be MIA as love interests. Although in paranormal romances, they seem to be ahead of their time as far as racism is concerned. There is none. We put our pants on the same way, eat the same foods, etc., etc. I also agree with BrooklynShoeBabe. I put myself in every novel as the heroine and the hero is whomever I want him to be. Sometimes black, sometimes white. It's a fantasy. But it is good to see yourself portrayed. Hayat Ali's The Alpha Promise featured an Asian vampire hero and a black heroine. I'm waiting breathlessly for the sequel.
Tara Jefferson
25. confessortee
I am so glad you brought up this topic. As a Black woman who loves Paranormal romance/Sci-Fi/Fantasy, it is disheartening that authors don't include more POC in their story lines. Why is my love 'niche'? Someone else brought up the point if a writer is telling a story in an alternate universe (not many weres or vamps running the streets normally), why can't a significant character be of color? Is your version of the wonderful world of beasties and magic better off with out brown people? This of course doesn't stop me from loading up on my favorites--Kenyon, Ward, Hamilton (who is more urban fantasy), Showalter, Cole, Ione, to name a few. I wish I were a more skillful writer to tell my own stories that reflect my life (friends of every race and color) with a paranormal twist. People of Color love and are heroic too and deserve more just to bunch into niche markets.
Tanisha Robinson
26. sassytarheel
@Gowanus Queen: I second your motion. I've been a fan of JR Wards since the very first BDB book (she's losing me slowly due to not focusing on the main Hero/Heroine in her books and instead telling us everyone's story all at once). I figured she'd have some black vamps up in there at some point but no (they live in NY...there are NO black, Japanese, Iranian vampires in all of vampire society???? Really???). I do enjoy iAm and Trez but they show up like once in a blue moon and for a hot few seconds. Can the Shadows get a book?

I agree that I've seen more POC in paranormal romance than all the other genres but it still feels most of the time like the characters aren't as fleshed out on the page as their white counterparts. Maybe it's just me (as a black woman...actually, I'm black, Japanese and Native American...can we get someone like THAT as a heroine...lol) and my perception that they aren't as well written. I shall have to try out some of the authors mentioned on here.

@confessortee: I'm with you. I wish I was as talented a writer as I am in my imagination. I'm a military brat so I've lived in a lot of different countries and interacted with a lot of different folks. I would love to read more books with POC in them. Variety is the spice of life so let's get some variety going.
TammyE
27. rdsangel127117
Whoo hoo! Gotta agree with you BrooklynShoeBabe. Those two guys are YUMMY!

Here are some that I like. Shemar Moore, Jared Padalecki, Daniel Dae Kim, Morris Chestnut, Ian Somerhalder, Naveen Andrews and Joe Manganiello just to name a few. :)
TammyE
28. slfoster01
Writing as a black reader: I don't expect to see a lot of people of color in regency or highlander historical romances (my favorite genres) because they weren't common in those places; but there does tend to be more diversity in the paranormals.

Shelley Laurentson was mentioned, and really, in her books you just don't notice race- except as an aside.

Caridad Pineiro always has Hispanic characters with a nod to their traditions, but not distinct from the rest of the storu and other characters.

Marilyn Lee and Kimberly Kaye Terry usually write interracial stories with some angst about whether 'such a relationship' will work in the long term.

Anyway, I don't read for race as much as for a story that works.
TammyE
29. Maria DE
Thank you for bringing up the POC topic. The earliest paranormal I can think of reading that made an impression on me was a scene between a black male werewolf, Jamal and Anita Blake in Laurell Hamiltion's Blue Moon (1998). The character had been introduced in earlier books but Laurell's ability to make the scene about the story not about color just worked for me. I agree with the comments about Nalini Singh's psy/changeling world and I must add the same is true of Patricia Briggs and her skillfully crafted Alpha and Omega series. However my hat goes off to Christine Feehan and Dark Possession. Her heroine, MaryAnne was surprising, off-putting one minute and engaging the next, so much so that color was quite simply a part of the equation not the reason for the story. In fact Dark Possession is one of maybe five books that I have read more than once.
TammyE
30. Merida
Thankyou for bringing up this topic. Being of an extremely mixed heritage, I find it frustrating when every single romance is white, white and more white. It was also insulting when I recently went into a book store and asked if they had any coloured romance novels and was told, quite rudely, they didn't sell 'those kind of books' as though they were on the same level as 'smutty porn novels'. I always like it when I mange to find a new book and will definitely be looking at some of the title mentioned. Personally, the only books I've read have been paranormal by Christine Feehan that even remotely hint at a coloured protagonist!
TammyE
31. jessica w
J.R. Ward was asked about that in a Q and A and came up with some whack reason.

Nalini Singh, Shelly Laurenston, and Jacqulyen Frank's "shadowdwellers" series are good books.
TammyE
32. Bernice W.
After my co-worker introduced me to the world of paranormal romance in the form of Laurel K. Hamilton. I was hooked. I went through her Anita Blake series then the Merry Gentry series. After that I read all of Kenyon's books then found Mary Janice Davidson. So after all these books featuring white heros and heroines I was longing for someone who resembled me or at least a character without "blue eyes". (I know Anita Blake is Latina and white but her men are all white.) I found author L. A. Banks. She gave me the fix I needed. Her Vampire Huntress Legend series and Crimson Moon novels were great and featured heroines and heros that are black. AAAHHH! Finally! She also started a YA series which was supposed to be a trilogy however Ms. Banks passed away last year. She wrote under mutiple pennames and across multilple genres. She is missed. I was really looking forward to more works of fiction from her.
My other favorite romance novelist right now is Francis Ray. Her books feature characters who are POC.
TammyE
33. willaful
Ack, I feel very picayune, but I'm totally hung up on your intepretation of The Joy Luck Club, a book I've read purely for pleasure several times. It's got a very satisfying structure and is extremely accessible -- and got me through some hard hours sitting with my best friend while she was undergoing chemo. My mom also loves it because she's first generation immigrant and really related. It deserves better than to be written off like that.
T.K. Anthony
34. TKAnthony
@Button -- for non-para ethnic diversity, I can recommend Robert Roman's "Strange Fate of Capricious Jones"-- a steampunk romance set in an alternate universe with a POC heroine who just may be the key to saving the out-gunned allies in an AU WWI. Issues of race are there, but they run neck-and-neck with the problem of being a brilliant woman in a stacked body in a "man's world." Also, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller's SF "Crystal Soldier" has a kick-ass POC hero, the ultimate soldier's soldier. Both are great fun. Even better, they have sequels.

Hmmm. Upon reflection, I'm not sure I can call Roman's "Strange Fate" an entirely non-para book. There are zombies. But they're steampunk zombies.
Kate Douglas
35. KateDouglas
A really well done and thought-provoking post. I agree entirely that there is a lack of diversity in romances, but I truly do believe that's changing.

FWIW, almost all of my books have an interracial cast. We don't live in a monochromatic society, and I refuse to write my characters in one color. My publisher (Kensington) has been very open to my stories with mixed race protagonists, including the cover art showing diverstiy whenever possible.

And KW mentioned the racial diversity in Wolf Tales. That series is complete with 12 novels and 9 novellas, but I'm currently working on a "second generation of Chanku shapeshifters" series called Spirit Wild, which will also feature an interracial cast.
TammyE
36. TipDJ
I love a good romance, especially a paranormal all thanks due to the late, great L.A. Banks. Her Vampire Huntress series gave me my first taste of paranormal w/ her culturally diverse characters. As a black woman I absolutely loved that the main character was a black woman, who just happened to be the baddest female on earth. Without L.A. Banks there is a huge void in paranormal romance involving POC. She honestly took it to a whole different level. I love Brenda Jackson who has such successful black people in her books working a wide variety of careers. I enjoy reading about sexy blakck men doing jobs that are typically portrayed by whites: cowboys, ranchers, rodeo men, rangers etc. I honestly don't expect white authors to write about POC, but i love it when there are whole stories involving them such as Lara Adrian's Midnight Breed series. It has to really hold my attention for me to read a historical romance, so when I do I prefer the white version, because I don't want to read about the struggle or racism that would go with POC. I read to escape reality so I'd rather not get distracted by things that could touch too close to home. Overall though, a good book is a good book no matter what the color of the characters.
TammyE
37. Clau
The Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead is more Urban Fantasy that romance, but the protagonist is half turkish-half scottish, and she looks more like a turkish girl, and the hero is Russian but with dark hair and dark eyes and tanned skin.
romance reader
38. bookstorecat
I wish there were more ethnic and religious variety in Romance. I prefer contemporary stories, which are set in the here and now--right? So you'd think that the books I read would reflect some of the diversity of the world I see around me.

But not so much.
TammyE
39. Dahlia DeWinters
What an interesting discussion and I'll add my two cents, for whateaver it's worth. I am both an author and a reader of romance and I've enjoyed my share of paranormals, historicals etc. by a variety of authors. As BrooklynShoeBabe put it so nicely, I plop myself right in the middle of teh action. That being said, when I write, I write a character, not a race. One review of my first book ( a totally fluffy paranormal) said that "I loved all the characters even the secondary, mostly because the author didn’t go with the typical stereotype". After I read that, I did a happy dance because that was exactly what I was going for.

Our experience dictates how we view a story. Even as a black woman, my experiences, culture, foods, etc might be different than the black woman raised in the house next door, or across town. Even within the race, culture, religion, we are all diverse as human beings and the writing in romance should reflect that.

I also agree that romance is an escape. Give me the cotton candy for a bit before I return to real life.
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