SWHM Guest: Eva Leigh on Trailblazers in Romance

We are so pleased to have author Eva Leigh join us today with a guest post that celebrates some of Romancelandia’s greatest trailblazers. Eva was on deadline when she wrote this post,  so a thank you to her for taking time out of her schedule to join us in celebrating Women’s History Month. 

Who is YOUR favorite trailblazer? Consider writing a guest post of your own! ALBTALBS doesn’t have word count limitations and Lime always encourages guests to write at least 1000 words. I should know, since I’ve written a few of these posts myself. 😉

Trailblazers in Romance
by Eva Leigh

In honor of Women’s History Month, I thought I’d present to you a list of the women who have helped shape modern romance novels. For my purposes, I’m focusing on American published romances since the 1970s, but the roots of romances as most readers know them go much further back.

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Here we go…

Kathleen Woodiwiss’s 1972 romance The Flame and the Flower launched what many consider the modern romance novel, featuring a headstrong heroine and explicit love scenes. Two years later, Rosemary Rogers’s Sweet Savage Love brought readers the tempestuous (and problematic) relationship of Ginny Brandon and Steve Morgan, and proved to be an even bigger phenomenon than Woodiwiss’s groundbreaking novel. Bertrice Small’s The Kadin was released in 1978, cementing the popularity and success of the modern historical romance.

Many consider Entwined Destinies by Rosalind Welles (a pen name for journalist Elsie Washington) to be the first published African American contemporary romance. The book was Welles’s only romance, and it was edited by Vivian Stephens, the first black romance editor. Stephens was one of the founders of the Romance Writers of America, and in 1984, Stephens edited three novels by Sandra Kitt, and launched the Harlequin American line. Further, Kitt became the first African American woman to write for Harlequin. Beverly Jenkins’s 1994 romance Night Song, published by Avon, helped build the popularity of black historical romance.

From 1999 to 2002, Kensington published romances in Spanish and English for their Encanto line, and authors such as Mary Castillo and Laura Rios have written Latinx romance as well as “chica lit.”

Book CoverRetired surgeon Radclyffe founded Bold Strokes Books in 2004, one of the world’s largest LGBTQI publishing companies, and she is the author of over fifty novels. Suzanne Brockmann’s character Jules Cassidy, an FBI agent, helped bring LGBTQ+ characters to mainstream romance readers.

This list is by no means exhaustive or definitive, and word count prohibits a more thorough and in-depth discussion of women who have create the genre of romance. However, we begin to see that the path of modern romance owes much tothese important figures in the field.

Who are some pioneers and trail blazers in romance that you would like to see recognized?

*Special thanks to these amazing people who offered much-appreciated insight on this topic: Sarah Maclean, Alexis Daria, Danielle Annett, Stacey Agder, Piper Huguley, Wendy Crutcher, and Minx Malone.

2 thoughts on “SWHM Guest: Eva Leigh on Trailblazers in Romance

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