Tag Archives: 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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Thief of Hearts, a Christmas novella

December. It’s time to feel the warmth and love of the Christmas Spirit. If she (or he) has not yet visited your home, I suggest you download Thief of Hearts, read it and be inspired to decorate, wrap and spread good cheer.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00016]Elizabeth Ellen Carter is one of my favourite Australian historical novelists. I am constantly amazed at her ability to switch time periods and write with the same level of authenticity, accuracy and passion regardless of whether she is writing about Ancient Rome, medieval England or, as in this case, Victorian England. Her last novella was the delightful Nocturne, a Valentine’s Day release, set in Regency England. I thoroughly enjoyed it, as I thoroughly enjoyed Thief of Hearts, a historical suspense caper involving a Duke as a magician and a young lady as a sleuth. Elizabeth does always like to turn convention on it’s head!

I asked Elizabeth why this particular story. She said, ‘Australians suffer a little bit of cognitive dissonance when it comes to celebrating Christmas. First of all, being in the southern hemisphere, we celebrating in the middle of our summer but happily sing about ‘dashing through the snow’, Frosty the Snowman and that the ‘snow lay all about, deep and crisp and even’.

‘Another thing we missed in our local customs was being outside of the TV ratings periods. Conventional wisdom had it that in the depths of bitter winters, people would gather around the electronic hearth and watch television. And since Christmas fell right in the middle of the northern hemisphere’s TV ratings period, all the best TV shows had a Christmas episode.

‘They were fun and whimsical, often suspending current storylines for something a little bit light-hearted and fun.

‘So, in that Christmas spirit, I wrote The Thief of Hearts, a veritable Christmas punch of few Hercule Poirots, Girl’s Own Adventures stories, a dash of While You Were Sleeping and other Christmas-themed rom-coms.’

Book DescriptionAWWC16

December 1890
London, England

Some seriously clever sleight of hand is needed if aspiring lawyer Caro Addison is ever going to enjoy this Christmas.

To avoid an unwanted marriage proposal, she needs a distraction as neat as the tricks used by The Phantom, the audacious diamond thief who has left Scotland Yard clueless.

While her detective inspector uncle methodically hunts the villain, Caro decides to investigate a suspect of her own – the handsome Tobias Black, a magician extraordinaire, known as The Dark Duke.

He’s the only one with the means, motive and opportunity but the art of illusion means not everything is as it seems, in both crime and affairs of the heart.

As Christmas Day draws near, Caro must decide whether it is worth risking reputations and friendships in order to follow her desires.

Extract

He turned the card over and with a thumbnail flicked a tab made of the same backing as the playing card. Even up close the addition was difficult to see. Tobias placed the card on his lap and pulled out a deck of cards. He flicked the edge of the deck of cards towards them. Each time the Queen of Hearts stood out.

“I want you to think I can read your mind, but in reality…”

Tobias split the deck and showed them the Queen of Hearts and then the other half of the deck. The card that had been just before the Queen of Hearts was fully a third shorter than the rest of the cards. He put the pack together and flicked through the deck once more.

“I make you see what you want to see. I suspect The Phantom does the same.”

“You mean his crime scenes are illusions?” Margaret asked. Tobias gave her a smile and Caro wished oddly that its brightness shone on her too.

“I think so. From what I read in the newspapers… no sign of entry or departure?” he asked. Caro confirmed it with a nod. “That tells me he’s creating an illusion of invulnerability. But it is an illusion. A trick. He wants to force the attention of the police away from something else – in the same way a magician will use a gesture or an action to distract you.

“Find out what that is then you will find his sleight of hand and that will be his vulnerability.”

Tobias stood.

“Now, if I’ve sated your curiosity, I’ll take my leave of you. My crew and I have our last show this evening.”

Caro rose and Margaret did also. Tobias took Margaret’s hand and bowed over it then released it. Then he took Caro’s and held it. Then his eyes held hers for a moment and he dropped a kiss on the back of her hand.

“I’m so glad it was you who paid me a visit… instead of a representative of Scotland Yard.”

“Not at all, Mr Black,” she replied, her voice a little huskier than usual, “you have been more than gracious with your time.

“Call me Tobias.”

He was flirting with her! Caro kept the smile to herself as he escorted them both to the entrance of the theatre.

“Just one more question, Mr Black,” Caro asked. “You wouldn’t happen to know how someone might dispose of a suite of diamonds would you?”

Want to read more? Go to

Author Bio

eecarter400h-203x300Elizabeth Ellen Carter is an award-winning historical romance writer who pens richly detailed historical romantic adventures. A former newspaper journalist, Carter ran an award-winning PR agency for 12 years. The author lives in Australia with her husband and two cats. Elizabeth loves to interact with her readers and you can find her at:

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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.

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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.

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016

I’ve signed up for this year’s Australian Women Writers Challenge and committed to reading 12 books by, yes you guessed it, 12 Australian Women Writers. In keeping with my passion, I’ll be reviewing 12 romance novels, both contemporary and historical as well as a couple of other sub-genres.

I’m probably preaching to the converted here, but in case you’re not familiar with the romance genre, remember that these are books written by women, about women, for women. It’s a feminist genre and a happy, feel-good one, providing a lovely counter-balance to the sand depressing news which dominates our airwaves.

My policy is to only review books I have enjoyed. Time, space and life are too short to devote time and energy to reviewing books I didn’t like. My aim is to share the books and authors I love in the hope of introducing a new reader to them. Some reviews will be of the paperback edition of a book, some the ebook and some the audiobook. I’m an all formats kind of gal, and I am continually surprised – in a good way – by  how the format changes the reading experience

I am also hoping to find some new authors for myself through the other reviewers participating in the Challenge.

Whatever your reading passion, I wish you a year filled with good books.