Friday, May 20, 2022

In Memoriam: Gwendolyn E. Osborne

Image of Gwendolyn E. Osborne from AALBC

Late yesterday

AALBC, to which Gwen Osborne contributed, had long had a profile of her in which it was stated that:

Gwendolyn Osborne (a.k.a “The Word Diva”) is a freelance writer based in Chicago. She is a hopeless romantic and an unabashed book junkie. She prefers to be called “Gwen,” but unapologetically uses the longer version in her bylines “because it takes up more space in print.”
Gwen began her journalism career as a reviewer for The Detroit Free Press. Her work has also appeared in several national publications including Book Magazine, Mode Magazine and The Crisis, the organizational publication of the NAACP.

As Wendy stated, however, she has been a particularly important figure in the romance community, and not just as a reviewer. Some of Osborne's contributions to the study of romance and romance readers were recognised by the Black Romance Bibliography which was published only a few days ago by the Journal of Popular Romance Studies. More extensive discussion of her contribution to romance scholarship appears in the Routledge Research Companion to Popular Romance Fiction (2021). There, Julie E. Moody-Freedman notes that:

Throughout the early 2000s, Gwendolyn Osborne’s articles contributed to the documenting the evolution of the African American romance publishing industry. Osborne’s articles about the production aspect of the romance industry provide foundational information about the industry which scholars like Markert have referenced in publications. Her articles “How Black Romance Novels, That Is—Came to Be” and “Love in Color” document the development of the industry. “How Black Romance Novels, That Is—Came to Be (romance)” documents the evolution of African American romance between the 1960s and 1990s by pointing out the contributions Frank Yerby’s novels, True Confessions magazine, Bronze Thrills, and Black Romance and Jive have made to the genre through their publication of established romance writers Donna Hill and Francis Ray. “Love in Color,” a 2006 publication in Black Issues Book Review, discusses the acquisition of BET books by Harlequin in November 2005. (238-239)

Moody-Freeman added that,

As I have noted above, Gwendolyn Osborne’ publications have contributed to understanding the production of African American romance in the early 1990s and 2000s. However, her publications also focus on readers’ responses to romance fiction. In a 2004 book chapter “‘Women Who Look Like Me’: Cultural Identity and Reader Responses to African American Romance Novels,” Osborne reports her findings based on a study of romance readers to answer “what it is about Black romance that draws so many African American book buyers to the romance sections of the nation’s bookstores”[...] 

Osborne’s article “It’s All About Love: Romance Readers Speak Out,” written for the AALBC two years prior to her book chapter, also uses reader response to discuss African American romance, but in this article, Osborne interviews readers as well as writers and editors to understand romance novels’ appeal to Black readers. (240-241)

In the same volume, Jayashree Kamblé stated that "Gwendolyn E. Osborne's 2004 essay is the only study that briefly touches on romance covers with African American characters" (288).

In addition to making a direct contribution to the study of African American romance through her own writing, Osborne also helped others. In the acknowledgements section of the ground-breaking Black Women's Activism: Reading African American Women's Historical Romances (2004) Rita B. Dandridge expressed her thanks to

Gwendolyn E. Osborne, reviewer for Romance Reader, who facilitated my contacts with the writers and bought and sent me a copy of Gay G. Gunn's Nowhere to Run. Thanks, Gwen, for introducing me to a writer I did not know existed.


Osborne, Gwendolyn E. (1999) "Our Love Affair with Romance." Black Issues Book Review 1.4, Jul 1999, pp. 40-44.

Osborne, Gwendolyn (2002). "How Black Romance--Novels, that is--Came to be." Black Issues Book Review 4.1, Jan 2002, pp. 50.

Osborne, Gwendolyn (2002). “It’s All About Love: Romance Readers Speak Out.” African American Literature Book Club, 1 Feb. 2002.

Osborne, Gwendolyn E. (2003). "In Search of Women Who Look Like Me: A Brief History of the African-American Romance." The 2000-2003 Proceedings of the SW/Texas PCA/ACA Conference. Ed. Leslie Fife. 2020-2044.

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 (Boston: Pearson). 61–68.

Osborne, Gwendolyn E. (2006) "The COLOR of LOVE." Black Issues Book Review 8.1, Jan 2006. 14-15.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

New Issue of JPRS on Black Romance, and other new publications

Issue 11 of the Journal of Popular Romance Studies features a special issue on Black Romance, edited by Margo Hendricks and Julie Moody-Freeman. Among other items, it includes the following articles:

Other recent publications about romance are:

Abrahamsson, Elin (2022). "Rättvisemärkt romantik: Feelgood, flärd och feminism i samtida svensk romance." in  Speglingar av feelgood: Genre, etikett eller känsla? 185-230.

Bilodeau, Isabelle (2022). "How Romance Translators Write Themselves and Their Readers into Afterwords." Departmental Bulletin Paper 47:81-98.

Deng, Yiwei (2022). "The Aesthetic form of Childhood Sweetheart: I Love You, None of Your Business." Frontiers in Economics and Management 3.4: 625-629.

Larson, Christine and Elspeth Ready (2022). "Networking down: Networks, innovation, and relational labor in digital book publishing." New Media & Society. Online First.

Nankervis, Madison (2022). “Diversity in Romance Novels: Race, Sexuality, Neurodivergence, Disability, and Fat Representation.” Publishing Research Quarterly. Online First.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

New Publications: Comics, Second Hand Bookshops, Islands, Hispanisms, Race, Young People, Fatness, Radway and Chinese Readers

Brunet, Peyton and Blair Davis (2022). Comic Book Women: Characters, Creators, and Culture in the Golden Age. Austin: University of Texas Press. [Chapter 8 is about romance comics:]

Farooqui, Javaria (2022). "Romance in an Old Bookshop." The Bridge Magazine 1:66-69. [This is available freely online. It discusses the distribution of second-hand romances in Pakistan and the connection with social class.]

Fresno-Calleja, Paloma (2022). “Repurposing Fantasy Island: Lani Wendt Young’s Telesā Series and the Politics of Postcolonial Romance.” Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies.

González-Cruz, María-Isabel. 2022. Hispanicisms in Romance Fiction. An Annotated Glossary. Lewiston, New York: The Edwin Mellen Press. [Details from the publisher.]

Hendricks, Margo (2022). Race and Romance: Coloring the Past. Arizona State University. [This is available to read for free online. This includes discussion of two novels by Beverly Jenkins and also Margo Hendricks's own romance novels (written as Elysabeth Grace).]

Herrera, Carolina M. (2022). Examining the relation between media engagement and developmental outcomes in adolescents and emerging adults: an exploration of engagement with and impact of young adult literature media among youth. PhD thesis, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. [Discusses romance reading.]

McDavis-Conway, Shana (2022). “Self-conscious, unapologetic, and straight: fat protagonists in romantic fiction.” Fat Studies.

Stetson, Suzanne (2022). "Reconciling Reader Response and Feminism in Late Twentieth-Century Erotic Historical Romances." INCITE: Journal of Undergraduate Scholarship 13.

Tang, Ning (2022). "Reading Online Romance Novels Is Related To Chinese Readers' View of Love." Academic Journal of Humanities & Social Science 5.2:32-45.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Good News/Bad News: Eric Selinger, Margo Hendricks, Book Bans

Eric Selinger has made most of his romance scholarship available for free online in pre-print form. That includes:

Margo Hendricks'
Race and Romance: Coloring the Past  has been published by Arizona State University Press and is available to read for free online.

As reported by Sarah MacLean, in Enid & Garfield County, Oklahoma the target of book-banning is getting wider:

[From the Facebook page of the Public Library of Enid & Garfield County: "In light of recent changes to program and display policies at the Public Library of Enid and Garfield County, 2 programs have been canceled for the month of April.
The Sexual Assault Awareness program/display and the Shameless Romance book club discussion have been canceled. Displays or programs that focus on sexual content are not allowed at the library. The library respects the authority of the library board to set library policies. Community members who would like to be heard on the subject of library board policies are encouraged to contact the library board, city council or the mayor."]

As Molly Keran commented:

Not sure who this is supposed to protect but it sure isn’t women, or children, or survivors. While the SA awareness stuff is obviously most terrible here, I do think these are two sides of a coin. Not only does literature & resources dealing with SA help people recognize abusive dynamics they may experience but literature that centers pleasure & consent can do the same. We need to be able to discuss a wide range of experiences and narratives of sex (good, bad, nonconsensual, consensual, straight, queer, fictional, nonfictional, etc etc) because ignorance, silence, and shame create the conditions for exploitation and abuse.


Saturday, April 16, 2022

PCA/ACA roundup

As far as I know, the PCA/ACA conference, which ends on 16 April, no longer releases abstracts online. However, there were some tweets of them, and Jodi McAlister made a TikTok version of her paper. I'll embed the links below.

And here's the link to Jodi McAlister's TikTok of her paper for that panel.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Non-Text Academic Commentary: Margo Hendricks (on Beverly Jenkins) and Val Derbyshire (on Penny Jordan)

Professor Margo Hendricks' Masterclass "Those Purple Hands Really Intrigue Me" on Beverly Jenkins' Indigo is now available on YouTube

Dr. Val Derbyshire has discussed Penny Jordan on The Categorically Romance Podcast:


New Publications: Disability, Folklore, Gender, Literature, Linguistics, Sexuality

The 2022 volume of the Journal of Popular Romance Studies is now being published (articles etc. are published throughout the year). At the moment, there is only one article available (by Bonnie White, see below) but there are also some book reviews.

Here's my round-up of recent publications:

Allan, Jonathan A. (2022). “ ‘A Most Unlikely Hero’: Disability, Masculinity, and Sexuality in Harlequin Superromance Novels.” The Male Body in Representation: Returning to Matter. Ed. Carmen Dexl and Silvia Gerlsbeck. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. 215-235. [Abstract here]

Garber, Linda (2021). Novel Approaches to Lesbian History. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan. [This is not just about lesbian historical romance, but there is a discussion which is particularly focussed on romance in the chapter titled "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Lesbian Sex* *But Only In Historical Fiction." An excerpt can be found here.]

Ivanski, Chantelle, Marta M.Maslej and Raymond A. Mar (2022). "Empirical Approaches to Studying Emotion in Literature: The Case of Gender." The Routledge Companion to Literature and Emotion, Ed. Patrick Colm Hogan, Bradley J. Irish and Lalita Pandit Hogan. London: Routledge.  [See for links. At the time of writing, the chapter was available in full via Google Books.]

Lecercle, Jean-Jacques (2022). "Interpellation and Counter-Interpellation in the Novel." The Rhetoric of Literary Communication: From Classical English Novels to Contemporary Digital Fiction. New York: Routledge. [Excerpt here.]

Pierini, Francesca (2021). " “Sharing the Same Soil:” Sally Rooney’s Normal People and the Coming-of-Age Romance." Prospero. Rivista di letterature e culture straniere :141-166. [It argues "for the importance and validity of a genre and the field of expertise attached to it – scholarship of the (popular) romance – that has developed, during the last decades, and especially since the beginning of the current century, important analytical tools for reading and understanding the representation of love in literary as well as popular narratives. Despite the undeniable revitalisation generic forms of literature are currently undergoing, the romance – and its critics – tend to remain excluded from academic debates concerning such revival."

Šmídová, Monika Markéta (2021). Five Thousand for Justice: The Use of English Folklore in the Novels of KJ Charles. Masters thesis, Masaryk University.

van Halteren, Hans (2022). "Automatic Authorship Investigation." Language as Evidence: Doing Forensic Linguistics.  Ed. Victoria Guillén-Nieto and Dieter Stein. Palgrave Macmillan. 219-255.

White, Bonnie (2022). "Freedom, Sincerity, and the Modern Woman in the Interwar Romances of Berta Ruck." Journal of Popular Romance Studies 11.

Monday, February 14, 2022

El ‘chico malo’ - a talk about paranormal romance given in Spanish by Maria T. Ramos Garcia

 As promised, here's a link to:

“El ‘chico malo’ en la novela romántica paranormal post-9/11 en Estados Unidos”


Universidad Estatal de Dakota del Sur


The video should start with Maria's presentation (which was the fourth of the colloquium). If it doesn't, you can go here and skip forward to 1:44:46.

Wednesday, February 09, 2022

Events: 10 and 14 February

Coming up on the 14th is a colloquium which will be streamed live. "Figuraciones del chico malo: género, deseo y poder en narrativas románticas populares. Lunes 14 de febrero de 2022, 10:00-16:00"

One of the papers is

“El ‘chico malo’ en la novela romántica paranormal post-9/11 en Estados Unidos”

MARÍA T. RAMOS GARCÍA Universidad Estatal de Dakota del Sur

It will stream live here. More details here.  I've been told that it will remain available afterwards, so I'll post a link to that later, in a different post.

The other event is one I only found out about recently, it's in Australia, and it's on the 10th. I'm hoping I've got this up before it starts but I'm really unclear about the impact of the time difference.

Will You Be My Valentine?: Romance, Love, and Lust in Popular Culture

Join us on the 10th of February 2022 for our free online symposium exploring the many ways love is represented in popular culture.

Keynote: Dr Jodi McAlister, Deakin University

It’s Not You, It’s Me: Breaking Up in Popular Culture

To register for attendance please send an email to Programme and book of abstracts are available here.

Two of the papers are:

Happy Objects: The Pleasures of Reading the Romance
Nattie Golubov, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

This paper argues that popular romance novels actively participate in the circulation of “happy objects” in two senses: they promise happiness as one outcome of the reading experience, on the one hand, while, on the other, they contribute to the circulation of affect by attaching the promise of happiness to certain objects which, in turn, connect to ideas and values. This affective work is accomplished through the use of literary techniques such as the familiar plot structure, the happy ending, the use of cliché and stereotype which I read as features with affordances conducive to a pleasurable reading experience. Based upon the work of new formalists such as Rita Felski and Caroline Levine and Sara Ahmed’s notion of the happy object, I argue that these formal elements incite an embodied type of reading. Contrary to much reader reception theory which dismisses the affective reaction of readers, I argue that (re)reading the romance is a positive, desirable experience because it is embodied, a style of reading that readers expect and unashamedly enjoy.

Love Conquers All?: Race, Bridgerton, and the Romance Writers of America
Lisa J. Hackett, University of New England
Netflix’s historical romance Bridgerton (2020 - ) was notable for its colour-diverse cast. The show, however, has drawn a lot of criticism for the way it handled race within the context of the British aristocracy of Regency London. In episode 4, “An Affair of Honour” the position of persons of colour is explicitly discussed between Lady Danbury and Simon, the Duke of Hastings, both themselves characters of colour. Lady Danbury holds that the transformation of status came about because of
love, specifically that of the King for his Queen, a woman of colour: “love conquers all”. Simon demurs, they are elevated due to the King’s whim, and this can easily be reversed: “love changes nothing”.

While much has been made of the intersection between #BlackLivesMatter and the depictions of persons of colour in shows such as Bridgerton, in this paper I argue that depictions of Characters of Colour occupy a tenuous position within the genre of Historical Romance Novels. Bridgerton aired during a time when one of the biggest organisations devoted to the production of romance, the Romance Writers of America (RWA), was grappling with the issue of diversity. This paper compares the reception of Bridgerton with the events within the RWA. Through examining the events of the RWA from the Courtney Milan affair (2019), when the organisation imploded due to diversity issues, through to the controversy of the 2021 Vivian awards, this paper demonstrates that the current elevated position of characters of colour is held tenuously and more needs to be done to strengthen their existence within the world of Historical Romance.

Wednesday, February 02, 2022

What's On: Talks (Black Love Matters and Female Characters)

The essay collection Black Love Matters: Real Talk on Romance, Being Seen, and Happily Ever Afters, edited by Jessica P. Pryde is now available. The essays are written by authors, readers, academics (the categories are not exclusive, of course).

A discussion with "with special guests editor and librarian Jessica Pryde, best-selling author Beverly Jenkins, and host of Romance Ever After Allie Parker" is being held on 22 February.

More details here:

The image shows the covers of E M Forster's Room With a View and E L James's Fifty Shades of Grey, as well as the title of the talk

The Midlands Network of Popular Culture "are delighted that Dr Francesca Pierini will be joining us from the University of Basel on the 11th February to give a presentation on 'Female Characters in the Modern and Contemporary Anglophone Romance Novel'":

This presentation focuses on a reasoned discussion of the female protagonists of the popular romance narratives [...]. The main goal is familiarizing students with the definitions, development, and cultural significance of popular romance fiction through a parallel exploration of the novels’ heroines. The talk will touch upon themes such as: the evolution of the female character in romance novels, educating students on the waves of scholarship on romance fiction, and exploring and problematizing the complex relationship between popular literature and literary scholarship.  

More details here.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

What's On: Talks (on Industry Norms, Black Romance, Heyer)

Duke University's course on romance, UNSUITABLE (with an associated blog and events) has announced that its 2022 season begins

on Friday, January 21st [...] with author Deborah Fletcher Mello who will talk with us about What Characterizes a Romance Novel? Negotiating Industry Norms and Expectations.

All are welcome! Preregister here. UNSUITABLE events are free and open to the public.

That's via Zoom.

On February 26th, also online, there will be a

Black Romance Master Class. Sponsored by the Center for Black Diaspora.

"Those Purple Hands Really Intrigues Me:" Beverly Jenkins' Indigo 

The aim of this master class is to offer a pedagogical and scholarly approach to reading and teaching Black Romance fiction, specificially, historical Black romance novels. What this class will offer is a model, using Indigo as the class text, for teaching the literariness of novel, its continuity with the history of the romance genre, and the importance of reassessing the teaching of and writing about Black romance, and the romance genre in general. What the course will offer Black romance readers, scholars, and teachers is a critical approach easily adapted to anti-racist pedagogy and scholarly writing about romance.

The class is being led by Dr Margo Hendricks and you can register here.

On the topic of Black romance, I was interested to see that Harlequin have now produced a page to spotlight their romances by Black authors (most seem to be "Black romance," though some may not be, due to having one or more non-Black protagonist): They seem to be appearing in a wide range of lines: Special Edition, Presents, Desire, Intrigue, Romantic Suspense, Medical Romance, Romance, Heartwarming, Historical and ebook-only imprints.

Dr Sam Hirst has released a round-table conversation with KJ Charles,  Rose Lerner, Cat Sebastian and Olivia Waite which was part of a recent conference on Heyer:

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

New publications: topics covered include Lovecraft, sexual orientation, fatness, race, identity, and religion

This will be the last of my new publication lists for 2021. Articles about romance have been continuing to appear (see below). This has also been a busy year for academic books on romance, and two more have been published just before the end of 2021. Although I haven't read either of them yet, I've collaborated with many of the authors of the essay collection and read an earlier version of the other.

Discursos e Identidades en la Ficción Romántica:
Visiones Anglófonas de Madeira y Canarias / Discourses and Identities in Romance Fiction: Anglophone Visions from Madeira and the Canaries is a bilingual essay collection (the same essays appear first in Spanish and then in English) edited by María Isabel González-Cruz. There is also a section related to teaching romance fiction. A list of the contents, along with topic tags, can be found in the Romance Scholarship Database. Excerpts are available from Vernon Press and Google Books.

Fernández Rodríguez, Carolina (2021). American Quaker Romances: Building the Myth of the White Christian Nation. Valencia : Universidad de Valencia.

With the rise in recent years of the Christian romance market, dominated by American Evangelical companies, there has been a renewed interest in fictional Quakers. In the historical Quaker romances analyzed in this book, Quaker heroines often devote time to spiritual considerations, advocate the sanctity of marriage and promote traditional family values. However, their concern with social justice also leads them to engage in subversive behavior and to question the status quo, as illustrated by heroines who are active on the Underground Railroad or are seen organizing the Seneca Falls convention. Though relatively liberal in terms of gender, Quaker romances are considerably less progressive when it comes to race relations.

Thus, they reflect America's conflicted relationship with its history of race and gender abuse, and the country's tendency to both resist and advocate social change. Ultimately, Quaker romances reinforce the myth of America as a White and Christian nation, here embodied by the Quaker heroine, the all-powerful savior who rescues Native Americans, African Americans and Jews while conquering the hero's heart.

Here are links to: the publisher's website; an excerpt on Google Books; Amazon (ebook and paperback)

Hefner, Brooks E. (2021). Black Pulp: Genre Fiction in the Shadow of Jim Crow Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. [Excerpt available via Google Books. See in particular Chapter 2, "Romancing the Race: The Politics of Black Love Stories."]

Hernandez-Knight, Bianca (2021). "Race and Racism in Austen Spaces: Jane Austen and Regency Romance's Racist Legacy." ABO: Interactive Journal for Women in the Arts, 1640-1830 11.2.

Johnson, Brian (2022). "Weird Bedfellows: H. P. Lovecraft, m/m Romance, and the New Queer Families of Jordan L. Hawk's Whyborne & Griffin Series." Lovecraft in the 21st Century: Dead, But Still Dreaming. Ed. Antonio Alcala Gonzalez, Carl H. Sederholm. New York: Routledge. [Abstract]

Khumwongdee, Yanisa (2021). Reading and Rewriting Fat Romance: A Study of Twenty-First Century Thai and US Fat Romance Novels. PhD thesis, University of York. [Abstract

Moolla, F. Fiona (2021). "Her Heart Lies at the Feet of the Mother: Transformations of the Romance Plot in Leila Aboulela’s Minaret." African Journal of Gender and Religion 27.2:1-21.

Pierre, Zakiya (2021). Browsing in nuances: Using ethnographic research to design for the experience of browsing. Bachelor's thesis, Malmö University.

Pradhan, Anil (2021). "The literary field of queer cultural production in contemporary India: considering popular queer texts via Bourdieu." Runas: Journal of Education & Culture 2.4.

Weimer, Christopher (2021). "Romancing Weird Fiction: Lovecraftian Reinscriptions in Jordan L. Hawk's Whyborne and Griffin." Aeternum: The Journal of Contemporary Gothic Studies 8.1:61-76. [Download the whole issue.]