Beyond Lovebirds and Heartthrobs: 10 Books Exploring Romance Through The Lens of Black Authors

As any romance novel enthusiast will tell you, there is perhaps no better depiction of joy than romance. From emotionally satisfying dialogues to optimistic endings, vibrantly illustrated covers to stories of enemies-turn-lovers, erotic entanglement, historical romance, fantasy, and summer love, reading about love never gets old. 

When it comes to the representation of Blacks in the literary scene you might be wondering what the difference between Black romance and romance is. Like every other genre in literature, romance is divided into sub-genres including paranormal, gothic fiction, and science fiction. Despite the diversity of the genre the industry has remained predominantly white and has found itself at the centre of a similar crisis over race and representation in the literary scene. Over the years, particularly today, the literary scene as well as mainstream media remains overwhelmed with the depiction of white characters falling in love, and this exists in direct contrast to the wants of black readers who have long craved an increase in the portrayal of Black characters in love-filled content. When certain characters are portrayed as deserving of love, affection, romance, and sexuality that in turn makes a clear political statement which can be problematic.

There is a need for more romantic novels that people of all races can identify with, and this list of the top 10 Black romance books showcases various forms within Black culture reflecting an array of Black identities. Here you will find a list of novels packed with emotionally satisfying dialogues tinged with some slice of solace. Enjoy curled up on a couch somewhere while the pendant leaves of the willow fall gently outside, or perhaps in the continued blazing sun of our planet.

Farrah Rochan, The Hookup Plan

Strong female friendships and a snappy enemies-to-lovers pantheon take place in the highly anticipated romantic comedy. For those of us who love “The Boyfriend Project”, one of Farrah Rochan’s stunning novels, we’re in luck: “The Hookup Plan” is a similarly beautiful and excavating tale of a successful pediatric surgeon London Kelly who, according to her friends Samiah and Taylor, really needs a casual hookup to relieve some stress. But to no one’s expectations, it all went down at her 15-year high school reunion with Drew Sullivan, her high school nemesis. Farrah Rochan sure knows how to wield the pen so she gives us a richly detailed, richly imagined, and richly unbelievable story.

Taj McCoy, Savvy Sheldon Feels Good As Hell

Returning to a beloved fictional world is always a pleasure, such is the case with Taj McCoy’s “Savvy Sheldon Feels Good As Hell”, a love-filled delicious debut about a plus-size sweetheart who gets a full-life makeover after a painful breakup with a clueless boyfriend. The broken life of a woman is brought to the surface by Taj’s magical prose, sharp as a knife and somehow evocating and inspiring. 

Elise Bryant, One True Loves

Speaking of wonderfully romantic, funny, and charming Elise Bryant sure knows to serve it right. The author of “Happily Ever Afters” comes with yet another irresistible Young Adult romantic comedy spiced with tropes of self-discovery,  black love, and a European cruise. Written in the third person, much of what’s incredible about the novel is how Elise Bryant takes us on a tour through the precision of dialogue. I recommend it as an escape from a truly charmless reality.

Ebony LeDelle, Love Radio

Love Radio is a book that gets under your skin whether or not you want it to. When it comes to love, Prince Jones—a self-professed teen love doctor is the guy with all the answers—or so it seems. But Dani Ford’s ambitious character isn’t checking for anyone just yet. With three dates for the “love doctor” to take his advice and convince the latter he’s worth falling for, Ebony LeDelle does a fantastic job bringing the complex and dynamic personalities of her characters to life while highlighting platonic, familial and romantic love as well as self-love in the witty and romantic teen novel. A sweet, charming novel with both heartwarming and moving effects, this is destined to end up as the YA Romance of the year.

Lizzie Damilola Blackburn, Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband?

At the centre of Blackburn’s deeply engaging debut novel, Yinka, a thirty-something British Nigerian is an unconventional heroine who asks compelling questions about love. Looming anxiety swirls through these chapters—anxiety about love, marriage, self-discovery, and dread that is unnamed but keeps one profoundly unsettled and completely etched into the pages. With a well-detailed, well-paced storyline, this is a love story that gets you enthralled but also forces you to explore what it means threading carefully between two cultures, both of which you’re a part of. Blackburn’s uniquely compelling characters are worth your time and attention.

Bolu Babalola, Honey & Spice

It would be reductive to describe this novel as “some mere campus novel”— because of course Bolu Babalola is a master with a style of her own. A dazzling debut Young Adult/ New Adult college romance follows the sharp-tongued (and secretly soft-hearted) Biki Banjo who has no interest in love and unexpectedly finds herself embroiled in a fake dating trope with the “Queen of the Unbothered Kisses”, Malakai Korede, a player and guy she warned her girls about. With delightful romance and lots of witty and warm dialogue, Honey & Spice dishes romance novel enthusiasts with some of the most delicious narrative pantheons, including enemies-to-lovers, friends-to-lovers, and fake dating. You can tell that the author has a deep reverence for the romance genre, if you’re a lover of love, pick up Honey & Spice. Babalola’s writing is so sweet and warm and spicy just as the title promises.

Akwaeke Emezi, You Made A Fool Of Death With Your Beauty

From moment to moment there is very little you can take for granted in this attention-gripping novel by Akwaeke Emezi. The title comes from a Florence + the Machine song, “Hunger”:

“How could anything bad ever happen to you? / You make a fool of death with your beauty.” With passionate and heartening writing, Emezi reimagines the love story in this fresh and stirring novel about a young widow seeking joy while healing from loss. Five years after being swallowed by incalculable grief, Feyi decides it’s time to get back to the dating scene but her love journey—for one, suffers sharp twists that move her character from a simple narrative of finding love to the story of a woman seeking something beyond affection. This is a tale that takes us deep into a world of possibilities and healing. 

Jessica P. Pryde, Black Love Matters

“Black Love Matters” by Jessica P. Pryde is an inventive, intersectional essay anthology that offers a fascinating snapshot of black romance; the way it is and isn’t, through the lens of revered authors, erudite, academics, avid writers, readers and viewers. Romance has always been an essential element in storytelling for centuries but for Blacks in the United States, and across the Diaspora, it hasn’t been quite easy finding Black Romance avidly depicted in mainstream media. Whether personal or critical, this collection of essays explores and celebrates a wide variety of perspectives on Black love and delves into Black Romance topics, today and in the past. Jessica Pryde is joined by Jasmine Guillery, Beverly Jenkins, Nicole M. Jackson, and ten others in this collection.

Jamie Wesley, Fake It Till You Bake It

At the heart of Jamie Wesley’s fascinating and satisfying romance are two opposing characters; one is Jada Townsend-Matthews, a “princess chaos” & disgraced reality TV star who turned into the most berated woman in America after turning down an on-air proposal on a reality TV show. Next is the uptight Donovan Dell, a professional football player, cupcake baker, and owner of Sugar Blitz—the cupcake bakery where Jada finds herself working. With amazing baking-together moments and hot sex scenes,  Jamie Wesley combines delightful characters, exciting tension, fake dating and the enemies-to-lovers pantheon to create a sweet story to curl up with and enjoy with a cupcake.

Kristina Forest, Zyla & Kai

In a tender YA Romance novel, Kristina Forest imagines the lives of Zyla (a cynic about love) and Kai (a serial monogamist and hopeless romantic) in an epic love story about first love.  Zyla & Kai is just a good, warm, delicious novel about two teenage love birds who were the unlikeliest of friends over the summer, how they fell in love during the school year and how they eventually broke up, or maybe not. Kristina Forest’s vivid description and sheer brilliance of structure, get the readers entirely enthralled and etched into the chapters.

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