When I first started writing for this site, my initial posts shone a spotlight on multicultural romances, as I feel they’re underappreciated and overlooked in the romance genre. Even I didn’t seriously invest in reading them until a little over a year ago. I don’t regret the tangent; if I hadn’t taken it, I would have missed some wonderful stories I now cherish written by authors not well known in the romance genre mainstream. Granted, I still read traditional historical, paranormal, contemporary, and romantic suspense books, but I’ve added variety to my heroines and heroes. Now I read novels with women of color as heroines, women who look more like me. As my excitement increased, I noticed that it wasn’t resonating with some others I know and that leads me this column.
I have several friends who are avid romance readers like I am. Through our discussions, I realized several of my friends would not read multicultural romances because, in their paraphrased words, they couldn’t identify with the lead characters, specifically the heroine. They read ménages and male/male romances, yet were uninterested or hesitant to read a book if the lead wasn’t Caucasian. I was surprised, disappointed and in some ways, a little insulted. Is it really easier to identify with a lead who shapeshifts into an animal or a being that sucks blood from other living beings or a man as long as that character is Caucasian?
I grew up reading romances where the heroine did not really look like me. Yet I was able to enjoy stories with Caucasian lead characters because the adventure of the couple falling in love is what captured my interest. One of the very first romance novels I ever read when I was in junior high was Sandra Brown’s Sunset Embrace. I had nothing in common with Lydia, the Caucasian heroine of the novel, yet she drew me to her so strongly because her triumphs over her terrible childhood were fascinating and, at times, heartbreaking. Her love story with Ross Coleman is one of the best I’ve ever read. It made me cry to read her struggles, but never once did it detract from the story for me that Lydia didn’t look like me. Great writing transcends the color of skin or so I thought.
Now I find myself at a crossroads in how to approach individuals hesitant to read a romance with a woman of color as the lead heroine because it becomes a slippery slope on WHY it’s different or difficult to identify with her than identifying with a man, shapeshifter or vampire. Much like with Caucasian heroines, it is about the story and the hero. The audience should care about the heroine's intelligence and her moxie, but I’d like to think it is not about how she looks, nor the color of her skin. I mean, if the heroines of your top five romance novels were women of color, would it change the story or work just the same? There are quality novels being missed because of skin color, and that's a shame.
If you’ve never tried a multicultural romance, there are many on Amazon if you’re willing to give it a go. I’ve got a list of great authors for people to try as initiation into the multicultural romance subgenre: Zena Wynn, Sienna Mynx, Latrivia Nelson, Delilah Hunt, Ruthie Robinson, Mallory Monroe, Lena Matthews, and Theodora Taylor. Many of their novels are highly rated as well.
Please hit me up in the comments or on my twitter as I am curious to hear from people on this topic.
Miss_D has been reading romance books for over 25 years. A native Californian making her way in the Big Apple, she likes to spend her downtime relaxing in front of the TV, chatting with friends, sitting in Central Park and playing beach volleyball. Miss D can be reached via Twitter @bonobochick.