What Is African-American Historical Romance?

This summer, I began compiling a list of all the African-American historical romance novels I could find. This was not a solo project by any means. A special shout out goes to Beverly, Erica and Shantal, three very special ladies who spent their free time surfing the internet for all things African-American historical romance and Black women’s fiction in general. Together, we have found 154 titles so far.

However, I was surprised by the types of questions that came up as we created this list:

  •  Should we include titles written by non-African-American authors?
  •  What if the hero is African-American but the heroine is of a different background?
  • And, what if the neither the hero nor the heroine are African-American but the author is, as in the case of Francis Ray’s Regency The Bargain, Vanessa Reilly’s inspirational Regency Madeline’s Protector and Mallory Malone’s Devil’s Angel set in medieval Ireland?
  • What if the historical portrayal of African-American women is controversial, like The Help, or even offensive?
  • Which time periods are considered historical?
  • What if the novel is a love story that was not “historical” at the time it was written, like Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God?

These questions forced me to consider exactly what type of book is considered “African-American Historical Romance.” For example, Beverly Jenkins’s historical titles are no-brainers. She is an African-American author writing about African-American heroines and African-American/ multicultural heroes. But for the other scenarios, it’s not so clear cut. I personally prefer stories that depict an African-American woman falling in love. And, I would consider a setting as late the Black Power Movement to be historical. But there are so many other good books that fall out of that narrow definition.

What is your definition of African-American historical romance? What types of books would you like to see featured in this space?

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