Multicultural Romance Tropes: When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong

(This post first appeared in the September issue of the RWA-NYC newsletter, Keynotes.)

As with any subgenre, multicultural romance has developed a few tropes of its own, some good, some not so good. Often, the not so good is added for a sense of verisimilitude, which I respect, but when reality teeters into the land of cliché, reader cringing and/or throwing of books may occur.

Here are my least favorite multicultural tropes:

1.) The strong independent woman who doesn’t need a man. This trope is not my cup of tea in whatever subgenre it appears, but I find it especially irksome in Af-Am/interracial romance. It can become the sole cause of conflict between the hero and heroine. “I can’t date you because I want to get a college degree/get a promotion/start a business and a boyfriend will keep me from doing that.” Um, no. Plenty of people navigate relationships and a whole slew of other responsibilities on top of education/career.

2.) The character who speaks in dialect. Okay, so you’re writing a multicultural romance. You want your characters to seem real, and you once watched a show where an Asian character screamed “You pay now!” or a black guy said “It bes like that,” so maybe your character should say these things, too?


Just as with the Scottish burr in Highland romances, use your multiethnic equivalents of “dinna fash” and “lass” sparingly.

3.) Our complexions are different, let’s discuss this while we’re boning. Now, I’m not going to divulge how I know this, but the color of someone’s skin, the texture of their hair, and the shape of their eyes should be the last thing you’re thinking of while getting it on if you’re doing things right. While of course you need to describe your characters, veer away from fetishizing them as they’re getting frisky.
These are all in fun—I’ve seen writers pull off each of these pet peeves. When dealing with any trope, knowing what has been done before and how to give it a fun fresh, take is key.

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Happiness Is A Corgi Getting A Massage

Last weekend I was in an editing delirium while finishing developmental edits on my the first book in my postapocalyptic series with Carina Press, Radio Silence. The rest of the week was busy, and the weekend will be busy, too. More writing, starting to pack for an international move, making time for friends and family. Instead of getting stressed out, I’m going to channel my inner pampered corgi:

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“Racism Is A Distraction”: Writing During Ferguson

This is a deadline week for me. I have to get the developmental edits for the first novel in my postapocalyptic series back to the editor by the end of the weekend. I have a full-time job, my birthday was this week, and my husband was here until just a couple of days ago, so time was short. But you know what cut into my editing time the most? The scenes straight from a dystopian book that have played out on my computer (I emphasize computer because mainstream media has had crap coverage) of the events in Ferguson. Having to monitor a police coup in my own country seriously cut into time that could have been spent developing dialogue. Watching officers point military grade weapons at peacefully protesting civilians made it hard to focus on fleshing out the relationship between two friends. Being unable to amp up the heat in a sex scene because I was too angry that some people believe that being shot in the street like an animal is good enough for people who look like me? That really sucks. Not to be trite, but institutional racism is fucking with my writing mojo.

Last month, some rare recordings of Toni Morrison speeches at Portland State University were unearthed. This is the snippet that has come to mind for me all week:


The events of this week are much more important than a writer falling behind in her edits. But these events aren’t that unusual. They’ve gone on for hundreds of years. I can’t help but think that hundreds of years of distractions takes a toll.

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Better Late Than Never

I never added my pics from the RWA/NYC Romance Fest at the Morris-Jumel Mansion! So here they are. This was my first reading ever. I read from my short story in the FOR LOVE & LIBERTY anthology, the aptly titled Be Not Afraid. (I was shaking like a leaf.) The multicultural/LGBT revolutionary war panel with Lena Hart, Kate McMurray, and Stacey Agdern was lots of fun, and we had some great questions from the crowd.

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RWA-NYC Morris-Jumel Romance Festival

  Morris-Jumel House

The RWA-NYC is having their first ever romance festival at the Morris-Jumel Mansion! It’s located at 65 Jumel Terrace at 160th Street (the closest train is the C at 163 street-Amsterdam Avenue).

A little about the history of the house:

In the fall of 1776, the Mansion was seized by the Continental Army and served as headquarters for George Washington during the Battle of Harlem Heights. British and Hessian commanders occupied the house after Washington’s retreat from New York.

In the summer of 1790, Washington returned to the Mansion and dined with the members of his cabinet. Among those at the table were Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Henry Knox.

In 1810, wealthy French wine merchant Stephen Jumel and his American wife, Eliza, purchased the Mansion, and spared no expense refurbishing it. In 1828, they returned from Paris with crates of furniture and paintings, much of which they claimed had belonged to Napoleon. A year after Stephen Jumel died in 1832, his widow married former vice president Aaron Burr. The marriage ended quickly and Eliza lived alone in the house until her death in 1865.

At 4:00, I’ll be on a panel with Lena Hart, Kate McMurray, and Stacey Agdern discussing the For Love & Liberty anthology, as well as multicultural and LGBT historical fiction. There will be other great panels, as well as author readings, raffles, giveaways, and more!


RWA/NYC Morris-Jumel Mansion Romance Festival

Saturday, June 14th 2014
1:00 – 4:30 pm

The Morris-Jumel Mansion
65 Jumel Terrace
(between West 160th & 162nd Street)

Admission is FREE!

Guest Speakers
Anna DePalo (USA Today Best Selling Contemporary Romance Writer: The Romance Genre)
Elizabeth Mahon (Scandalous Women: The Lives and Loves of History’s Most Notorious Women)
Carol Ward (Director Morris-Jumel Mansion: The Loves of Eliza Jumel)

For Love and Liberty:
Multicultural and LGBT Love Stories during the American Revolution
With – Stacey Agdern, Alyssa Cole, Lena Hart, and Kate McMurray

Tours of the Morris-Jumel Mansion will be available throughout the day!

Authors Readings * Books for Sale

Raffles * Giveaways

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Weddings, Interviews, and General Moving and Shaking

SO: May was a super busy and super exciting month for yours truly. In addition to finishing edits on my story for the For Love & Liberty anthology and starting edits on new adult post-apocalyptic romance, I also planned a wedding and got married. In retrospect, it all went pretty smoothly, but I spent most of the last month in the fetal position. Now June is here and I’m kicking summer off with a fun interview with the great Vicki Batman at Coffee Time Romance. She asks me some great questions about Eagle’s Heart, Julian, and writing about the Albanian mafia. Check it out here if you get a chance!


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Announcement!! For Love & Liberty Anthology

So I have some exciting news guys. For the past few months, you may have noticed that Lena Hart, Kate McMurray, Stacey Agdern, and I have been mentioning a #SecretProject. We’ve been visiting historical places in Brooklyn and researching Revolutionary War history. Now, we can fully reveal our project:


In BE NOT AFRAID by Alyssa Cole, a black Patriot captured by the British falls in love with a headstrong runaway determined to leave the colonies…while a wounded British soldier discovers the healing power of love in the arms of a gentle native woman in A SWEET SURRENDER by Lena Hart…in REBELS AT HEART by Kate McMurray, two men must make hard choices if they are to stay together when war arrives on the shores of their home in New York City…at last, in HOME by Stacey Agdern, a young Jewish couple must decide what can hold them together before war and geography tear them apart.

Cool, huh? :) How did this anthology come to be? As you may know, I run a book club at Jefferson Market Library. Last year, while trying to find Revolutionary War romances for our July meeting, I noticed a dearth of them. At that point, I had already been thinking about writing American historicals, and ones that focused on the lives of black Americans and other minorities. I’ve been really into history these past few years, and discovered so many amazing stories that were never taught in the classroom.

Back to book club: we weren’t really pleased with the stories we read, or with the lack of historical romances from that time period. I knew Kate loved historicals as much as I did and was also interested in writing them at some point, and suddenly I got the OH-SNAP-I-HAVE-AN-IDEA sensation in my chest. (You know what I’m talking about, writers.) “Why don’t we do an anthology?!” I blurted out. And the rest is history.

We decided to focus on the romances that likely wouldn’t get much play, even if American Revoulutionary became the next big thing with romance readers. The stories of those minority groups that are often overlooked or considered niche, even though they are an integral part of the tapestry of this great nation. My story focuses on a black couple, Kate’s on a gay couple, Lena’s on a British soldier and a Native woman, and Stacey’s on a Jewish couple. All of the stories take place early in the war and in our current home state of New York.


My story, Be Not Afraid, is about an American-born slave who is fighting for freedom: not only his country’s, but his own. In the aftermath of the Battle of Brooklyn, he comes across Kate Foster, a runaway slave. He thinks he’s aiding a damsel in distress, but Kate is a woman whose heart has been hardened by time and circumstance. She has joined up with the British, who have promised slaves freedom if they enlist with the Loyalists, and thinks Elijah a fool for fighting for a country that doesn’t value him. Despite their difference of opinions, sparks fly. When Elijah is taken prisoner, he and Kate are thrown together on an inevitably forked path: which side will they entrust with their future?

We’ve done tons of research and are super excited to share the results of our work with you! The stories are exciting, tender, sexy…and we know you’re going to love them.

The book should be out in ebook format in mid-June. For now, you can check out our Goodreads page. We hope to have the book in print format soon, as well.

In addition, we’ll be talking about the book at the Romance Festival being held by the RWA-NYC at the Morris-Jumel Mansion!! The event is on Saturday, June 14th, and it’s totally FREE!

For more on the book, check out my co-authors’ blogs, and also this post by Lena at Yolanda Ashton’s blog!



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