Race and Romance: A Bibliography

General discussions of race/ethnicity/racism in romance

(academic articles and less academic posts from well-informed readers and authors. Items relating to specific novels/authors can be found in a separate section further down the page. These lists are not exhaustive.)

Abdullah-Poulos, Layla, 2018. "The Stable Muslim Love Triangle - Triangular Desire in African American Muslim Romance Fiction." Journal of Popular Romance Studies 7.

Azteclady. "Cops in the romance genre".

Bach, Evelyn, 1997. 'Sheik Fantasies: Orientalism and Feminine Desire in the Desert Romance', Hecate, 23.1: 9-40.

Beckett, Lois, 2019. 'Fifty shades of white: the long fight against racism in romance novels', The Guardian, Thu 4 Apr 2019.

Beidler, Peter, 1991. 'The Contemporary Indian Romance: A Review Essay', American Indian Culture and Research Journal 15.4: 97-125.

Bennett-Kapusniak, Renee and Adriana McCleer, 2015. "Love in the Digital Library: A Search for Racial Heterogeneity in E-Books." Journal of Popular Romance Studies 5.1.

Blanding, Cristen, 2005. Interracial romance novels and the resolution of racial difference. Thesis (M.A.)--Bowling Green State University.

Burge, Amy, 2012. Desiring the East: A Comparative Study of Middle English Romance and Modern Popular Sheikh Romance. PhD thesis, University of York.

Burge, Amy, 2016. Representing Difference in the Medieval and Modern Orientalist Romance. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

Burley, Stephanie, 2000. "Shadows and Silhouettes: The Racial Politics of Category Romance." Paradoxa: Studies in World Literary Genres 5.13-14: 324-343.

Burley, Stephanie Carol., 2003. "Hearts of Darkness: The Racial Politics of Popular Romance." U of Maryland, College Park (Dissertation Abstracts International, Section A: The Humanities and Social Sciences 64.6: 2082)

Cao, Lucy. "Asian Heroes: The Prominence and Perception of East Asian Heroes", Unsuitable: Conversations about Women, History and Popular Fiction.

Caton, Steven C., 2000. “The Sheik: Instabilities of Race and Gender in Transatlantic Popular Culture of the Early 1920s.” Noble Dreams, Wicked Pleasures: Orientalism in America, 1870-1930. Ed. Holly Edwards. Princeton: Princeton UP. 99-117.

Dandridge, Rita B., 2003. 'The Race, Gender, Romance Connection: A Black Feminist Reading of African American Women's Historical Romances', in Doubled Plots: Romance and History, eds. Susan Strehle and Mary Paniccia Carden (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi). 185-201.

Dandridge, Rita B., 2004. Black Women's Activism: Reading African American Women's Historical Romances, African-American Literature and Culture, 5 (New York: Peter Lang).

Dandridge, Rita B., 2010. 'The African American Historical Romance: An Interview with Beverly Jenkins', Journal of Popular Romance Studies 1.1.

Duder, C. J. D., 1991. “Love and the Lions: The Image of White Settlement in Kenya in Popular Fiction, 1919-1939.” African Affairs, 90.360: 427-38.

Edmondson, Belinda, 2007. 'The Black romance.' " Women's Studies Quarterly 35.1/2: 191-211.

Foster, Guy Mark, 2007. 'How Dare a Black Woman Make Love to a White Man! Black Women Romance Novelists and the Taboo of Interracial Desire.' in Empowerment versus Oppression: Twenty First Century Views of Popular Romance Novels. ed. Sally Goade, (Newcastle, U.K.:Cambridge Scholars Pub.) pp. 103-128.

Ganesan, Asha, 2017. "Guest Post: The Diversity Thorn – Ethnic Identity, History, and Historical Romance."

Gargano, Elizabeth, 2006. ' "English Sheiks" and Arab Stereotypes: E. M. Hull, T. E. Lawrence, and the Imperial Masquerade', Texas Studies in Literature and Language 48.2: 171-186.

Garland, Sarah, 2012. 'Ornamentalism: Desire, Disavowal, and Displacement in E. M. Hull's The Sheik', Must Read: Rediscovering American Bestsellers from Charlotte Temple to The Da Vinci Code, ed. Sarah Churchwell and Thomas Ruys Smith (London: Continuum), pp. 197-216.

Gregor, Theresa Lynn, 2010. From Captors to Captives: American Indian Responses to Popular American Narrative Forms. Ph.D. thesis from University of Southern California. [See the section on "Savage Obsession and Dreamquest: The Cultural Work of Contemporary Mass-Marketed American/Indian Romances," pages 175-186.]

Holden, Stacy E., 2015. 'Love in the Desert: Images of Arab-American Reconciliation in Contemporary Sheikh Romance Novels', Journal of Popular Romance Studies 5.1.[7] [See also Megan Crane's response in the same issue of the journal.]

Jagodzinski, Mallory, 2015. Love is (Color) Blind: Historical Romance Fiction and Interracial Relationships in the Twenty-First Century. PhD dissertation, Graduate College of Bowling Green State University. [This dissertation analyzes three historical romance novels — Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress by Theresa Romain (2015), The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran (2008) and The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan (2013)]

Jarmakani, Amira, 2010. '“The Sheik Who Loved Me”: Romancing the War on Terror', Signs 35.4: 993-1017.

Jarmakani, Amira. 2011. "Desiring the Big Bad Blade: Racing the Sheikh in Desert Romances." American Quarterly 63, no. 4: 895-928.

Jarmakani, Amira, 2015. An Imperialist Love Story: Desert Romances and the War on Terror. New York: New York UP, 2015.

Kamble, Jayashree, 2014. Making Meaning in Popular Romance Fiction: An Epistemology. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Kerr, Ashley Elizabeth, 2019. “Indigenous Lovers and Villainous Scientists: Rewriting Nineteenth-Century Ideas of Race in Argentine Romance Novels”, Chasqui 48.1: 293-310. Excerpt. [This is about three novels (written in 2005 and 2010) by Argentinian authors and set in the nineteenth century.]
Kingston, Elizabeth. "History's Been Hijacked: The Perpetuation of White Supremacist Ideology in History-based Fiction". Paper presented to Bowling Green State University's conference on Researching the Romance - April 13-14, 2018. She's also posted (a very slightly shorter version of) the paper on her own website along with a follow-up piece, "Practical Advice: Expanded edition" which is exactly what its title states it is.

Lessard, Victoria, 2017. Marketing Desire: The "Normative/Other" Male Body and the "Pure" White Female Body on the Cover Art of Cassie Edwards' Savage Dream (1990), Savage Persuasion (1991), and Savage Mists (1992), MA thesis, McGill University.

Macdonald, Andrew, Gina Macdonald, and MaryAnn Sheridan. 2000. Shape-shifting: images of Native Americans in recent popular fiction. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press. (See chapter on The Romance Genre: Welcome to Club Cherokee).

Moody, Stephanie. “Identification, Affect, and Escape: Theorizing Popular Romance Reading.” Pedagogy 16.1 (2016): 105-123.

Moody, Stephanie Lee, 2013. "Affecting Genre: Women's Participation with Popular Romance Fiction." Ph.D thesis. University of Michigan.

Omissi, Dominic, 1995. The Mills and Boon memsahibs: women's romantic Indian fiction 1877-1947. Ph.D., Lancaster. 

Osborne, Gwendolyn, 2002. "How Black Romance - Novels, that is - Came to Be." Black Issues Book Review Jan-Feb. 2002. 50.

Osborne, Gwendolyn E., 2004. "'Women Who Look Like Me': Cultural Identity and Reader Responses to African American Romance Novels." Race/Gender/Media: Considering Diversity Across Audiences, Content, and Producers, ed. Rebecca Ann Lind (New York: Pearson), pp. 61-68.

Peabody, Rebecca, 2016. 'Kara Walker: American Romance in Black and White', Romance Fiction and American Culture: Love as the Practice of Freedom? Ed. William A. Gleason and Eric Murphy Selinger (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate), pp. 131-150. [This article can also be found, in slightly expanded form, in chapter 3, "American Romance in Black and White," of Peabody's Consuming Stories: Kara Walker and the Imagining of American Race (Oakland, California: California UP, 2016), pages 84-109.

Pérez‐Gil, María del Mar, 2018. "Exoticism, Ethnocentrism, and Englishness in Popular Romance Fiction: Constructing the European Other". Journal of Popular Culture. Published online first 19 July 2018.

Pérez-Gil, María del Mar, 2018. "Representations of Nation and Spanish Masculinity in Popular Romance Novels: The Alpha Male as “Other”", The Journal of Men’s Studies. Online First September 23, 2018.

Philips, Deborah. 2012. "The Empire of Romance: Love in a Postcolonial Climate." In End of Empire and the English Novel since 1945, Ed. Rachael Gilmour and Bill Schwarz. 114-133. Manchester, England: Manchester UP, 2012.

Rampure, Archana, 2005. Doctors in the Darkness: Reading Race, Gender, and History in the Popular Medical Romance, U of Toronto, (Dissertation Abstracts International, Section A: The Humanities and Social Sciences 66.10:3642)

Schalk, Sami, 2016. "Happily Ever After for Whom? Blackness and Disability in Romance Narratives." Journal of Popular Culture 49.6: 1241–1260.

Smith, Faith, 1999. "Beautiful Indians, Troublesome Negroes, and Nice White Men: Caribbean Romances and the Invention of Trinidad." in Caribbean Romances: The Politics of Regional Representation. ed. Belinda Edmondson (Charlottesville, VA: UP of Virginia) pp. 163-182.

Stieg, Margaret F., 1985. 'Indian Romances: Tracts for the Times', Journal of Popular Culture, 18.4: 2-15. ['the Indian Romance, flourished between 1890 and 1930. It was a romantic novel set in India, featuring Anglo-Indians (English expatriates living in India) as the leading characters.' (1985: 2)]

Taylor, Jessica, 2007. "And You Can Be My Sheikh: Gender, Race, and Orientalism in Contemporary Romance Novels." Journal of Popular Culture 40.6: 1032-1051.

Teo, Hsu-Ming, 2004. 'Romancing the Raj: Interracial Relations in Anglo-Indian Romance Novels', History of Intellectual Culture, 4.1.

Teo, Hsu-Ming. 2012. Desert passions: Orientalism and romance novels. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Uddin-Khan, Evelyn Angelina, 1995. Gender, Ethnicity and the Romance Novel, Columbia U, (Dissertation Abstracts International, Section A: The Humanities and Social Sciences 56.11:4341)

van Lent, Peter, 1996. ‘“Her Beautiful Savage”: The Current Sexual Image of the Native American Male’, Dressing in Feathers: The Construction of the Indian in American Popular Culture, ed. S. Elizabeth Bird (Boulder, Colorado: Westview), pp. 211-227.

Vivanco, Laura. Pursuing Happiness Reading American Romance as Political Fiction. Tirril, Penrith: Humanities Ebooks, 2016.

Waite, Olivia. “I is for American Indians, Native Americans, First Nations, Indigenous Peoples, Etc.".

Wallace, Jennifer. “History Ever After: Fabricated Historical Chronotopes in Romance Genre Fiction”. A paper presented to the 2018 IASPR conference. Wallace, who writes romance as Jennifer Hallock has put her paper up on her website in two parts. Part one looks at how the bestsellers in historical romance are disproportionately: (1) set in Great Britain; (2) overpopulated with nobles; and (3) selective in their historical accuracy. Part two looks at how the aggregate impact of these chronotopes can be harmful to our understanding of history, to the romance market as a whole, and particularly to authors of diverse books.

Wardrop, Stephanie, 1997. 'Last of the Red Hot Mohicans: Miscegenation in the Popular American Romance', MELUS, 22. 2, Popular Literature and Film: 61-74.

White, Ann Yvonne, 2008.  Genesis Press: Cultural Representation and the Production of African American Romance Novels. Ph.D. thesis from the University of Iowa.

Analysis related to specific works

(this ranges from very negative assessments to appreciative ones).

Anderson, Sarah M. His Forever Family (2016). Elyse reviewed this positively, noting that it "features a pretty substantial conversation about race, class, and privilege" but Tina found it problematic that "The author never, ever gave a reason why Liberty felt the need to utterly and completely deny her blackness" and felt that
What is even worse, is that over and over again as Liberty mentally hand-wrings over her big secret the 'being black' part is consistently conflated with her mother being a drug addict, convict and a hooker (because of course she was). Liberty doesn't just feel shame about her mother being these things, they are always always mentioned in conjunction with her being black. It is as if being black is just as bad as being a drug addict and a hooker.
Balogh, Mary. Someone to Love (2016). Carrie S. focuses on the fact that the hero
learned martial arts from “a Chinese gentleman.” While I’m always happy to see an acknowledgement in Regency romance that England was not populated entirely by white people, this character is stereotypical. He has no personality other than being an elderly Chinese master of “Oriental” arts who makes cryptic yet deep and wise comments. He doesn’t even have a name. He has no role other than to further Avery’s emotional journey.

Bell, Serena. Yours to Keep (2013). Bhasin argues that Bell, in attempting to retain the mass appeal of the genre [...] does this at the expense of not just reinforcing certain racial and gender stereotypes, but also by re-drawing the lines between legal and illegal, desirable and undesirable immigrants" (1461-62). Sunita's review of the novel also discusses issues relating to immigration.

Bonelli Florencia Indias blancas (2005) and its sequel, Indias blancas: La vuelta del Ranquel (2005), and Gloria Casañas's La maestra de la laguna (2010) are discussed by Kerr (2019).

Breslin, Kate. For Such a Time (2014). This finalled in the RITA in the "best first book" and best “inspirational” categories. The controversy over this book was reported outside the romance-reading community. Sarah Wendell stated that "The stereotypes, the language, and the attempt at redeeming an SS officer as a hero belittle and demean the atrocities of the Holocaust. The heroine’s conversion at the end underscores the idea that the correct path is Christianity, erases her Jewish identity, and echoes the forced conversions of many Jews before, during, and after the Holocaust."

Bybee, Catherine. Not Quite Crazy (2018). A RITA finalist for Contemporary Romance: Mid-Length in 2019, it came in for criticism on Twitter from Jen. Jen observes that "we as white people are TERRIBLE about recognizing super-racist tropes, especially those cloaked in these feel-good "we're just saving the kid" narrative."

Brockmann, Suzanne. The Troubleshooters series (2000-????). "For Brockmann, stereotypes imperil national security if real threats go unnoticed while racialized Muslims are stigmatized as violent and fanatical" (Ali). See also Haefner, who argues that Brockmann's "books are highly diverse racially and ethnically. Her anti-racist subplots challenge entrenched racist worldviews. She expresses the fear people of color have of racial attacks, and the pain associated with racial profiling" (198) but also notes that "racial identity is an important descriptor for the characters of color, but is not addressed regularly with White characters, thus reinforcing racism" (196).

Camden, Elizabeth. Toward the Sunrise (2015). Linda highlighted Orientalism and "Camden’s romanticization of colonial history". She notes that "which aspects of history the writer chooses to gloss over or glorify can be incredibly telling". This work was shortlisted in the RITA Romance Novella category. 

Coulson, Clara. Speaker of the Lost (2017) prompted Sarah Wendell to ask whether she was 'supposed to ignore the substitution of “fae prejudice” for racial prejudice'.

Douglas, Emma. Need You Now (2017). The reviewer, Sarah Wendell, queried "the repeated descriptions of Caleb as 'All-American'" because "Caleb is blonde, handsome, tall, and a successful athlete – and I’m presuming White because no other description was given. The repeated insistence that he was somehow emblematic of 'America' was really bothersome".

Duran, Meredith. The Duke of Shadows (2008). See Jagodzinski.

Heyer, Georgette.The Grand Sophy (1950). "It turned offensive to the point of horror, demonstrating not only a repulsive prejudice". Analysis of anti-Semitism from Sarah Wendell.

Hill, Sandra. Frankly My Dear (2013). "This novel reads as though someone is lovingly pulling out every mint-condition antiquated racist stereotype of black characters from all of comedy and film." Critiqued by Olivia Waite.

Hull, E. M. The Sheik (1919). Among the many items which discuss this novel is Teo's 'Historicizing The Sheik: Comparisons of the British Novel and the American Film'. See also Blake.

James, Eloisa. When the Duke Returns (2008). Dorothea identifies "abuse of Buddhism, Orientalist stereotypes that just stepped out one of Edward Said's footnotes."

Jenkins, Beverley. Night Song (1994) and Through the Storm (1998) have been analysed by Rita Dandridge, who found that Jenkins "counters negative historiography by highlighting black women's meaningful agape [love for humankind] efforts" (151).

Kapp, Sophia. Her work is discussed by Vitackova in "Representation of racial and sexual ‘others’ in Afrikaans popular romantic fiction by Sophia Kapp."

Kleypas, Lisa. Only in Your Arms (1992) and "its revised 2002 version, When Strangers Marry" are compared by Kamble, who found that "Slavery is present in both texts [...] but there are distinct differences in addressing it" (18): "The edits reveal the author-publisher's instinct that ignoring Max's role in slavery, representing black dialect, or using certain racial descriptors would cast a shadow on the story in 2002 and make its protagonists undesirable/unpleasant/unerotic" (20). Another Kleypas novel, Hello Stranger (2018) was strongly criticised by Elyse for including "a nameless Indian woman who is full of sexual knowledge who is there to teach sex to the hero [...] because it perpetuates that idea that women of color are nameless, identity-less beings that White men get to have sex with because they’re just so sexual in nature". Kleypas issued an apology and an "updated version of Hello Stranger has been released digitally to all retailers, and updated copies should have appeared in digital libraries. The scene in question described below has been removed entirely from the book."

Krahn, Betina.The Book of True Desires (2006). This novel won the 2007 RITA Award for Best Short Historical Romance but the "humour in the book [...] draws on racial/national stereotypes", in particular of Spaniards and Latin@s. Critique by Laura Vivanco.

Lowell, ElizabethJade Island (1999) and Katherine Stone's Pearl Moon (1995) are discussed by Young, who states that "Stone and Lowell construct 'Asianness' as something that must be rescued from itself" (206).

Michaels, A.B. The Depth of Beauty (2016). Shortlisted for the RITA in the Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance category, Erika S. identified "gross, racist, White Saviour garbage" and observed that "The Chinese immigrants of Chinatown are exoticized and othered in every page of this book".

Milan, Courtney. The Heiress Effect (2013). See Jagodzinski.

Phillips, Susan Elizabeth. First Star I See Tonight (2016) is reviewed by Dani St. Clair who finds "sickening racism and misogyny". It Had to be You is criticised here.

Putney, Mary Jo. Veils of Silk (1992). Seale argues that the novel evokes "the stereotypical 'third world woman,' who desires the same things as white women but attempts to achieve her aspirations in an unfathomable, and hence irrational, peculiar, and Other, way" (144).

Reynard, Silvain. The Man in the Black Suit (2017). Elyse was critical of the "racist, reductive, lazy characterization" and how not only is it "reductive it is to make Acacia’s Muslim father a terrorist who hates Jewish people, this whole section is just shoe-horned into to the story".

Robb, J. D. The In Death series. Kecia "Ali points out, for example, that Robb tends to mention race when the character is non-white, with the result that “whiteness goes mostly unspoken”." (Miller)

Romain, Theresa. Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress (2015). See Jagodzinski.

Spencer, LaVyrle. The Hellion (1984). "A number of women of color reproduce the stereotyped 'mammy' as the desexualized maternal figure whose function is to care for and highlight the [white] heroine's own sexuality" (Radner 101). With respect to Family Blessings (1993) Lippi-Green observes that "the hero, a young Anglo police officer, has taken on the job of setting an African American child straight" (193) about his use of African American Vernacular English. Some more observations on Spencer's attitudes to ethnic and racial difference can be found in Vivanco (139-141).

Ward, J. R. The Black Dagger Brotherhood series has been accused of cultural appropriation. See, for instance, this post at Elia's Diamonds.

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Ali, Kecia. 2017. Human in Death: Morality and Mortality in J. D. Robb's Novels. Waco, Texas: Baylor UP.

Ali, Kecia. 2017. “Troubleshooting Post-9/11 America: Religion, Racism, and Stereotypes in Suzanne Brockmann’s Into the Night and Gone Too Far.” Journal of Popular Romance Studies 6.

Bhasin, Neeta, 2018. "Romancing the 'Illegal' Immigrant", Journal of Literature and Art Studies 8.10: 1459-1474.

Blake, Susan L., 2003. 'What "Race" is the Sheik?: Rereading a Desert Romance', in Doubled Plots: Romance and History, eds. Susan Strehle and Mary Paniccia Carden (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi). 67-85.

Dandridge, Rita B., 2016. 'Love Prevailed Despite What American History Said: Agape and Eros in Beverly Jenkins's Night Song and Through the Storm', Romance Fiction and American Culture: Love as the Practice of Freedom? Ed. William A. Gleason and Eric Murphy Selinger (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate), pp. 151-166.

Haefner, Margaret J., 2009. "Challenging the -isms: Gender and Race in Brockmann's Troubleshooters, Inc. Romance Novels", Journal of Media Sociology 1.3/4: 182-201.

Jagodzinski, Mallory, 2015. Love is (Color) Blind: Historical Romance Fiction and Interracial Relationships in the Twenty-First Century. PhD dissertation, Graduate College of Bowling Green State University.

Kamble, Jayashree, 2014. Making Meaning in Popular Romance Fiction: An Epistemology. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Kerr, Ashley Elizabeth, 2019. “Indigenous Lovers and Villainous Scientists: Rewriting Nineteenth-Century Ideas of Race in Argentine Romance Novels”, Chasqui 48.1: 293-310.
Lippi-Green, Rosina. English with an Accent: Language, Ideology, and Discrimination in the United States. 2nd ed. London: Routledge, 2012.

Radner, Hilary. Shopping Around: Feminine Culture and the Pursuit of Pleasure. New York: Routledge, 1995.

Seale, Maura, 2007. '"I find some Hindu practices, like burning widows, utterly bizarre": Representation of Sati and Questions of Choice in Veils of Silk.' in Empowerment versus Oppression: Twenty First Century Views of Popular Romance Novels. ed. Sally Goade, (Newcastle, U.K.:Cambridge Scholars Pub.) pp. 129-147.

Teo, Hsu-Ming, 2010.  'Historicizing The Sheik: Comparisons of the British Novel and the American Film', Journal of Popular Romance Studies 1.1.

Vitackova, Martina, 2018. "Representation of racial and sexual ‘others’ in Afrikaans popular romantic fiction by Sophia Kapp." Tydskrif vir letterkunde 55.1. 122-133.

Vivanco, Laura. Pursuing Happiness: Reading American Romance as Political Fiction. Tirril, Penrith: Humanities Ebooks, 2016.

Young, Erin S., 2016. 'Saving China: The Transformative Power of Whiteness in Elizabeth Lowell's Jade Island and Katherine Stone's Pearl Moon', Romance Fiction and American Culture: Love as the Practice of Freedom? Ed. William A. Gleason and Eric Murphy Selinger (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate), pp. 205-221.

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