For starters, a romance is a romance, no matter the subgenre. Thus, a romance comes with certain promises to the reader. Those promises begin with the story structure: boy meets girl, boy likes girl, boy and girl clash, etc.
Second, readers get to experience the unfolding of the romance from the perspective of both the guy and the gal. Not all romances allow the couple to share the stage equally, but readers typically get to see the story from both vantage points.
Third, after all obstacles are conquered, there is a Happily Ever After. Every time. There may not always be a wedding to cap off the romance, sometimes not even an engagement, but there is always the promise of a solid relationship with presumably a long and happy future.
For multicultural romance, all of these tenets hold true. But all of this occurs against a backdrop of one or more cultures, which may be unfamiliar to many readers. Thus, competence in writing multicultural romance means the author expertly opens a window into the characters’ cultures, doing so in a way that enhances the romance.
On a basic level, authors may choose to describe physical attributes of the characters. Almond skin. Eyes like pools of ink. Corkscrew hair. Olive undertones. Mocha chiseled abs.
Perhaps it’s the clothing of the characters. Gauzy saris. Brightly colored headwraps. Satiny kimonos. Mudcloth. Galabiyaas. Kilts.
Going deeper, authors will introduce readers to cultural nuances. Worship services. Ethnic foods. Holidays traditions. Birth order expectations or privileges. Non-westernized social values.
They also may include an introduction to the idioms, slang and dialects of the culture. When offered with a light touch, these cultural markers give the readers a greater sense of who the characters are and what their worlds are like.
For me, the best multicultural romances do all of this yet rise even further to capture our universal traits without whitewashing our differences. But the unique cultural characteristics sometimes lay a foundation for, or serve to heighten, the conflict that is at the heart of romance.
Authors of multicultural romance, whether writing characters of their same ethnicity or not, must be careful not to settle for stereotypes, however. It’s important to show readers cultural aspects with which they are both familiar and unaware. Doing so breaks down stereotypes rather than fueling them.
Still, in the end, the focus remains on the romance. Give me a noble hunk of a hero and a sassy, smart heroine of any culture and move them toward a satisfying relationship in spite of the obstacles and odds against them. Make me swoon. Make me struggle. Make me celebrate right along with them.
A Facebook survey of multicultural romance yielded the following books for your enjoyment:
- Stacy Hawkins Adams: “Speak To My Heart,” “Worth A Thousand Words,” “Dreams That Won’t Let Go”
- Nikki Arana: “The Winds of Sonoma,” “In the Shade of the Jacaranda,” “The Fragrance of Roses”
- Anjali Banerjee: “Invisible Lives,” “Haunting Jasmine”
- Shoban Bantwal: “The Sari Shop Widow,” “The Dowry Bride,” “The Forbidden Daughter”
- Kendra Norman Bellamy: “For Love and Grace,” The Solomon Series
- Angela Benson: “Awakening Mercy,” “Abiding Hope”
- Rhonda Bowen: “One Way or Another”
- Claudia Mair Burney: “Zora and Nicky”
- Cecelia Dowdy: “First Mates,” “John’s Quest,” “Bittersweet Memories”
- Marilynn Griffith: “Made of Honor,” “If the Shoe Fits,” “Happily Even After” and the Shades of Style series
- Maurice Gray: “To Whom Much Is Given,” “All Things Work Together”
- Vanessa Davis Griggs: “Promises Beyond Jordan”
- Sherri Lewis: “The List,” “Finding Mrs. Wright”
- Tia McCollors: “A Heart of Devotion,” “Zora’s Cry”
- Vanessa Miller: “A Love for Tomorrow,” “Yesterday’s Promise” and “A Promise for Today”
- Michelle Stimpson: “Someone To Watch Over Me”
- Kim Cash Tate: “Faithful,” “Cherishe,” “Hope Springs”
- Camy Tang: “Sushi For One?,” “Only Uni,” “Single Sashimi,” “Weddings and Wasabi”
- Cheryl Wyatt: “A Soldier’s Family”
Patricia Woodside does business and financial analysis by day; she reads and writes by night. She is the mother of three sons and is a transplanted New Yorker living in Florida. She is working on her first inspirational romance.