The first romance book I read as an adult was 50 Shades of Grey. I fondly refer to it as my gateway drug. As soon as I finished that series, I was quick to find my next read. I came upon amazing series that I devoured, anxious for more before I even finished the book I was reading. But as I continued to read, one thing became more and more obvious: the complete lack of diversity.
From creamy white skin to pink nipples, it started to dawn on me that none of the characters I loved so much looked like me. It made me wonder if there were any books where a person who has been marginalized can find their happily ever after. Good news for us, romance lovers: I just wasn’t looking in the right places for diversity in romance.
Because Romancelandia is rich in stories about people—written by people—who are fighting to show the world that everyone deserves to see themselves on the pages we read.
And even though there are more books than I can possibly name in one post, I am going to try to give everyone a good starting point for different representations across romance.
Diversity in Romance: 7 Books to Grab
If you’re looking for diversity in romance, here are seven books to consider adding to your shelves:
Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai
American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera
Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
His Perfect Partner by Priscilla Oliveras
SANCTUARY: Beards & Bondage by Rebekah Weatherspoon
All the Little Moments by G Benson
This list is in no way an exhaustive list, but if any of these titles interest you, then keep reading for a look at what they have to offer.
1. Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai
One night. No one will know.
That was the deal. Every year, Livvy Kane and Nicholas Chandler would share one perfect night of illicit pleasure. The forbidden hours let them forget the tragedy that haunted their pasts—and the last names that made them enemies.
Until the night she didn’t show up.
Now Nicholas has an empire to run. He doesn’t have time for distractions and Livvy’s sudden reappearance in town is a major distraction. She’s the one woman he shouldn’t want . . . so why can’t he forget how right she feels in his bed?
Livvy didn’t come home for Nicholas, but fate seems determined to remind her of his presence—and their past. Although the passion between them might have once run hot and deep, not even love can overcome the scandal that divided their families.
Being together might be against all the rules . . . but being apart is impossible.
2. American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera
No one ever said big dreams come easy.
For Nesto Vasquez, moving his Afro-Caribbean food truck from New York City to the wilds of Upstate New York is a huge gamble. If it works? He’ll be a big fish in a little pond. If it doesn’t? He’ll have to give up the hustle and return to the day job he hates. He’s got six months to make it happen—the last thing he needs is a distraction.
Jude Fuller is proud of the life he’s built on the banks of Cayuga Lake. He has a job he loves and good friends. It’s safe. It’s quiet. And it’s damn lonely. Until he tries Ithaca’s most-talked-about new lunch spot and works up the courage to flirt with the handsome owner. Soon he can’t get enough—of Nesto’s food or of Nesto. For the first time in his life, Jude can finally taste the kind of happiness that’s always been just out of reach.
An opportunity too good to pass up could mean a way to stay together and an incredible future for them both…if Nesto can remember happiness isn’t always measured by business success. And if Jude can overcome his past and trust his man will never let him down.
3. Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins
Rhine Fontaine is building the successful life he’s always dreamed of—one that depends upon him passing for White. But for the first time in years, he wishes he could step out from behind the façade. The reason: Eddy Carmichael, the young woman he rescued in the desert. Outspoken, defiant, and beautiful, Eddy tempts Rhine in ways that could cost him everything . . . and the price seems worth paying.
Eddy owes her life to Rhine, but she won’t risk her heart for him. As soon as she’s saved enough money from her cooking, she’ll leave this Nevada town and move to California. No matter how handsome he is, no matter how fiery the heat between them, Rhine will never be hers. Giving in for just one night might quench this longing. Or it might ignite an affair as reckless and irresistible as it is forbidden…
4. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases — a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.
It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice — with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan — from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…
Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…
5. His Perfect Partner by Priscilla Oliveras
Ad executive Tomás Garcia shouldn’t even be thinking about his daughter’s alluring dance teacher, Yazmine Fernandez. Burned by a shattering divorce, he’s laser-focused on his career—and giving his young daughter, Maria, the secure home she deserves. Plus, he’s certain that with her talent, Yaz will be leaving Chicago and heading back to Broadway as soon as she can. But Yaz’s generous spirit and caring concern are sparking a desire Tomás can’t resist—and doesn’t want to let go . . .
For Yaz, good-looking workaholics like Tomás simply can’t be part of her life ever again. She owes it to herself to get back her confidence and fulfill the dreams her papá could not. She’s glad to spend time with Maria—and taste the family life she feels she can never have. And she’s sure that she and Tomás can keep their attraction under control because there’s so much at stake. But each unexpected intimacy, each self-revelation, makes the fire between them grow hotter with every step—and every risk to their hearts…
6. SANCTUARY: Beards & Bondage by Rebekah Weatherspoon
When she needs a sanctuary…
Targeted by a sadistic former client, attorney Liz Lewis needs a place to lay low. When a friend offers her his family farm as a safe house, she eagerly accepts, unaware that she’ll have to share the farm with her friend’s brawny, beautiful brother, Silas McInroy.
…she invades his…
Weary of a world that doesn’t understand him, Silas just wants to be left alone to grow the best produce upstate New York has to offer. Still, he’s not going to toss a woman out when her safety is on the line. But the only way to explain her presence on his farm is to claim that they fell in love online…and the last thing he needs is a fake relationship that threatens to become more and more real every day.
With her world turned upside down and danger on her trail, Liz knows that this temporary refuge can’t last forever…but leaving the comfort and ease of Silas’s arms and farm to face the reality of her life may be the hardest thing she’s ever had to do.
7. All the Little Moments by G Benson
A successful anesthetist, Anna is focused on herself, her career, and her girlfriend. Everything changes abruptly when her brother’s and sister-in-law’s deaths devastate her and her family. Left responsible for her young niece and nephew, Anna finds herself dumped and alone in Melbourne, a city she doesn’t even like. She tries to navigate the shock of looking after two children battling with their grief while managing her own.
Filled with self-doubt, Anna feels as if she’s making a mess of the entire thing, especially when she collides with a long-legged stranger. Anna barely has time to brush her teeth in the morning, let alone to date a woman—least of all one who has no idea about the two kids under her care.
Just when Anna finally starts to feel as if she’s getting some control of the situation, the biggest fight begins and Anna really has to step up once and for all.
Diversity in Romance Reads
Have you read any of these books? What are your favorite diverse reads in romance? Share them in the comments below. (And if you want more diverse reads, a fantastic resource is WOC in Romance!)