Category Archives: Diversity/Romance

Diversity in Romance – 2nd Titles

Here are the write-ups of Romance second titles received:

For the Love of YouTitle: For the Love of You

Author: Donna Hill
Main Appeal Factors: Likeable characters
Genre:
Romance
Annotation/Thoughts: 
This book is a part of an African American romance series: The Lawsons of Louisiana. Craig Lawson is a successful filmmaker and he is estranged from his father. Jewel Fontaine is an artist whose last show tanked and she has returned to Louisiana to take care of her ailing father. Craig believes Jewel’s plantation home would be the perfect setting for his next movie. Sparks fly when Craig and Jewel meet. Characters are likeable. This book is predictable and has a typical happy ending like all good romance novels. Sex parts are few but rather steamy. Pace neither too fast nor too slow and the action takes place midway through the book.

Snow FallsTitle: Snow Falls
Author: Gerri Hill
Main Appeal Factors: character centered, thought-provoking, psychological
Genre: 
Romance
Annotation/Thoughts: 
Frame: Contemporary lesbian romance, set in Colorado mountain country. Both main characters are writers.
Tone: Some humor, but an overall serious tone as both women have to overcome obstacles from their pasts to be able to acknowledge that they are in love with each other.
Pacing: Plot moves forward quickly
Plot/Storyline: Romance heats up quickly between two young women, who are strangers forced to share an isolated mountain cabin with with just one bed for six weeks when snow blocks the only access road, but progress is slow because Catherine, known as “Ryan”, thinks Jennifer isn’t interested because she is engaged to a man and Jennifer doesn’t understand why she feels more attracted to Ryan than to Brad, her longtime friend, now fiancé.
Characterization: Ryan and Jennifer are given unusual and vastly different backgrounds that have stunted them in different ways, but they are both likable, as are their friends, both straight and gay, who urge them individually to open up to each other and be more trusting.
Recommend to readers who are open to an LGBTQ romance. Sex scenes are steamy but not graphic, and have a long slow build-up.

ForbiddenTitle: Forbidden
Author: Beverly Jenkins
Main Appeal Factors:
Romance, historical, Old West, racial equality, community
Genre: Romance
Annotation/Thoughts:When we first meet Eddy Carmichael she has finally saved enough money from scrubbing floors to move across the country and try her hand at opening her own restaurant. But as she begins her journey to a better life an unkind traveler steals all her hard earned money and leaves her for dead in the middle of the desert. Enter our hero, Rhine Fontaine. He, with the help of his community, rescues her from the desert and nurses her back to health. The attraction the two feel for each other is undeniable, but they simply cannot be together because Eddy is black and Rhine is white. Or so everyone thinks. Rhine has chosen, for lots of complicated (but well explained) reasons, to pass for white. I am not going to list them all- if you want to know that then you should read the book! But one reason he chooses to pass is so he can give loans and leases to the local people of color, in order to start their own businesses, which the banks won’t give them. Beverly Jenkins expertly balances the ugly truth of racism during this time in the Old West with a hopeful and romantic message. Her characters are empowered through their profound sense of community and in their professional lives. One extremely important element of romance, that can make or break the story, is the reason the hero and heroine seemingly can’t be together. This part of the story was so well done- there were legitimate forces keeping Eddy and Rhine apart and they had so much respect for one another. In terms of sexual content this romance was on the tame side. There were certainly a number of steamy encounters but the couple ultimately decides to wait until they are married.

RollerGirlTitle: Roller Girl
Author: Vanessa North
Main Appeal Factors: 
Light tone, transgender and gay/lesbian characters, steamy love scenes, humor
Genre: Romance
Annotation/Thoughts: Tina Durham is recently divorced (quite possibly the sweetest, most amicable divorce ever, btw), and surprises herself by falling hard for a new woman…and a new sport! Tina is a retired wakeboarding champion working as a personal trainer since her gender reassignment, when she meets Joanne (derby name: Joe Mama), a plumber who just happens to be looking for new recruits for her roller derby team. This story is loaded with positivity and humor, as well as steamy love scenes, lots of roller derby, and a happy ending (no pun intended).

Documenting LightTitle: Documenting Light
Author: E.E. Ottoman
Main Appeal Factors:
characters; trans couple; background of history
Genre: Romance
Annotation/Thoughts: (Part of Hellum and Neal series) Is it a romance? Yes, Wyatt and Grayson are two lonely people with multiple issues beyond the fact that neither feels s/he is in the right body. They meet, fall in love, and provide support for each other’s problems. The sex isn’t graphic; more romantic.
Background is important because much of this story is about historical research into “underground people”: the gays, lesbians, and trans people who couldn’t come out, but definitely still existed in the past. This was the most interesting part of the story and really made you think.
Pace: The romance happens pretty quickly, and there isn’t the long stage of the characters fighting off their attraction. It read quickly, but is not a page-turner. The story is linear. In another writer’s hands, there might have been a past story of the couple in the picture.
Setting: Upstate NY with some rural interludes. Great old house.
Characterization: All of the characters felt real, from the mother with Alzheimer’s, to the deli owner who was gruff but understanding, to the different attitudes of the pair’s sisters. Wyatt and Grayson were full blown with backstories (which could have been more fully developed.) The story is told from both people’s point of view and you never see beyond what they experience.
Language: Here is the main problem. Wyatt wanted to be referred to as “they/their/them” which is done about half way through the book, even by the narrator. It made it hard when “they” actually referred to two people. I translated in my head to “she”.
Thinking person’s romance: not so much a grab for quick night’s read.

TreasureTitle: Treasure
Author: Rebekah Weatherspoon
Main Appeal Factors: LGBTQ, new adult, romance, living with mental illness, family, first love, novella
Genre:
Romance
Annotation/Thoughts: 
Treasure tells the love story of Alexis and Trisha, two lesbian women of color. Alexis is living with anxiety and depression and is still coming to terms with her sexuality and her expression of it. Trisha is an openly gay young woman who dances at a club and goes by the name Treasure at work. The two meet when Alexis’ sister’s bachelorette party pays visit to the club Trisha dances at. They never expect to see each other again and both surprised to find they are the only young women enrolled in a computer program at the local college. Trisha and Alexis’ love story was a sweet one. Both young women are experiencing their first relationship and the story is very indicative of first love. Treasure is a quick and easy-to-read novella that might even appeal to reluctant readers. The story also explores both the girls’ relationships with their families; Trisha’s mother is very comfortable with her being gay and Alexis’ family is still struggling to accept her for who she is. While I personally felt the writing was only okay I read a lot of positive reviews on Treasure, reviews like “I wish this story had been around when I was young and discovering my sexuality”. I would definitely recommend this as part of a YA or NA collection.

Diversity in Romance DIscussion – Feb. 16

cover imageSeven members of the Southeastern Mass. Reader’s Advisory Roundtable group slogged through a fresh batch of snow on the snow date of February 16 to talk about the Romance genre with a focus on titles by authors from underrepresented backgrounds. The goal is to sharpen our reader’s advisory skills; broaden our knowledge of authors and titles; create  more well-rounded displays, booklists, etc.; improve diversity of library collections; and encourage reading of diverse books.

The supplemental readings we talked about were:

Naughton, Julie. In Loving Color. Publishers Weekly. Nov. 10, 2014. pp. 28–36
Saricks, Joyce. The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, 2nd ed., Ch. 8: Romance, pp. 143-53
Stano, Eve. All’s Fair in Love. Library Journal. Oct. 15, 2016. pp. 24–9

Points brought out:

  • While it’s easy to find romances with diverse characters, it’s less easy to find romance books in print by diverse authors. See the Library Journal article for publishers to look out for in collection development. (Maggie)
  • Romance authors are very responsive to readers and there is a trend in Romance towards more diversity, including more books authored by people of color and more widely available LGBTQ titles. (Elise)
  • “Romances are fantasies , and their readers recognize them as such, just as readers of Mystery, Science Fiction, Western, Thriller, and other genres recognize their favorites as fantasies.” – Joyce Saricks
  • While wealth tends to be an appealing part of the romantic fantasy, “billionaire romances” are trending downward as readers are less enthralled with all that privilege. (Elise)
  • Booklist just published a column by Neil Hollands, Every Book Its Reader: Diversity and Readers’ Advisory, which mentions our two upcoming benchmark authors, Walter Mosley for Mystery and Ken Liu for Fantasy, as well as authors we have shared as our second titles for previous roundtable discussions. (Maggie)

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith compared favorably to the movie Carol,  a couple of people reported. It was chosen as our benchmark title because it was published in 1952 and became known as the only lesbian romance with a happy ending. We thought it would be interesting to see how far the genre has come in that regard.

We talked about whether The Price of Salt fit the criteria for romance (i.e. if you take away the romance, there’s not much left; an emotional tone that draws readers in; and a happy ending) and decided it was too atmospheric and noirish in tone to please readers looking for a romance. Also, although the plot/storyline was an obsessive love relationship, there was too much ambiguity and psychological subtleties to provide that assurance that there would eventually be a happy ending. (Not to mention that the ending being “happy” was debatable, some thought!)

The author published it under a pseudonym and didn’t publish any other what she called “girl books” because she wanted to be considered a serious writer, but according to an article in The New Yorker, The Love Story Behind Carol, the storyline was based on an incident from the author’s own life and drew on her experiences during a time period when homosexuality was something that could be corrected through psychoanalysis or other means.

The second titles we read and talked about in terms of reader’s advisory appeal factors –frame, tone, pacing, plot/storyline, characters – were the following:

Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins

The Magpie Lord by

Far from Home by Lorelei Brown

For the Love of You by Donna Hill

Roller Girl by Vanessa North (Note: There is an interview with Vanessa North in the Library Journal article mentioned above.)

Treasure by Rebecca Weatherspoon

A Little Holiday Temptation by Janice Sims

Snow Falls by Gerri Hill

If you read a second title, even if you couldn’t attend the rescheduled meeting, please submit your brief write-up on the blog, and we will post them soon!

The agenda from today’s meeting is here.

Feel free to comment or email if something important has been left out!

Please register for the Wed., April 5th meeting, 10am-12pm, at the Attleboro Public Library on the MLS Workshop Calendar here. Hope to see you there to talk about diversity in the Mystery genre!