A “Too Many Books, Too Little Time” Blog Post: Have You Read Any African American Historical Romances Lately?

Denny S. BryceThis is a total Catch 22 (Google if the reference is too old for you:) moment. Now that I’m writing almost full-time, I’m also getting the chance to read more. I have a huge stack in my “to read” bin, but lately I am  reading a lot of contemporary romantic suspense and straight-up thrillers. (Some authors I’m very excited about include Robin Perini, Stephanie Freeman, Carla Cassidy, and many more). Additionally, I belong to a Book Club (a quick shot out to my pals in the Phauxcon Book Club) where the diversity of the reading material is giving me even more opportunities to explore and enjoy. Last month, I made the book selection and got to re-read one of my favorite thrillers, Heartsick by Chelsea Cain. This month the book is an oldie by the late Robert Ludlum entitled The Chancellor’s Manuscript (excellent espionage suspense).

But now I’ve gone off and discovered a new genre (new to me, that is:). One of my new pals from the 2013 RWA National Conference is Piper Huguley. She was a 2013 Golden Heart finalist in historical romance, and a Top 50 finalist in Harlequin’s SYTYCW contest in the inspirational historical romance category. She writes African American(AA) historical romances. There is this HUGE world of readers and lovers of  historical romances that feature African American characters (which means there are other ethnic groups that have books out there, too) but I must admit, I did not know about this genre until I met Piper – which just shows there’s a lot of reading and exploring for me to do because its some damn rich story telling, and just wonderful stories, and I love history.

So I was going to share some authors in this blog post who write in this category, but kept coming across one name that dominates (see below).  Not a bad thing, domination, but what does it also say?  I ask because I’m naturally curious (and a marketing person, too) – why aren’t there more authors writing AA historical romance? I’ve talked to African American readers of AA romance who are devotees of historical romances across the board. I visited webs pages on Amazon where readers have read all of Beverly’s 30 books, and are requesting more authors, and more books. Is this an example of a niche that is too small for publisher’s to ‘buy’? Or like me, are publishers/editors just not as savvy about all of the potential of this category? What if the extremely popular AA historical book The Help had a romance as the central story? Would you have bought it?  Read it? If you aren’t black would you pick up a book that has an AA historical romance? Or do you pick up books because they get a good review from a trusted reviewer? Or is this void an example of another opportunity for self- publishing or digital publishers who are naturally ‘risk-takers’? Honestly, I don’t have answers, and I’m curious about what you think:)…

Beverly Jenkins (apparently the Queen of this genre is published by Avon and has a TON of books she’s written)

So my journey will begin with me reading some of the books by Beverly Jenkins…!!!