romance writers of canada reviews

#WeTheNorth: Canadian Romance Authors You Need to Know

romance writers of canada reviews

As I write this, the Toronto Raptors have just won game 4 of the NBA Finals. It’s fair to say, the phrase “We the North” has been on the lips of many a Canadian for a while now. It’s been easy to feel extra patriotic lately. I know I haven’t been the only one cheering on the Raptors. People from all over the world have been doing the same, and it’s been really nice to show the world what Canada has to offer.

Canada has a lot to offer the world of romance as well. In fact, I’d be willing to bet some of your favourite (yep – we spell it with a “u” in Canada) romance authors are Canadian, and you might not even know it. It’s sort of like that gif that always makes me giggle: “The Canadians. They walk among us.”

When I started writing this article, I wanted to tell you about romance novels that have a Canadian feel to them. What do people think of when they think of Canada? Well, some may think of maple syrup, poutine and Celine Dion. Some people will mention how polite we are, that we can be self-deprecating and modest (okay, maybe not in Jurassic Park or Oracle Arena, but that’s all good.) Some will say we’re a tough, hardy people. Have you heard about our winters?  

But the fact is we’re so much more than that. It’s impossible to incapsulate what my country represents in a few short paragraphs, and there isn’t just one story that speaks to our collective experience. That’s what makes Canada so great. It’s comprised of many stories, and guess where you’ll find them. The romance genre.

Of course, that’s just my humble Canadian opinion.

Today, I hope to introduce you to some Canadian romance authors who are new to you, ones whose works will introduce you to a particular corner of Canada and the Canadian experience. By no means is this a complete list of Canuck authors. Quite frankly, if you scan the bestseller list on any given day, you’ll find some well-known Canadian names. But here, I’d like to share some that I think more of us need to know. My hope is that in reading these books, you’ll find some new faves, and also get a flavour for the wonderful country in which they are set.

The Chai Factor by Farah Heron

The Chai Factor by Farah Heron

Farah Heron’s The Chai Factor is an anticipated read this year. Set in Toronto, and featuring a dishy hero from the small town of Omemee, Ontario, it is certainly one of my favourite new books. Not only is it a sweet romance, it tackles the topic of racism with insight and heart.

Arctic Burn by Amy Ruttan

Phoenix Agency series by Amy Ruttan

Author Amy Ruttan has written some wonderful medical romances for Harlequin and her Phoenix Agency series is set in the Northwest Territories. Telekinetics and bush pilots in Yellowknife…yes, please!

blessed by maggie blackbird

Blessed by Maggie Blackbird

Maggie Blackbird writes contemporary and historical romance about Canada’s Indigenous People. I recently became aware of Maggie’s books and they are at the top of my to-be-read list.

carnal control by lilith darville

Carnal Control by Lilith Darville

Lilith Darville writes erotic romance that will leave a tingle in your fingertips as you flip the pages. Her sexy books have had a place on my Kindle for some time, and I hope they’ll find a home on yours.

up all night by j margot critch

Up All Night by J. Margot Critch

We don’t get to hear about too many romances set in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Luckily, we have J. Margot Critch to address this for us. Her romantic suspense series is set there, and looks like a lot of fun.

Masked Desire by Alana Delacroix

Masked Arcana series by Alana Delacroix

I’m a big fan of Alana Delacroix’s Masked Arcana paranormal series. Peopled by fey and vampires and unique shifters, it’ll grab you and it won’t let go.

As I mentioned, this is just a small sampling of what Canadian romances have to offer. There’s no way I could ever include them all, and I’ve tried to mention authors I haven’t included in my previous articles for Frolic. If you are interested in reading more Canadian romance, check out one of my recent Twitter threads. I put the call out to Romancelandia, and as always, Romancelandia responded with many recs. You’ll find numerous authors and books here:

Canada is a vibrant country, and I am so proud to live here. In fact, I’ve given some of my own romances Canadian settings. So check us out! And way to go, Raptors!

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About The Author

Rosanna Leo

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romance writers of canada reviews

The 25 Best Romance Authors (And Their Most Swoonworthy Reads)

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Blog – Posted on Tuesday, Mar 19

The 25 best romance authors (and their most swoonworthy reads).

The 25 Best Romance Authors (And Their Most Swoonworthy Reads)

Romance is one of the most popular genres in literature today, both for readers and writers of romance novels . And it’s no wonder why: romance is exciting, sexy, and compulsively readable. Luckily, there are tons more books coming out all the time! So to help you get a handle on the genre, we’ve compiled this guide to the 25 best romance authors, along with the love stories they’ve written that are sure to make you swoon. 😍 (By the way, the list is in alphabetical order, so if you’re searching for your own favorite author, you’ll know exactly where to look.)

If you're feeling overwhelmed by the number of great romance authors out there, you can also take our 30-second quiz below to narrow it down quickly and get a personalized romance book recommendation  😉

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Carolyn Brown

Brown has been writing romance for twenty years now — her debut novel Love Is came out in 1999. Since then, she’s produced a great deal of both contemporary and historical romance. However, Brown’s real niche is cowboy romance: stories that are typically set in the southern United States and feature a tall, dark, troubled rancher. Meanwhile, the strong-minded heroine isn’t looking for love — she’s too focused on her child, and/or trying to shake the memories of a good-for-nothing ex — but damn if she doesn’t find it under the boiling hot Texas (or Tennessee or Oklahoma) sun after all.

Must-read: Long, Hot Texas Summer

When Loretta Bailey caught her husband Jackson kissing another woman, she turned her back on Lonesome Canyon Ranch forever. That was seventeen years ago… and now Loretta and Jackson’s daughter wants to drop out of college to marry a rancher. Naturally, Loretta is dead-set against the idea. But in order to combat it, she’ll have to return to the ranch and work together with Jackson, who’s just as wily (and devilishly handsome) as ever.

Catherine Bybee

Bybee is the queen of Amazon’s contemporary romance charts, with her bestselling Weekday Brides and Not Quite series (and their spinoffs). She also dabbles in historical and paranormal romance , and is especially skilled at synthesizing her own traumatic experiences into her work: not only is she a survivor of child abuse, she also endured a terrible accident when she was working as an ER nurse. Bybee began to write during her recovery, remembering the solace that romance books and love stories brought her when she was young — and eventually turned out some of best titles on the market today.

Must-read: Wife by Wednesday ( Weekday Brides #1)

Wife By Wednesday introduces us to Samantha Elliot, the head of a matchmaking firm consulted by millionaire Blake Harrison… who’s intent on having Sam pose as his wife. And though Sam never meant to matchmake herself , how can she resist his $10 million offer? But while their deal is supposed to be all appearances, Sam finds herself confusingly attracted to Blake, which spells double trouble when his ex gets involved.

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Since 1980, Carr has made quite a name for herself in romance — particularly with her Virgin River series, which follows various love affairs unfolding at a forest outpost in California. From the gruff marine who gets in touch with his softer side to the burned-out sous chef who has to contend with a pretty steamy dish (if you know what we mean), Virgin River supplies a stream of near-endless romantic possibilities. Not to mention it’s slated for a Netflix series starring Alexandra Breckenridge !

Must-read: Virgin River ( Virgin River #1)

After unexpectedly becoming a widower in her thirties, nurse practitioner Melinda Monroe jumps at the chance to move to woodsy, secluded Virgin River, only to realize it’s not what she expected. Between her shabby accommodations and the local doctor’s icy attitude, Mel’s just about ready to pick up and leave — until she meets a retired marine who convinces her to stay.

Alyssa Cole

Alyssa Cole is a uniquely impressive contributor to the historical romance subgenre. She specializes in American Revolution and Civil War-era stories, and has done wonders for diversity in romance: many of her characters are women of color, and much of the drama in her narratives stems from the challenges of interracial love and marriage in the past.

Must-read: An Extraordinary Union

This award-winning novel takes place during the Civil War and follows Elle Burns, a former slave who goes undercover to spy for the Union. She soon meets Malcolm McCall, a Pinkerton detective who shares her motives to bring down the Confederacy… but their political inclinations aren’t the only mutual feeling between them. When things start to become truly dangerous, Elle and Malcolm must decide what’s most important: their country or their love.

Lauren Dane

Lauren Dane is a New York Times and USA Today bestseller, known for her Brown Family and Chase Brothers series. Dane began writing in 2005 and has since turned out over 60 books. (Yes, you read that correctly!) Besides being one of the most prolific authors on this list, she’s also one of the most risqué — so if you like your romance on the steamier side, consider adding her to your list.

Must-read: Laid Bare ( Brown Family #1)

Seriously, hold onto your hats because this one is shamelessly immodest. Laid Bare begins with police officer Todd Keenan and rock musician Erin Brown, whose old flame is rekindled when they meet again in Seattle… but which threatens to burn them up after a ménage à trois with one of Todd’s best friends. There’s no telling where this relationship of sorts will lead, but one thing is for sure: it’s going to be one wild hell of a ride.

Tessa Dare is another NYT bestseller, but in a very different category: classic “bodice rippers” that focus more on smoldering sexual tension itself than the resolution of said tension. Indeed, Dare’s titles clearly indicate her propensity for Regency romance — from Romancing the Duke to Say Yes to the Marquess , her books are the perfect form of escapism into another time and place.

Must-read: Do You Want to Start a Scandal ( Castles Ever After #4)

This one is part history, part mystery, part love story! At the Parkhurst ball, young Charlotte Highwood is implicated in a scandal that makes it look as though she’s involved with Piers Brandon, Lord Granville — and now she’ll have to marry him if she can’t prove her innocence. Which would be inconvenient indeed, since she doesn’t even like the guy. But as the two of them set out to uncover the true scandal-makers, Piers proves himself a surprisingly useful accomplice. Soon Charlotte’s growing attraction to him makes her wonder if she even wants to complete their mission…

Madison Faye

For a quick rebound to the erotic, Madison Faye’s books are even more salacious than Lauren Dane’s. If you were a fan of Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty Quartet , you’ll love Faye’s similarly sexy fairytales: a series of five works fittingly titled Possessing Beauty . Or if fairytale retellings aren’t your thing, you can always turn to Dirty Bad Things or Her Daddies (again, you read that correctly), two other mega-popular works by Faye. Hailed as “quick and filthy,” these white-hot erotic romances will just about melt your Kindle clean away.

Must-read: Beasting Beauty ( Possessing Beauty #1)

Logan is the callous, cursed Prince of Torsund. Isla is the sweet youngest princess of Avlion. When they meet at a ball held by her father, sparks fly — and clothing flies off. Logan certainly is a beast in the bedroom, but that doesn’t mean Isla can’t find a way to tame him. Sweet, sexy, and savage all at once, this just-under-100-page novella is the perfect remedy to spice up a regular night in.

Pippa Grant

Pippa Grant is another reigning ruler of the Amazon charts whose specialty is, for lack of a better term, total jerks. The heroes in her stories are anything but heroic: we’re talking possessive exes, egocentric hockey players, and horrible bosses. Or at least they start off that way. With the help of their leading ladies — who are sometimes sweet, sometimes saucy, but always totally irresistible to the main guy — they turn over a new leaf and become much better humans . How’s that for an HEA? (Romance slang for “happily ever after.”)

Must-read: The Pilot and the Puck-Up

NHL player Zeus Berger is as cocky as his Greek god namesake, and he’s never failed to satisfy a woman… until he meets Joey Diamonte, former military special ops pilot and self-made businesswoman, who matches him in confidence and thoroughly surpasses him in smoothness. Unfortunately, their first encounter doesn’t quite go as Zeus planned. Now determined to prove to Joey that he’s more than one-night-stand material, Zeus will try anything to show her what he’s made of (besides muscle, that is).

Lorraine Heath

Lorraine Heath is an absolute staple of the romance genre. Since 2001, she’s turned out over a dozen different series in every subgenre from historical to paranormal. However, despite their quantity, her works never sacrifice quality — Heath has been especially praised for the genuine emotional depth and strong characterization in her writing. So if you’re looking for story-based drama rather than its cousin smut, you can’t go wrong with Heath's love stories.

Must-read: In Bed with the Devil ( Scoundrels of St, James #1)

Lucian Langdon, aka Luke, is scorned in London as the “devil earl” for his atrocious reputation. Lady Catherine Mabry needs help so desperately that she’s willing to strike a deal with him. Thus begins their relationship as co-conspirators… which of course, soon turns into something more. The delicious slow burn between the scoundrel and the lady also includes a pretty meaty social plot, peppered with plenty of tongue-in-cheek Dickens references .

Beverly Jenkins

Jenkins is a true trailblazer of diverse romance — she’s been writing since the nineties, and her books almost always feature African-American main couples, often set in times when that experience was overlooked. However, Jenkins makes a point of not writing exclusively about slavery. In order to represent a genuinely wide range of black history, most of her books take place between the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights Movement.

Must-read: Bring on the Blessings ( Blessings #1)

Though Jenkins is known for (and very talented at spinning!) her historical romances, this contemporary work is a great intro for first-time readers. In Bring on the Blessings , 52-year-old Bernadine Brown takes her wealthy, adulterous husband to court — and wins. A $275 million settlement, to be exact.

Adamant to “pay forward” her good fortune, Bernadine decides that her next project of choice won’t just be one man, but an entire town: Henry Adams, Kansas, which was founded by freed slaves after the Civil War. After purchasing Henry Adams on the Internet, Bernadine must work together with its stubborn mayor Trent July to bring the town back to its former glory… and perhaps find some glory in each other as well.

Lisa Kleypas

When it comes to historical romance, no one quite compares to Kleypas: she started writing in 1985, when she was only 21 years old, and hasn’t looked back since. Beginning with a few quick duologies, Kleypas eventually escalated to elaborate multi-book series, her most famous being The Wallflowers and The Hathaways . These books follow the members of various families in mid-19th century London as they attempt to find love in one way or another. Each story is also wrapped in a well-woven tapestry of historical context; indeed, one of Kleypas’ greatest strengths is her intimate knowledge of the era.

Must-read: Mine Till Midnight ( The Hathaways #1)

Amelia Hathaway has an awful lot on her plate. She’s figuring out her place in aristocratic society (which she’s just joined after a surprise inheritance), taming her wild younger siblings, and most recently dealing with her feelings for upper-class bad boy Cam Rohan. Cam, like Amelia, comes from not-so-noble stock — unlike her, however, he longs to return to it. This plan is complicated by only one thing: his desire for Amelia. And when she asks him for help in a sticky situation, he can’t say no to her…

Lauren Landish

Landish specializes in “sexy-as-hell book boyfriends,” as she says on her Goodreads page — one look at her rippling-muscle covers and you know you’re in for a good time. Her works can get pretty explicit, but she’s also got plenty of fun romantic devices to keep readers happy: meet-cutes, fake relationships, and reunited high school sweethearts abound, especially in the stunningly sexy Irresistible Bachelors series.

Must-read: Mr. Fixit ( Irresistible Bachelors #5)

Expert handyman Caleb Strong ( get it? because he’s strong? ) and Cassie White have been friends for over a year now, ever since they met in Hawaii. So when Cassie needs help renovating her childhood home, it’s only natural that she turn to Caleb. But actually having to watch him work proves a challenge in the self-control department… especially when she starts fantasizing about him working on something else. In other words, this book is pretty much the written equivalent of that Fifth Harmony song — if you liked that video, you’ll love Mr. Fixit .

Adriana Locke

On the other hand, if you prefer flawed, vulnerable heroes to totally confident ones, Adriana Locke might be more your speed. Locke has been in the romance business for just a few years, but she’s already turned out numerous series full of bad-boys-with-serious-damage (though of course, none of that stops them from eventually finding love).

Must-read: Crank ( Laundry Family #7, Gibson Boys #1)

Sienna Landry gets off to a bit of a rocky start with small-town mechanic Walker Gibson — namely, she busts up the front of his truck. For a guy like Walker, there’s nothing worse… except maybe the attraction he feels to this girl who’s just destroyed his most prized possession. Conflicted over Sienna in more ways than one, Walker still can’t seem to avoid her, and the shimmering tension between them mounts until it’s practically leaping off the page. But there’s something he’s not telling her — not least because he doesn’t want to think about it himself.

Julianne MacLean

Julianne MacLean (not to be confused with the next entry on our list) writes primarily historical romance, though she’s also branched out into contemporary on occasion. She’s best known for her American Heiress and Pembroke Palace series, which are sure to please fans of Downton Abbey and other early 20th century tales. Or if you’re a fan of Outlander , check out her excellent Highlander trilogy: a slow, sexy burn that includes Captured by the Highlander, Claimed by the Highlander, and Seduced by the Highlander .

Must-read: The Color of Heaven ( Color of Heaven #1)

Like Jenkins’ Bring on the Blessings , MacLean’s Color of Heaven series doesn’t exactly represent her larger body of work. However, it’s a good entry point for new readers — if also quite an emotional one. The Color of Heaven follows Sophie Duncan, a woman whose life goes off the rails when her daughter is diagnosed with leukemia and her husband cheats on her. But after a terrible accident, Sophie’s eyes open to everything she does still have, and she embarks on a newly buoyant journey of life, love, and revelation.

Sarah MacLean

Sarah MacLean has also found her niche in historical romance, but of a more traditional sort: she tends to stick to the Regency/Victorian periods, and she’s absolutely mastered the niche. As the author of over a dozen high-profile historical romances, and winner of several awards given by the Romance Writers of America, she’s one of the leading voices in the romance genre. Along with Lisa Kleypas (and Julia Quinn and Nora Roberts, both of whom we’ll get to soon), Sarah MacLean is essentially a founding mother of the historical subgenre as we know it today.

Must-read: Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake ( Love by the Numbers #1)

Lady Calpurnia Hartwell is sick and tired of her title, especially since she’s never been able to live up to it. She’s more than ready to break the rules of ladyhood… but she can’t do it alone. And who better to recruit as her “accomplice” (the Regency equivalent of friends-with-benefits) than Gabriel St. John, a marquess and fellow eschewer of society? Of course, as Callie and Gabe grow closer, she realizes that she might not be such a nontraditional girl after all. The only question now is: can she tell him?

Courtney Milan

Milan is another prominent writer of WOC characters in romance, particularly characters of Asian descent. Though she’s also got quite a few “classic” historical romances in her repertoire, her most interesting and dynamic works to date include the Cyclone series, with an upcoming work entitled Show Me that will be an LGBT romance between two women of color. In the meantime, though, she has plenty of other captivating titles for readers to explore.

Must-read: Hold Me ( Cyclone #2)

This pitch-perfect amalgam of classic romantic setups involves both a) an enemies-to-lovers transformation, and b) a case of secret identities, as our main couple (unbeknownst to them) chats anonymously online!

Jay na Thalang and Maria Lopez have been running in the same Bay Area circles for ages, but that doesn’t mean they actually like each other. On the contrary, Jay’s misogynistic attitude gets Maria all riled up, and Maria’s apparent ditziness causes Jay to dismiss her. But as with just about every romance, things are not as they seem… as secrets are unveiled and revelations occur, Maria and Jay get thrown into a completely unexpected romantic odyssey.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Susan Elizabeth Phillips has been hot on the romance scene since the early eighties, and is credited with creating “sports romance,” in which the characters and plot revolve around some sort of athletics. She’s also been called the “Queen of Romantic Comedy” within the genre — at a time when most romance writers took the historical route, Phillips wasn’t afraid to get a little goofy. As the Nora Ephron of romance novels, Phillips is an essential addition to any self-proclaimed romance lover’s reading list.

Must read: It Had to Be You ( Chicago Stars #1)

New York girl Phoebe Somerville has just inherited the Chicago Stars — an entire football team of sexy-but-also-sex ist men, the worst of whom is head coach Dan Calebow. Dan isn’t exactly happy with Phoebe’s takeover, nor does Phoebe appreciate Dan’s constant snide remarks… yet neither of them can stay away from each other long enough to stop bickering. With warmth, humor, and irresistible chemistry, It Had to Be You is a veritable Super Bowl of a novel.

Julia Quinn

Like so many of the authors on this list, Julia Quinn has a fascinating origin story. In the early nineties, she decided to attend medical school; as she studied for the necessary prerequisites, she started writing romance novels on the side. She was then admitted to Yale Medical School, but realized she had already found her true calling. So she dropped out to become one of the most eminent historical romance writers of her generation — and is still writing today!

Must-read: The Duke and I ( Bridgertons #1)

It’s the ultimate high-society scheme: Lady Daphne Bridgerton and Duke Simon Basset are only pretending to court, so that Simon can avoid the clutches of actual marriage and Daphne can attract jealous men. (Exactly what you want in a partner, right?) Except now, Daphne is starting to have second thoughts about Simon — especially when they’re pressed together on the ballroom floor, and she can hardly keep dancing for desire. This Regency twist on the “fake relationship” trope will definitely make classic romance fans swoon.

“All the heat, all the heart,” is Rai’s signature slogan, and her brilliant, steamy, and wonderfully diverse books certainly live up to it. Though Rai is a relative newcomer, she already has five series under her belt and a reputation in the contemporary romance world for her innovative premises and vivid characters. (It hasn’t been released yet, but look out for her upcoming novel The Right Swipe , about two rival dating app creators who fall in love!)

That was the deal. Every year, Livvy Kane and Nicholas Chandler would share one perfect night of illicit pleasure. The forbidden hours let them forget the tragedy that haunted their pasts—and the last names that made them enemies.

Until the night she didn’t show up.

Now Nicholas has an empire to run. He doesn’t have time for distractions and Livvy’s sudden reappearance in town is a major distraction. She’s the one woman he shouldn’t want . . . so why can’t he forget how right she feels in his bed?

Livvy didn’t come home for Nicholas, but fate seems determined to remind her of his presence—and their past. Although the passion between them might have once run hot and deep, not even love can overcome the scandal that divided their families.

Being together might be against all the rules . . . but being apart is impossible.

Must-read: Hate to Want You ( Forbidden Hearts #1)

Just like so many of our couples, Livvy Kane and Nicholas Chandler have a deal. Except theirs is limited to just one night of guilty pleasure a year — guilty because of the animosity between their families. They’ve been secretly hooking up for ten years, and each looks forward to that night of mind-blowing passion… until Nicholas gets too busy running his own family’s empire. Of course, Livvy’s not going to let him slip away that easily. Laden with passion but also profound emotion, Hate to Want You is Rai’s superb answer to sexy yet realistic romance.

Alexa Riley

Riley is another big Amazon chart-topper — unusual for a romance author with mostly standalone and short-series books. However, Riley’s edge over other authors might come from the fact that “she” is actually two writers, a duo of anonymous friends who have put out over 100 titles (!) since 2015. Also, similar to Madison Faye, Alexa Riley’s books are best described as quickies: many are 100 pages or less, but what they lack in length, they make up for in heat.

Must-read: PS... You're Mine by Alexa Riley

This Valentine’s special features a schoolteacher named Katie Lovely and a marine named Mark Gunner (did we mention that almost all Riley characters have hilariously tongue-in-cheek names?). In any case, Katie’s class is doing a pen pal project with overseas Marines, and she accidentally signs herself up, too… only to find her correspondence with Mark is, well, different than she anticipated. So don’t worry just because they don’t see each other in person (at least not at first) — those letters get hot and heavy pretty quickly.

Nora Roberts

If there’s one author on this list who’s a recognized household name, it’s Nora Roberts. Since 1980, Roberts has written and published an astounding number of romances — her website claims the number stands at over 215!

But this incredibly prolific production has not come at the cost of quality. Over the years, Roberts has been praises for her creative storylines, her wry sense of humor, and for pioneering the “dual shifting perspectives” style (i.e. two different narrators who switch back and forth) that has come to define the genre. She’s also been the recipient of countless Golden Medallion and RITA Awards from the Romance Writers of America, and she’s had several of her books adapted into movies, including Montana Sky and High Noon .

Must-read: Born in Fire ( Born in Fire Trilogy #1)

It’s impossible to say that Born in Fire is the only Nora Roberts must-read, but it’s certainly one of her best. It centers on Maggie Concannon, a fierce-minded, free-spirited woman living in Ireland. And while she may work with glass for a living, Maggie is not easily shattered — until she meets money-minded gallery owner Rogan Sweeney, who wants to manage her career. The two butt heads as their working relationship progresses, but can’t deny their attraction — which grows even hotter than blown glass over the course of this story.

Nalini Singh

Singh is another very exciting new voice in the romance genre. She mostly writes paranormal romance, but of a particularly debauched variety; she’s especially known for her Psy-Changeling and Guild Hunter series, both of which are rife with racy scenes.

Nalini Singh dives into a world torn apart by a powerful race with phenomenal powers of the mind-and none of the heart.

In a world that denies emotions, where the ruling Psy punish any sign of desire, Sascha Duncan must conceal the feelings that brand her as flawed. To reveal them would be to sentence herself to the horror of \'rehabilitation\' - the complete psychic erasure of everything she ever was...

Both human and animal, Lucas Hunter is a changeling hungry for the very sensations the Psy disdain. After centuries of uneasy coexistence, these two races are now on the verge of war over the brutal murders of several changeling women. Lucas is determined to find the Psy killer who butchered his packmate, and Sascha is his ticket into their closely guarded society. But he soon discovers that this ice-cold Psy is very capable of passion - and that the animal in him is fascinated by her. Caught between their conflicting worlds, Lucas and Sascha must remain bound to their identities - or sacrifice everything for a taste of darkest temptation.

Must-read: Slave to Sensation ( Psy-Changeling #1)

This remarkable hybrid of paranormal romance and science fiction establishes the world of the “Psy”: a ruling race that prohibits emotions (sort of like in The Giver , but much worse). Sascha is one of the few Psy who still feels pain and desire — but she can’t reveal this to anyone, lest she be forced into “rehabilitation.” Meanwhile Lucas Hunter is a part-human, part-animal changeling who needs Sascha’s help. Their connection grows and they soon find themselves struggling to resist the sensation between them… though they know it could be deadly.

Susan Stoker

Susan Stoker’s series are famous for adapting the classic damsel-in-distress scenario to the modern day. Her heroines are victims of spousal violence, sex trafficking, terrorism, you name it — but there’s always a valiant hero there to save the day. And while it might seem to contradict the rules of feminism for the men to be constantly rescuing the women, we’re actually grateful for a series that promotes men protecting their partners, when so many romances blur the line between abuse and love.

Must-read: Rescuing Rayne ( Delta Force Heroes #1)

As a flight attendant, Rayne Jackson’s whole life is up in the air — with the exception of the occasional down-to-earth tryst. One particularly memorable night was with Keane “Ghost” Bryson, a rugged, reticent Delta Force member. Of course, Rayne doesn’t know that, since Ghost kept his true identity hidden from her. But when their paths cross again under the most dire of circumstances, Ghost must put everything on the line to protect Rayne: not just his secrets, but his life.

Lauren Willig

The final historical romancer on our list, Lauren Willig has been writing since 2005. Her speciality is the Napoleonic era, and her works take particular inspiration from The Scarlet Pimpernel — another historical novel written by a woman almost exactly a century before Willig herself started writing. However, don’t worry about her work being derivative. Willig is most definitely one of a kind, and the rich history and complex characters in her books make for top-notch romance.

Must-read: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation

With a frame narrative reminiscent of Susanna Kearsley, Willig tells this story through Eloise Kelly: a 21st-century American college student who goes to England to finish her dissertation. There she finds much more than academic motivation in the form of the “Secret History of the Pink Carnation” — a book about England’s most cunning spy during the Napoleonic Wars, and the thrilling romance that involved them.

We’ll round off this list with some good old-fashioned… erotica! Zane has been a prominent author in the erotic romance subgenre since 1997, when she started writing steamy stories for her own entertainment. Over two decades later, she’s now the publisher of Strebor Books with Simon & Schuster, and her works have been turned into a TV series and even a feature film.

Must-read: Addicted

Zoe Reynard is a successful businesswoman, a loving wife, a devoted mother… and a sex addict. No matter how she’s tried, she’s never been able to shake her “fatal attraction.” Now, as Zoe confesses to her therapist, she delves into her sizzling sexual history and dark childhood.  But her romance with her husband is still front and center — hence what makes this a genuinely gorgeous work and not just a salacious romp (though it has that going for it, too).

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Romance ripoff: as self-published fiction flourishes, so does plagiarism

Social sharing, brazilian writer cristiane serruya is accused of stealing from dozens of authors.

romance writers of canada reviews

By tapping into her readers' fantasies, Rebecca Young got her dream life: the one-time university administrator from London, Ont., turned writing romance fiction from a hobby into a lucrative full-time gig.

"I make a full-time living wage that supports my family and allows me to travel and meet readers and keep writing and get inspiration," she says. 

Young, who is self-published and writes under pen names Zoe York and Ainsley Booth, sells her work in e-book and printed format on online sites like Amazon. She loves being self-published for financial reasons; saying that, without a publisher's cut, she gets to keep 70 per cent of her income from book sales.   

"We have shifted the balance of publishing from it being a few people at the top to lots of people across the middle. It's a bit of democratization of publishing to meet the reader demand."

Young is part of the boom in the $1 billion industry of romance novels, a renaissance born largely out of the flourishing of digital publishing and self-publishing. There are two million romance titles on Amazon, many of them from self-published authors.

The new generation of these indie writers can churn out books as frequently as every two months and, without the longer process of traditional editors and publishers, respond quickly to their readers' changing tastes.

But with this growth comes a growing problem: plagiarism.

This year, dozens of writers accused successful Brazilian author Cristiane Serruya of lifting paragraphs from their books, with readers helping them by taking screenshots of the offending passages and posting them on social media under hashtag #copypastecris. Nora Roberts, the  grand dame  of romance writing, went a step further, suing Serruya. for "multi plagiarism" on a "rare and scandalous level."

But as Young learned, plagiarism does not only target famous authors, nor does it always involve copying passages word-for-word.

The tale of 2 Prime Ministers

In May 2016, Young published a book she co-wrote with Sadie Haller titled Prime Minister,  centred on a young, single Canadian PM and his tryst with his brainy intern.

The book's release date, just seven months after Justin Trudeau's 2015 election, as his image as an international sex symbol was as its peak, may suggest real-life inspiration, but Young demurs with a wink. "I will point out that my prime minister is blond and blue-eyed and bears absolutely no resemblance to Justin Trudeau."

Trudeau-inspired or not, the book was a hit, especially with American women. It landed on the USA Today bestseller lists and has sold 50,000 copies, according to Young. And then those devout fans noticed another book sold on Amazon with a very similar plot and title: Yes, Prime Minister .

romance writers of canada reviews

"I decided to read it for myself, and it was shocking in 65 pages just how many similarities there were."

The other book's lead female character was French-Canadian, just like in Young's book. The PM's security guard in Young's book was called Lachlan, in Yes, Prime Minister, his name was Locke. The two protagonists' first date ends up on Parliament Hill in both novels.

And the list goes on and on. Still, since the book did not copy her writing in significant portions or paragraphs or word-for-word, Young knew she had no legal recourse. She calls this type of copying "mosaic plagiarism." 

"I documented [the passages she alleges were copied] and I sent them to Amazon, and Amazon said that doesn't meet our threshold for taking the book down, and I didn't really expect them to."

Courtney Milan versus Cristiane Serruya

But the more typical types of plagiarism abound, too.

At the Romance Writers of America conference held in July in New York and attended by thousands, including Young, American author Courtney Milan received the RWA Service Award.

A bit of a superstar in the world of romance novels, Milan, trained as a lawyer, is also a powerful voice on the behind-the-scenes goings-on of her industry. Back in February, it was Milan who, through her blog, first sounded the bell on the alleged plagiarism by Serruya.

romance writers of canada reviews

Tipped off by a reader, Milan downloaded Serruya's book Royal Love and "found in fact quite a few passages that were not just slightly similar but just word-for-word copied from my own work."

Milan says the damage she risks suffering is reputational. If someone read Serruya's book before reading Milan's  The Duchess War , they might think it was Milan who was being unoriginal.

romance writers of canada reviews

Milan says she was also hurt on a personal level, stating that Serruya was particularly fond of lifting emotional scenes from other authors' work.

"For many of us, those emotional scenes came at a great cost. We had to think a long time about it and we were writing about things that were very very important to us."

Milan says this involved scenes of sexual harassment in the workplace, something she confronted very publicly in her real life. Milan was one of women who accused Washington Judge Alex Kozinski  of sexual misconduct , in a Washington Post investigation .

So rather than answering basic questions like “so which books did you actually write?” Cristiane Serruya has deleted her Twitter account. — @courtneymilan

Serruya, who responded to Milan in a since-deleted tweet, blamed the copying on a ghostwriter she'd hired, and the offending book has since been removed from Amazon. 

Milan is deliberating what to do, but she feels cultivating a devoted fan base is the best way authors can protect themselves.

"The only way we have to catch things is readers at this point reading a book and recognizing a passage. And so the more memorable your writing is, the more likely it is that someone will recognize what's happening."

Data analyst catching literary thieves

It might be getting easier to catch literary thieves or document the instances in which a work has been plagiarized. That's thanks to Canadian data analyst Claire Ryan, who helped Milan identify all passages in Serruya's book that resembled hers, and helped Roberts in preparing her court case.

Ryan, herself an author and a book lover, was alerted to the allegations against Serruya on social media. She says she was angered and wanted to help.

She says the program she developed   "takes effectively two DNA sequences produced from two different books, and it's looking for the most similar match between them "

romance writers of canada reviews

Ryan's program is not only considerably faster than going through books page-by-page with a naked eye, it's sophisticated enough to discern that one sentence might be effectively the same as another even if punctuation or grammar is slightly different. 

After Ryan ran Milan's and Serruya's books through her algorithm and was contacted by several other authors, Roberts got in touch with her. Ryan says she ran close to 200 of Roberts's books through her program, comparing them to Serruya's books that allegedly lifted from them. 

"I just kept running all of these books through my algorithm and it just kept producing more and more results, more and more text matches."

So uh... this arrived at my door.<br><br>From Nora Roberts. <a href=""></a> &mdash; @aetherlev

To thank her, Roberts gave Ryan a sword, inscribed with "Claire Ryan, the plagiarism slayer."

While she was happy to help the famous writer, Ryan's ultimate goal is to have a program that is able to run a million books at the same time and generate a report in a matter of minutes.

Asked why she continues to do all this work free, the shy data analyst reverberates with emotion.

"The stories that we write are the one thing that the people can never take from us, they will always belong to us," says Ryan.

"It is the kind of theft which kind of cuts a lot deeper than just taking a physical object from someone. You're essentially claiming someone's legacy and taking away a part of themselves."


romance writers of canada reviews

Senior Education Reporter

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Book News & Features

Romance writers of america was doing better with race — until a recent award choice.

Karen Grigsby Bates

Karen Grigsby Bates

At Love's Command, by Karen Witemeyer

There is a saying a friend with Louisiana roots has about people who keep doing the same thing, even while that keeps yielding less-than-felicitous results. Those people, my friend says, are " stuck on stupid ."

Romance Writers of America, the trade organization for writers specializing in the romance genre, must be feeling that way right about now. After a stretch of racial reckoning over the organization's lack of diversity in both leadership and awardees , RWA reconfigured its board and vowed to do better.

And it has, somewhat. The board is more diverse now than it was. More attention is being paid to writers of color. If the improvements didn't have a rocketlike trajectory, they were moving in the right direction.

And the Vivian Award goes to ...

And then came this year's inaugural Vivian awards. The Vivians (formerly known as the RITAs) are, according to RWA, "the highest award of distinction in romance fiction" in several categories. Past recipients include bestsellers Nora Roberts and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. And while no Black author won a RITA until Kennedy Ryan in 2019 (the last year the prize was awarded before the name was retired), two prominent Black authors — historical romance writer Beverly Jenkins and contemporary romance writer Brenda Jackson — have each received a coveted Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award (in 2017 and 2012, respectively).

Racism Scandal In The Romance Writing Industry

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Romance writers of america leadership resigns.

This year, the Vivian in the "Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements" category was awarded to Karen Witemeyer for At Love's Command , and a number of its critics thought RWA was Stuck on Stupid again. Witemeyer's book, says Religion News Service , "opens with a depiction of the Wounded Knee Massacre that some readers and authors have criticized as romanticizing the killing of Native Americans." The love interest, an officer in the 7th Cavalry, commands the Lakota Sioux to put down their weapons, citing Scripture as his rationale . When a religious leader from the tribe begins chanting, a shot goes off (on purpose? by accident? from whose side?), the order to fire is issued and scores of men, women and children are slaughtered. Then the hero asks God's forgiveness and, eventually, claims his woman.

Critics say the choice glorifies genocide

The irony of the choice did not escape several who took to social media to protest: On Twitter, author Jenny Hartwell shared an email she sent to RWA board members : "Romances have flawed heroes and heroines who find redemption through the transformative power of love. However, aren't there some people who shouldn't be redeemed? Nazis. Slave owners. Soldiers who commit genocide." Hartwell continued: "Can this author write this story? Absolutely. Free speech is important. But should our organization give this story its highest award? Absolutely not."

Others resigned their membership in RWA . One member, Bronwyn Parry, served as a judge for the Vivians. "I had high hopes for the VIVIAN award and the strategies for cultural change that the RWA Board have put in place over the past two years," Parry said in a statement on her website . She expressed pleasure at the diversity of the offerings in the category she was judging — a stated goal of the awards — but was dismayed when all the finalists in that category were (including her) white women writing heterosexual characters. When At Love's Command was named a winner, she asked that her book be withdrawn from final consideration and her name removed from the finalists' list.

The Vivians were in fact named for RWA founder Vivian L. Stephens , an African American with publishing experience who founded romance lines for Dell in the late 1970s and Harlequin in the early 1980s that aimed to reflect all of America. That one of the current awards honoring Stephens' work should be bestowed on a romance that begins with the shedding of Indigenous blood (and in a year in which the revelations of hundreds of Indigenous deaths in Canada and some in the U.S. at so-called Indian boarding schools have shocked North America) — it's almost too much for some .

RWA rescinds the award ... but what's next?

After a few days of controversy, RWA rescinded the Vivian for At Love's Command . "RWA is in full support of First Amendment rights," said the organization in a statement; "however, as an organization that continually strives to improve our support of marginalized authors, we cannot in good conscience uphold the decision of the judges in voting to celebrate a book that depicts the inhumane treatment of indigenous people and romanticizes real world tragedies that still affect people to this day. RWA is rescinding the Vivian awarded to the book finalist 'At Love's Command.' "

As a number of tweets since this latest controversy exploded might indicate, RWA is still pretty stuck. Going forward, RWA's members and others will be watching to see if the organization can pull itself out of that rut.

Correction Aug. 6, 2021

An earlier version of this story misattributed a quote to The Washington Post . The quote is from Religion News Service.

Clarification: Author Bronwyn Parry's statement about all award finalists being white women referred specifically to books in the category she was judging.


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&ldquo;I wanted to share the perspective of an autistic woman, because I don&rsquo;t think that&rsquo;s a perspective you see very much,&rdquo; said the romance novelist Helen Hoang.

By Alexandra Alter

Growing up in Minnesota, Helen Hoang suffered from crippling social anxiety and struggled to make friends. She found refuge in romance novels, frothy stories that allowed her to experience intense feelings that were clearly spelled out on the page, always with the promise of a happy ending. “It was like I found a pure, undiluted drug,” she said.

Many years later, as a mother of two in her 30s, Ms. Hoang began researching autism and realized that she’s on the spectrum, a condition that makes it difficult for her to hold casual conversations, read emotional cues, have an office job and meet new people. She once again turned to romance . But this time, she wrote the story herself.

So far, romance fans have swooned over Ms. Hoang’s debut novel, “The Kiss Quotient,” a multicultural love story centered on an autistic woman who has trouble navigating the nuances of dating and courtship. Readers have flooded the website Goodreads with more than 7,000 positive ratings , and the book, which was published in June, is already in its fourth printing.

The novel’s unexpected success is all the more astonishing given the striking lack of diversity within the romance genre. Romance novels released by big publishing houses tend to center on white characters, and rarely feature gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people in leading roles, or heroines with disabilities. Even as the genre has evolved to reflect readers’ varied tastes and fetishes — popular subcategories include vampire and werewolf romance, military romance, cowboy romance, time travel romance, pirate and Viking romance — the lead characters are often confined to a fairly narrow set of ethnic, cultural and aesthetic types.

“Publishers aren’t putting out books by many people of color and they’re giving us limited space at the table,” said the romance writer Rebekah Weatherspoon, who has published some novels with small presses and self-published others, including “Sated,” which features a black heroine and a disabled, bisexual Korean-American hero. “It’s definitely not a level playing field.”

The landscape is slowly starting to change, as more diverse writers break into the genre, and publishers take chances on love stories that reflect a broader range of experiences and don’t always fit the stereotypical girl-meets-boy mold. Forever Yours, an imprint at Grand Central, publishes Karelia Stetz-Waters, who writes romances about lesbian couples. Uzma Jalaluddin’s debut novel, “Ayesha at Last,” takes place in a close-knit immigrant Muslim community in Canada, and features an outspoken Muslim heroine who falls for a more conservative Muslim man, a Darcy to her Lizzie Bennett.

Alisha Rai and Sonali Dev have expanded the genre with love stories that feature Indian and Indian-American protagonists. Priscilla Oliveras, who is published by Kensington, writes romances with Latinx heroes and heroines . Jeannie Lin has published historical romances with Harlequin that are set in China during the Tang dynasty era. And Mindy Hung, writing under the pen name Ruby Lang, has a series of contemporary romances starring Asian-American female doctors in a group practice.

“Readers want books that reflect the world they live in, and they won’t settle for a book about a small town where every single person is white,” said Leah Koch, co-owner of the romance bookstore the Ripped Bodice in Culver City, Calif. Last year, six of her store’s top 10 best-selling novels were written by authors of color, Ms. Koch said.

Still, progress has been painfully slow. For the past two years, Ms. Koch and her sister Bea have conducted a study of leading romance publishers , and found that out of the 3,752 romance novels released by 20 major imprints in 2017, only around 6 percent were written by nonwhite authors.

Romance publishers say that they want to publish books with more diverse characters and settings, but argue that it’s a challenge in part because the majority of submissions still come from white authors. The genre’s largest organization, the Romance Writers of America, which has around 10,000 members, recently conducted a survey and found that nearly 86 percent of its members are white. The group has also faced growing scrutiny over its Rita Award, which has never gone to an African-American writer in the 36-year history of the prize. Black authors have accounted for less than 1 percent of finalists.

“It was eye-opening,” Dee Davis, R.W.A.’s president, said of the survey results. “We have a lot of work to do.”

The issue will likely be widely debated at the group’s upcoming annual meeting in Denver this month, where some 2,000 romance writers will gather. Industry leaders will attend an invitation-only “diversity summit” at the conference to discuss ways to make the genre more inclusive, and the African-American romance novelist Brenda Jackson will co-teach a workshop on writing characters from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, age groups, abilities and body types.

Avon and Harlequin, two of the biggest romance publishers, have both taken modest steps to publish more diverse books, but despite those efforts, their lists remain overwhelmingly white: Books by minority writers made up less than 4 percent of Avon’s list and around 7 percent of Harlequin’s list, according to the Ripped Bodice.

A spokeswoman for Harlequin said the publisher was “working to increase representation and inclusion in our stories, as well as in our author base,” and cited recently published works that feature African-American and South Asian characters, gay and lesbian characters and heroines with disabilities.

An Avon representative noted that the company publishes books by Alyssa Cole, Tracey Livesay, Mia Sosa, Nisha Sharma, Cat Sebastian and Laura Brown, all authors who write about diverse couples. One of Avon’s authors, Stacey Abrams, who has published romance novels with African-American characters under the pen name Selena Montgomery, recently became the Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia.

“Some publishers are showing more interest in acquiring books from marginalized groups, but there are still barriers,” said Ms. Cole, who has published romances set during the Civil War with African-American protagonists. “Part of the problem is some publishers say, O.K., we need more diversity, we’ll just have our white authors write more diversely.”

While a growing number of authors from minority groups are finally getting published, many say they still face more hurdles than their white peers when it comes to signing with an agent, finding a publisher, getting review coverage and convincing bookstores to carry their novels. Brick and mortar stores with limited shelf space for romance sometimes stock love stories that feature African-American characters in the “urban fiction” or African-American literature sections, limiting their visibility among avid romance fans.

Beverly Jenkins, a trailblazing African-American romance novelist who began publishing historical romances with Avon in the 1990s, said that plenty of diverse romance was being written, but too little of it was being acquired by major houses. “There are hundreds of women of color who are writing romance,” she said. “The issue is getting them published so they’re seen.”

With scant opportunities in mainstream publishing, many romance writers whose books feature diverse characters have turned to smaller presses, digital-only outlets or, increasingly, self-publishing. The best-selling romance writer Courtney Milan, who writes novels with interracial and gay couples and transgender and bisexual characters, left a Harlequin imprint around seven years ago and began self-publishing because she wanted to have more creative control over her plots and characters. She has since sold more than one million copies on her own, she said. Delaney Diamond, who started self-publishing romance novels with African-American characters in 2011, has sold around 370,000 copies of her books, and created her own imprint, Garden Avenue Press. She recently began publishing multicultural romance novels by other authors.

“People in publishing thought that black romance wouldn’t sell, which blew my mind,” she said.

That perception remains widespread, in part because romance imprints have traditionally published so few writers of color that there have been limited opportunities for those authors to break out. Big retailers like Target and Wal-Mart typically base their book orders on an author’s sales track record, and are unlikely to take a risk on up-and-coming writers. So books that are seen as risky don’t get picked up by retailers, and then fail to sell, and the cycle repeats itself.

There have been some exceptions, including Nalini Singh, whose novels have sold more than three million copies, and Jasmine Guillory, whose recent novel, “The Wedding Date,” became a surprise hit. But the majority of romance novels on the best-seller lists are by and about white, heterosexual people.

“We hear that readers want more diversity, but it’s still the case that the most popular books are the least diverse,” said Cindy Hwang, an editorial director of Berkley, a Penguin Random House imprint.

That may finally be changing. When Ms. Hoang’s agent put “The Kiss Quotient” on the market, five publishers made offers. Ms. Hoang signed a three-book deal with Berkley, which released the novel in June with a robust announced first printing of 100,000 copies.

Ms. Hoang gave her autistic heroine many of her own personality traits — her love of math and numbers and logic, her tendency to drum her fingers when nervous, her aversion to loud music and parties and her struggle to accept herself. She was surprised and overwhelmed by the flood of responses from readers who connected with her nontraditional love story.

“I wanted to share the perspective of an autistic woman, because I don’t think that’s a perspective you see very much,” she said. “Why can’t you make an impact with romance? It seems like the perfect place to do it.”

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Thanks for visiting. I write short fiction, poetry , and romance novels . I also write non-fiction, including essays and research papers , on a variety of topics. My day job is technical writing for a software company, and I’m a freelance editor and web consultant.

After hours, I maintain the web sites and social media accounts for the poetry group Open Heart Forgery, the publishing and author services company Somewhat Grumpy Press , and the Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada . In the Society for Creative Anachronism , I am Oliver Peren, and maintain the website for the Canton of Seashire . On this site, I maintain an archive of resources for teaching children’s rights from the University of Cape Breton Children’s Rights Centre.

My academic interests include film classification and children’s rights. I blog on anything related to writing, editing, operating websites, or research. Sign up for my occasional newsletter to receive announcements about new blog posts and other updates.

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Social media hangouts include Library Thing , Facebook , goodreads , YouTube , Twitter , Instagram , and Mastodon , not necessarily in that order.

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romance writers of canada reviews

Why the implosion of the Romance Writers of America matters

This article was published more than 3 years ago. Some information may no longer be current.

The Romance Writers of America (RWA) – the world’s leading guild of romance writers – has effectively imploded, and the future of the organization and its values are at stake, along with its major role across the North American publishing industry.

romance writers of canada reviews

Writer Courtney Milan has been at the centre of controversy among the members of the Romance Writers of America. The Canadian Press

A rapid number of events, starting with the censure of Asian-American bestselling author Courtney Milan, have occurred involving the international industry organization over the past three weeks, culminating in the resignations of both its president, Damon Suede, and its executive director, Carol Ritter, on Thursday. “It’s this ugly, raw, wound that’s surfacing, and on the whole, people are pretty upset,” Calgary RWA chapter president Emily Varga said.

Since it was founded in 1980, RWA has grown to more than 9,000 members, and holds a massive annual conference and its own annual awards, the RITAs. The first Canadian RWA chapter was founded in Ottawa in 1985, and there are now four more across the country. “I met my agent at RWA and I met my then-publisher at RWA,” said Ottawa chapter president Lucy Farago.

The growth of RWA is no surprise, considering that romance made up 13.5 per cent of Canadian fiction sales in 2017 and 23 per cent of the overall U.S. fiction market in 2016.

However, diversity, inclusion and the less-than-equal treatment of non-white authors have all been serious issues at RWA for many years, exemplified by how visible minorities continue to be stereotyped in titles by white authors. Toronto RWA chapter president Farah Heron, who made her novel debut with The Chai Factor last year, said she was tired of seeing Asian women portrayed as submissive in romance novels. “It chips away at you over time,” she said.

In late December of last year, this issue garnered a new level of attention after news broke the organization was disciplining Milan.

Last summer, Milan openly criticized depictions of half-Chinese characters in the book Somewhere Lies the Moon by Kathryn Lynn Davis on Twitter. Milan, who is half-Chinese, called the portrayal a "racist mess.” The RWA Ethics Committee found Milan to have “engaged in conduct injurious” to the organization. The ruling came with a punishment of a one-year suspension of membership and a lifetime ban on holding leadership positions within the organization.

There was massive, immediate backlash. Authors and RWA members flooded Twitter, especially after learning ethics complaints may have been filtered by RWA staff, leading to the possibility some did not reach the organization’s Ethics Committee.

In one example, a RWA member from Calgary who writes queer romance entered the RITAs last year. The author received feedback from the judges that the novel didn’t qualify because the story was between two male characters. Varga said the author reported that experience to the RWA but received no response. “There are systemic issues our members have had entering contests,” Varga said, pointing out that RWA has a significant number of members like her who are lawyers and had expressed concerns about the organization’s bylaws and protocols for ethics complaints.

Even though the RWA soon rescinded its ruling against Milan, there was still a cascade of negative consequences, including the resignation of authors who had previously signed up to judge the RITAs , authors pulling their books from RITA consideration, the resignations of members and directors-at-large, the withdrawal of at least 36 agents’ support from future events, significant global press coverage, as well as public support for Milan from superstar authors Nora Roberts , Neil Gaiman and N.K. Jemisin.

Dozens of RWA chapters across North America, including in Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa, issued public statements condemning the organization’s senior leadership and the actions against Milan. Several publishers also pulled their support from RWA and its national conference, including Avon , Berkley Romance , Entangled, HarperCollins Canada, Harlequin, Kensington, St. Martin’s, Gallery Books and Tule Publishing .

Last Tuesday, the 2020 RITAs were officially cancelled , citing the contest’s inability to “reflect the breadth and diversity of 2019 romance novels/novellas.” Two days later, RWA announced Suede and Ritter would step down from their positions, though Ritter would have a transition period of several months.

But the statement about the resignations did not include an apology to Milan nor go into detail about what happened. “Telling us that they’re going to be transparent and honest is not the same thing as showing us that they will be,” Heron said.

What has happened within RWA isn’t just about the future of a literary genre that has frequently been subject to misogyny and stereotyped as being frivolous or not as prestigious as other kinds of fiction, despite its massive sales. “This is about our livelihoods and our careers,” Heron said.

The situation has also highlighted how badly the romance genre and the publishing industry at large have treated non-white authors, even best-selling ones. Until 2019, there were no black winners at the RITA awards, despite several authors such as Beverly Jenkins and Alyssa Cole earning critical acclaim and appearing on several bestseller lists.

For many RWA members, most of their involvement and loyalty has been through their local chapter’s monthly meetings, training and writing seminars. Some chapters are considering no longer officially affiliating with the national organization. And even with the resignations at the senior level, Varga and Heron said many Canadian chapter members are not planning to attend the national conference in San Francisco this year due to the significant number of author, speaker and publisher withdrawals, and the cancellation of the RITA awards.

“You can get all these brand new or unreleased books signed by the author,” Heron said, calling the free giveaways one of the best and most fun parts of the conference, despite the long lines. “Those [major] publishers not coming means that won’t happen.”

Varga, Farago and Heron said the organization has a lot of work ahead of it to regain the trust of its members, including an actual apology to Milan and greater transparency about what happened. Varga said the choices RWA makes now, and which group it aims its changes toward, will determine its long-term future.

“Are you trying to make the people who say racist things happy?” she said. “Or are you trying to make people who call out racism happy?”

There’s also the possibility of starting an entirely new organization for romance writers with a new set of bylaws, board of directors and values. It’s an outcome many members aren’t thrilled about but understand might be necessary.

“I would be sad to see the organization go,” Farago said. "But if it needs to go to fix it then that’s what has to happen.”

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