By Alexa Day
The best protection from winter temperatures? It’s the #ReadHotter challenge.
Just choosing the books is enough to give a girl a warm glow, right?
Where would I find a kink that’s new to me? Turns out, I found two. Don’t worry. You’ll hear about them shortly.
A romance with a guy I wouldn’t take home to my mother? That’s one of my favorites. You all apparently don’t know my mother, a sublimely non-judgmental woman trying not to be concerned that her daughter is aging brilliantly but is still unmarried.
But one challenge caught my eye right away.
A book with main characters of a different race or culture than you.
For a great many romance readers, this particular aspect of the challenge is simply called reading. I’ve been reading romance for a pretty long time, and the wild majority of romance features main characters of a different race or culture than I am. For years, reading romance — honestly, reading in general — meant reading about other people almost by default. I know I’m not the only reader in this position, but I’m sometimes surprised by how widespread this experience is.
Late last month, I heard about Marley Dias, an 11-year-old girl who was so frustrated by the books available to her that she started a book drive. She’s trying to gather a thousand books featuring black girls as the main character. Marley’s a girl after my own heart. You heard me complaining about the sidelining of black female characters last summer.
And yet, to my shame, my first thought was: Where is she going to find a thousand books like this?
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that.
I skipped over the sorts of books I was assigned in school, the narratives of slavery and the civil rights movement and the stories of poverty and hard times from all over the country. I think Marley is, as I was, looking for characters she wanted to identify with. But it took me a long time to remember the late Eleanor Taylor Bland‘s Marti MacAllister mysteries and the Vampire Huntress Legend series from the late L.A. Banks. It was so easy to fall back on the familiar that I overlooked some real opportunities.
Clearly, there’s a limit to how much I can help Marley. I have no idea whether anything I’m thinking of is age appropriate for her. But this experience has taught me something important, which I now offer to you, in service of the #ReadHotter challenge.
I’m always on the lookout for a way to add a dare to a challenge. I think all too many of us, off the top of our heads, know of one book — maybe three — that would fit this particular component of the #ReadHotter challenge. Hey, Beverly Jenkins’s newest book, Forbidden, came out just a week ago.
I’m going to challenge you to take it up a notch.
WOC in Romance just revamped their site; if you love cover shopping, it’s the place to be. Romance Novels in Color, with its reviews and free reads, is just begging to be browsed. The seminal works of diverse romance are a beautiful and tempting gateway to romance that reflects the world we live in, but what is a challenge if not an opportunity to go just a little farther? Go shopping. Explore a little.
As for me? I haven’t decided. I want to do a little shopping around first. There’s still plenty of winter left. And Marley’s reminded me to spend part of it re-reading Octavia Butler.
Read hotter. Go deeper.
And follow Lady Smut. We’re full of surprising options.