I am a voracious reader. My bookshelves are lined with everything from self-help and biographies to murder mysteries and sci-fi. Romance, however, is by far my favorite genre. As a hopeless romantic I read romance novels to unwind and as a form of escapism but most importantly, I get to experience protagonists who look like me; I get to witness women with similar life experiences fall in love and navigate all the feelings that come with that.
There are great authors of color across all genres, but given my love for romance novels, I want to share five of my favorite writers. These five authors write smart, intriguing romance with relatable characters you’ll feel you’ve grown up with and they will leave you talking for days. But what’s best is, they unapologetically celebrate Black love.
Here are five Black romance authors you need to know!
Brenda Jackson opened the proverbial door to the romance genre, for me. After coming across her novel, Tonight and Forever, in high school, I never looked back. I credit this book with spurring my love affair with romance novels. Jackson was the first African-American author to have a novel published as a part of the Silhouette Desire line by Harlequin and her books have consistently made the New York Times and USA Today Bestseller lists. She is also the first African American to publish more than 100 novels, passing that milestone in 2013. If you are looking for big family-oriented stories, Jackson’s novels are the way to go. New readers will fall in love with the Westmoreland, Madaris and Granger families as these successful African American siblings fall victim to this thing called love.
Historical romance is a very popular subgenre of romance novels, and very few people write it as well as the phenomenal Beverly Jenkins. NPR once described Jenkins as an author who “wraps bitter history in sweet romance,” and I couldn’t find a more accurate statement. She introduces readers to little known 19th-century African American history while weaving tales of impenetrable love featuring strong, independent heroines and the men that are lucky to love them. In the midst of pain, there is a subtlety and willingness in the characters that make her books hard to put down. Jenkins will propel you to expand on the knowledge gained from her books and to learn more about the real persons upon which her characters are based. If you’re looking for somewhere to start, I recommend Indigo and Captured.
Christina C. Jones
Romance novelist and ½ of Girl, Have You Read, Christina C. Jones gives you a little bit of everything in her novels. From scandal and suspense in Ante Up and Catch Me If You Can to downright sexy in Mine Tonight. Her storytelling pulls no punches, and she quickly gets to the meat of the storyline while peeling back the layers of her characters with ease. These are the stories you talk about in the hair salon on Saturdays. The kinds of stories you recount with your girlfriends over dinner and wine. She writes the types of characters that you recognize in your circle of friends.
Every time I read an AlTonya Washington novel I dread reaching the end especially as it pertains to her beloved Ramsey/Tesano series. The lure of a big family, many love stories and a few secrets and betrayals? Sold! Washington has perfected the family saga. She writes these sensual, multi-layered, and often infuriating characters that vacillate between letting past demons affect their future and deciding to claw their way towards love.
One of my more recent discoveries, Love Belvin, has quickly become a favorite. She is a contemporary romance author who is “penning without parameters.” Her angsty novels are lengthy, high on drama and, in your face romance that isn’t afraid to shy away from real-world issues. She expertly weaves religion and romance, in most of her novels, without feeling over the top. Her three-part Love Accounted series, beginning with In Covenant with Ezra, perfectly captures her style. Belvin’s books tell stories of redemption, second chances, and the beauty of a flawed and inconvenient love.
These five writers are only the tip of the iceberg but a perfect place to start, so break out that reading list and add a few new titles!
Natalya Muncuff is the head book nerd in charge at The Island Reader. When she is not adding to her enormous book collection or stationery supply, she is somehow keeping track of the countless television shows she insists needs to be watched. You can follow her rantings and occasional sparks of brilliance on Twitter, Instagram & Facebook.