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Why You Should Read More Romances Written by #OwnVoices

3 Feb Interracial couple holding hands

Interracial couple holding hands

by Thien-Kim Lam

Earlier this week, my fellow Lady Smutter Alexa Day challenged you to read more diverse books and spread the word about them.

I’m going to up the ante and challenge you to choose diverse romances written by #OwnVoices.

The basic own voices concept is to read and promote books with diverse main characters written by authors from that same diverse group. For me diversity means any community or group that is not the mainstream. It can mean race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, and/or mental illness (and more). The #OwnVoices hashtag was originally coined to highlight diverse books in children’s publishing, but the philosophy is important for all genres, even romance and erotica.

In the last few years, diversity has been a buzzword in publishing. I hate that people talk about it like a trend. My experiences as a Vietnamese American is not a fad or a trend. Reading about an Asian American woman who falls in love and has mega hot sex shouldn’t be a trend. It should be just be something normal that happens–as in real life. (Now you know that I have mega hot sex.)

2 women in wedding gown

While the heroines and heroes in the romance industry catch up with real life, it’s also very important that we choose to read #ownvoices. (And spread the word about the ones we like.) When you read a love story about a Black, Asian, Latinx, or queer woman that is also written by someone from that culture, you’re getting an inside look from someone who has experienced the feelings, stereotypes, and family expectations from that culture or background. They’ve walked in those shoes and felt similar feelings as their characters. Someone who is not of that same diverse group can only give readers an outsider’s perspective of their character’s life.

When we only read diverse characters written by outside voices, we risk reading a singular story. Stereotypes are more common: Asian American men who are nerds or geeks; African American men who are sports jocks or preachers; and so on. While stereotypes and tropes are common in romances, why limit our alphahole billionaires to white guys?

South Asian couple in love

Romances that stick with me are ones that defy stereotypes or put a fun twist on a common tropes. Why not have a Black computer nerd who falls in love with a Latinx woman gamer? How about successful Latina woman realtor who secretly meets her bisexual landscaper for trysts? (If any of these exist, please leave the title in the comments so I can read them!)

If you’re not sure where to look for #OwnVoices romances, read Alexa Day’s books. Then check out these blogs and indie presses for more recommendations:

I’m not saying you should only read own voices books. There’s plenty of good romances out there that do not fit this category. I’m challenging you to seek out ones that are #ownvoices and read them.

Two men in love

After you read them, support the author. Leave reviews, tell your friends to buy the book,and spread the word. More importantly, call out the diversity and own voices in your reviews so that those of us who are searching for them can find them. Give the books good Google juice so when I type in “sexy romances with Hispanic SEALs,” they’ll show up on the first page of results.

Will you join me and take the pledge to read and review more #OwnVoices romances?

Thien-Kim Lam is currently writing romances about Asian American women who have mega hot sex. She is the founder of Bawdy Bookworms, a subscription box that pairs sexy reads with bedroom toys and sensual products. Batteries included. Check her Pleasure Pairings guide with buzzy recommendations for the adventurous reader

Why I Have a Soft Spot for Period Movies

6 Jan Image via Warner Bros

by Thien-Kim Lam

Image via Warner Bros

Image via Warner Bros

I’m late to the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them party, but I finally saw the movie this week. Even though I was a huge Harry Potter fan, I couldn’t muster enthusiasm for Newt Scamander and his magical creatures. I’d grown to love Harry, Ron, and the sassy, brilliant Hermione. Since our only other family friendly movie option was Sing, the adults voted for Fantastic Beasts instead.

The movie was fun and the perfect post New Year’s day escape. The story was cute. I loved all the main characters. But I can’t stop thinking about the 1920s costumes.

For me, Colleen Atwood’s costumes were also stars of the movie.

Long before I sat down to write romance books, I professionally designed and constructed costumes for theatre productions. After doing that for so many years, I can tell when a designer takes extra care with her costume choices. Let me show you what I mean.

The Goldstein Sisters

Let’s talk about the two main female characters from the film. They were inherently more interesting and complex than Newt.

Image via Warner Bros

Image via Warner Bros

Tina Goldstein (played by Katherine Waterston) was demoted from her Auror position after her unauthorized used of magic. She’s desperate to reclaim her status within the Magical Congress. Tina is strong, serious, and very responsible. She wants to do what’s right.

Image via Warner Bros

Image via Warner Bros

Except for one scene, Tina almost always wears pants and sensible shoes, which are perfect for chasing down the bad guys. Even her night clothes belay her practicality, an adorable but comfortable wide leg jumper. Just because she’s practical doesn’t mean that she can’t embrace her femininity with her v-neck blouses or don a flapper style dress for undercover work. No matter what she’s wearing, it’s usually black or blue with a hint of white or light blue (even in the night club). She’s serious but knows how to have fun.

Image via Warner Bros

Image via Warner Bros

Her younger sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) doesn’t have a physically demanding job like Tina. She prefers dresses that hug and accentuate her body. She knows that men are distracted by her beauty and uses that to her advantage when she needs to. Don’t let her fool you. She may have a big heart and look innocent, but she’s very smart and has the power to read your mind.

Image via Warner Bros

Image via Warner Bros

Queenie exudes femininity. She wears more “luxurious” fabrics: satin, silk, velvet, and lace. Textures that are soft and feel good against the skin. Soothing, like her voice and personality. To further contrast from her sister, Queenie wears pink in almost every scene. Also, I want that pink coat!

A good costume designer is able to make these choices and integrate them into the director’s vision, while creating a cohesive look among all the characters. Don’t forget that this is also a period piece, so there’s an expectation that the costumes look like they’re from 1926. It’s not an easy task, but when you’re a mega-award winning designer like Colleen Atwood, it probably comes naturally.

Costumes are one the reasons I love reading historical romances. The big ball gowns (or modest muslin ones) can tell the reader so many things about the characters’ personality and social class. Little details that add up to build one complex heroine.

I adored both Tina and Queenie. And I want all of their clothes. Of, maybe not Tina’s scuffed brown shoes.

What’s your favorite period costume film?

Thien-Kim Lam cut her teeth on historical romances and they will always have a special place in her heart. She is the founder of Bawdy Bookworms, a subscription box that pairs sexy reads with bedroom toys and sensual products. Batteries included. Check her Pleasure Pairings guide with buzzy recommendations for the adventurous reader

What I REALLY Want for Christmas

2 Dec No, not this kind of rabbit. Even if it is cute

Hi! I’m Thien-Kim Lam, and I’m the new kid here at Lady Smut. Instead of being hazed by my fellow authors, I’ve been tasked to write about vibrators–one of my favorite topics. Enjoy!

I’ve been told that I’m hard to shop for.

It’s true.

My family members lament about this challenge every holiday. My mother sends me more coffee–which is never a bad thing. My sister demands a wish list from me. My husband doesn’t even ask what I want anymore. I don’t really need or want more stuff cluttering my apartment. I usually suggest we purchase something practical, like new tires for our old, but trusty car. Totally boring and domestic, but much needed.

Wish lists are supposed to things you really want but never give yourself permission to purchase. Extravagant. Decadent. Impractical. Not tires.

As I navigated my inbox during Thanksgiving weekend, I attempted to make a wish list to share with my friends and family. Turns out my neverending search for a smoking hot red dress is not wish list material. I didn’t need more books. (Blasphemous, but true.) I hoard most of my books on my e-reader anyway, which takes away from the Christmas day unwrapping tradition.

Then I hit the jackpot.

Sort of.

I figured out the one item that I really wanted but never made an effort to purchase. Make that multiple items: sex toys.

Confession: I don’t need any more vibrators. Or lube. Or clit cream.

As a former sex toy sales consultant and an owner of a romance book-sex toy pairing subscription box, I have a very healthy collection. As in so many, I have to purge our pleasure pantry every so often.

Sex toys are like books. I can never have enough. Each one has its specialities. Each one serves a very orgasmic purpose. They’re the gift that keeps on giving–as long as you don’t misplace the charger.

Obviously, this isn’t the type of wish list I could send to just anyone. Definitely not my parents.

Ryan Reynolds Shudder gifimage via giphy

This is your call to gift that sexy someone in your life with a sex toy. Don’t make them ask.

You’ll benefit too, even if they use it for solo play. Though I’m pretty sure if you’re close enough that you can gift them a silicone rabbit vibe or pair of wrist cuffs, they’ll want to use them with you.

No, not this kind of rabbit. Even if it is cute

No, not this kind of rabbit. Even if it is cute

Let’s pretend I have an unlimited budget and unlimited storage space. What bedroom accessory would I put on my wish list? If I hadn’t already purchased this sex toy advent calendar, it would be first on my list. I’d want a badass vibrating wand. Some high quality leather handcuffs. The kind of the leather that smells so good, you just beg to be bound in them. And a steel boned corset.

Make your list, check it twice, and hand it over to your love. Because all we really want for Christmas are orgasms. If you’re not sure where to start, I’ve got some recommendations:

If you had to make a sex toy wish list, what items would you put on it?

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