When I began writing my Seven Brides Seven Brothers series, I wanted to create a family that was diverse in their racial makeup. The Donahue brothers are diverse in that two are African American and one is of Hispanic heritage. In my opinion, this makes the series even more interesting and richly textured. After all, Christian romance shouldn’t be cookie cutter heroes and heroines. Our stories should reflect our readership. And the world we live in. And for too long there has been an absence of diversity in Christian Romance. I believe that romance is romance. A good love story isn’t any less of an amazing story if the characters are multicultural.
I’m pleased to say that my lovely readers have embraced all of my Donahue brothers, which is very rewarding and encouraging. For too long I’ve heard it said that readers feel more comfortable reading about characters who look like them and reflect their own reality. Personally, when I read a book I want to be transported to another world. The very last thing I’m thinking about is the character’s skin color, race or physical condition.
Author Piper Huguley says, “People of all kinds are Christian and have been Christian for some time. It’s time we all come to understand that.” Huguley, an author of three best-selling African American Christian fiction romance novels, has beautiful covers that showcase her multicultural characters. Huguley’s novels reflect a diverse perspective and depict America’s rich, complex history. She is a two time Golden Heart nominee for her works, “A Champions Heart” and “A Virtuous Ruby”. The Golden Heart is an award that recognizes excellence in works by unpublished writers.
Mary Jane Hathaway, author of the wildly successful Jane Austen Takes the South series, created an African American heroine for her third book “Persuasion, Captain Wentworth and Cracklin’ Cornbread.” The book is a modern, Southern re-telling of Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” featuring heroine, Lucy Crawford, and her star-crossed love, Jeremiah Chevy.
“I’m so proud of Persuasion, Captain Wentworth and Cracklin’ Cornbread. I’m proud when people say it was hard for them to read the interracial romance. I’m proud when people message me that they hadn’t thought very deeply before about issues that come up in the book. But most of all, I’m proud that Lucy chose me, a white middle aged woman from Oregon to put her on the page.”
When I use the D word I’m not just talking about race or color. In my novel “Heart of A Soldier” my heroine, Holly Lynch, is a paraplegic. When I conceived the idea of writing her love story I knew that it might not appeal to all readers. Disabled heroines are not commonplace. And not all readers are comfortable with characters that stray from the norm. After all, romance novels are usually inhabited by physically perfect people. A paraplegic heroine is far from perfect. Thankfully, I’ve received nothing but support and love from readers who have embraced the character of Holly Lynch.
What is disheartening to me is when I hear readers say they haven’t purchased a book with diverse characters on the cover. My advice to readers is…pick up a diverse romance novel. If you’ve never read anything with POC (people of color) characters or with disabled characters, make a point to do so. You may find your next favorite book.
In celebration of diverse novels I’m giving away a copy of my Love Inspired book “Forever Her Hero” which features an African American hero and heroine, Sawyer and Ava. I’m also adding a beautiful bracelet. To be entered in the drawing you have to comment on my post.
Deanna S says
Lovely covers! Yes I have read some of the books you describe. I enjoyed your post.
Belle Calhoune says
Hi Deanna! Thanks for stopping by. So happy to hear you’ve read some diverse books. It’s a great way to explore new authors.
Lee Tobin McClain says
What a great posting! I enjoy reading and writing about all types of heroes and heroines, and I’m so glad you highlighted a number of books with diverse characters. God made all of us different . . . and that’s a good thing. Off to buy some new books!
Thanks Lee! And your Love Inspired debut has a diverse heroine. I’ve purchased “Engaged to the Single Mom”….now I just have to find time to read it Kudos to you!
Jennifer @purplebuoy says
I enjoy reading about different heroes and heroines. For me, it is more about the story and character, not skin color or physical abilities. On that note, when someone is not athletic or curvy, etc, THAT person is more relatable to me and I find that I enjoy that story more because yes, we can have our happy ending too! Kudos to you and the Donahue series and writing about Holly. I really do enjoy those books. Be blessed :)
Hi Jennifer! Love your profile pic. Thanks for stopping in. Yes!!! I totally agree. I buy books based on the storyline, characters…and I’m open to everything. Thanks so much for your kind words about my books. You’re a Donahue super fan!!! Blessings.
Angel Moore says
Oh, Belle, this is beautiful! Accepting the wonderful diversity of God’s creation is so rewarding. We miss so many wonderful people when we separate ourselves into categories. I always think of humanity like God’s garden. He made so many gorgeous people – we should get to know them all.
DEE DEE DIXON says
That’s the beauty of reading different view but most are about you can find that one for you whether you’re looking or not.
Hi Dee Dee. Good to see you here. Yes, there is such beauty in reading different books and perspectives. I think it makes us richer in our hearts and minds. And yes…romance is all about finding your other half, even if you’re not looking. Blessings!
Hi Angel. Thanks for stopping by. Your words are beautiful. Humanity is like God’s garden. So many different shades of flowers. Blessings my friend.
Great post, Belle! Now more than ever I think we’re seeing diversity in the Christian Romance genre, and your books are a great example of that! I know for me, as a writer, it can be kind of scary to step out of what I know and get into the head of a character who is different from the “norm”. I am in the midst of working on a book where the heroine has dwarfism–no clue how she will be accepted by readers, but I felt strongly led to write the book so we’ll see! Looking forward to your next book! :)
Hi Kimberly. Thanks so much!! Wow I love your different character. I can’t remember seeing dwarfism dealt with in Christian romance….or any romance. That should be one amazing book. I think your readers will enjoy it because I know you will handle it with grace and compassion and eloquence. Sometimes as writers we just have to go where our heart takes us. Blessings!
Joelle Hawkins Teague says
I for one am excited to read your next book… had never known a lot about dwarfism and I love how you have introduced something unfamiliar to me!
Well said, Belle! Thank you for including me in your post! We are all God’s children and we all have a story to tell. Looking forward to your new stories. :)
Thanks for stopping by Piper. Your books are wonderful. And your covers….swoon worthy. They are such a wonderful representation of diversity. Can’t wait for the next one! Blessings!
Great post Belle! I love the diversity in books, because God created such a beautiful diversity in his people! Thanks for sharing your love of that diversity.
Hey Danica. Thanks for stopping by. I too love the diversity in books. It’s exciting to me. And yes! God created all of us…different shades, colors, ethnicities. I would hate to walk in a book store and find nothing but mysteries. I feel the same way about the characters being showcased. Blessings!
Trixi O. says
To me, I don’t care about race or ability as long as the story engages me. Rich characters, strong faith, a storyline that keeps me interested, & even a little humor is what I most enjoy in a book. We should be looking at the heart, just as Jesus does…after all, He made us all different colors & abilities :-) I think it would add depth to the story to be out of “the norm” & I wouldn’t mind stepping out of my comfort zone to try a new kind of read. Who knows, like you said, it may become your next favorite book! Thank you for the chance to win a copy of “Forever Her Hero” & a bracelet! Blessings to you Belle!
Hi Trixi. Thanks for commenting. You’re absolutely right about what matters most. Storylines and engaging characters. And the hearts of the characters, as well as their journey. I like your way of thinking!! Blessings.
Megan Z says
Lovely post, Belle! I love the diversity in your books. I grew up reading books like ‘The Saddle Club’ and sci-fi novels. After getting into and reading a number of the romance novels I started to notice how there is so little diversity in them. It has bothered me quite a bit. Diversity is part of life, it should be part of our books, too!
Hi Megan Z. Thanks so much for stopping by. I love the Saddle Club. My youngest daughter now 12 discovered them a few years ago and since she is dyslexic, books weren’t her favorite thing. The Saddle Club was the first series she fell in love with and I am deeply indebted to that author. Bonnie Bryant I think her name is. And yes…diversity is a part of life. Let’s embrace it! Blessings.
Dawn Leonard says
Great post on an interesting topic. I don’t usually think about the ethnicity of the characters in the books I read unless it’s part of the story. I’m thinking that I don’t think I’ve ever seen a non-white person on a LI or LIS cover which is sad. I guess they think their white target market cares about reading books about primarily white characters or might not buy books with non-white people on the cover. Sad commentary on our country. Just my opinion. I’m looking forward to reading Heart of a Soldier.
Hi Dawn. Thanks for your wonderful comments. I would love to see more diverse covers, not only from Love Inspired but for other imprints as well. I will always believe in the integrity of readers. They want romance, a good story and memorable characters. Blessings!
Joelle Hawkins Teague says
I absolutely adore your books Belle (as you well know) and I agree that the diversity has made them richer indeed… I grew up in a time where color didn’t matter (I make myself sound so old) and I really despise how racially motivated our world is becoming. Your books take me back to growing up where you judged people by their actions, not their skin color and it’s refreshing to see someone as talented as you live up to creating personas that I as a reader fell in love with – not because of their color, but because of their character. Keep up the great work because I am most definitely a fan for life!
Hi Joelle!! Great to see you over here. You are so sweet and a fantastic reader. You are so supportive and kind. Yes, I too wish things were based on content of character rather than skin. Love one another. God’s most basic command. In 2015 we are falling so short of that. And I am so delighted that you are a fan for life. Right back ‘atcha! Blessings.
Sheryl Lister says
Great post, Belle! So happy to see the diversity in Christian romance…as diverse as God made us :).
Hi Sheryl. Thanks so much for shopping by. Yes, diversity in ALL areas of romance writing. Diversity is beautiful. Congrats on all your success, Sheryl. Blessings.
That should have been stopping instead of shopping. I just came from the supermarket lol in preparation for a snow event. Yep. Snow in mid March. JOY.
Sheryl Lister says
Thank you, Belle! Stay safe.
Becky Dempsey says
Thank you for your post. It is true that the world is full of a multitude of different people and so should our books! I loved Holly in Heart of a Soldier. She reminded me of a friend from college who was also a paraplegic.
Hi Becky! Thanks for commenting. I’m so glad you enjoy Holly’s character. She’s so very special to me. And I look forward to always telling the stories of my heart. Blessings.
Narelle Atkins says
Belle, great post! I love reading about characters from diverse backgrounds, and the characters in my books are Australian. Keep on writing the stories that your readers love :)
Hi Narelle. Thanks for your comments. I myself love reading about characters from Australia. I’ve never been to Australia and it piques my curiosity about how it must be to live there. I really love that as writers we get to tell the stories of our heart. Blessings.
I couldn’t agree with you more, Belle.
Aspiring Author says
We need minority authors telling their story from their experience. Christian literature is dominated by White women and the covers of the books usually infer that their stories are about the South, historical about the plantation, focused on the Amish and about the pioneer days in the West. And an overwhelming amount of covers to these books feature White women. Sure, I may see a few covers with a Black person or a Spanish person on the front but when you open the book and start reading, it’s often about stereotypes or the author has to go out of her way to describe the characters’ features. Something’s got to give. It’s not right.
It’s not just in fiction and the book industry. It’s in movies too! Remember the movie Cleopatra? It was about that Egyptian queen and newsflash, Egypt is in Africa and Africa is where African Americans can trace their history to and hello, Africans are NOT White! But they chose Elizabeth Taylor,a White actress to play the Egyptian queen.
A former boss from Europe even told me that certain parts of Africa are considered White. Really?! Like slavery and the TransAtlantic slave trade, Jim Crow laws, lynchings, discrimination, segregation and EVERYTHING ELSE Black people in America and other countries have faced was not enough? Funny how back in the Civil Rights days the White racists held signs shouting at Black people to “Go Back to Africa” but now the Whites go over to Africa an claim it as their own and bring their hatred and prejudice to the homeland of Black people? Where do Black people go for a safe haven?
These are some of the issues and realities that Black people face and it’s not just historical, it’s modern day– everything from choosing not to give your child an ethnic name so that they will have a shot at getting a job to guys who idealize the Southern Belle white woman and think Black women are lesser than and not date-worthy. I mean even Psychology Today published a front cover feature story saying they have “statistics” that prove Black women are the “least desirable race of women in the world.” Clearly I’ve never seen any Christian fiction book dealing with all of these issues and we need it. We need people to tell our stories in a way that’s accurate,educational and inspiring.
It’s not all doom and gloom for Black people and other minorities but the hatred is real and just because we have a Black president (technically, he’s 50 percent White and 50 percent Black, so he’s actually bi-racial not just Black and not just White but that’s another story for another day) does NOT mean that it’s a post-racial America or a world that’s rid itself of racism. Clearly the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown case prove that statement true.
The sad thing is you’re expected to keep this all to yourself, pray about it and move on. How can you move on when you’re faced with reminders daily and when it colors your entire life and affects every area of your life?
Again, these are all just a FEW of the challenges and issues minorities face and have in their stories. We could seriously use Christian fiction about these issues that start a conversation for change and also uplift us.
Just my 5 cents. :)