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African American Romance

What is the African American Romance Genre?

Unlike the “Multicultural Romance” novels that tend to explore the “exotic” relationships between people who are “different,” the African American romance genre has a decidedly different perspective, and goal: This genre is by Black women for Black women (and other women who might want to go along for the ride), and is intended for readers who want to see themselves in the heroine and to feel a connection to what they have been through. The genre, essentially created in the early 1990s by a small Maryland publisher (Odyssey Books), is underscored by a desire for Black women to draw attention to the lives (and bodies) which have been lost and ignored by history for centuries. These novels tend to reward Black women with what they deserve – their own HEA (happily ever after) that all too rarely occurs in the “real world.” These novels celebrate the desires and needs of Black women, instead of suggesting that they should be hidden or embarrassed by them.

What to Expect in the African American Romance Genre


there is often an emphasis on celebrating/acknowledging the past

Features modern day stories and situations

Features realistic characters, mostly middle class and in/looking for monogamous and committed relationships

Open sexual expression

Portray romance, love and sex in a positive way

African American Romance Characteristics

  • Level of Angst

    On a scale of 1-10, the level of angst in this genre is usually in the high range – the female heroines have the same frustrating experiences as some of the readers in finding a man “worth” the time and effort who is willing/able to commit both physically and emotionally.

  • Character Development

    This genre tends to focus a lot of attention on the character development, and, as mentioned above, the characters often mirror the situations of the presumed readers. The more realistic, the more connection between reader and writer.

  • Plot Strength

    As with most romance novels, the plots can become a little cookie-cutter. Depending on the ability of the writer, the plots tend to vary widely between outstanding and silly/awkward.

  • Romantic Tension

    There is quite a bit of romantic tension in this genre since the intended audience has been so suppressed for so long. The ability to just let go and BE is a large focus in this genre, and one which really resonates with the audience which has been told how to act, and what is/is not appropriate, for so long.

  • Level of Eros

    This genre has a very high level of eros. The characters are ready, willing and more than able, and the sex/love scenes are often proxies for the reader.

  • Prose Quality

    As with almost all romance novels, there is a lot of variation in the quality of writing in this subgenre – some of them are entertaining and well-written, and others are not– it is all dependent on the individual author. The impact of the writer’s writing skills are pretty significant in the enjoyment of the story. There are quite a few novels which venture into the past and which draw on historical events and experiences, and these tend to be better researched, and are often better written, than those which are simply mimicking a traditional, “White” romance novel using Black characters. In other words, the novels which acknowledge the cultural differences and experiences of Black women and men ring more true than those that do not.

Related Romance Subgenres



  • This genre is closely related to, yet still very different from, contemporary romance and/or historical romance depending on the setting.

African American Romance isn't for you if

You like physical characterizations, graphic sex scenes, and heroines who take charge of their own lives

African American Romance is totally for you if

You like physical characterizations, graphic sex scenes, and heroines who take charge of their own lives

Popular African American Romance Books
  • 1 Waiting to Exhale (1992)

    By Terry McMillan. It isn’t exactly the traditional romance novel, but it is the book which many of this genre’s authors point to as the start of their own journeys. This novel tells the story of 4 African American women and their friendship and adventures as they want for “the one” who will change everything.

  • 2 Destiny’s Captive (2014)

    By Beverly Jenkins. It is the story of a young woman who is descended from pirates and has decided to carry on the family business. After she steals a ship, the owner is none too pleased, and will stop at nothing to get his ship back, and claim the beautiful thief as his own.

  • 3 Sexy/Dangerous (2009)

    By Beverly Jenkins. A classic African American romance – the heroine (nicknamed Max) is an ex-Marine, ex-cop, cowboy-boot wearing bad-ass – she is hired to protect a somewhat prissy doctor who cannot stop thinking about her, and her long legs.

  • 4 All My Tomorrows (2005)

    By Rochelle Alers. Tells the story of a chef and a former football star/camp director who meet at his camp for disadvantaged children.

  • 5 Some Like Them Rich (2011)

    By Shirley Hailstock. Focuses on a woman who is on the verge of 30 and totally disillusioned by her romantic choices. She sets out to win a wealthy man on Martha’s Vineyard, but when she ends up falling in love with (who she thinks is) the hotel manager where she is staying, what she thinks she wants ends up colliding what she needs.

  • 6 Bane (2015)

    By Brenda Jackson. A Navy SEAL who has returned to reclaim the woman he left behind, only to find that she has left and isn’t ready to forgive him. However, with her life being in danger, she might not have a choice but to put her faith and trust in him again.

  • 7 You Make Me Better (2015)

    By Ashley Nicole. The story of an interior designer who has landed a huge job, and the contractor who threatens to tear it – and her life- apart. She knows she can help him, if only he will let down his guard and let her in.

  • 8 All I Ask (2000)

    By Barbara Keaton. A woman who has lost in love too many times to count. Her determination to never love again is challenged by a really nice guy, who makes her question her commitment to “no commitment.”

  • 9 Unconditionally Single (2012)

    By Mary Morrison. Tells the story of a former prostitute and madam who now runs a counseling center to help youth get off the streets. Threatened by her ex-pimp (who is unknowingly bankrolling her center), the heroine needs to take some time to do a little for herself, and to finally find the happiness she deserves.

  • 10 Burning Desire (2014)

    By Kayla Perrin. A beautiful and independent woman who has been burned one too many times. It is also about the hot firefighter who has sworn off women forever. Once he puts his life on the line to save her, they both need to decide if they are willing to risk it all just one more time.