March 29, 2015

A More Diverse Union: Interracial Romance Spreads Through History

History swirled all over the world. Click here for hot black Redcoats.
History swirled all over the world. Click here for hot black Redcoats.

By Alexa Day

Hippity hoppity, Outlander’s on its way! This week we celebrate the return of Outlander with a week devoted to historical romance. I’m a recent convert to historicals myself; I had a lot of help from a Big Gift Bag of Historical Romances from a couple of Love Fests ago. Now that I’ve joined the party, I’m pleased to present a host of historical romances from my chosen subgenre: interracials featuring black characters.

I have to get on the soapbox for just a second first. I promise I’ll only be a minute.

I’m really bothered by how difficult it is to find an interracial historical romance set outside the United States. I’m delighted that we have more of these stories from the American West and from the early 20th century; I’ve posted on them here. But black history exists beyond the narrow boundaries romance seems to have imposed on it. We do not have enough stories about the kingdom of Nubia, or about the descendants of the blamenn transported from Africa to Scotland and Ireland by the Vikings, or the many expats who made their way to Russia in the 1920s. Don’t even start me talking about the Regency period, which was PLENTY more diverse in reality than it is in fiction. Those stories are real and true, and publishing should be doing a better job of embracing diverse readers (or hell, curious readers) by presenting diverse stories.

Okay, I’m coming down. See? That just took a second. And by the way, if you have any idea where any of those stories are, definitely let me know.

Here’s a handful of interracial historical romances set outside the usual locations and time periods. Check them out and get your hot history on!

Don't worry, friends. May will be here before we know it.
Don’t worry, friends. May will be here before we know it.

1. Afton Locke’s Oyster Harbor series. Afton sat next to me at my first signing a couple of years ago, and I’m so glad we’ve gotten to know each other. She’s a great person and a fearless writer. I’ve mentioned her interracial historical, Plucking the Pearl, before; it’s set in 1930s Maryland, and the cover tells you everything you need to know about how hot it is. But Afton’s Oyster Harbor series tackles some thorny historical realities. The second book, Rose, Exposed, addresses passing. In Sadie’s Surrender, which is set for a May release, the hero is a reluctant member of the Klan (as were many businessmen who would otherwise have faced the Klan’s pattern of violent intimidation). I know I just said I was focusing on the interracial historicals outside the States and in unusual time periods, but I had to show up for an interracial romance where love beats the f*cking Klan.

2. Susanna Fraser’s A Dream Defiant. Look hard at that cover up top. That’s a black Redcoat. Do you need me to tell you anything else? This novella is set in Spain, in 1813, and it’s about a widow with dreams of becoming an innkeeper and building a life with Elijah, that hot fellow who’s out of uniform on the cover. Need more? Check out the excerpt and then have a look at her post on interracial historicals for an interesting perspective.

3. Agnes Moor’s Wild Knight by Alyssa Cole. This is a short story set in medieval England. Agnes is a black lady-in-waiting in the court of King James, and her wild knight wins a kiss from her as the prize in a jousting tournament. But here’s the best part: The Tournament of the Black Lady was absolutely real. You can read some more about it here. Maybe this is common knowledge in the UK. If it is … why aren’t people sharing from the other side of the pond?

4. Talk Sweetly to Me by Courtney Milan. Courtney Milan won my heart with her post about how

Rose here proves to Stephen that smart is sexy. Click to buy.
Rose here proves to Stephen that smart is sexy. Click to buy.

needlessly difficult it is to find a decent stock photo of a black bride. This novella tells the story of Rose, a mathematician who would prefer to avoid attention, and Stephen, who rather enjoys attention. Their romance, in the England of 1882, naturally draws attention, right?

Questions still abound, of course. Why are so many of these stories so short? Why aren’t there boatloads of them written by black authors? Why are these stories so tough to find? I wonder about all that, too. For the time being, though, this particular corner of the genre seems to be moving in the right direction, even if I’d like to see it moving a lot faster.

I would love to see some hot, swirly, historical word of mouth (forsooth, heyo!) in the comments — I think hungry readers are searching in vain for interracial historicals. If you’ve seen something, say something.

And follow Lady Smut. We’re about to get historical on you.

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  • Post authorSienna Mynx

    very good article and as a african american author of interracial romance, I’m really comsidering doing more historicals.

    Reply to Sienna Mynx
    • Post authorAlexa Day

      Thank you! I can’t wait to settle back into steampunk, but hopefully, historical is next on the list. I hope to see more of us IR authors branching out into everything historical has to offer. 🙂

      Reply to Alexa Day
  • Post authorMadeline Iva

    These all look AWESOME! There is a very interesting tidbit of history in Virginia that I think would make amazing material for some historical hotness of the I/R romance sort.

    In the book Israel On The Hill, the author talks about the largest settlement freed slaves in America ever. They were freed when their master–Richard Randolph–who never approved of slavery and inherited his from his father as teen–died a young man aged 26. He freed all his enslaved workers in his will and expected his wife to execute the will. His wife, who was quite put upon at the time, (probably because her husband got her sister pregnant and something happened, but the baby died, the servants all leaked the scandal and her name was mud from that time onward) took a while to fulfill the promise in his will, but she eventually did it.

    And not just by saying, “Okay, y’all are free now. Scat.” No, the idea in the will was to free them with land to farm, and some money, etc. So it took her a lot of time (eleven years?) to set aside the land and money to do all that. And during that time, as you can only imagine — the enslaved men and women started really having issues with her. But she eventually did it. I think she freed forty families — and they lived on land called Israel Hill in Farmville, VA. They farmed, they worked in the Tobacco houses rolling tobacco, and a few bought properties in town, collected rents, etc.

    It was all a higglety-pigglety bag of acceptance and racism swirled together. They intermarried with other slaves. There were black and white people living together on their own land minding their own business in the area and everybody left them to themselves–even after freed black people were told to leave the state.

    There were white men who were set to a community patrol in the afternoons and evenings to make sure enslaved folks were not out and about doing whatever. It was hot and mostly these people rode from house to house for refreshments and got drunk, but occasionally a few of them reigned terror down on the community, like when they broke up a marriage of two slaves at a plantation, that the master and mistress were holding in their honor.

    But sometimes it was just too hot, and they just stayed in one spot or went home, so in the muggy heat on summer evenings enslaved people went out and about and did whatever they wanted to. After John Brown and all that at Harper’s Ferry, some freaked out Virginia people outlawed blacks being allowed to own guns and weapons. The community — black and white — in Farmville worked it out together, because people needed to hunt.

    And some of the people on Isreal Hill farmed or did business and prospered and–without education, etc.–many didn’t. But they were there from about 1800 to 1940. Does anybody really know about it now or celebrate it? No. But it sounds like a historical series to me, you know?

    Reply to Madeline Iva
    • Post authorAlexa Day

      Dude! Yeah, there’s definitely a series in there someplace. But no, no one ever talks about Farmville. They’re just starting to talk about some of the black towns in the American West, which started up a little later. Some enterprising novelist will have to lead them, I think.

      Reply to Alexa Day
  • Post authorLeah St. James

    I’m going to have to check out these titles, Alexa. It’s really interesting (in a bad way) how publishers have fed such narrow views of the world to romance readers. I’m glad that independent publishers and authors are finally bringing these stories to life. (That story about Farmville sounds fascinating as well, Madeline.)

    Reply to Leah St. James
    • Post authorAlexa Day

      Dude, YES. I’m most encouraged by Carina (that Susanna Fraser novella came through them), but hopefully that door is opening.

      For the most part, though, honestly, it’s as if there *is* no other history, and that’s kind of depressing.

      Reply to Alexa Day
  • Post authorAfton Locke

    Awesome article! Thank you for including my Oyster Harbor series. The narrow focus in historicals happens with mainstreams too. I love reading about other countries. And now I’m inspired to write some. Of course, this will require lots of travel and research…

    Reply to Afton Locke
    • Post authorAlexa Day

      Hey, this is a rough job, but someone has to do it, right?

      I love that you’re going *there* with Oyster Harbor. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

      Reply to Alexa Day
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