Today is the day to celebrate love, romance, great romance novels, and the promise of happy ever afters — and it's also a good day to take a trip back in time. Black authors have been writing about Black love, Black joy, and Black romance for decades and decades; Black love stories have been integral to Romancelandia since romance novels existed — so today we're spotlighting a few Black romance pioneers. Their stories pack all of the smiles, giggles, tears, heartbreak, and happy ever afters you need, with Black heroes and heroines center stage.
Carla Fredd's Fire and Ice, initially published in 1995, tells the story of Holly Aimes, the daughter of a Georgia politician, and a young woman accustomed to being in front of cameras and the center of attention. But she's not really a lover of the spotlight, and her feelings about public life leave her cold and in the dark after her fiancée dumps her, running off to marry a supermodel without a word of warning.
Then there's Michael Williams, the too-hot-for-words host of a popular talk-show. He's looking for a queen, and for him, Holly may be the right one to turn up the heat — if he can get past her chilly facade. Fire and Ice is fast-paced and sharp-witted, and became a 2001 TV movie starring Kadeem Hardison and Lark Voorhies. But it's the novel that merits revisiting, along with Fredd's other works, which can fill a few shelves of your TBR bookcase.
The late Leslie Esdaile Banks published her first romance novel, Sundance, in 1996. A prolific writer, she authored more than a dozen romance novels and novellas through 2008. But that wasn't all. She wrote crime fiction, suspense, young adult, TV adaptation novels (Soul Food), non-fiction, and the list goes on.
Possibly her best-known work was the Vampire Huntress Legend series, penned under the name L.A. Banks. Minion, the first of what became a 13-book series, came out in 2003. As a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, sadly, I did not discover Banks's series until a few years later, after meeting her in Philadelphia at a Buffy-related fan event. A Black vampire slayer, however, sounded like heaven to me. Minion's main character, Damali Richards, wants to create music. A spoken-word artist, she's a headliner for Warriors of Light Productions — but that's just her day job; come nightfall, and she hunts vampires and demons.
Soon, her side hustle goes from routine slayings to something scarier as Damali and her Guardian team find themselves in the middle of a war, fighting the rogue vampires who are picking off the artists from both Warriors of Light and their rival production company Blood Music. Like any good urban fantasy, the contemporary world and its pluses and minuses become the backdrop for the battle between paranormal good and evil, with a ruthless Big Bad. And yes, there is a love story, a romance against all odds that flows through this exciting series.
Indiscretions by Donna Hill, published in 1991, brings an array of delights to the page, infusing romance with mystery, intrigue, danger, and of course, Black love. Khendra Phillips is a criminal defense attorney in Atlanta who's ready to rise to the next level, especially when the opportunity to take the lead in a career-making court case comes her way — or at least she assumes the case will be hers for the taking.
Enter Sean Michaels, an attractive, smooth-talking, hot-shot attorney from New York. Khendra is a survivor of heartbreak, and she's never gotten over love-gone-wrong — or has she? Whatever the case, she and Sean can't avoid the electricity that sparks between them, which turns into a hot, steamy affair. Secrets, and maybe lies, keep readers riveted until the last page. Indiscretions is one of more than 70 novels by Donna Hill, and she's still working today; Confessions in B-Flat debuted in November 2020.
These three novels are like the first few cars of a lengthy train that builds steam year after year. And every car has a story to tell about Black love, by Black authors, for readers who love romance. Happy Valentine's Day!
Denny S. Bryce writes historical fiction. Her first novel, Wild Women and the Blues, is coming this year.