Diversity in Romance

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! [NOTE: See Diversity in Romance – Second Titles.]

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!

meeting changed to thursday snow date


Due to the weather, we are rescheduling the meeting of the Southeastern Mass. Reader’s Advisory Roundtable (SE-RART) from tomorrow afternoon, to the snow date of THURSDAY MORNING, Feb. 16, 10am-12pm, at the Brockton Public Library, 304 Main St., Brockton.

If this change of date and time means you can attend, after all, when you hadn’t been planning to, please register for the meeting here:


Otherwise, if you were already registered for the meeting, you don’t need to re-register, and we hope you will be able to come to talk about Diversity in Romance on Thursday, Feb. 16, 10am-12pm. There is a parking lot beside the library on White Avenue, and metered parking on Main Street at the front of the building. The parking lot across from the White Avenue entrance is for staff only.

If you cannot make the rescheduled meeting, please submit your second title write-up here, so we can post it!

Diversity in Romance — February 2017

the-price-of-saltNext month, the Southeastern Mass. Reader’s Advisory Roundtable (SE-RART) will be discussing the romance genre with a focus on reading books written by authors who are underrepresented in library collections, in order to explore diversity in Romance.

The meeting is scheduled for the afternoon Monday, Feb 13, 1-3 p.m., at the Brockton Public Library, 304 Main St., Brockton (The snow date is Thursday morning, Feb 16, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.)

To get the most out of the meeting, please read the benchmark title – The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith – and your individually chosen titles from the romance genre and be ready to talk about them in terms of reader’s advisory appeal factors, as laid out by RA-guru Joyce Saricks:

  • Pacing (e.g. breakneck, unhurried, densely written)
  • Characterization (e.g. quirky, well developed, ensemble cast)
  • Plot/Storyline (e.g. action-oriented, sensual, domestic, sexually explicit)
  • Tone/Mood (e.g. gritty, heartwarming, political)
  • Style/Language (e.g. sophisticated, homespun, frank)
  • Frame/Setting (e.g. urban, rural, historical detail, contemporary)

Additional readings for discussion at our February SE-RART meeting will be from The Reader’s Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, 2nd ed., by Joyce Saricks and the two articles listed below. Details on the readings will be emailed to registered participants.

Naughton, Julie. In Loving Color. Publishers Weekly. Nov. 10, 2014. pp. 28–36

Saricks, Joyce. The Reader’s Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, 2nd ed. pp. 143–53

Stano, Eve. All’s Fair in Love. Library Journal. Oct. 15, 2016. pp. 24–9

Don’t forget to register on the MLS Web site!

Although mainstream romance authors are increasingly including diverse primary or secondary characters in their books, we are trying to familiarize ourselves with authors who in some way reflect diversity themselves, so that when we put our list of second titles together the resulting list of authors will be multicultural and diverse in race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, etc.

If you’re looking for ideas for your second title, we have put together a list of possibilities:


Rochelle Alers
Niobia Bryant
Adrianne Byrd
Cherry Cheva
Sylvia Day
Sonali Dev
Gwynne Forster
Donna Hill
Brenda Jackson
Beverly Jenkins
Courtney Milan
Kayla Perrin
Sherry Thomas


Melissa Brayden
Erin Dutton
Penelope Friday
Vanessa North
Kristen Zimmer (Mass. author)

Or check out these links:

Women of Color in Romance

Hey Ladies: Lesbian Romance