Tuesday, February 06, 2007

African American Romances - Their Place in the Genre

This year I've embarked on a program to broaden my reading horizons. Up til now I've read short contemporary romances almost exclusively, but I decided it was time to experience what else was out there. Last summer in Atlanta I went to the Harlequin book signing, met a lovely woman named Bridget Anderson and was able to get a copy of her May 2006 release, Hotel Paradise. Since this month is Black History month, I decided to pull Bridget's book out of the TBR pile and experience my first African American romance. Darius meets Alicia, they're attracted, they each have something they want, a reason for wanting it and of course there's that inevitable conflict that keeps them apart. But true love prevails and in the end they live happily ever after.

So... what's different?

Bridget has graciously agreed to blog for us today on the subject of AA romance and how it fits into the overall romance genre. Please make room on the swing set for her and give her a big Playground welcome.

Thanks for asking me to blog about African American Romance novels. As a teenager, I read just about everything I could get my hands on. Romance novels became my favorite. I tore through Nora Roberts and Victoria Holt (just to name a few) books like they were going out of style. However, just once I thought it would have been nice to discover a main character who looked like me. Often times I changed the characters look in my mind's eye and she did look just like me.

You asked where I thought the African American romance novel's place was in the genre as a whole, how they're different, and how they're the same. Several years ago I read an article that said African American's make up the fastest growing segment of the romance reading community. So I'm not the only one who wants to read about people who look like me, experience some of the same things I do, and have some of the same cultural experiences I have. African American romance novels reflect a sign of the ever changing times and should be a welcomed edition to the genre.

In my opinion, the flavor and voice of the African American experience makes the novels different -- the way they depict African American history, life inside black colleges (sororities and fraternities), churches, family reunions, and even Kwanzaa celebrations. A writer has to capture the essence of the Afrocentric lifestyle in America today and get it down on paper. In Hotel Paradise, I dealt with someone of Gullah descent. In Moonlight & Magnolias I introduced the heroine to Kwanzaa. Every culture has certain unique characteristics that can be used as the backdrop in romance novels.

Another difference I see, and can appreciate, is that African American main characters come in all sizes, shapes, and shades, and with different hair textures. They look like people I know. Hair styles go from bone straight, to afro's and everything in between. I enjoy falling in love with a hero who has a head full of dreadlocks in one story, and a shaved bald head in another. I can relate to the vast array of skin tones being anywhere from high-yellow, to red bone, to mocha brown. In my family alone there are people with all the looks mentioned above.

Now, at the same time how are they the same? Love is love, no matter how you slice it. Throughout the novel the main focus is still on the relationship between a man and a woman. You have a happy ending and establish a lifetime commitment between the couple. The thrill of the chase (courtship) remains the same no matter what race. And doesn't every woman ultimately want commitment from a man? I know I do. In that respect, African American romances are like any other romance novel. Whether they are aware of it or not, the lucky couple is about to fall head over hells in love with each other. Oh, and if there's some danger and mayhem along the way even better I say. An interesting plot is why I pick up a romance novel, any romance novel.

Bridget doesn't have a website yet but she loves to hear from readers at Banders319@bellsouth.net. She also has a book on the shelves now. Sweet Memphis Crush was released last month by Harlequin/Kimani Press and is available at a bookseller near you.

Have you read any AA or other multi-cultural romance? Tell us about it.

P.S. One lucky commenter today will receive a copy of Hotel Paradise. I especially enjoyed the setting -- Jekyll Island, Georgia -- because my mother lives in the area and it was oh so easy for me to picture the setting in my mind -- gentle breezes, beautiful beaches and marshes, giant oaks dripping with Spanish moss and some of the best shrimp you'll ever eat.

P.P.S. Next Wednesday we'll have a special guest blogger for Valentine's Day. It's another AA author who resides on the island of Barbados and *gasp* is a man who writes romance!


Maureen said...

There was a book by Suzanne Brockmann that I can't remember the title of but the hero and heroine were African American. Alison Kent's Beyond A Shadow has an African American hero. I have Lynn Emery's latest book on my TBR pile but have not gotten to it yet. Michele Martinez has written some terrific books with Melanie Vargas as the heroine.

Beth said...

Yes I have read them Sil. Desire has several books that are AA and I enjoy them

Rhonda said...

I've always enjoyed Carmen Green's books. :-)

Anonymous said...

The most recent for me is a book by Brenda Jackson. I love her Silhouette Desires and have picked up several other AA books for my TBR stack. I'm hooked on the genre now.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Hi, Bridget. I've enjoyed reading your blog, especially in how you describe the "diversity" within the diversity. Description of skin and hair and eye tones and colors in any romance can be very rich and sexy. You, lucky girl, seem to describe an extensive palette (sp) from which you work.

some of the romances I've read by authors who are African American establish themes in which the reader is taught some really interesting cultural history that may have gotten lost, especially in a nation that only recently began teaching "Black History."

Which is cool, and I haven't yet read one where I felt I was being given a forced civics lesson. But I'm wondering whether there's pressure to use any contact with readers as a bully pulpit? Or do you simply write as you'd like.

Thanks, Playfriends, for having Bridget today. :)

CrystalG said...

Hi Bridget. Great blog.
I have read some of the Silhouette Desires and Anne Christopher is a great AA author as well.

Jen said...

Hi, Bridget!! Interesting article and we've been long overdue for African American romances. Hotel Paradise sounds great. Nice to "see" you here.

Problem Child said...

Hi Bridget and thanks for being here. I have to admit that I've read few AA romances, so this is a new area for me as well.

That's one of the great things about this blog...I'm encouraged to read outside my own predictable patterns. And I've discovered some new authors (and sub-genres) I probably wouldn't have otherwise.

Instigator said...

Hi Bridget! Thanks for visiting with us today.

I love reading multi-cultural books. I always enjoy being introduced to new perspectives and new cultures. Of course, that's one reason I absolutely love to read in the first place - experiencing new things.


robynl said...

I like how you put it-Love is love, no matter how you slice it.
But different cultures make the story so interesting I would think. I can't think of any AA books that I have read so this would be an experience for me.

Raine Weaver said...

Very good post, Bridget!

Yes, I've read the occasional African American romance. ;-)

Bridget's right. Romance is romance, love is love. The cultural differences are icing on the cake, a chance to experience the courtship dance through slightly different eyes--and isn't that one of the reasons we read romance anyway?

Best of luck with the books, Bridget, wishing you many sales!

Great blog, ladies. :-)
(and btw, the Brockmann book was called "Educating Harvard").

Jennifer Y. said...

I recently read Champagne Rules by Susan Lyons...it is an interracial romance featuring a Caucasian Canandian heroine who meets a Jamaican-American while on vacation...they reconnect years later and develop a relationship. I enjoyed it a great deal.

I need to expand my reading horizons as well and try to read more culturally diverse books...I am taking notes now. The thing is until about a year ago I only read historicals and there aren't that many African-American historical romances.

Patricia W. said...

I love AA romance for the reasons Bridget outlined. The characters look and sound like me...sometimes. What is nice about any genre of romance is that there is a wide variety of voices. The same is true in AA romance.

I have authors I absolutely love to read and will pick up with no prior knowledge of that particular book, like Janice Sims, Rochelle Alers, Maureen Smith, Francis Ray, Felicia Mason, and Angela Benson. Then there are others that I have tried but their voices don't resonate with me. Sometimes its the plot or pacing or believability. Sometimes the particular slice of life within the AA community just doesn't jive for me.

I say that to say, if you read an AA book and don't particularly care for it, please pick up another one. Perhaps that particular storyline or voice didn't work for you. Like buying shoes, there is definitely one that will be a perfect fit!

Angel said...

Welcome to the Playground, Bridget!!! Unfortunately, I have to admit that I've not read many AA romances that I'm aware of, though I believe I have read a few novellas by Felicia Mason.

Thank you for opening up this interesting subject and exposing me to something new!!! It's been wonderful having you here today.


Playground Monitor said...

That's a great point you bring up, Patricia. There are books by white authors that for whatever reason just don't click with me. But I just find another author and move on. You can't please all the people all the time so you can just hope to hit a nice target audience who'll appreciate your style and voice and subject matter.

Waving to Raine! Thanks for dropping by.

Waving to Mia too It was great meeting you yesterday.


ellie said...

I have read A wonderful novel, My Everything, by Denise Skelton. She is talented and writes beautifully. This was so well written and depicted a relationship very well.

pearl said...

I read Soulful Strut by Lynn Emery. Excellent book with humor and the characters dealing with friction in their lives.

Teresa said...

I also read the wonderful book My Everything by Denise Skelton. It was the story of a inter racial couple loved it. She was a first time author for me and I'm looking forward to her new book coming out at the end of this month.

principessa said...

I have just finished reading When Somebody Loves you back by Mary B. Morrison. She has got me hooked and it was wonderful reading this novel.

Smarty Pants said...

Welcome to the Playground, Bridget! I haven't had the opportunity to read any of the titles recommended today, but I know I'm missing out. Last summer I volunteered at the Lit Signing for Nationals. Brenda Jackson was one of my authors and she had a huge line of people waiting to see her all night. I figured they were onto something so I added her to my TBR pile. Unfortuantely, I'm chipping away at that so slowly, I haven't gotten to any of her titles yet.

Great recommendations, guys!

Kelley St. John said...

Wonderful blog, Bridget! Actually, I just finished reading Brenda Jackson's Solid Soul and that book has earned a sweet spot on my keeper shelf. Amazing, truly enjoyable romance about two single parents (and two children who are determined to get them together -- think Parent Trap, with older and more determined teens). I loved it and plan to read every Brenda Jackson book I can get my hands on! The cover is gorgeous too -- has last year's Mr. Romance winner on it, which is always appealing. This was my first Kimani Romance (Harlequin's African-American line) to read, but I'll be reading more...and often :)


Bridget Anderson said...

Thanks everyone,

I'm glad you enjoyed the blog. That's how I feel about African American Romances. If you ask another author you may get a different viewpoint. But that's what came to mind to me.

Michelle asked: But I'm wondering whether there's pressure to use any contact with readers as a bully pulpit? Or do you simply write as you'd like.

I write only what I like all the time. I love to hear what the readers think and I definitely take things into consideration. But, when I'm thinking of what I want to write about, it's all about what pleases me. And I never preach about anything.

I also love to read and learn about different cultures. It broadens your horizons and I admit knowledge makes me feel powerful. And what better indirect way to experience another culture. It's like being a fly on the wall. If you haven't read many African American Romances I hope I've peaked your curiosity to try one, or two, or more.

Bridget Anderson

Anonymous said...

Hey Bridget excellent artical,
Its nice to see people like you and authors of AA books come together to write such a brave an an entizing piece amazing. I think Multi-cultural authors are not afraid of what they say and think because its all natural and it comes from within.They are not afraid to write about passion and lust but its seems as all these things are part of human nature and sooner or later we will face our hearts deepest deires and thats what makes AA books sooooooo unique!! YOU GO SISTAH!!

Anonymous said...


My name is Latrivia Nelson, and I would love for you to consider my new interracial novel due to hit stores on February 10, 2008. I really feel that in the wake of American trying to make major changes, books like these finally have a place in our soceity. Anyone interested in a serious,romantic and fresh love story, please check out my website at www.latrivianelson.com.

Thanks for providing an avenue to promote Black Female Authors.


Latrivia S. Nelson

Anonymous said...

Latrivia Nelson coming right back to give the most important information that was obviously left out before. My new book is called Ivy's Twisted Vine!

Thanks Again.

Latrivia S. Nelson