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Interracial Romance Novels: A Reality Check

Updated on December 1, 2012

Since Sandra Kitt’s groundbreaking romance, The Color of Love, in 1995, there have been a growing number of writers publishing and self-publishing interracial romances. When the genre was new, readers put up with just about anything because there weren’t that many IR titles to read. I have been surveying readers of IR fiction for the last two years on Goodreads, and they have some gripes that could apply to any sub-genre of romance literature. Readers of IR romance today expect more than they’re getting.

Themes

Readers are tired of the same old themes:

  • “She’s X, he’s Y. The attraction is taboo. So tired.”
  • “Her family hates him, and his family hates her.”
  • “No matter what tragedies happen, their jungle fever love will see them through.”
  • “Where’s the attraction? Where’s the relationship? Where are the common bonds these two people share? Why are these two attracted to each other at all? I read an entire book and didn’t get any answers to these questions.”

Book covers

Readers have problems with the book covers of these IR titles:

  • “The content inside the book should contain the content, not just the covers.”
  • “These covers sell physical attraction instead of a relationship. I want to read about a relationship!”
  • “Reading some of these interracial romances is like getting an anatomy lesson without the diagrams.”
  • “Why don’t the people inside the book match the couple on the cover? It’s misleading.”
  • “I’m sick of so many skinny women with bell-shaped and apple-shaped booties in these novels. Women come in all shapes and sizes. There should be more variety in IR books because some of us are thick and big-boned.”

Characters

Readers have problems with one-dimensional characters that are caricatures of people:

  • “He’s rich, and she’s not. She’s “ghetto,” and he’s suburbia. She’s educated, and he’s gone to the school for hard knocks. He’s quiet, and she’s loud. He’s tall and hunky, and she’s short and sassy. This is getting old.”
  • “These writers create two of the most opposite, contrary people on the planet, and yet they expect us to believe that they are made for each other.”
  • “I am so tired of suspending my disbelief. They expect us to believe that these two people are from opposite sides of the tracks, but their love will put them on the love train.”
  • “Perfect characters tick me off, especially perfect heroines. Nobody’s perfect!”
  • “Authors pair tiny, not petite, tiny women with a hero who is this ferocious, gargantuan man. Her hero should be jabbing her in the eye with his elbow whenever they’re standing side-by-side.”
  • “There are too many light-skinned black women inside and on the covers of these books. What’s wrong with having dark-skinned women in these books? We come in all shades, right?”
  • “The psycho white chick, the totally insecure black woman, the ugly duckling that turns into a hot swan, the crazy black mama, the angry black ex-boyfriend, the hidden pregnancy, and the super-rich stud-muffin white guy have got to go!”
  • “In real life, women may be attracted to a thug, but having a long-term relationship with a thug? Really? And the writer writes a series of books about this strange relationship? Would a woman really want to be in love with a kingpin or a Mafia boss or a criminal and all the danger that could bring to her and her children? Come on! Give me a bus driver or a mechanic or a fast food manager with big hands and a big heart, please.”

Plot

Readers take issue with overall plots:

  • “The man is filthy rich, and she’s a Cinderella character who cleans his office or his home or tends his bratty children. Like that ever happens.”
  • “He pays for her little brother’s/mama’s heart/liver/brain transplant and they live happily ever after on their own private island in the Pacific. Really?”
  • “There has to be at least the possibility of their relationship ever happening to keep my attention.”
  • “In real life, you hook up with someone you likewho is a lot like you. These two people have nothing in common.”
  • “Implausibility in any way, shape or form ruins a book for me. If I can’t believe it, I won’t read it. IR is becoming as unbelievable as fantasy novels are.”
  • “Older women are getting their groove on with younger men way too often, as if no one born in the character's decade could love or understand them.”
  • “The intimate scenes are often physically impossible and fiddle with my suspension of disbelief so much that it distracts from my enjoyment of the entire story.”
  • “I hate it when the hero is such a tough nut to crack that three-fourths of the story is over before the heroine gets a decent glimpse into the deep feelings he has for her. Meanwhile they've been through all kinds of near misses and tragedies and he still has trouble finding it in himself to open up to her. Both things have me muttering to myself angrily, and once I just flat out threw the book across the room.”
  • “Writers primarily use young, sassy women as their heroines as if older women are not involved in love.”
  • “I’m tired of the whole book being about people feeling all guilty because they love a black woman or a white man and all the family drama over interracial relationships. Guilt might be okay for a moment, but they need to get over it.”

Summation

Readers of interracial romance want reality to make a bold return before the genre fades away into the oblivion of impossibility and complete fantasy. At novel’s end, readers of IR romance want to believe: “This could happen to me. I could find love like this.”

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      Sienna Mynx 4 years ago

      I don't know if you can hang that hat on IR romance books only. Read any Harlequin lately? Sounds more to me like a stale recipe for the romance genre as a whole. Everything you said except for the 'race relations' issues I can throw out Nora Roberts and other mainstream Romance authors. I do think IR romance needs to get a jolt of fresh creativity. But I wouldn't say it was hopeless yet. There is much more to come!

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      JJ Murray 4 years ago from Roanoke, Virginia

      Oh, I agree. These reader comments were specific to IR. Is Harlequin that bad, too? Romance needs to stay fresh and new ... like a new relationship.

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      Cassandra Black 3 years ago

      Wow! :) I'm an interracial romance writer, and your article really gave some great insight into what IR romance readers want. Thank you for being blunt -- and honest.

      Cassandra Black

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      multiculturalsoul 3 years ago

      Trust me on this, Cassandra: IR readers want what ALL readers want--a riveting plot, interesting characters, and a satisfying ending.

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