Monday, December 21, 2020

New at JPRS: Special Issue on The Sheik (and a bit about teaching romance in Sweden)

The final additions to issue 9 of the Journal of Popular Romance Studies have now gone online and are (as always) freely available to read, both on the website and in downloadable pdf.

[Edited to add: JPRS have just added another article to issue 9

 That was added on 22 December.]

In the Special Issue on The Sheik are:

Introduction to the special issue on The Sheik
Amy Burge

The Oriental Beast: The Sheik and Fairy Tales
Pauline Suwanban

Garçon manqué: A Queer Rereading (of) The Sheik
Jessica Taylor

Olive Skin Chocolate Eyes: Echoes of The Sheik on Descriptive Patterns of the Italian Romantic Hero in Harlequin Short Contemporaries
Francesca Pierini

Let’s Not Get Carried Away by The Sheik
Laura Vivanco

The Sheik and Modernism
Ellen Turner

The Depiction of Masculinity and Nationality in The Sheik
jay Dixon

In Defence of the Perverse: Reflections on The Sheik (George Melford, 1921)
Elisabetta Girelli

On Eligible Princes: The Medieval Modernity of Sheikh Romance
Amira Jarmakani

Review essay on The Sheik
Amy Burge and Rachel Robinson

On Teaching, Not Teaching, and Teaching The Sheik
Eric Murphy Selinger

Authors on The Sheik: A conversation with Liz Fielding
Elizabeth Cole

Friday, December 18, 2020

Congratulations and Recent Publications

First of all, I'd like to congratulate the 2020 winners of the RWA Academic Research Grant. The

RWA Academic Grant Committee has recommended and the RWA Board of Directors has approved Dr. Julie E. Moody-Freeman, an Associate Professor in African and Black Diaspora Studies at DePaul University, and Hannah E. Scupham, a doctoral student in Literature at the University of Kansas, as recipients of the 2021 RWA Academic Research Grant. 

and here are more details about the research for which they've received the grants:

‘Lift as We Climb’: Black Romance Writers, Social Justice, and Institution Building, Dr. Julie E. Moody-Freeman

Grant funds will be used to aid in her research that will examine black writers’ representations of racial uplift in which their romantic plots and produce one season of the Black Romance Podcast, which documents the history of the production and publication of Black Romance through Dr. Moody-Freeman’s conversations with writers, editors, journalists, and scholars.


Sensual Politics: Modern Romance Novel Reading and Reimagination of the Victorian Past, Hannah E. Scupham

Grant funds will be used to fund dissertation research. Scupham’s work focuses on how contemporary popular romance novels set in the nineteenth-century century seek to challenge and change modern readers’ imaginations of the nineteenth-century, specifically on issues of gender, sexuality, and race.

Here are some recent publications, one of which, by Caroline Duvezin-Caubet, touches on the same area of research as Scupham's, and it's free to read online.

Duvezin-Caubet, Caroline, 2020. "Gaily Ever After: Neo-Victorian M/M Genre Romance for the Twenty-First Century." Neo-Victorian Studies 13.1: 242-269.

Intan, Tania, 2020. "Formula Romance Dalam Perfect Romance Karya Indah Hanaco: Kajian Sastra Feminis." Alayasastra 16.2: 301-316. [More details here.]

Murias, Rosana, 2021. "In Grey and Pink: The Image of the Bride through the Spanish Postwar Novela Rosa." The Bride in the Cultural Imagination: Screen, Stage, and Literary Productions. Ed. Jo Parnell. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books. 17-34. [More details here.]

Monday, November 23, 2020

An Award, Congratulations and Publications: Masculinity; Movies; Hercules; Interwar Magazine Fiction

If you've got an unpublished essay on romance, you might be able to submit it for the Francis Award, which comes with a $250 USD prize and publication (after any needed revisions) in JPRS. The annual deadline for submissions will be December 31 28 February 2021, and the winner will be announced in April. 

Conseula Francis’s work on popular romance fiction focused on African American authors and representations of Black love, and priority for the Francis Award will be given to manuscripts that address Black-authored popular romance fiction and other work on Black love. Manuscripts on the diversity of, and diversities within, popular romance and romantic love culture—e.g., diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, class, sexuality, disability, or age—will also be considered.

More details here:

[Edited to add: "To encourage more submissions, the deadline for the Francis Award has been moved (this year and moving forward) to the end of February--in this case, Feb. 28, 2021."]

Congratulations to Inmaculada Pérez Casal on the completion of her thesis, Antecedents and Development of the Contemporary Romance Novel in English: A Study of the Contribution to the Genre by Rosamunde Pilcher and Lisa Kleypas (Universidade de Santiago de Compostela)!

Other newly completed works on romance are:

Allan, Jonathan A., 2020. “Mourning and Sentimental Heroism in Maureen Child's Lost in Sensation.” The Journal of Popular Culture. Online First. 

Allan, Jonathan A., 2020. “'And he absolutely fascinated me': Masculinity and Virginity in Sherilee Gray’s Breaking Him.” Journal of Popular Romance Studies 9. [Open access.]

Charlton, Michael, 2020. "Till Death Do Us Part: Romancing the Stone, Death Becomes Her, and the Romance Genre." A Critical Companion to Robert Zemeckis. Ed. Adam Barkman and Antonio Sanna. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books. 17-29.

OKell, Eleanor Regina, 2020. "Hercules as Romantic Hero in Twenty-first-century Historical Fiction." The Modern Hercules: Images of the Hero from the Nineteenth to the Early Twenty-First Century. Ed. Alastair J.L. Blanshard and Emma Stafford. Leiden: Brill. 121–145. Here's the abstract:

This chapter will examine Hercules as a romantic hero in two distinctly different examples of the historical novel, which can be classified as chick lit.: Kate Mosse’s serious historical fiction Citadel, which is set in the Languedoc during the Second World War, and Stephanie Laurens’ romantic historical fiction The Truth About Love, set in Cornwall during the Regency period. Both these novels invoke Hercules by name and the hero provides contextualisation for the events and relationships therein. For example, in Mosse the myth of Hercules’ relationship with Pyrene underpins the whole landscape (it is an origin myth for the Pyrenees) and in Laurens the Garden of Hercules forms a frequently referenced part of the landscape which is of significance for events in the plot. In both novels the presentation of Herculean myth as a background prompts the reader to extrapolate from the legend of Hercules to the characters depicted and their struggles. The similarities of and differences between the two authors’ uses of Hercules demonstrates not only that twenty-first-century chick lit. is open to exploring facets of the ancient hero’s character which go beyond monster-slaying and into the realm of the romantic/erotic but also that the genre of chick lit. can exhibit qualities more commonly associated with ‘serious’ literary fiction.

Reed, Eleanor, 2020. ‘Romance in Woman’s Weekly and Woman’s Weekly as Romance, 1918–39’, Journal of European Periodical Studies 5.2: 80–94. [Pdf available free online here.] The focus is on issues related to social class, but I thought this observation, that romance in these magazines functioned as a safe space within which to explore issues, relates to what I've described as romance's "pastoral care" function:

Interwar Woman’s Weekly fiction engages with issues including the rehabilitation of First World War veterans, marriage to a widower, frustration with housework, and single motherhood. Each story invites its reader to identify with a heroine whose experiences and dilemmas may parallel her own, and it is romance’s familiar, predictable structure that allows her to work through these potentially difficult or distressing issues. The guarantee of a happy ending establishes the story as a safe narrative space within which she can confront everyday problems. (86)

Friday, November 06, 2020

Thinking Outside the "Couple Norm"

The Tenacity of the Couple-Norm: Intimate Citizenship Regimes in a Changing Europe
by Sasha Roseneil, Isabel Crowhurst, Tone Hellesund, Ana Cristina Santos, and Mariya Stoilova (UCL Press, 2020) is a newly published (and freely available online for download as a pdf) book which raises an issue of relevance to popular romance fiction. The focus is on coupledom as a concept within society, which the authors refer to as the "couple-norm," defined as "the structure of affinity that is composed of an intimate/sexual dyad" (4) and the

book is about the ongoing strength of the couple-norm and the insidious grip it exerts on our lives as it defines what it is to be a citizen, a fully recognized and rights-bearing member of society. It exposes the construction of coupledom – the condition or state of living as a couple – as the normal, natural and superior way of being an adult. (3)

The book is not a rejection of coupledom, however. The authors argue that

coupledom is not in itself, necessarily, a social ill or a negative influence in people’s lives. Indeed, being part of [sic] couple can be one of the greatest sources of pleasure, fulfilment and security that life in a competitive, uncertain, fast-changing, sometimes dangerous, often precarious social world can offer. (232)

and they state that

There is a danger, identified by Biddy Martin (1996) and Robyn Wiegman (2012), that a relentless anti-normativity, such as that sometimes embraced within queer theory, can produce a somewhat superior, even contemptuous, hypercritical gaze that ‘fears ordinariness’ (Martin, 1996) and ‘names and shames’ ‘those normalities that are inhabited, desired and pursued within gay, lesbian, trans and queer discourses as well as outside them’ (Wiegman, 2012: 334), whilst idealizing practices that are regarded as transgressive of dominant norms. (26)

Rather, they are arguing that there is a need to examine the negative implications of the "couple norm" for those who do not form part of a couple:

The couple-form has historically been valorized and conventionalized, so that it is the very essence of ‘normal’. Whether a person is coupled or not is fundamental to their experience of social recognition and belonging: the good citizen is the coupled citizen, and the socially integrated, psychologically developed and well-functioning person is coupled. Being part of a couple is widely seen and felt to be an achievement, a stabilizing status characteristic of adulthood, indicative of moral responsibility and bestowing full membership of the community. To be outside the couple-form is, in many ways, to be outside, or at least on the margins of, society. (4)

Romances acknowledge the pressure exerted by the norm when protagonists complain about pressure from family to find a partner and, clearly, some popular romances already think outside the "couple norm." Could romance go further, however?

The authors of this book ask

What would it mean for an intimate citizenship regime to cease to promote coupledom and to work instead actively to attenuate the negative impacts of the couple-norm? (233)

What I ask is: what could romance fiction, as a genre, do, to normalise other forms of relationships in addition to coupledom, without abandoning the central love story and the happy ending?

I agree with Roseneil et al, that being in a "couple can be one of the greatest sources of pleasure, fulfilment and security that life in a competitive, uncertain, fast-changing, sometimes dangerous, often precarious social world can offer" (232) yet I feel that romance has room to expand in terms of the relationships it depicts. Indeed, romance has already been expanding, so that more individuals can see themselves and their lives reflected in the novels. The authors of the book found that their interviewees were

centring their lives around friendship, choosing to remain single, embracing solitude, forging non-cohabiting partnerships, sharing the raising of children outside the couple-form, resisting the romantic imperative, forming relationships with people from different backgrounds and defying monogamy. They were envisaging, and often finding, stability, security, love, intimacy, sex and domesticity in many different ways, outside the conventional couple-form. (233)

A choice to remain single would probably be a step too far for the romance, even if one could argue that, technically taking time to form a loving relationship with oneself could be the "central relationship" in a "love story" with an optimistic/happy ending. It is, though, already a possibility in chick-lit, I think. Non-monogamous relationships seem more easily adapted into the genre and, indeed, the genre already includes central sexual relationships involving more than two people and central couples who are not monogamous. What about "lives centred around close friendships" and "non-cohabiting partnerships"?

Monday, October 05, 2020

A short set of links: romance scholarship podcasts, LGBT+ issues, and some old Mills & Boon history

A few recent developments:
  • Eric's been at the Shelf Love podcast, discussing the history of romance scholarship. There's a transcript too, if you don't like listening to podcasts. There's mention of the Romance Wiki bibliography, which isn't now available but I've expanded on it at the Romance Scholarship Database. The Routledge Research Companion to Popular Romance Fiction is also mentioned, and the introduction to it can be found, free, here (click the "preview pdf" button).
  • Jayashree has been on the same podcast, discussing "the various ways romance can be studied. She gives a brief overview of the history of the romance genre and pop culture research, why she doesn't encounter the hierarchy of taste when teaching romance, and explains who romance scholarship is for." 
  • Queerly Chaotic M has written a document about ways in which the romance community needs to do better with regards to recognising the harms that it can cause when writing or discussing gender in exclusionary, binary ways.
  • Roan Parrish has announced she "will be writing the first on-page queer romance in any of the @harlequinbooks series romance lines!"

That qualifier about the "series" is a reference to the fact that, as Jack Harbon pointed out, the Carina Press imprint has been publishing more diverse romances for some time.

  • And on the topic of Harlequin/Mills & Boon history, at the other end of the spectrum here's a thread on Twitter about a scrapbook which "seems to have been the property of early Mills & Boon novelist Louise Gerard (1878-1970), and has cuttings from her first success in 1910 to the 1920s."

Friday, September 11, 2020

Black Romance Podcast

 Julie Moody-Freeman, of DePaul University, has started a podcast:

The Black Romance Podcast features conversations with Black writers, editors, and scholars of historical and contemporary popular romance fiction. Guests talk about a range of experiences: their difficulties trying to publish love stories with Black characters; their favorite books; writing and teaching about black romance fiction; traditional vs self-publishing; publishing queer romance fiction; the impetus for writing books that focus on inclusion and racial uplift themes; and their recently released books. These intergenerational voices of writers featured in this podcast are beginning to build a much needed archive on the production and publication of Black Romance.

You can find out more at @blk_romance, Apple Podcasts, Spotify.

New to the Romance Database


New articles have been published by the Journal of Popular Romance Studies:

and among the other items recently added to the database are:

Béja, Alice, 2019. "La new romance et ses nuances. Marché littéraire, sexualité imaginaire et condition féminine." Revue du Crieur 12.1: 106-121. [Excerpt]

Hijazo-Gascón, Alberto, 2009. "Cross-Cultural Differences in Conceptualization and their Application in L2 Instruction." Pragmatics Applied to Language Teaching and Learning. Ed. Reyes Gómez Morón, Manuel Padilla Cruz, Lucía Fernández Amaya and María de la O Hernández López. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. 42-59. [This may not immediately appear to be about romance but it looks at metaphors in novels by Corín Tellado. Excerpt.]

Magenya, Sheena Gimase, 2020. “Reading between the lines: A review of Dark Juices and Afrodisiacs: Erotic Diaries Vol 1.” Agenda. Online first. [Abstract and excerpts]

Saint-Jacques, Denis et Marie-José des Rivières, 2011. «Le féminisme problématique d’un roman d’amour, Anne Mérival.» Recherches féministes 24.1: 61–76.

In particular, I've been adding a lot of French-language items, some of which were in the old Romance Wiki database and some which were new to me. I'm also working my way through the chapters in The Routledge Research Companion to Popular Romance, adding details for each and also carefully checking each chapter's bibliography for items that are not already in the Romance Scholarship Database.

Friday, August 28, 2020

New Book: Jodi McAlister's "The Consummate Virgin"

Jodi McAlister's PhD thesis has now been published as a book by Palgrave. The Consummate Virgin: Female Virginity Loss and Love in Anglophone Popular Literatures 

explores dominant cultural narratives around what makes a “good” female virginity loss experience by examining two key forms of popular literature: autobiographical virginity loss stories and popular romance fiction. In particular, this book focuses on how female sexual desire and romantic love have become entangled in the contemporary cultural imagination, leading to the emergence of a dominant paradigm which dictates that for women, sexual desire and love are and should be intrinsically linked together: something which has greatly affected cultural scripts for virginity loss. This book examines the ways in which this paradigm has been negotiated, upheld, subverted, and resisted in depictions of virginity loss in popular literatures, unpacking the romanticisation of the idea of “the right one” and “the right time”.

It has chapters on historical romance and category romance which will be of particular interest to scholars of popular romance fiction.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Vivian Stephens and the RWA

There's a fascinating article in the Texas Monthly, by Mimi Swartz, about Vivian Stephens, a ground-breaking romance editor.

Stephens was also one of the founders of the RWA and the article discusses the differing visions for the RWA which led to a parting of the ways. A few years ago, the RWA leadership apparently again failed to listen to her; if they had, they might have avoided the 2020 racism implosion. And now the RWA is naming their main award after her.

A horrifying detail which emerged as a result of the publication of this article is that the account given by staff to Courtney Milan of a conversation they had with Stephens is diametrically opposed to what Stephens herself told Swartz. The conversation took place

in March 2016. She is at lunch at a white-tablecloth restaurant in Houston’s Museum District with three white women: two members of the RWA’s executive staff and the then president of the organization, Diane Kelly. Everyone has their hands in their laps, and some kind of ice cream and pastry dessert sits in front of each of them. Despite their smiles, the party looks a little stressed.

At that time, the racism roiling within the organization had not yet burst into public view. Stephens, who had mostly lived the life of a retiree since moving back to town, usually met with the RWA executive staff once a year or so, and the meetings were typically friendly, full of small talk. But during this lunch, Stephens told the women that she could see trouble was coming, and she had brought along the RWA magazine that featured photos of all the RITA winners, none of whom were Black, as a visual aid.

“Well, what do they want?” Stephens recalled one of the women asking.

“The same as you,” was her retort.

Courtney Milan has now tweeted:

My aside: I was on the Board when this conversation happened, and was told about it afterwards. This is absolutely not what was conveyed to me by the white participants in the conversation.

I was told that Vivian Stephens did not think I should be speaking up about racism. [...] I know they often heard...different things than what was said, which then had to be resaid along with assurances that no, I didn’t think they were racist, but... Just to be clear: they conveyed to me that Vivian Stephens thought I was white. They said Vivian Stephens specifically referenced this blogpost and thought I should not be speaking.

Allison Kelley is the person who told me this. Carol Ritter was also at that meeting. Those are the two unnamed staff not mentioned, but I’m thinking we could already guess that.

And Alyssa Cole's response sums up my response too:

Monday, August 10, 2020

New: The Routledge Research Companion to Popular Romance Fiction

The Routledge Research Companion to Popular Romance Fiction is, sadly, very expensive in the current format (hardback), but it's out now, and it's very exciting for the field of popular romance studies that it exists because its purpose is to provide

an overview of disciplinary approaches to studying romance fiction, and critical analyses of important subgenres, themes, and topics. It also highlights new and understudied avenues of inquiry for future research in this vibrant and still-emerging field.

[BREAKING NEWS: It's a lot cheaper as an ebook (i.e. approximately US $37.57/£28.79 depending where you go). Buy links here.]

It's edited by Jayashree Kamblé, Eric Murphy Selinger and Hsu-Ming Teo and there's a chapter in it that I co-wrote with Eric.

I'm told a somewhat cheaper (but probably still not cheap) ebook version should become available next year.

Here's the table of contents:

Introduction [can be downloaded as part of the "preview pdf" available from the publisher]

Jayashree Kamblé, Eric Murphy Selinger, Hsu-Ming Teo


1   History of English Romance Novels, 1621–1975

jay Dixon

2   The Evolution of the American Romance Novel

Pamela Regis

3   Australian Romance Fiction

Lauren O’Mahony


4   Gothic Romance

Angela Toscano

5   The Historical Romance

Sarah H. Ficke

6   Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy

María T. Ramos-García

7   Young Adult Romance

Amanda K. Allen

8   Inspirational Romance

Rebecca Barrett-Fox and Kristen Donnelly

9   Erotic Romance

Jodi McAlister

10   African American Romance

Julie E. Moody-Freeman

11   Explorations of the "Desert Passion Industry"

Amira Jarmakani


12   Romance in the Media

Jayashree Kamblé

13   Literary Approaches

Eric Murphy Selinger

14   Author Studies and Popular Romance Fiction

Kecia Ali

15   Social Science Reads Romance

Joanna Gregson and Jennifer Lois

16   Publishing the Romance Novel

John Markert

17   Libraries and Popular Romance Fiction

Kristin Ramsdell


18   Class and Wealth in Popular Romance Fiction [a pre-print version is available here]

Amy Burge

19   Sex and Sexuality

Hannah McCann and Catherine M. Roach

20   Gender and Sexuality

Jonathan A. Allan

21   Love and Romance Novels

Hsu-Ming Teo

22   Romance and/as Religion

Eric Murphy Selinger and Laura Vivanco

23   Race, Ethnicity, and Whiteness

Erin S. Young

24   In Response to Harlequin: Global Legacy, Local Agency

Kathrina Mohd Daud

Friday, July 24, 2020

New Romance Web Archive

From Steve Ammidown (Manuscripts & Outreach Archivist, Browne Popular Culture Library):

Browne Popular Culture Library at BGSU and the University of Michigan Libraries have partnered to create a web archive meant to capture significant sites related to the romance genre. You can find it here:

This is still a work in process, and some sites are not listed yet due to some technical issues, but the idea is to capture both full sites and articles and other significant moments within the genre. If you look now, you’ll notice that there are many pages related to this winter’s RWA scandal, for example. We’ve also partnered with several sites to capture everything they’ve posted, including Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, the Fated Mates Podcast, All About Romance, WOC In Romance, and more. Our hope is to avoid a situation like what happened with the Romantic Times Book Review site, where only a portion of the important historical content on that site was captured before it disappeared.

Much of the credit for this project goes to Maura Seale at Michigan, who approached me with this idea last year [...] and took responsibility for managing the technical aspects.

I hope this becomes a valuable research resource for years to come. If you have sites that you think would be useful to capture, please feel free to reach out to Maura or myself. It’s worth pointing out that when it comes to capturing entire sites, we are doing it only with the consent of the site owners. There are several sites we approached who have asked us not to capture their content, and we’ll respect those wishes. That said, we’re happy to reach out to others if the research community thinks it’s worthwhile!

Here's the announcement to Twitter, which will help with contacting Steve and Maura. I've added a link in the Teach Me Tonight sidebar to this resource.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

New Publications: Faith, Love, Hope, Pastoral Care; the Gothic; Houses; Publishing and Diversity in Libraries; Sex, Virginity; PTSD

I'm not sure I've mentioned this before on here (and I'm busy cross-posting this news in a variety of places, so apologies if you see it more than once) but I've been busy working on Faith, Love, Hope and Popular Romance Fiction. It's a book which, as is rather obvious from the title, is about faith, love, hope and popular romance fiction. Since we're in a pandemic, I felt particularly uncertain about what the future might hold and so I decided I'd just publish the book in whole myself, on my website. That may or may not have been a good idea, but my hope is that this way I can get feedback/constructive criticism from other romance readers, romance scholars, and also romance readers. I've had some of that already and updated the book as a result, but I hope there will be more.

Since it's all online, there probably isn't all that much point writing a synopsis here, but it does include:

* a new definition of romance which suggests that romances are a form of pastoral care

* detailed analysis of romances by Alyssa Cole, Piper Huguley, Rose Lerner and Nora Roberts

* analysis of how "devils" and protagonists "in hell" are saved

* use of guides to romance writing and statements by readers and romance authors

Please do head over to and let me know what you think!

In other publication news

Jodi McAlister has "signed with Palgrave, and they're going to publish my scholarly monograph The Consummate Virgin: Female Virginity Loss and Love in Anglophone Popular Literatures, which is based on that PhD I did a million years ago."

And some other items which are available already (but not all of which are freely accessible):

Anita, Mangatur Rudolf Nababan, Riyadi Santosa, Agus Hari Wibowo, 2020. “Shift on Functions of Sexual Euphemisms in English-Indonesian Translation of Duke of Her Own by Eloisa James.” International Journal of Innovation, Creativity and Change 13.4: 92-107.

Ayres, Brenda, 2020. "'A Necessary Madness': PTSD in Mary Balogh's Survivors' Club Novels." Neo-Victorian Madness: Rediagnosing Nineteenth-Century Mental Illness in Literature and Other Media. Ed. Sarah E. Maier and Brenda Ayres. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan. 97-120. [See the RSDB for more details.]

Burg, Jacob, 2020. “Houses of Genre Fiction: The Shared Estrangement of Postwar American Culture.” Brandeis University. PhD thesis. [Excerpt - but not of the relevant chapter, which is about "romance" but includes discussion of books which are not romance. The romances include The Flame and the Flower and Helen Hoang's The Kiss Quotient. See the RSDB for page numbers.]

Di Leo, Jeffrey, 2020. "The Speed of Publishing." American Book Review 41.4: 2, 26-27. [Excerpt]

Hirst, Holly, 2020. There are two chapters in The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic which are about romance and both are by Holly Hirst. The first is on "The Gothic Romance" and the second is "Georgette Heyer." Hirst has also produced a video about Heyer and the gothic which can be viewed for free here. There's an accompanying blog post about Heyer and the gothic here and a bibliography to go with both.

Lawrence, E.E., 2020. "The trouble with diverse books, part I: on the limits of conceptual analysis for political negotiation in Library & Information Science." Journal of Documentation, Online First.

Roper, Holly N., 2020. Representing the Romance: Diversity and Inclusion in the Romance Collections of Public Libraries​. M.S. in Library Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Monday, July 20, 2020

RWA Research Grant 2020

Before posting this, I checked the statement that IASPR made earlier in the year about changes which needed to take place in the RWA in response to racism within the RWA. It seems to me that the RWA has made most of the changes requested (the "Action Plan" is perhaps still in progress) and I'm therefore happy to publicise the RWA Research Grant.

The RWA's statement on racism can be found here:
As an organization that just went through a massive crisis for many of the same reasons that underscore these protests for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and so many more —injustice, racism, and unfairness—we acknowledge that we have turned aside from confronting difficult truths for far too long. That our authors from marginalized communities, especially our Black authors, have been treated as somehow less deserving of a seat at the table of publishing. We must admit and learn from this shameful past, while standing up for our goal and commitment to make the future better. We stand together in the fight against systemic racism.
Academics wishing to apply can be assured that the RWA is prepared to fund academic work "confronting difficult truths."

The call for applicants for the 2020 RWA Research Grant is here. The deadline for submissions is October 1, 2020. The committee is looking for submissions from a wide range of academic disciplines. This could be a great opportunity for any academic from
  • anthropology,
  • communications,
  • cultural studies,
  • education,
  • English language and literature,
  • gender studies,
  • library studies,
  • linguistics,
  • literacy studies,
  • psychology,
  • rhetoric, and
  • sociology.
and, indeed another discipline which has interesting insights to offer into romance, but who hasn't yet worked on it, to join the field of popular romance studies. If that describes you, you've read the details on the RWA and you're still a bit doubtful about whether it's worth applying, it really is worth contacting Dr. Natalie Tindall, chair of the committee, whose email is included on the RWA website.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Details on how to attend the IASPR Conference online 10-17 July 2020!

I'm really pleased to be able to share details of the online 2020 IASPR Conference (10-17 July)

The sign-up page and details of presentations and round-table discussions are accessed from

Presenters include (but are not limited to!):

Kecia Ali
Loving in the Doom Years: Nora Roberts’ Chronicles of the One

Amanda Allen
How YA Literature Emerged from the Cold War Condemnation of Popular Romance

Javaria Farooqui
Reading Anglophone Historical Popular Romances in Pakistan

Maria Isabel González Cruz
Building a Glossary of Hispanicisms in a Corpus English Romances Set in the Canaries

Jayashree Kamblé
Recoloring London: Empire and Ethnicity in Popular Romance

María Ramos-García
Transatlantic Definitions of Whiteness in Louise Bergstrom’s Gothic Romances in the Canary Islands (1971-72)

Heather Schell
Love in a White Climate: Category Romance and the Anglosphere

Angela Toscano
Big Girls Don’t Cry or Get the Guy: Representations of Fatness in Romance

Andrea Anne I. Trinidad
“Kilig to the Bones!”: Kilig as the backbone of the Filipino Romance Experience

Saturday, June 06, 2020

On Libraries, Medical Romance, Sex and Consent, RWA

The RWA has announced that the RITAs will be replaced by a new contest, called The Vivian, after Vivian Stephens, one of the founders of the RWA. [Archived version here.] There was some coverage of this in The Guardian. Here's a bit more detail about Vivian Stephens and why she's such an important figure in the history of romance:
A Black editor in a predominantly white industry, Stephens sought to incorporate the voices of women of color into the burgeoning romance industry. In 1980, Dell published the first category romance by a Black author with Black protagonists- Entwined Destinies by Rosalind Welles (the pseudonym of journalist Elsie Washington). Stephens also made sure that Dell’s Candlelight lines included romances by Indigenous, Latina, and Asian authors, creating almost single-handedly the category that trade publications called “Ethnic Romance”. (BGSU University Library)
There's more about her here. Some negative responses to the proposal to rename the RWA's main awards after her can be found here, including a comment from one author who stated that
I dislike people who try to rewrite history. I live in the South-Southwest where every county seat has a memorial to the Confederate soldiers. Taking them down does not change the Civil War. We all know that was a terrible event. I hate when people try to make history politically correct. It wasn't. We can't alter it.
Possibly a comment which says rather more about the RITAs than the author intended. Also, as an academic blog, I have to point out that historians are constantly "rewriting history." For example, here's an article about the history of the rewriting of the history of the US West. Often history needs to be rewritten because the version that's currently known is inaccurate:
Black cowboys and cowgirls have shown up to support Black Lives Matter this week, but their presence also symbolizes something much more. Black cowboys have long been part of American history: Historians estimate that during the 19th century, one in four cowboys was black. Many ranchers depended on these skilled black workers to herd their cattle, and many went on to become famous rodeo stars themselves, such as Bill Pickett, who invented the bulldogging technique. Yet throughout the 20th and 21st century, the narrative shifted. Hollywood films whitewashed the idea of the cowboy, turning it into a stoic caricature. (Vogue)

I only have one new publication to report in this post. However, it's freely available online:
Veros, Vassiliki, 2020. “The selective tradition, the role of romance fiction donations, and public library practices in New South Wales, Australia.” Information Research 25.2
On a more positive note with regards to libraries, the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, which has a collection of nurse romances, now also has an online exhibition of some of these texts, Angels and Handmaidens, which is designed in part to demonstrate how romance fiction can be a useful resources for scholars working in a wide range of fields:
This exhibition is a demonstration of how to begin primary source research; it suggests numerous ways that students and scholars might approach popular romance as a resource, and gives examples of the types of questions that can be asked of resources from popular culture while inviting the viewer to generate their own questions about the sources.
The exhibition was created by Katie Stollenwerk, who recently completed a 3 year internship with the UWM Special Collections department.

On the topic of consent, K. J. Charles has written a discussion of/guide to how to write consent in sex scenes which explains how depictions of consent have changed in romance and how to write it so that it's sexy because
these days there’s a lot of people who’d agree that consent is a Good Thing, but they don’t want to hear about it. Consent in romance sex scenes is frequently covered with a single “do you want this?” or variations thereon. (Or even “If you want me to stop, tell me now because I won’t be able to control myself much longer.” That was in a book published two years ago. Wow.)
The argument goes, roughly, that we know we have to tick the consent box, but:
  • it’s unsexy to ask permission
  • a properly sexy alpha hero can intuit that the virgin hero/ine really wants flagellation followed by anal on their first time
  • consent is wishy-washy PC nonsense that gets in the way of the good stuff
  • consent is boring because it’s just endless repetition of ‘may I kiss you’/do you like this?’  and people don’t really do that.
As it happens, some recent research by Jennifer L. Piemonte, Staci Gusakova, Marissa Nichols & Terri D. Conley, provides evidence in support of Charles' thesis that consent can be sexy. Here's an excerpt from the abstract of "Is consent sexy? Comparing evaluations of written erotica based on verbal sexual consent":
In Study 1, we compared brief excerpts of erotic fiction in which verbal sexual consent was either present or absent and determined that U.S. adults judged the stories similarly and, if anything, considered the excerpts with verbal consent sexier. In Study 2, we generated erotic stories that followed familiar, heterosexual scripts and compared evaluations of erotica with consent expressed explicitly and verbally to erotica with consent expressed implicitly through no resistance. Participants considered both versions equally as sexy, indicating that public concerns about consent ruining sexual dynamics are potentially unwarranted.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Some new publications: Romance and Italy, Nigeria, the Philippines, Russia, Turkey, the USA; happy endings; Christianity; the RWA; Sherry Thomas

It hasn't taken long for the RWA crisis to be turned into a case-study:

Lawrence, Kelsey, 2020. "No Happy Ending: Leadership Falls Apart at the Romance Writers of America." SAGE Business Cases. and here's the abstract:
This short case asks students to examine the controversy stemming from allegations of racism within the Romance Writers of America (RWA), one of the largest U.S. writers’ and trade organizations. Students will assess the organization’s response to the allegations, its subsequent change of leadership, and what this indicates about the overall culture within the RWA.
The crisis is also mentioned, albeit briefly, in the article by McAlister et al (see details below): "the implosion of the Romance Writers of America in late 2019 over issues of institutionalised racism demonstrated that the romance industry is still suffering from 'publishing’s diversity deficit'."

I'll take the opportunity, since I've brought up the topic of the RWA, to mention that the new Board of Directors issued an apology to members (archived here) and also to Courtney Milan:

The Board Members wrote:
Dear Courtney,
For our first and most important order of business, we, the members of the Board of Directors of Romance Writers of America, are writing to apologize to you. We acknowledge the improper, unfair, and wrongful handling by RWA of the ethics complaints filed against you. We offer our sincerest apology to you for what transpired. We object vehemently to the way the proceedings were conducted, and we are very sorry for the resulting impact on you.
As a result, in a unanimous vote as a new Board, we have expunged both the complaints and the ensuing proceedings from the record. This should never have happened, and the fact that it happened to you--someone who has worked so hard to champion diversity, inclusion, and equity for our members from marginalized communities--is a travesty.
While we regrettably cannot undo how your case was managed, we will be conducting a thorough review of the current RWA Code of Ethics and surrounding procedures, as well as the RWA Policy manual, to ensure that they best reflect RWA's current priorities and principles, and so that RWA can help avoid situations like this in the future.
We thank you for your years of dedicated service to RWA, and we will work hard to be worthy of that dedication.
And in other publications:

Adamenko, Olga and Olga Klymenko, 2020. "Communicative Behavior via Gender Identity (Based on the English language 'love stories')." Psycholinguistics 27.2. 44-70. The abstract is in English but the paper itself is not.

Cassiday, Julie A., 2020. “A World Without Safe Words: Fifty Shades of Russian Grey.” Journal of Popular Romance Studies 9.

Haruna, Alkasim and Noor Hashima Abd Aziz, 2019. "Towards an Understanding of the Efferent Reading Stance of Hausa Popular Romance Novels." European Academic Research 6.12: 6829-6839.

Johnson, Emily D., 2020. “Exploring His/Her Library: Reading and Books in Russian Romance.” Journal of Popular Romance Studies 9.

Kamblé, Jayashree, 2020. "When Wuxia Met Romance: The Pleasures and Politics of Transculturalism in Sherry Thomas’s My Beautiful Enemy." Journal of Popular Romance Studies 9.

Kamitsuka, Margaret D., 2020. “Prolife Christian Romance Novels: A Sign that the Abortion-as-Murder Center Is Not Holding?” Christianity & Literature 69.1: 36-52.

McAlister, Jodi, Claire Parnell and Andrea Anne Trinidad, 2020. "#RomanceClass: Genre World, Intimate Public, Found Family." Publishing Research Quarterly. Online First.

Moss, Madi Markle, 2020. "Review: When Was the Last Time You Read a Romance Novel?" Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 53.1: 189-193.

Paradis, Kenneth, 2020. “Types and Tropes: History and Moral Agency in Evangelical Inspirational Fiction.” Christianity & Literature 69.1: 73-90.

Pierini, Francesca, 2020. " “He Looks like He’s Stepped out of a Painting:” The Idealization and Appropriation of Italian Timelessness through the Experience of Romantic Love." Journal of Popular Romance Studies 9.

Schell, Heather, 2020. "After “I Do”: Turkish Harlequin Readers Re-Imagine the Happy Ending." Journal of Popular Romance Studies 9.

Schell, Heather and Katherine Larsen. “How the Story Ends: Gender, Sexuality, and Nation in the Happy Ending”, Writing From Below 4.2 (2019).
Teo, Hsu-Ming, 2020. "Cultural Authenticity, the Family, and East Asian American Romance Novels." Journal of Popular Romance Studies 9.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Papers that would have been given: BGSU conference

The Bowling Green State University romance conference would have started yesterday. Here's Wednesday's schedule:

To help spread awareness of what colleagues are researching, at a time when people can only do this online, I'll post the titles of papers, including a link to the abstracts.

Carry Me Over the Threshold: Using Popular Romance Novels in Women’s and Gender Studies Classes to Teach Disciplinary Threshold Concepts 
Jessica Van Slooten, University of Wisconsin Green Bay

Jodi McAlister, Deakin University, Australia
Claire Parnell, University of Melbourne
Andrea Anne Trinidad, Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines

Mary Lynne Nielsen
Keira Soleore
Nicole M. Jackson, Bowling Green State University
Jamee Nicole Pritchard, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee

Qiana Whitted, University of South Carolina - Columbia

Amanda Allen
Sarah Slocum
Jessica A. Kahan

Rebecca Baumann, Indiana University - Bloomington
Rebecca Romney

Here's Thursday's schedule:

Malia S. Jackson
Alexandra Sterling

Lee Tobin McClain, Seton Hill University
Sarah Wendell
Stefanie Hunker, BGSU
Anna Michelson, Northwestern University
Nicole Falls

Christine Larson, University of Colorado Boulder
Melinda Utendorf
Darcey Lovell, University of Rhode Island

Heather M. Schell, George Washington University

Kathleen Kollman, Bowling Green State University
Maura Kenny, CUNY Graduate Center

Trinidad Linares

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Papers that would have been given: PCA/ACA 2020

The PCA/ACA have just released the draft program for their conference which was cancelled this year. Since the papers give an idea of what people in the field have been working on, I thought I'd list what I found.

Rethinking Romance: An Argument for Adding the Genre to Your
Annie Jansen - Penn State Brandywine

Narrating Histories of Love and Violence: The Civil War and Alyssa
Cole’s A Hope Divided
Sarah Ficke - Marymount University

The Houri and her White Other: Scandal, Race, and Innocence in the
Regency Romance Novel
Semilore Sobande - Brown University

Mapping the Borderlands of Red, White, and Royal Blue’s Alex Claremont-Diaz
Trinidad Linares - Library Associate for the Music Library and Bill Schurk Sound Archives

For Love of the Algorithm: The Kiss Quotient, Math Nerds, and Modern Match-Making
Heather Schell - George Washington University

Surplus Women, Dangerous Men: The Narrative Possibilities of Scandal
Angela Toscano - University of Utah

Surplus Women, Dangerous Men: The Narrative Possibilities of Scandal
Lauren Rosales - University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Angela Toscano

Admitting Impediments; or, the Scandal of Allusiveness in Popular
Eric Murphy Selinger - DePaul University

Scandalous Love(s): Successful Polyamory and Open Relationships
Lindsay Hayes - Independent Scholar

“Because Historicals Don’t Need To Be Hidden”: Reading Popular
Regency Romances in Twenty-First-Century Pakistan
Javaria Farooqui - University of Tasmania, Australia

The Cultural Translation of Gothic Romance in Taiwan: From Roman-
tic Love to Ideal Motherhood
Fang-Mei Lin - National Taiwan Normal University

Power Structures and Authoritarianism in Paranormal Romance and
Urban Fantasy
Maria Ramos-Garcia - South Dakota State University

Rehabilitation, Not Romanticization: Receiving Rape Myths in The Day
of The Duchess

Phebe duPont - Haverford College

Pleasure and the Erotic as “liberatory projects” in the Black Feminist
Julie Moody-Freeman - DePaul University

Re-examining Forbidden Tropes: Taboo Love in New Adult Fiction
Josefine Smith - Shippensburg University

Corporate Affairs: Innovative Marketing at Mills & Boon and Harlequin, 1930-1990
Denise Hardesty Sutton - New York City College of Technology - CUNY

Bad For The Boss: Romance Novels and Supervisor/Subordinate Relationships In The Age Of #Metoo.
Carole Viola Bell - Independent Scholar

Happily Ever After: Representation, Disability, and Romance
Meredith Guthrie - University of Pittsburgh

#RomanceClass: The Scandalous Act of Reading Sex Scenes Aloud
Jodi McAlister - Deakin University

Thursday, April 09, 2020

New Romance Scholarship Database! Read Radway, Regis and Weaver-Zercher for Free!

I've finished the first stage of the Romance Scholarship Database I've been working on for the past few months:
I'd been missing the old Romance Wiki's bibliography of romance scholarship so I decided to put together a database of romance scholarship. In addition to the basic details about each item I've put in

* tags, so that it's possible to search by topic (albeit some subject areas are huge)

* as many links as possible for each item, to assist in finding it/finding out more about it

* comments about the item (e.g. details about second editions, links to reviews, key quotes if I had the item to hand, particularly if an abstract wasn't readily available online)

The database is here:

There's still quite a bit of non-English-language scholarship to be added, and some of the newest items, but I thought I'd share it now since it's fairly big and doesn't have too many gaps in it.

The tagging for books is perhaps a bit less comprehensive than for the articles because re-reading every book thoroughly would have been even more time-consuming than re-reading all the articles to which I had access. So, in many cases, I went with what I remembered, supplemented by what was in the index. And, obviously, if I didn't have access to the item I just had to make guesses about its content on the basis of the title and the abstract (if I had it).
I've added items about Fifty Shades, Twilight and other texts (e.g. Outlander or genres such as chick lit) where there's a clear link made to romance scholarship. I had to draw a line somewhere or it would have been a much, much larger task.

2) Many university presses are making books free online:

Of particular interest to romance scholars are:

A Natural History of the Romance Novel (Regis)

Reading the Romance (Radway)

Thrill of the Chaste (Weaver-Zercher)

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Conference Cancellations, a new RWA Board in a time of crisis, and Some Secondary Reading

The RWA has a new board (details archived here).

All the upcoming romance conferences have now been postponed (links to details on the conference page).

Below is a list of items I would have added to the Romance Wiki's bibliography of romance scholarship except it's no longer online. If you can read Greek, Portuguese and/or Turkish, you'll be able to understand much more of some of these than I could:

Al Thobaiti, Fatmah, 2019. "Afterlife of the Romance Hero: Readers’ Reproduction of Romance." Journal of Popular Romance Studies 8.

Chen, Eva, 2019. ‘“The Hate that Changed”: Cycling Romance and the Aestheticization of Women Cyclists’, Victorian Periodicals Review 52.3, pp. 489-517.

Choyke, Kelly, 2019. "The Power of Popular Romance Culture: Community, Fandom, and Sexual Politics ." PhD Thesis. Ohio University, 2019. [Not available in full until January 2021 but the abstract's here.]

Day, Sara K., 2020. "Reimagining Forever...: The Marriage Plot in Recent Young Adult Literature." Beyond the Blockbusters: Themes and Trends in Contemporary Young Adult Fiction. Ed. Rebekah Fitzsimmons and Casey Alane Wilson. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. 156-170.

Erekli, Arzu, 2006. Medeni ya da müslüman: popüler aşk romanlarında Feyza olmak, Yayınlanmamış Yüksek Lisans Tezi, Bilkent University, Ankara.

Fletcher, Lisa, Jodi McAlister, Kurt Temple and Kathleen Williams, 2019. “#loveyourshelfie: Mills & Boon books and how to find them.” Mémoires du livre / Studies in Book Culture 11.1.

Fresno-Calleja, Paloma, 2020. "Chick-Lit Pasifika-Style or How to B(l)end the Formula: Lani Young’s Scarlet Series." Contemporary Women's Writing.

Jones, Amanda. “Madness, Monks and Mutiny: Neo-Victorianism in the Works of Victoria Holt”, Neo-Victorian Studies 12.1 (2019): 1-27.

Kendal, Evie, 2019. “The Use of Free Indirect Discourse in J. R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood Series.” Colloquy: Text, Theory, Critique 38: 20–43.
Kapell, Matthew, and Suzanne Becker, 2005. "Patriarchy, the Christian Romance Novel, and the 'Ecosystem of Sex'." Popular Culture Review 16.1: 147-155. [I may have mentioned this before, but it's now available online]
Lawrence, E. E., 2020. "On the problem of oppressive tastes in the public library", Journal of Documentation, Online First. 
Neves, Mariana Brasileiro, 2014. ROMANCES DE BOLSO: A novela romântica da Harlequin Books no mercado editorial brasileiro, Bacharelado, Universidade Católica de Pernambuco.
Nikbakht, H., 2019. Female Agency in the Harlequin Romance Formula: developments within the timeframe of second wave feminism. Bachelor's thesis. Utrecht University.
Taylor, Jessica, 2018. “Flexible Nations: Canadian Romance Writers, American Romance, and the Romance of Canada.” Reading between the Borderlines: Cultural Production and Consumption across the 49th Parallel, edited by Gillian Roberts. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press: 199–222.

Villar-Argáiz, Pilar 2018: “Ireland and the Popular Genre of Historical Romance: The Novels of Karen Robards”, ABEI: Brazilian Journal of Irish Studies 20.2: 97-109.

And for anyone who can read Greek, a masters thesis by Ρωξάνη Γραφανάκη called Γυναίκες και ροζ λογοτεχνία: η περίπτωση των εκδόσεων Άρλεκιν and available from here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

State of Diversity Report 2019 out now!

The Ripped Bodice's report on "the state of racial diversity in romance publishing" for 2019 has now been published.

Harlequin as a whole isn't doing particularly well, with low proportions and falls in all imprints except for Carina, which came second overall in the table with 20.7% of publications by authors who were "people of color". Kensington came top with 27.5%.

Bethany House has consistently had 0% now for four years in a row, and Tule Publishing only rose above 0% in 2018.

See the report for full details, including breakdowns by publisher.

Renee Dahlia adds some context:
this is a USA based study, and the results should be compared to the USA general population. According to census data, the USA population is 60.4% White, 18.3% Hispanic or Latino, 13.4% Black, 5.9% Asian, 2.7% Biracial, 1.3% Native American, and 0.2% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.
If romance publishing in America was equal, we’d see figures similar to this in the Ripped Bodice study. However, we don’t.
Indeed we don't. The figure for all romance authors of color in 2019 is only 8.3%.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

RWA Committee was horrified by swearwords (but not, presumably, by racism)

The RWA has now released the independent audit into the situation surrounding the complaints made by Tisdale and Davis:
[Archived here, with pdf report and supplementary documents in zip files (1), (2), (3).

Note that the report contains a report of words spoken by Damon Suede which, Corey Alexander warns, require a content warning for sexual harassment.

I will therefore add a content warning before the section containing this language.]

Here's some early reaction to the report:

[That's from Bree (half of the Kit Rocha writing duo), and for the sake of avoiding any confusion, Bree is using the word "drugs" here to refer to medication.]

The section of the report of which Bree has taken a screenshot says:
The Committee did not engage in discussion of whether Ms. Milan’s social media posts were racially motivated or otherwise discriminatory. The Ethics Committee Chair told Pillsbury that the Committee members “really focused on the attack itself” and “the specific language that [Ms. Milan] used,” including the use of swear words. That the attack used inflammatory language against members of RWA was what Committee members found the most compelling. The Ethics Committee Chair said that, if Ms. Milan had more calmly and in less “incendiary” fashion expressed her opinion that certain conduct or a novel was racist, that would likely have resulted in a different decision by the Committee: “I think that probably would have cast it very differently, the language itself was so incendiary, it was so problematic, so horrible. It was considered a very horrific thing to go after another member of RWA’s publishing house, and the reputation of RWA would suffer probably as much as anything else.”  The Committee did not regard the tone of Ms. Milan’s comments as “safe and respectful” for a community of writers.
It seems some RWA members would probably consider other members' books to be full of horrible words.

If you yourself are offended by the use of swear-words, please do not read on (but this is not the section that requires a content warning):

The "incendiary" words used were "fuck" and "shit," which are hardly uncommon in romance novels. That nothing more "incendiary" was tweeted is evident from the report, which summarises Milan's use of swearwords as follows:
Ms. Milan also posted a series of tweets about a novel by RWA member and author Kathryn Lynn Davis, who is also an acquisition editor at Glenfinnan Publishing:
  • Okay, so you know how Glenfinnan publishing has two editors listed [on its webpage]? And we’ve been talking about Sue Grimshaw. Someone sent me a link to a book written by the other editor, Kathryn Lynn Davis, and is a fucking racist mess.
Ms. Milan posted an image of the cover of Ms. Davis’s novel Somewhere Lies The Moon, stating, “Here’s the book. I didn’t finish the sample. I didn’t need to. This book is like a bingo card of OH GOD DID YOU REALLY.” Ms. Milan stated that the “heroine ... is the obligatory blue-eyed half-Chinese woman” and went on to post a series of screenshots of passages from the novel that she characterized as examples of “standard racist trope[s].” Ms. Milan provided mocking commentary on the excerpted passages (e.g., “did you know that Chinese people don’t touch? Not even friends and sisters. It’s impolite you know”). She then wrote:
  • As a half-Chinese person with brown eyes, seriously fuck this piece of shit.... I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Don’t write books about how much a culture not your own sucks. Just don’t. You’re not going to get it right and you’re going to sound like a fucking racist.... 
  • Also, I dragged that book not to be mean, but because people writing shit like that gets women like me assaulted and harassed.
It does not appear from this report that the Ethics Committee at any point stopped to consider whether Davis's novel was "problematic" or "horrible" or whether it could have (as Milan stated) a negative effect on RWA members such as Milan herself. Should this not have been considered at very least a mitigating factor even if the use of the words "fuck" and "shit" can be considered "incendiary"?

The section requiring a content warning is below.

CW: for language relating to sexual harassment.

Furthermore, as demonstrated by this tweet from Zoe York, it seems the truly inflammatory language contained in the report was produced by Damon Suede.

As noted in the report, when the RWA Board met to consider the recommendations of the Ethics Committee with regards to sanctioning Courtney Milan,
From the start of the meeting, many members asked for more specifics from the Ethics Committee discussion and specifics from the evidence.
Details were not forthcoming, but Suede did find himself able to provide a general picture which, firstly suggested that Milan had done far more than simply tweet, and then equated her behaviour with a situation of sexual abuse in the workplace:

Mr. Suede stated that the decision had involved more than tweets seen publicly. He checked with Ms. Ritter about what he could say, and she suggested he keep the explanation general.

Mr. Suede told Pillsbury how he described the information to the Board:
  • I explained that the ethics panel had reviewed material that wasn’t visible online, and that private communication had played a factor. [One Board member] asked again if this evidence involved discussion that wasn’t held in public on social media. I confirmed that was so. I also pointed out that the panel had expressed repeatedly a strong hope that the Board would deal with the social media loophole because that exception in the harassment policy had left their hands tied; [the Committee] stated plainly multiple times that Milan’s behavior was so abusive and egregious that any professional organization should have policy in place to protect members, especially from its leaders. I pointed the directors to that explicit concern in the report.
  • I spoke in generality about the discussion and the panel’s concerns about a “hostile workplace.” [Board members] asked me to explain the logic of the ruling and I compared it to coming into an office where you are threatened, harassed, and attacked every day by people in authority.
Several Board members told Pillsbury that Mr. Suede stated that Ms. Milan’s behavior was analogous to a boss repeatedly “whipping his penis out.”
I'll refrain from swearing and just conclude calmly, and in a non-incendiary fashion, that Suede's language here was so misleading it was egregiously problematic and horrific. [Also, it's been pointed out on Twitter that this analogy is particularly horrific given that Milan has spoken publicly about having a boss who behaved in an inappropriate manner towards female members of staff.]

Edited to add that some people are disputing statements of fact made in the report.

In this thread HelenKay Dimon says it is not true that "RWA switched software systems in 2018 and did not have a way to access files saved on the old software system". This is important because the report states that, this being the case, "the available evidence was limited" about past procedures.

Olivia Waite disputes the impression given concerning how complaints were handled:

She provides a screenshot of an email from Carol Ritter to demonstrate that "if you emailed to ask how to submit [a formal ethics complaint to the RWA], you were told it was okay to print a letter, sign it, and submit a photo of that letter via email. So saying they never received very many in writing is, well, kinda not the whole."

And edited again to add that on 20 February Leslie Scantlebury, the Interim Executive Director of RWA (i.e. a staff member, given that the entire board have now resigned), who was not mentioned in the report as having had any involvement at all with the events surrounding the ethics complaint (unlike Carol Ritter and Allison Kelley), posted an apology to Courtney Milan on the RWA website in which it is acknowledged that:
The report detailed many mistakes and missteps that were made in the handling of the specific ethics complaints against Courtney Milan, as well as severe deficiencies in RWA’s ethics code and process as a whole.

The staff and I deeply regret what has happened to Courtney as a result, and offer our sincere apology to her for the mistakes and missteps made in the handling of the complaint. I cannot speak on behalf of the organization, and it will be up to the next Board to determine how we move forward, but the report proves again that RWA has a lot to fix and a great amount of work to do.
Courtney Milan has since tweeted that

she "did not consider Leslie to be one of the people who had an active hand in what happened, and so [...] it's not an institutional statement. As lovely as she is, she can't apologize on behalf of those who actually wronged me."

Leslie Scantlebury obviously can't speak for Board members who have resigned and, since Carol Ritter (Deputy Executive Director of RWA until October 31, 2019; Executive Director of RWA from November 1, 2019, until January 31, 2020) and Allison Kelley (Executive Director of RWA until October 31, 2019; served as Controller at RWA until her retirement on December 31, 2019) are no longer staff members, Leslie Scantlebury cannot speak for them either.

Milan adds that she has also received personal (i.e. non-official) apologies
For those who may have forgotten exactly who resigned when, the report provides some context about the people Milan mentions: on 24 December "Board member Chanta Rand submitted her resignation" and "After the Executive Session on December 24th, a group of eight Board members – Denny Bryce, Pintip Dunn, Seressia Glass, Tracey Livesay, Adrienne Mishel, Priscilla Oliveras, Erica Ridley, and Farrah Rochon – demanded the resignations of Carolyn Jewel as President and of Damon Suede as President-Elect [...]. The group of eight Board members also resigned on December 26th.  On January 8, 2020, [...] Renee Ryan [...] resigned."