This past week, I read The Mane Squeeze by Shelly Laurenston. About halfway through the book I realised the heroine’s best friend was black and though she had previously struck me as slightly annoying, I finished the book eagerly anticipating a sequel with a romance story for her.
Why was I all of a sudden so interested in this character? The long and short answer: it’s because she was black. A slightly annoying white best friend would have garnered no more than cursory interest for me, but once I learned that Blayne – in the most superficial of ways – “resembled” me, I was invested in her story.
I have existed for most of my literate life on a steady diet of romance novels and ninety-nine percent of the characters in these novels are Caucasian – and American. I expect that for the rest of my literate life, my diet will remain pretty much unchanged. African-American romance novels are hard to come by in my neck of the woods and because I don’t read with race in the forefront of my mind, it is very easy to accept the status quo. That said, my reaction to Blayne (with whom I had absolutely nothing else in common apart from skin colour) highlighted for me a subtle but present undercurrent of need for recognition in my romance.