Elizabeth: Beyond Traditional Romance Novels

Image courtesy of vewgraphic@gmail.com

Image courtesy of vewgraphic@gmail.com

The holidays are in full swing here, with celebrations, shopping, wrapping and cooking, so I was planning to talk about traditions in today’s post (or maybe just post a photo of my dining room table covered in platters of cookies and other treats), but then I came across an interesting article on the Kirkus Reviews website talking about “Love, Romance, Gender and Genre” and changed my mind.

The article, written by freelance writer, book reviewer, and romance advocate Bobbi Dumas talked about the universal yearning to be loved for who we are and the  importance of romance stories.

“They can represent the very best of the human experience – the power of love.”

She also talked specifically about gay and lesbian romance, a genre/sub-genre that has exploded over the past decade, providing stories that are not limited by traditional gender constraints and are aimed at readers who previously were under-represented (or not represented at all) in mainstream romances.

“For kids who grow up thinking that there’s something wrong with them for feeling the way they do, then what a gift to find a book that represents exactly who they are or what they’re going through.”

The article got me thinking about the thought-provoking post Kay wrote a few days ago about the racial divide in America, how that is reflected in current publishing, and how important diverse literature is.

“Diverse kids’ literature gives children of colour a chance to see themselves as heroes, which is vital. But books with non-white protagonists can also give white children a chance to see people of colour as something other than anxiety-producing stereotypes.”

Both articles stressed the need for books that reflect the diversity of race, gender, orientation, etc. of readers. According to the RWA 2013 ROMStat Report (RWR Magazine, November 2014) Young Adult romances are the favourite romance sub-genre to read for 18.3% of readers, while New Adult romances are the favourite of 26.3% of readers. That’s a lot of potential young readers looking for stories that they can enjoy and, more importantly, that they can relate to.

The comments in Kay’s post included several recommendations for books that are racially diverse, and Bobbi’s article contained a number of LGBTQ+ author/book recommendations including:

The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters

Fever Pitch, by Heidi Cullinan

Five Dates, by Amy Jo Cousins

Every Day, by David Levithan

The lists on Goodreads can be a great source for book/author recommendation and the lists below provide some additional recommendations for books that feature gay protagonists.

25 Must-Read YA Books Featuring Gay Protagonists

The 10 LGBT YA Books You Need to Read This Year

So, have you read any good “non-traditional” romances lately or do you have any recommendations to add to these lists?

7 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Beyond Traditional Romance Novels

  1. Looking through my booklist, I’m dismayed to see how few of the books center around non-traditional romantic relationships. (The Anita Blake series would qualify, but after the first several they descend into what could charitably be called Vamporn.)

    I think the only novel that would make the list is “Exit to Eden” by Anne Rice, under her Rampling pseudonym. I’ll be rectifying that, starting with some of the entries from the lists you mention.

    • Since the majority of my reading is focused on Regency romances, I have very few titles in my library move beyond the very traditional relationships. Looks like 2015 will be the year of the expanded reading list. I think I’ll start with Five Dates, by Amy Jo Cousins, which was described as “simply charming.”

  2. Suzanne Brockman has a gay FBI character in her SEAL series, and in the later books, she gave him a much bigger role until he had his own romance as the central story. She’s also written a couple of novellas with gay characters, I believe. But as for LGBTQ stories in general, I think that Carina Press, the ebook imprint of Harlequin, does a pretty good job of publishing a fair amount of titles.

  3. It isn’t a book, but Debbie Allen created The Hot Chocolate Nutcracker for the stage. It is a modern adaptation of the traditional Nutcracker with a very multicultural cast. It was filmed this year and you can catch on BET.

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