Tag Archives: contemporary romance

Diversity in Romance: US report finds only 7.8% of romance titles by people of colour

Diversity in romance is a hot topic at the moment. It’s fuelled by questions around cultural identity and sales.

Who has the right to create characters from different backgrounds? On the one hand, no one is better positioned to write a character with, say, an African American background than an African American. On the other hand, taken to extremes, that argument would mean no Othello, no Ophelia and no romance heroes with their own POV, at least not when written by female writers. And does this mean that a writer from an Asian background can’t write Regency Romance, even if she wants to? And what does it mean about aliens and shape-shifters? The world would be a much duller place if writers only wrote what they knew.

There is also, of course, the issue of unrepresented minorities in history. We think of medieval Britain as an island predominantly populated by white people, but what of the descendants of the African Roman soldiers stationed along Hadrian’s Wall before the collapse of the Roman Empire?

Then there is the thorny issue of sales. Which comes first, the demand or the story? I’m inclined to favour the perspective that the way forward is to ensure diversity within publishing houses. If editors and publishers have diverse interests and backgrounds, they will find those great books which have universal appeal regardless of the cultural identity, nationality or race of the characters.

The publishing industry certainly isn’t there yet. Bookseller and Publisher covered an 2rippedbodicereport2016Entertainment Weekly story on The Ripped Bodice’s report on the racial diversity of romance publishing in the US during 2016. The Ripped Bodice is a romance specialist bookstore. They found that only 7.8% of romance titles published were written by people of colour. ‘People of colour’ is a broadly descriptive term that not all writers of non-Anglo Saxon heritage will identify with. However, given that US census figures indicate that up to 28% of the American population identifies as either black or Hispanic, the diversity book is clearly not balanced.

Half of the 20 publishers surveyed had fewer than five percent of their books authored by people of colour, and only three publishers had at least 10% of their books authored by people of colour.

The report co-authors and owners of The Ripped Bodice, Leah and Bea Koch, said they were motivated to conduct the study ‘because they often found themselves short of options when customers come in looking for traditionally published books by authors of color’.

‘We have found it difficult to continue the conversation about diversity in romance without hard data,’ said the Kochs. ‘For many years the common refrain from publishers has been “we’re working on it.” Every year we will track industry growth and see if that promise rings true.’

The report notes that all of the publishers mentioned were invited to contribute statistics to the study. More than half engaged directly, with the missing data gathered from publisher and distributor websites.

I think this is an excellent initiative by The Ripped Bodice. I’m also giving a shout-out to all those publishers who participated willingly and all the indie authors who publish diverse romance but weren’t covered by this study. The more we talk, the more answers and solutions we’ll create and the more great romances we will have to read.

Australia has a very diverse, multicultural society. It would be interesting to see a similar study done here. I suspect the numbers would not look much better although I do know many publishers who actively hunt for and publish magnificent stories by individuals from marginalised or misunderstood groups, whether because of their cultural background, sexual preferences or other factors.

If you’re looking for a reading list of diverse authors and characters, try one of these four books, or have a browse on GoodReads, where there are many recommended book lists complete with comments.

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New book review: The Most Scandalous Ravensdale by Melanie Milburne

The Most Scandalous Ravensdale by Melanie Milburne (Harlequin Sexy) is book four in Milburne RavensdaleAWWC.jpgMelanie’ Ravensdale series. The Ravensdales in question are the sons and daughters of famous theatre actors Richard and Elisabetta Ravensdale – except for Kat, the heroine of book four, who is Richard’s illegitimate daughter.

Kat’s mother tells her on her deathbed that Richard is her father and that he paid her many years ago to have an abortion to preserve his reputation and his marriage. Now the press has found out about her existence, and Richard is trying to make amends. Kat wants nothing to do with him. She knows he is only interested in ‘damage control’ not in her. In fact, she’s furious the press has found out because her dream is a career in theatre, but she wants to make it on her own not on the back of the family name. Is that even possible in a world where image is everything and the gossip of the gutter press knows no bounds? When Kat is labelled the most ‘scandalous’ Ravensdale, it is not a synonym for outrageous but acceptable behaviour from yet another famous-for-being-famous celebrity but a hurtful tag reflecting the damage done to both Kat and Richard’s acknowledged family.

However, Richard is a man who believes all problems can be smoothed over, and he is not about to take no for an answer. He sets his hotshot lawyer Flynn Carlyon the task of changing her mind. Flynn is both charming and cynical and he relishes a challenge. He understands the nature of his client but he is also arrogant enough to think he knows what is best for Kat and that she will benefit from meeting the brothers and sisters she never knew.

The chemistry between Kat and Flynn is instant; it smoulders between them waiting for one small spark to trigger combustion. Flynn sets the scene. After all, he is willing and able to use all his charms to change Kat’s mind. He knows and she knows it. Kat’s mind may be strong but her body is tempted, so very tempted. Meanwhile Kat gets the audition of a lifetime only to find out it will pair her with Elisabetta, the one person in theatre with a good reason for wishing she doesn’t exist. Could her life get any more complicated?

Flynn is also finding his life unexpectedly complicated by his latest assignment. As he gets to know Kat, he realises he couldn’t (and doesn’t want to) force her into the decision to acknowledge Richard, no matter how much he thinks she deserves a place in the Ravensdale family.

As a reader, I was conflicted as Kat closed in on an inevitable meeting with her father. Part of me wanted to encourage her to turn her back and walk away in the hope it might teach him a long overdue lesson. However, another part of me knew that there is little point in cutting of your nose to spite your face. Pride alone cannot change facts and, as a rule, the earlier those facts are faced, the better. Sometimes there are even unexpected bonuses to meeting challenges head on. Would that prove true for Kate. Could her fledgling relationship  with Flynn withstand the assault of everyday complications and conflicting loyalties, especially with the whole world watching? You’ll have to read The Most Scandalous Ravensdale to find out.

Within both the confines of Kat and Flynn’s relationship and the series as a whole Melanie Milburne has examined the concept of family and what it means. Her view is prosaic and not at all rose-coloured. An adopted child who is always the ugly duckling of his family. A single parent family where the daughter is the caregiver. A tight-knit but dysfunctional family where the façade displays one truth and the occupants know another. The varied reasons why people remain tied by by blood and need. The happy family which offers hope that others can build their own. Can love conquer all? How?

It’s difficult to develop a passionate happy ending for two characters and include thoughtful observations on the nature of family, the ties that bind and the way those ties influence and affect us in a short novel; somehow Melanie gets it right.

I enjoyed Kat and Flynn’s story very much; I just wish I could have spent a little more time with
them.

I won a copy of The Most Scandalous Ravensdale via Harlequin Junkie and was delighted to read the final instalment in this series.

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About the author

Melanie MilburneAustralian Melanie Milburne is a USA Today bestselling author. She started reading Mills & Boon romances when she was seventeen. Luckily, reading is the best form of research for a writer so she is able to combine work and pleasure. Melanie has won several awards including the Australian Romance Readers Association’s (ARRA) most popular category series romance in 2008 and the prestigious Romance Writers of Australia RUBY award in 2011. You can find out more about Melanie, her books and how to connect with her on her website.

New book review: Escaping Mr Right by Avril Tremayne

I’m delighted to feature Escaping Mr Right as my first book review for the Australian Women Writers 2016 challenge. I was hooked right from the opening lines:

Nick Savage was like the human incarnation of a heat-seeking missile. Unfortunately, his target was me. Always, always me.

Aside from the immediate introduction of humour, I got an intriguing glimpse into Chloe, a AWWC16 Escaping Mr Rightwoman clearly attractive to others (or at least to A.N. Other) who didn’t want to be in the limelight. Interesting. In addition, first person is unusual in a romance, so I curled up in my favourite chair in happy anticipation of a great story.

Avril Tremayne lived up to the promise of that opening sentence, delivering a smart and sassy romance with a dark heart that lingered long after I read ‘the end’. The story packs the emotional punch of a black forest cake layered with kirsch-infused cherries and topped with cream – rich, melt-in-your-mouth sensuality with a powerful kick.

Escaping Mr Right moves between the glamour of a high-paying sports code and the desperate plight of orphans in the Phillipines. Chloe Masters is a television presenter whose boyfriend Marcus is the high profile captain of the Sydney Scorpions rugby league team. As the story opens, she is trying to work out why she is not as content as she should be with her perfect relationship while also avoiding the attentions of Marcus’ teammate Nick Savage whom she is convinced is a typical sports sleaze and to whom she will tell anyone who listens that she is not attracted. When she is assigned by her network to cover a charity drive by the team, she finds herself heading to the Phillipines, but with Nick not Marcus after an impulsive break up.

As Chloe and Nick embark on a passionate, secret affair in the Phillipines, their personal histories and fears come to the fore, driving their actions. Because the narrative is told from Chloe’s point of view, it was easy to understood her fears and needs and prejudices. Her carefully constructed and immaculate façade is a glossy shell designed to protect her from the world. It never occurs to Chloe that she and Nick have more in common than she thinks. She just knows that Nick has the power to penetrate her shell and that makes him very, very dangerous.

A dare-you-to-lose-it look was in his heavy-lidded eyes. ‘I don’t share all my toys Chloe. Remember that when the time comes.’

Despite the fact that it is Chloe who tells the story, the complexity of Nick’s character is immediately apparent. As the story unfolds, I felt increasingly sorry for him. His attraction to Chloe is always apparent, as is his perception and understanding of the less-than perfect individual beneath the façade. The flames of passion burn away their differences but also open old wounds. As Chloe and Nick draw closer, she says too much and him not enough; disaster breaks along with a terrifying storm. One of them has to find the courage to break the impasse.

There were so many elements of this story I loved. I really liked the support crew, especially Evie, Jack and Drew. I like the break-up haircuts and the seriously hot sex. I liked the snappy dialogue and genuine emotion. And I really loved the way the author peeled away the layers of character to reveal the hurts Chloe and Nick carried and hid and nursed. We all carry something dark that tortures us. Something we try to hide away and overcome. Something that threatens to destroy us, our happiness and our future if not dealt with.

Escaping Mr Right will make you laugh, cry a little and sigh with happiness. Highly recommended.

5 hearts all

 

 

Escaping Mr Right by Avril Tremayne (Random Romance) is available as an ebook. It is the second novel in a trilogy which starts with Wanting Mr Wrong (Evie and Jack’s story) but it can be read as a stand alone novel. I can’t wait for book #3.

Avril Tremayne

 

The feisty Ms Avril Tremayne writes sexy, funny modern romances. Find out more about her and her books at http://www.avriltremayne.com/#!books/cnec.

Related post.

New Book Review: A Vow to Secure His Legacy by Annie West

Annie West writes wonderful heart-warming and sexy romances so I was delighted toA Vow To Secure His Legacy by Annie West hear she has a new book out this month from Harlequin Presents. A Vow to Secure His Legacy is the story of shy, conservative account Imogen Holgate and sexy Parisian Thierry Girard.

Sensible Imogen has always been a long-term planner, saving for a home in the hope of building a family. During the past year, she has lost her flamboyant twin sister in a road accident and her mother to a terminal illness. Now she believes she is living on borrowed time with the same illness that claimed her mother. Isabelle’s words keep echoing in her head: ‘You need to get out and live, Imogen. Try something new, take a risk, enjoy yourself. Life is for living!’ On impulse, she drops everything and spends her life savings on a once-in-a-lifetime around-the-world trip. In Paris, Isabelle’s favourite city, she meets Thierry Girard.

Playboy Thierry loves high adrenalin sports, fast cars and beautiful. Since his first love refused to marry him he has resolutely refused to love again. When the family business that has made the Girard’s a household name amongst the French elite is in trouble, he is obliged to step in to save it. Looking for a distraction from city streets, cocktail parties and business commitments, he finds Imogen fresh, alluring and irresistible. A holiday romance fits the script for Imogen; after all, it is her year for doing what she never In praise of A Vow to Support His Legacywould otherwise. However, after she leaves Paris, she finds herself pregnant, and with no one else for support and worried about her child’s future, she turns to Thierry for help. To Imogen’s surprise, Thierry asks – practically demands – that she marry him. As they work through the early days of a marriage fuelled by passion but complicated by her illness and cross-cultural differences, Imogen realises how big the gulf is between her world and his. She isn’t sure she will ever fit in. And how does Thierry really feel about her?

I fell in love with both the characters in this romance. Imogen is far braver and more beautiful, inside and out, than she ever gives herself credit for. While Thierry is a typical playboy on the outside, he has far more substance than that: intelligence, a quiet strength, compassion, generosity and humour – and I haven’t even mentioned he looks fabulous in everything from a dinner suit to a pair of jeans. To make their marriage work and achieve their happily ever after, Thierry needs to open his heart and Imogen needs to trust hers.

A Vow to Secure His Legacy is a superb read. Annie West uses the attraction of opposites to explore issues of risk and trust and how every couple must overcome these hurdles if they are to find love and happiness.

Available from 11 February. To read an extract and for buy links, visit Annie’s book page.

5 hearts all

 

 

USA Today bestselling author Annie WestAnnie West is the USA Today bestselling author over 30 books for Harlequin Mills & Boon. In her teens, she got hooked on romance and never looked back. The boys at school couldn’t compare with all those strong silent flashing-eyed Italians, haughty Spanish aristocrats and the rest. Fortunately, she found her own tall, dark romantic hero while at university, where despite the distraction she completed an honours degree in Classics. She lives with him and her family north of Sydney, Australia.

Postscript: I reviewed A Vow to Secure His Legacy before I signed up to review 12 books for the 2016 Australian Women Writers challenge.  However, it obviously belongs in the challenge, so I am making it my lucky 13th review.

New release: Christmas Down Under box set

Spend some time Down Under this Christmas, where the weather is hot and the men are hotter.

Christmas Down Under is the perfect box set for your Christmas Down Under.pngDecember holidays. It’s a delicious confirmation of exactly why those of us who live in the Southern hemisphere love the heady partnership of summer sun and prawns on the barbie on Christmas Day. If you’re currently snowed-in and shivering somewhere up North, these stories will warm your heart with their combination of long lazy summer days and Christmas cheer.

This contemporary romance collection features five New Zealand and Australian authors and one honourary Kiwi, American Rosalind James, who gets a nod after a 15-month stint in Auckland. It’s a weighty collection of over 900 pages that will comfortably keep you going through a 10-day holiday as it contains five full-length books and novella. These sweet-sexy romances range from a little bit steamy all the way to OMG.

Although I loved all the stories in Christmas Down Under, my personal favourite was Annie Seaton’s novella Christmas with the Boss. It has sun, summer, loving, and a cheeky ghost who helps Jilly and Dominic to straddle the hurdle that is their office relationship. There’s a long tradition of Christmas ghost stories including A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, and I like the way a ghost story links this collection to Christmas in all countries regardless of climate.

Another aspect of the collection I really enjoyed was how each author made the location of her story come to life, giving me a feel for cities and places all over New Zealand as well as the NSW north coast of Australia.

The Christmas Down Under box set is only available until the end of December, so download your copy asap. It’s great value for money at only 99c.

Rating

3.5 hearts

 

 

More about the stories (in order of appearance)

A Festive Treat by Serenity Woods: Haunted Skye Graham only wanted a one-night stand, but Owen Hall’s an expert at finding lost people, and he’s determined to search the whole of the Northland until he tracks her down.

Christmas with the Boss by Annie Seaton: Jilly Henderson had been looking forward to five days of bliss at the beach: alone, no work, and with no one to bother her over the Christmas break. The last thing she expects is to find her sexy boss, Dominic, holidaying in the beach shack next door. This surf god looks mighty different from the uptight executive she’s used to–and mighty hard to ignore.

Christmas Holiday Hearts by Kris Pearson: Ellie McKenna’s dream job becomes her worst nightmare when she discovers the man she’ll be working for is her long-ago holiday fling. He gave her the hottest memories of her life – and a son he knows nothing about. How will Ellie carry out her Christmas holiday contract now?

Just for Now by Rosalind James: Just for Now is part of Rosalind James’ Escape to New Zealand series. Jenna McKnight has run from heartbreak into a new body, a new city, and a new job. But the gorgeous Auckland villa isn’t really her home, rugby star Finn Douglas and his kids aren’t really her family, and playing house can be a dangerous game.

Promising Penny by Joanne Hill: Penny Portman works in her parents’ Auckland cafe and dreams of running her own place one day. When old friend Michael McGuinn shows up, her feelings for him resurface, and she wonders if he will ever think of her as more than an honorary sister and if this could be the Christmas all her wishes come true.

Hide Your Heart by Tracey Alvarez: Lauren Taylor has returned to her New Zealand hometown, hiding from her famous past. Nate Fraser plans to fix up the property next door and sell it as a celebrity retreat. As passion ignites between them over the Christmas season, can Lauren trust Nate with her secrets, and her heart?

More about the authors (in order of appearance)

Serenity Woods is an award-winning author who lives in the sub-tropical Northland of New Zealand with her wonderful husband and gorgeous teenage son. She writes hot and sultry contemporary romances and much rather immerse herself in reading or writing romance than in doing the dusting and ironing, which is why it’s not a great idea to pop round if you have any allergies.

Annie Seaton lives near the beach on the mid-north coast of New South Wales. She is fulfilling her lifelong dream of writing and has been delighted to discover that readers love reading her stories as much as she loves writing them. She worked in education for most of her working life, completing a Masters Degree in Education before she took up a full-time writing career.

Kris Pearson grew up surrounded by orchards in Hastings, New Zealand, and always knew she was going to be a writer. In addition, she has worked in radio, as a copywriter, in television, and in advertising. These days she and her husband own a décor company and are proof that happily ever after does exist.

Rosalind James met her husband Rick at UC Berkeley when she was 21, so she really does believe in True Love and Happily Ever After, a fact which helps a lot in writing her stories! Their home base when they’re not adventuring is in Berkeley, California. During 15-month stint in New Zealand she fell in love with the country, the beauty and diversity of the landscape (not to mention the seascapes), the Maori culture and its integration into the country’s life, and, perhaps more than anything, the people: modest, good-humored, unfailingly polite and hospitable, and so very funny.

Joanne Hill is a writer of contemporary fiction with romantic elements. Besides writing fiction, Jo blogs about pop culture and heritage and has written feature articles for local magazines.

Tracey Alvarez lives in the Coolest Little Capital in the World (a.k.a Wellington, New Zealand) where she has yet to be buried under her TBR book pile by our infamous wind – my Kindle’s a lifesaver! Fuelled by copious amounts of coffee, she is now the author of contemporary romantic fiction set predominantly in New Zealand. Small-towns, close communities, and families are a big part of the heart-warming stories I love to write. Oh, and hot, down-to-earth heroes—real Kiwi men, in other words.

 

Protected by the Prince by Annie West

Protected by the PrinceUSA Today best selling author Annie West won the RuBY for best short, sexy contemporary romance for Damaso Claims His Heir at this past weekend’s 2015 Romance Writers of Australia awards evening – which seems to me an excellent reason to review another of her novels, the deliciously naughty and extremely nice Protected by the Prince.

Normally when I read a book involving royalty, I travel back in time at least 200 years so I was intrigued to find out how I would feel about a modern-day Prince Charming. Would the spell be as real in a world I know the ugly truth about? Of course, as I should have known, whether I love or hate a character has everything to do with the skill of the writer, and Annie did not let me down.

Prince Alaric is as remote as the tiny mountain kingdom he rules, bound by a strict sense of honour and a deep cynicism based on past experiences. He is not averse to the charms of women, but he no longer lets one anywhere close to his heart.

Tamsin Connors is not the least bit interested in Alaric’s position or his fortune; its his archives she wants to explore so that she can restore her tarnished name in her discipline. But when she uncovers a dangerous secret in those same archives, she is suddenly the subject of his full attention.

Alaric discovers to his surprise that looks can be deceiving. He can feel powerfully attracted to a bespectacled women in dowdish manly clothes (although he itches to dress her in more flattering clothes). In turn, Tamsin discovers that there is more to the Prince than meets – or bedazzles – the eye.

Annie West draws a wonderful portrait of two wounded but independent souls getting to know each other and discovering that passion – and love – can exist and flourish with the person you were least likely to pick as compatible.

Annie has an honours degree in Classics and lives near Lake Macquarie north of Sydney with her own tall, dark and handsome hero. She lives out her fantasies about exotic locations and brooding foreign lovers through her books.

4 hearts

 

 

Protected by the Prince is a sexy contemporary romance.