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Blog – Posted on Tuesday, Mar 19
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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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.
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 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 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…
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 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 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 .
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.
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…
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 .
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 (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 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’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.
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.
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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A fter graduating from Wellesley College with a political science degree, Lisa published her first novel at age twenty-one. Her books are published in more than 20 languages and are bestsellers all over the world.
Lisa writes for Avon and is represented by her agent Mel Berger of the William Morris agency.
Lisa was named Miss Massachusetts in the 1985 Miss America competition. Among the challenges she faced: wearing a banner with such a long state name, when she is only 5'2". Because of the rule that contestants had to tuck the excess length of banner into their swimsuits, she became known as "Miss Massachu."
At the competition in Atlantic City, Lisa's talent was singing an original composition, which won her a "talented nonfinalist" award. And to her delight, she got to keep the big sparkly crown, which sits on her bookshelf and now attracts keen interest from her daughter.
By 1998 Lisa had started a family- getting married and receiving the award of having the most wonderful little boy in the world.
That same year, Lisa's novel "Stranger In My Arms" was given the Waldenbooks Award for greatest sales growth. The following year, Lisa's "Someone To Watch Over Me" was a Rita finalist at the Romance Writers of America convention.
In 2002 Lisa's novel "Suddenly You" was a Rita finalist and Lisa won the Rita award for her Christmas anthology novella featured in the Dorchester publication "Wish List." A banner year, Lisa's novel "Lady Sophia's Lover" was awarded Best Sensuous Historical Romance from Romantic Times magazine, and "Lady Sophia's Lover" was given a starred review in Publishers Weekly, as was "When Strangers Marry."
Over the following years, Lisa continued to garner critical and popular success. Lisa's novel "Worth Any Price" was awarded a starred review from Publishers Weekly. "Worth Any Price" and "Where's My Hero" were listed in the Amazon Editor's Top Ten Picks for Best Romance of 2003!
"Worth Any Price" won the RITA award for best Short Historical and a few months later, "Secrets of a Summer Night" (Nov 2004) received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly!
"It Happened One Autumn" (Oct 05) was a finalist in the Short Historical Category of the 2006 RITA Awards, and in 2007, Lisa had two finalists for RITA Awards: "The Devil in Winter" and "Scandal in Spring" Lisa was a keynote speaker at the Romance Writers of America July conference. Listen to her speech.
Lisa's first contemporary novel "Sugar Daddy" was a finalist for the RITA Award "Best Novel With Strong Romantic Elements" while "Mine Till Midnight" was a New York Times Bestseller and a finalist in the RITA Awards "Best Historical Romance" category.
Lisa followed up that success with her second contemporary novel, "Smooth Talking Stranger", which hit the New York Times Bestseller List, as didÂ "Tempt Me At Twilight" and "Married By Morning" which was #3 on New York Times Bestseller list.
In 2011, re-releases of two of Lisa's early books made the New York Times Bestseller list, as did her contemporary novel, Rainshadow Road, released in 2012, which was been nominated for the Romantic Times Book Reviews "Best Contemporary Romance" Award. Dream Lake, the 3rd of the Friday Harbor Series was also a NY Times Bestseller. It was followed by Crystal Cove in 2013.
In December 2012, Lisa's book, Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor was the basis for the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, Christmas With Holly .
In July 2015, Lisa was honored to emcee the Romance Writers of America Awards Show.
Lisa returned to Historicals in 2016 with a new series The Ravenels, and all the books debuted on the New York Times Bestsellers list and, much to her fans' delight, characters from previous books made cameos. Each of the five Ravenels books has been a NY Times Bestseller. The newest (the 6th, due out Feb 18, 2020) has been given a starred review by Publisher's Weekly.
Romance was one of the sexiest and most lucrative genres in publishing, and it had an ugly secret. Then its writers started speaking up.
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Part of the Romance Issue of The Highlight , our home for ambitious stories that explain our world.
Romance novelist Nana Malone felt like she was back in high school — surrounded by mean girls.
It was the summer of 2019, and Malone was attending the national conference for Romance Writers of America, romance publishing’s powerful trade organization. Malone, who is black, was there for the reception for the RITAs, the annual awards ceremony for published authors. Her friends Kennedy Ryan and M. Malone (no relation) were winners that year — the first black authors to win RITAs — and all three were celebrating the milestone.
“It was this great culmination of all this work that had been done for authors of color to finally get recognition, especially for these two,” Malone says. She was still basking in that joy when she overheard another group of attendees talking.
“Oh,” she says she heard one of them say. “I didn’t know we needed two token winners.”
It was the kind of small ugliness that would be tempting to brush away as a one-time incident coming from a single bad actor. But six years earlier, fellow RWA member Piper Huguley had experienced something remarkably similar. In 2013, Huguley, an English professor and romance novelist, was up for a Golden Heart Award. The Golden Heart, which is separate from the RITAs, recognizes work by unpublished authors, and Piper was the only black finalist nominated for any of RWA’s awards that year (for her historical romance A Champion’s Heart ).
An exclusive reception for award finalists is a staple of RWA’s annual national conference. But when Huguley tried to walk into the Atlanta hotel bar where the reception was being held, she says, an organization staff member stood in her way.
“She sort of stepped across my path and asked me if she could help me,” Huguley recalls.
All finalists send a picture of themselves to the organization. They also have to RSVP for the reception and wear special ribbons with their convention badges. Huguley had done all of that, so she expected to be welcomed into the reception. She did not expect to be treated as though she were an intruder.
Generally, Huguley talks like a proper Southern lady, her voice warm and easily friendly. But when she recalled her encounter, her tone suddenly went arctic. “I guess she didn’t think about how that might have been taken,” she said, making the kind of understatement Southern women use when they are most angry. “She was in the mind to be a doorkeeper.”
Huguley politely showed the staffer her finalist ribbon, and the woman stepped aside without apology or explanation to allow Huguley entry. But Huguley says the message was clear: As a black woman, she didn’t belong at that awards reception.
For years, RWA’s members of color had felt stigma and hostility like that experienced by Huguley and Malone; they’d felt unwanted, disrespected, or simply shut out. So had the queer members, and the poly members , and everyone else who didn’t quite fit into the traditional romance mold. And in December 2019, all those years of slights, of aggressions both micro and macro, of implicit and explicit bias, would finally become impossible to ignore.
RWA imploded in a spectacular public meltdown , an imbroglio that led to the resignation of the president, executive director, and, eventually, the entire board . It was a wildly convoluted controversy that involved secret backroom committees, public denunciations, and no small amount of schadenfreude from popcorn-munching onlookers in publishing and media.
There’s an unkind stereotype that romance novels are for sex-starved spinsters with too many cats. So to those observing on social media, the spectacle of one romance figure after another toppling like dominoes appeared to be coming out of nowhere. “Who knew that romance novelists were so wild?” was the general response. But the chaos was the culmination of a long-simmering culture war within the insular world of romance publishing, one that played out for years through microaggressions, attempts to censor queer authors and storylines, and the refusal to recognize the work of authors of color.
And the infighting wasn’t just an entertaining squabble. It was the moment in which one of the most lucrative and most misunderstood genres in the world of books began to face the fundamental questions that publishing has struggled with over the past decade : Whose voices do we listen to? Whose stories do we honor?
Which is to say, just as the rest of America finds itself caught in an ever-escalating war to excise enshrined white supremacy from its political system, the major players in romance have been similarly roiled.
Fearful of being blacklisted, Huguley says she didn’t tell anyone what happened to her in 2013. “It was painful, and I was in a new situation, and I didn’t want to be seen as lesser by any of my peers. I was already the only black finalist and didn’t want to make myself stick out any more than I already had,” she said in an email.
But now, Huguley says, “I’m at the point where I don’t really care if I’m believed or not. I’ve been a good soldier for this industry for quite a while. I know what happened.”
Romance novels are often dismissed by those who have not read them, tossed aside as frivolous, retrograde porn. But they are big business. More than 40 million romance books were sold in 2019 in the US in print and ebook formats, raking in more than $336 million, according to industry tracker NPD BookScan. Overall, romance represented 18 percent of total fiction sales in the US.
That’s in traditional publishing alone, without taking into account the self-published authors who flourish in romance. (Think 50 Shades of Grey , which began as a self-published phenomenon, or Chuck Tingle .) But beyond the inarguable dollar value of the genre, it is also a distinct art form, one that revolves around a central love story and ends happily, either with a “happily ever after” or with a “happy for now.” By that definition, romance novels are as old as the English novel itself.
In fact, the two at times were interchangeable. Books by Jane Austen and the Brontës in the 19th century tended to revolve around romantic love stories and — crucially for the genre — they have happy endings. Later, 20th-century commercial authors like Georgette Heyer and Edith Maude Hull pushed romance further, developing tropes romance authors still use today.
But romance as we know it emerged as a genre in the 1970s, when the iconic romance publisher Harlequin began to aggressively target its books at women. It stocked drugstore shelves with paperbacks, and sponsored giveaways with companies that sold sanitary napkins, cosmetics, and cleaning supplies. And it covered those books with paintings of swooning women in flowing gowns, locked in clinches with shirtless beefcakes — images that told women very clearly that here was a genre that would allow them to dream their most embarrassing dreams without shame. Romance boomed.
Today, it has dozens of subgenres: Regency romances (a rakish duke and the woman he pines for — or a liberated rakess and her repressed male lover ) and desert romances (traditionally, a rakish sheikh takes a spunky white woman captive and they fall in love; recently, the genre has attracted some subversions ). Erotic romance (sexually explicit) and sweet romance (not). Religious romance (the Amish are popular) and paranormal romance (not just vampires and werewolves!). There’s historical romance and contemporary romance and young adult romance and new adult romance, each containing subcategories of their own.
Not every writer welcomes the commercial prowess of romance. Diana Gabaldon, author of the bestselling Outlander series, only allowed her publishers to market the first book as a romance novel under heavy protest, and with the condition that if it did well in hardcover, the paperback could be re-marketed as mainstream historical fiction. She also demanded “dignified covers (no Fabio, no mad bosoms),” and wrote letters to Barnes & Noble to push the company to shelve her books with fiction rather than romance. (Gabaldon maintains that she only objected because she doesn’t think Outlander follows the conventions of romance.)
But the fact that Gabaldon, like popular culture, paints romance with the same condescending brush says more about our society and how it feels about women than it does about romance itself, argues Jayashree Kamblé, an associate English professor at LaGuardia Community College CUNY and a two-time recipient of RWA’s research grant.
“Women’s fiction is traditionally considered less cerebral, less able to speak to a universal human experience, more sentimental, less relevant to the larger public good,” Kamblé wrote in an email. “Any work that includes sex is also regarded skeptically, thanks to the belief that sexuality is shameful and/or comic; romance is the target, the epicenter, of these assumptions.”
For romance readers, however, it can function as a source of sheer joy. “It’s the genre of hope,” says Seattle-area collection development librarian Robin Bradford, who advocates for genre fiction and indie books, including romance. “Every story ends happily — which, depending on what’s going on in the real world, may or may not be the case in real life.”
Romance novels “are not trivial,” says Jaime Green, the former romance columnist for the New York Times Book Review. “They’re about falling in love, which is one of the intense, fundamental experiences of being a human.”
Moreover, romance is the genre where writers develop our culture’s love-story tropes. Do we as a culture aspire to relationships that are sexy above all else, or ones in which the participants are good at talking to one another, or in which people from different cultures might be able safely and freely to come together and understand one another? Romance is where we hash out those questions.
“Romance is political in the ways that personal desires are political, in the way that personal desires drive people to vote in certain ways,” says romance author Cecilia Tan, who writes erotic science fiction and fantasy. “It’s political in this interior way. It’s about people: What do they have to give up, and what do they have to fight for in their happiness?”
Because romance publishing is stigmatized by the rest of the literary world, Romance Writers of America was supposed to function as a safe haven for its members to focus on their artistic and professional work with others who already knew why it mattered. Instead, RWA seems to have reified the prejudices of the outside world within its walls.
Huguley draws a parallel between the way RWA treated black authors and the way the rest of publishing treats romance itself. “You would think there would be some understanding towards how black authors feel, given the way we talk about romance in the larger world,” says Huguley. “But that doesn’t exist.”
A group of 37 romance writers early in their careers founded Romance Writers of America in 1980. They were led by Vivian Stephens, a black romance editor at Dell Publishing who championed black authors.
Stephens came up with the idea when a group of Houston-based romance novelists approached her for advice. They were at a local writers’ conference trying to learn how to get published, but they found little help from their peers there.
Band together, Stephens told them. She took charge and convinced Dell to invest a little money in the group. In 1981, the writers held their first conference.
Romance writers were largely ignored — or worse, sneered at — by other writers’ groups, and the new organization aimed to give them professional support and development. Stephens was committed to making sure that black authors would be supported and developed along with their white peers.
It was a time of revolution for romance novels. For years, the industry had been dominated by British period romances, but in 1980, the Harlequin-driven romance boom encouraged more publishers to distinguish themselves within the romance genre. Simon & Schuster founded Silhouette Books, a new imprint publishing romances whose characters lived in contemporary North America, a major change. Harlequin quickly countered with Harlequin Superromance, which also set romances in North America; Dell then outdid them all with Candlelight Ecstasy, an imprint that dared to go behind the bedroom door with explicit sex scenes.
Candlelight Ecstasy was Stephens’s brainchild. She had done the market research, and while most romance publishers remained fairly staid, Stephens’s data revealed that the women who bought romance novels at drugstores were ready for heroines who weren’t virgins. That was the kind of innovation that Stephens made in her field: She treated readers like real people, with varied ideas and interests, and then she figured out how to get them what they wanted. And her innovations paid off. When Candlelight Ecstasy started in 1981, it was a modest experiment that published just two volumes per month. By 1984, Dell considered it such a success that it was publishing eight.
It was always part of Stephens’s vision that romance must be accessible to authors of color as much as it was to white women. So under her leadership, Candlelight Ecstasy published romances by black, indigenous, Latina, and Asian authors, creating the category that trade publications were starting to call “ethnic romance.” The writers Stephens discovered, first at Dell and later at Harlequin — Rosalind Welles, Sandra Kitt, and the legendary Beverly Jenkins — wrote about characters of color for readers of color.
But Stephens found it difficult to get the gatekeepers on board. “Publishers are frightened, and I don’t understand it, because it’s a money-making idea,” she told the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1990. “The difference is only nuances. Emotions are emotions.” (Vox was unable to reach Stephens for comment for this story.)
The media at the time covered her efforts with the same mild incredulity it would devote to a circus act. “The ‘ethnic romance’ is the invention of the editor of Candlelight Romances, Vivian Stephens, herself a black,” reported the New York Times in 1980, in breathtakingly dehumanizing language. “More ethnic romances are planned for the future — about American Indians, Chinese-Americans and, of course, blacks.”
“The perception was that [romances about black characters] wouldn’t sell as well,” one of Stephens’s colleagues told the Washington Post in 1991. “There are all kinds of stereotypes at play — that [black people] aren’t educated enough, don’t read, or they don’t go into malls to buy these books.”
Nevertheless, by the early ’90s, there were enough romances featuring black characters in print for Stephens to begin to feel optimistic. “This marks the first time that African-American women have been able to write and read something completely frivolous,” she told the St. Louis Dispatch in 1991.
The books Stephens championed, however, weren’t sold with the rest of the romance novels at major bookstore chains such as Borders, then a hugely important point of sale for the industry. They were on their own shelf.
Proponents of this organizational system considered it to be a service to black readers, allowing them to easily find books in which they were represented, rather than making them wade through the general romance shelves in search of books about black love. But for some readers, shelving black romances far from general romances carried a suggestion that somehow black romance did not “count” as romance — that two black people falling in love had more in common with The Autobiography of Malcolm X than with a Nora Roberts novel.
“You would go to the romance section — in my case, I was sneaking over there — and you would not see anything with black people on the cover, at all,” recalls Nana Malone. “I remember asking at a bookstore about Beverly Jenkins. They were like, ‘Oh, sure.’ They led me to the back of the store, to a shelf I couldn’t reach, and they were like, ‘Up here!’ And there were romance books, far away from the other romance books, because God forbid they mix.”
As Stephens’s editorial career flourished, she began to step away from RWA. And RWA began to forget its roots as an organization created by a black woman, say its current and former members.
“The institutional memory faded,” says Huguley. “Over time, there didn’t seem to be any need to keep reminding people [about Stephens], and as waves of other black women came in and tried to bring these things up, they seemed to somehow get tamped down. Historical memory is very short for human beings. I write historicals, so I know this.”
Meanwhile, for many writers, including writers of color, RWA remained the only game in town. Regional chapters offered workshops where writers could work on their craft; the national conferences offered invaluable opportunities to network with publishers and fellow authors. RWA is “not the magic key to publication,” romance novelist Stephanie Feagan said in 2007 , when she was the organization’s treasurer, but the board promised to go to bat for its members if a publisher withheld royalties or a plagiarist struck.
Tan, who is no longer a member, thinks RWA’s trajectory followed the general political movement of the rest of the country. At the beginning of the ’80s, it was still committed to racial inclusivity in the aftermath of the ’60s and ’70s. But with the rise of Reaganism and the moral majority, RWA’s leadership got whiter and more conservative. And all the while, romance was only becoming more lucrative, and RWA was only becoming more powerful.
By 2019, Tan says, the people in charge of RWA were a lot like the people in charge of the rest of the country. “You know that moment of shock after the Trump election, when the numbers came out about white women voting for Trump?” she says. “These are those women.”
The first inkling of RWA’s internal controversies came in the early 2000s, when every author with a keyboard had a Wordpress blog, and industry gossip began to trickle out to all corners of the internet. The group gave its members plenty to gossip about.
In 2005, as the same-sex marriage debate raged across the country, RWA created a poll in which it asked members whether they would consider defining the genre as one characterized by love stories between one man and one woman. Queer and poly love stories, under those rules, would no longer be considered part of the genre, but stories about women falling in love with male vampires and werewolves and shapeshifters would. The progressive wing of RWA was outraged, and Nora Roberts, undisputed queen of romance and one of the organization’s highest-profile members, wrote a furious letter to the editor in the group’s newsletter, Romance Writers’ Report, in protest.
Roberts declined to comment for this story, but in a retrospective blog post published last December , she wrote that she received an anguished email from RWA’s president begging her not to make a fuss about the poll, and warning her that lesbians were going to take over the group if the wider membership wasn’t careful. In response, Roberts proclaimed that if the group’s newsletter didn’t want to publish her response as a letter to the editor, she’d buy a full-page ad and publish it that way. The Romance Writer’s Report published the missive, and the group never adopted the exclusionary definition of romance into its bylaws. In 2016, it even issued an apology for the whole thing. But in 2005, the political controversies were just beginning.
A few months after the poll, the group attempted to restrict promotion of graphic images and words from covers of books produced by its members. RWA had taken a pro-porn stance during the pornography wars of the 1980s, but when President George W. Bush announced in 2004 that he would be cracking down on pornography , RWA was spooked. “It’s pretty clear the Board has never once, in their entire lives, taken a gander at the average romance novel cover,” which are practically defined by barely clad lovers locked in suggestive poses, one blogger opined . “If so, they’d realize they have just eliminated 99.9% of all covers.” RWA suspended the new graphic image policy just weeks after announcing it, saying it had only been trying to avoid running into expensive new postal regulations that would have been triggered by graphic ads in the newsletter.
Until this year, the RITAs were a big splashy celebration where the membership honored what it believed to be the best authors of the industry. The best analogue is the Oscars: The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences does other things, but the Oscars are what everyone talks about.
And because the RITAs attract so much attention, the awards are also where some of RWA’s institutional biases began to show. “Always the RITAs,” said librarian Robin Bradford.
Of the RITA finalists between 2007 and 2017, less than 0.5 percent were black . No black author ever won a RITA until 2019, at the ceremony where Malone overheard other RWA members call the two black winners “token.”
The books that are nominated for RITAs can be controversial. In 2014, For Such a Time , about a romance between a Nazi officer and his half-Jewish concentration camp prisoner, was nominated for two RITAs. The book ends with the heroine reforming the hero, but only after she converts to Christianity.
“I don’t understand exactly how so many judges agreed that a book so offensive and insensitive was worthy of the RWA’s highest honor,” Sarah Wendell of the influential romance review blog Smart Bitches Trashy Books wrote in an open letter to the RWA board , adding that the nominations made writers of faiths other than Christianity feel “unwelcome.”
In the end, For Such a Time didn’t win a RITA award. But neither did any black authors that year. In 2017, the hashtag #RITAsSoWhite — a reference to the #OscarsSoWhite campaign of 2015 — began popping up on Twitter, and it did again in 2018 and 2019.
Nonetheless, over the course of the 2010s, the RITAs — and by extension RWA itself — appeared to be trying to be more inclusive. The group recruited members of color to its board. Romance author and former law professor Courtney Milan, who is Chinese American, joined the board in 2015 and won an RWA service award in 2019.
The group also issued statements calling out publishers with no black authors on their rosters. Members who volunteered to judge the RITAs went through diversity training. And in July 2019, three authors of color won RITAs.
“Everyone was like, ‘Oh, they’re finally fixing it!’” says Tan.
Then came December’s implosion.
That’s when, after two complaints were made against Milan, RWA’s board voted to suspend the author — former chair of the ethics committee and the force behind some of RWA’s most progressive campaigns — and issue a lifetime ban preventing her from assuming a leadership role in RWA. (Milan declined to comment for this article.) The board made the decision only after the complaints were reviewed by a backroom committee.
News of Milan’s suspension became public on December 23, just before Christmas. Within hours, outraged novelists were withdrawing their novels from the 2020 RITAs.
The complaints themselves were about tweets Milan posted in August, when she was chair of the ethics committee. A number of RWA members had noticed that RWA elder stateswoman Sue Grimshaw had liked multiple racist/white-supremacist-adjacent tweets , and had been discussing whether those tweets were evidence of bias that might have affected Grimshaw’s role as a gatekeeper in romance publishing. (Grimshaw did not respond to a request for comment from Vox.) Milan chimed in, focusing on Grimshaw’s past as the romance buyer for Borders in the 2000s .
Borders had separate buyers for “general” romance and African American romance, and Grimshaw doesn’t seem to have had anything to do with the African American romances Borders chose to sell in its stores. On Twitter, however, Milan wrote this in reference to Grimshaw:
We don’t know. We don’t KNOW. But for decades, Black romance authors heard there was no market for their work. But we heard that in a time period when one of the major bookstores was being headed by a person where we now have serious doubts as to whether they could review [black authors’] work. If you were not in Borders, you would not have a career.
The conversation then moved on to the publisher where Grimshaw had recently been hired to work as an editor, a small and newly established romance press called Glenfinnan Publishing. Another Glenfinnan editor, Kathryn Lynn Davis, had written a historical novel in 1999 featuring Chinese women characters who are described as “demure and quiet, as our mothers have trained us to be.”
“People writing shit like that gets women like me assaulted and harassed,” tweeted Milan , calling the book a “ fucking racist mess .”
In response, Davis filed a complaint with RWA against Milan, as did Glenfinnan publisher Suzan Tisdale. According to their list of grievances, Davis lost a three-book contract with her own non-Glenfinnan publisher because of Milan’s tweets, and multiple authors withdrew their books from Glenfinnan.
“This is akin to putting a neo-Nazi in charge of a UN human rights committee,” Tisdale wrote of Milan’s ethics committee role in her complaint.
In an interview with the Guardian , Davis later clarified that she didn’t lose a written contract, but that an editor she was talking to about a potential series put off further discussion until spring. She also said the editor did not mention Milan’s tweets. It does, however, seem to be true that at least one author pulled her work from Glenfinnan — the novelist Angela Francis tweeted that she did so because “I didn’t want to align myself with racists.”
As news of Milan’s suspension became public, a dramatic backlash swelled across RWA. Authors, agents, critics, and local RWA chapters issued public statements in support of Milan, and partner organizations including the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance and Bookstore Romance Day cut ties with RWA in protest.
On December 24, after an emergency board meeting, the romance writers group reversed its decision and reinstated Milan.
But the damage was done. Members who sided with Milan said they believed conservative leadership was unhappy with the progressive direction in which Milan and her allies had been leading RWA, and so it jumped at the chance to get rid of her so that RWA could return to the old status quo.
“I feel like so many people put in so much work, trying to move the dial like two centimeters,” Milan said in an interview on the Smart Bitches Trashy Books podcast , “and it lasted for about like six months.”
Member after member began sharing stories of microaggressions they had faced at the hands of old-guard RWA members, and quickly, the organization began to crumble. Some alleged that local chapters paid black speakers half the rate they offered white speakers; others that queer authors were denied help from RWA after registering professional complaints with RWA when their royalties weren’t paid; and still others that authors of polyamorous romance were being refused membership in RWA .
Half the board resigned in protest. Romance publishers like Avon and Harlequin pulled out of attending the 2020 national conference, which at the time was slated for July. The newly elected RWA president Damon Suede resigned amid demands for a recall election. In the end, he was in office for only two weeks.
What was left of RWA’s board called off the RITAs. It hired an outside firm to audit its practices, and a diversity consultant to restructure the awards system. And in February, the remainder of the board resigned, though in a joint statement , members wrote, “We believe RWA can and will be a place of inclusion and respect.”
An interim RWA board was announced on March 24. The new president, Alyssa Day, who is white, says that she and her colleagues are committed to changing RWA. They have only five months before a new permanent board takes their place in September for a yearlong term, and they are making all of their changes in the midst of a pandemic.
“I’ve tried to use this as my guiding star,” Day says. “We can’t change what happened in the past, but we can reinvent RWA for the future.” The interim board is working with an attorney to rewrite the code of ethics in a way Day describes as “enforceable and inclusive.” She adds that they are committed to transparency, and have begun to send weekly reports to membership so that everyone can be confident that there are no more secret backroom committees. Asked about the many stories of bias and poor treatment that members shared last year, she told Vox, “We are determined to ensure these types of exclusionary, harmful incidents never happen again.”
The RITAs have been disbanded. “The RITAs had obviously, clearly been tarnished by racism,” Day says. “There’s no other way to say it.” In their place will be a new award, built around principles of diversity, inclusion, equity, and access; it will be called the Vivian, named in honor of Vivian Stephens.
The interim board has also created training modules for chapter leadership and members to try to avoid microaggressions like those that befell Huguley and Malone. Day called those incidents “unconscionable” and added that the staff member who blocked Huguley from entering the reception was made to resign after Huguley went public with her story in December.
In early June, as the protests over police killings of black Americans spread across the nation, the RWA board of directors released a statement in support of Black Lives Matter. “As an organization that just went through a massive crisis for many of the same reasons that underscore these protests for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and so many more — injustice, racism, and unfairness — we acknowledge that we have turned aside from confronting difficult truths for far too long,” they wrote. “That our authors from marginalized communities, especially our Black authors, have been treated as somehow less deserving of a seat at the table of publishing. We must admit and learn from this shameful past.”
Due to the combined force of the events of late 2019 and the pandemic, RWA has lost 1,900 members, leaving its rolls at 6,600 people. Still, Day remains optimistic about the future. “I have been pleased to see emails from a lot of people saying ‘I see you’re taking action, so I’m rejoining,’” she says. In May, RWA saw its first net increase in memberships this year.
The current and former RWA members who spoke with Vox, meanwhile, are withholding judgment on the new board. Huguley said she was “keeping an eye on” its moves and will decide whether to remain with the organization when her membership expires in September. Tan, who says she only joined RWA after Milan joined the board, withdrew her membership after Milan’s suspension. Still, she thinks it’s possible she could rejoin, especially if she hears that her progressive vote is necessary in August’s election.
“I’m still on the fence on RWA kind of in the same way I’m still on the fence about the American government,” Tan says.
“What I feel most is optimism that there’s going to be change,” she says, referring both to the future of RWA and that of police reform in America. “Now I’m just holding my breath to see if it sticks.”
But Malone, an RWA member since 2008, says she’s had enough. She went to her first national conference in 2015, and she says the old hands, who were mostly white, mostly snubbed her. “I was someone taking her first steps and saying, ‘Okay, yes, I can do this. This is fine. I’m a grown-up,’ and going up to a table of perfect strangers and being like, ‘May I sit here?’” she says. “And then having half the table look you up and down and then get up and leave? It was some real ‘mean girls in high school’ shenanigans.”
Day wants to make RWA an environment where incidents like that no longer occur. But many of those burned by RWA before remain skeptical.
After her experience at the 2019 RITAs, Malone decided she would keep her distance from the organization for a while.
Day remains hopeful that RWA can once again be relevant to the community. “I will not ask people to come back based on what we’ve promised,” she says. “I will only ask them to come back based on what we accomplish.”
Correction : An earlier version of this article attributed the formation of a backroom committee to Damon Suede. He was not involved in the creation of that committee.
Constance Grady covers books and publishing for Vox. She attended the Columbia Publishing Course and worked in publishing for six years. She previously wrote about the phenomenon of Reese’s Book Club for The Highlight.
Shyama Golden is an LA-based visual artist with a background in oil painting and graphic design. She worked as a designer for a decade before switching her focus on figurative art. She creates paintings as well as digital work, which often takes the form of seamless patterns or animation.
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The Best Romance Novelists of All Time
The best romance novelists are writers who draw readers in with a beautiful love story and keep them interested with compelling details. Romance novels have come a long way in recent years. No longer are romance fans limited to mere "bodice-rippers": Now best selling romance authors are churning out elaborate tales that incorporate elements of historical fiction and even science fiction. Whether it's contemporary romance, paranormal romance or historical romance novels, I've tried to compile a comprehensive list of the top romance novelists around. That's a tough task, and I'm pretty certain I've missed more than a few. Romance novel fans, if you don't see your personal favorite author on this list, please add them! Also, be sure to vote for your favorite romantic novel writers.
I've included several popular contemporary romance novelists on this list, but I also tried to list some of the classic romance writers as well. Good example? Jane Austen. No list of the best romance novelists would be complete without adding Jane Austen! Another example? Margaret Mitchell, author of the epic romance novel Gone With the Wind . Some of the authors I've included on this list are winners of the RITA Award, given by the Romance Writers of America (RWA). Among them: Nora Roberts, LaVyrle Spencer, and Diana Gabaldon. Roberts is one of the best-selling romance writers of all-time. Gabaldon's epic Outlander series is without question my favorite historical romance series ever.
Karen Marie Moning
Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
Susan Elizabeth P
Jayne Ann Krentz
Jodi ellen malpas, linda howard.
Lists about novelists, poets, short story authors, journalists, essayists, and playwrights, from simple rankings to fun facts about the men and women behind the pens.
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Looking For Summer Reading Ideas? Fall In Love With Romance
You have to love a love story. The meeting, the flirting, the falling, the struggling, and ultimately, the happily ever after.
This story was made by NPR's podcasts Life Kit and Pop Culture Happy Hour.
For more Life Kit, sign up for the newsletter and follow @NPRLifeKit on Twitter .
If you want even more recommendations for books, TV, movies and more — check out Pop Culture Happy Hour ! We've got daily episodes for all your pop culture needs. And subscribe to our newsletter .
Maybe you're an experienced romance reader, but maybe you're just getting your feet wet as this genre, like a lot of others, evolves. Either way, it's always good to get some recommendations, some basic background, and a few things to look for when you choose love stories for yourself. I'm one of the hosts of Pop Culture Happy Hour, and we were delighted to team up with Life Kit for a beginner's guide to romances.
You're Apologizing All Wrong. Here's How To Say Sorry The Right Way
Not every love story is a romance.
Yes, it seems fairly clear what a romance novel is. And up to a point, it is. But not every love story is a romance for genre fans.
One definition from the Romance Writers of America says you need a central love story and what they call "an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending." In other words, if the whole relationship goes to pieces, that may be a great book. It may be a fantastic book. But it's not a romance novel as writers and readers generally understand that term. A romance doesn't have to end with perfect resolution, by any means. But there is meant to be an emotional payoff for the people in the relationship that rewards their perseverance.
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Romance is a huge industry.
The thing about romance is...it's huge. Romance novels make big money, romance readers help publishing stay afloat, and romance was the home of early experimentation with e-readers and self-publishing.
And as the industry has continued to grow, it has begun to work on making space for a wider range of characters. Characters of color, characters who aren't neurotypical, queer characters and characters with a variety of body types are just some of the romance protagonists you're more likely to see in high-profile books now than even ten years ago.
Romance writing is changing
One thing to be aware of is that as romance evolves, it gets farther and farther from some of the clichés about it, from sex scenes that incorporate coercion or worse to heroes who are exclusively bare-chested gods. Romance is written, and is read, by all kinds of people with all kinds of preferences. Romance writers are experimenting with moments in time, kinds of relationships, levels of sexual explicitness and lots more, so you shouldn't assume they'll all have much of anything in common — except that central love story and that satisfying ending.
Okay, so cough up those recommendations!
I talked to three panelists with very different angles on the genre. Karen Grigsby Bates is Senior Correspondent for NPR's Code Switch podcast, and didn't even consider herself a romance reader until relatively recently. Christina Tucker is a frequent Pop Culture Happy Hour guest and one of the hosts of the Unfriendly Black Hotties podcast. We also had romance writer Adriana Herrera with us to speak from a creator's point of view. Listen to the episode at the top of this page or here .
Christina's pick: Written in The Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur.
This tale of a social media astrologer and an actuary belongs both to the booming category of queer romance and to the popular "fake relationship" romance category, in which a couple pretends to like each other until they wind up actually liking each other.
You don't have to like astrology to love 'written in the stars'.
Adriana's pick: The Bareknuckle Bastards series by Sarah MacLean.
It's definitely worth exploring a series when you find an author you like; a lot of romance authors have them. This particular series of historical romances follows three brothers who each find love; other series follow groups of friends, small towns, or even sports teams.
Sweet And Hot, 'The Kiss Quotient' Really Adds Up
Karen's pick: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang.
The Kiss Quotient made a big impression on readers a couple of years ago. It's a sexy spin on the fake-relationship offshoot you might call "I just hired you!" — in this case, heroine Stella hires a man named Michael, who's an escort, as a practice romantic partner. Both Hoang and her character Stella have been diagnosed with autism, and the book is both a charming love story and an interesting exploration of some assumptions about how emotions work in romance.
Love Rides The Q Train In This Supernaturally Sweet Romance
My bonus pick: I recommend Casey McQuiston's Red, White and Royal Blue to so many people. A love story between an American president's son and a British prince, it's one of my favorite recent favorites. McQuiston also has a new book called One Last Stop , which adds a touch of science fiction, and that's also well worth your time.
This episode was produced by Candice Lim and edited by Meghan Keane and Jessica Reedy.
We'd love to hear from you. Leave us a voicemail at 202-216-9823, or email us at [email protected] .
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Romance Writers of America (RWA)
“ Romance Writers of America® (RWA) is a nonprofit trade association whose mission is to advance the professional and common business interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy and by increasing public awareness of the romance genre. RWA works to support the efforts of its members to earn a living, to make a full-time career out of writing romance—or a part-time one that generously supplements their main income.” – www.rwa.org
RWA regularly hosts a writers conference while also issuing several literary awards throughout the year. Two of their most prominent writing contest are the RITA awards and the Golden Heart Award.
As described by RWA themselves, their annual conference is where career-focused romance writers can anticipate:
- education and information
- networking with fellow writers
- interaction with editors, agents, publishers, vendors, retailers, and other romance publishing industry professionals.
*Be sure to check conference websites for any updates due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Michigan Romance Writers was formed to serve writers of romantic fiction by helping them establish writing careers and become published. We are a friendly, fun-loving group of writers as repeatedly confirmed by our guest speakers.
MRW strives to promote excellence in romantic fiction by keeping members informed of ever-changing industry trends and offering informative programming for both new and veteran members. We provide a nurturing, mutually supportive environment where members will find encouragement to further professional growth in their writing careers. MRW is committed to inclusion, diversity, and acceptance.
MRW, formerly Mid-Michigan Romance Writers of America (MMRWA), was originally founded in 1984 as an affiliated chapter of Romance Writers of America (RWA).
Our group meets on the third Saturday of most months* for a program on a topic related to the craft or business of writing. A brief chapter business meeting is held before or after the program. Our programs/meetings are held at restaurants and rotate around the state between Grand Rapids, Lansing, and Kalamazoo. We have incorporated the use of Zoom so our members who may not be able to attend in person can participate online. In November, we meet for the holiday party. Please go to Programs for specific dates and times and program details.
MRW is a not-for-profit professional writers association. The annual MRW dues are $35, payable during the month of November.
*February, March, May, June, September, and October
Read about the history of our group in the feature article , “Michigan Romance Writers Celebrates Thirty-five Years” written by former member, Margo Hoornstra, who was one of the founders of MMRWA. It appeared in the September 2019 Romance Writers Report (RWR).
The Romance Writers of America Decision That Broke The Camel’s Back
Jessica Pryde is a member of that (some might call) rare breed that grew up in Washington, DC, but is happily enjoying the warmer weather of the desert Southwest. While she is still working on what she wants to be when she grows up, she’s enjoying dabbling in librarianship and writing all the things. She can be found drowning in her ever-growing TBR and exclaiming about romance in the Book Riot podcast ( When in Romance ), as well as on social media. Find her exclamations about books and pho on twitter ( JessIsReading ) and instagram ( jess_is_reading ).
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On the morning of December 23, most of the romance community learned of the death of OG romance author Johanna Lindsey. We came together to share our firsts and our favorites, acknowledging problematic events and themes even as we shared our love for the powerhouse that was Johanna.
Twelve hours later, we came together again, but this time it was to burn it all down.
On the evening of Monday, December 23, Alyssa Cole posted a thread that would lead to a ripple effect for days to come, and the outcome is still uncertain. She posted it on behalf of her good friend and fellow romance author, Courtney Milan, who I would imagine at the time was still reeling in shock.
You see, Courtney Milan, top-selling Chinese-American romance author, former Romance Writers of America (RWA) Board Member and Ethics Committee Chair, and outspoken voice for marginalized romance authors and readers everywhere, had been heavily sanctioned by the RWA Board of Directors for an ethics violation. And not just any ethics violation: one that resulted from her calling a hat a hat—or more, racist depictions in a book racist.
I won’t go through each event step by step; there are plenty of excellent breakdowns for you to read:
The story has spread beyond the Twitterverse and far beyond Romancelandia; it sucks that all it took was a massive scandal to get the Associated Press and The New York Times to write news coverage of the romance community.
If you’ve made it this far and are still wondering “What is RWA and what is it for?” Here’s the facts:
The biggest question on our minds (beyond how the hell Damon Suede was charging three thousand dollars for workshops provided by the organization he is—at the time of this writing but hopefully no longer—president of) is where RWA and romance writers can go from here. RWA has fucked up majorly, and many of us who are members of marginalized groups or our proven allies have completely lost faith in the organization’s ability to recover from this. People are sending back their RITA awards. They’ve left committees they joined in good faith, or made the decision not to renew their membership. We’ve lost faith in leadership, we’ve lost faith in staff, and we’ve lost faith in the process. Unfortunately, we’re outnumbered. We’re outnumbered by a core set of authors who have benefited from a system of white privilege and white supremacy for decades and see no reason to change it. We’re outnumbered by Nice White Ladies who just want people to be able to write what they want to write and for the rest of us to be nice and quiet about it. Or more, in the words of Katheryn Lynn Davis, be “more professional.”
Any woman of color knows exactly what “if she had been more professional” means.
As an organization, RWA isn’t going anywhere. They’ve got millions of dollars in the pot after member fees have been paid, conferences have been attended, and RITA and Golden Heart submissions have been made (there are fees to enter the awards as well). If it is indeed the staff that have been making decisions about what gets to the ethics committee, what communications get made, and what is worth considering, they’re not going anywhere. And while many people have said that they would be making an effort to stay members, to Make Change from within, many others have opted to walk.
As I said when I made the decision to no longer be a RITA judge for 2019, I wanted to be part of the change.
But RWA doesn’t seem to want to be a part of that change.
So after the mass exodus of authors of color who are tired of doing the work and several others who don’t see the organization changing, what happens now? For many of us, it’s leaving the dumpster fire to burn and moving to a new neighborhood (or going back to the one we came from). There has been conversation about starting a new organization, one that, in the words of Courtney Milan , would be radically inclusive .
Radically inclusive. To openly, deliberately state its goals and taking action to support romance authors who are people of color, who are queer, who are gender nonconforming, who are disabled, who are neurodiverse, who are religious, who are poor, who are kinky, who are polyamorous. Who have been supported by the structure of white supremacy but are working to change the narrative. An organization that believes that everyone (except white supremacists and Nazis) deserves a HEA and a chance to tell stories. An organization that will work for its community—writers, readers, reviewers, agents, editors, librarians, publishers even—for the good and future of all, not just to maintain the status quo or make sure everyone is playing nice. Anti-racist, not just making statements about diversity. Active in fighting for rights for all marginalized groups, instead of lip service. Working for us, not just around us. This kind of organization would change the whole landscape for professional writers. Not just in romance, but everywhere.
I look forward to seeing what happens in the coming months. While there are plenty of romance authors who don’t need a trade organization, there are definitely benefits to being a member of one that will actually provide you support when you need it. I don’t see how RWA can be that organization for a lot of us, especially after their most recent communication with members that is basically a threat, but there are a lot of currently affiliated groups doing the work.
If only, as Nora Roberts informed us might have happened way back when, the lesbians had taken over RWA.
Ah well. Hindsight, and all that.
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You’ve reached the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal (FF&P) Chapter of the Romance Writers of America. The mission of FF&P is to promote excellence in romantic, futuristic, fantasy, time travel and paranormal fiction, to help writers become published in the genre, and to provide current information and continuing support to the writers in the romantic, futuristic, fantasy, time travel and paranormal industry.
To both the published and aspiring author in our field, FF&P is an invaluable group. We have a great newsletter filled with informative articles and market updates, a regularly updated blog, and a website to keep you posted on the latest news in the industry including: workshops, author links, new book releases, and FF&P contest information. As serious writers in our field, we have a critique group (on this website) and an on-line members-only forum (on the RWA website).
Members of this RWA chapter are a great group of people and always there to support their fellow writers. For information on how to join, please visit our join page .
Read more about the Romance Writers of America and our organization’s mission.
May One-Day Workshop October K. Santerelli Sunday May 7th – 3 pm EST / 2 pm CST / 12 pm PDT FIVE WAYS TO START A STORY The first 16 lines of your story are the most important. Find out why, and experiment with 5 different ways to hook a reader and get them to buy [Read more…]
This year, even our meeting speakers are going to give us strategies and exercises on their topics which will help us take our writing and branding to the next level. This is a series you don’t want to miss!
Lessons of Firefly – 4-Week Workshop with Jacqui Jacoby Firefly, created by the Rod Serling of our generation, Joss Whedon, was a masterpiece of writing. Each of its thirteen episodes taught character development, dialogue, and plotting techniques. Its motion picture sequel, Serenity, not only touched on these subjects but added relationships, loyalties, and loss to [Read more…]
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Writing Romances: A Handbook by the Romance Writers of America Hardcover – January 1, 1997
- Hardcover $13.00 35 Used from $2.03 9 New from $5.75 1 Collectible from $13.99
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- Print length 209 pages
- Language English
- Publisher Writers Digest Books
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- Publisher : Writers Digest Books (January 1, 1997)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 209 pages
- ISBN-10 : 089879756X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0898797565
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- #898 in Romance Fiction Writing Reference
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About the author
Rita clay estrada.
Hello fellow readers,
Thank you for finding your way here. When I was growing up, my mother, Rita Gallagher, used to write for Romance Magazines, where the woman fell in love with the wrong man, passing up the right one while the “Bad Boy” drew her into “the dark side.” Of a relationship. But she always learned her lesson and found the right guy, who was like our idea of the boy next door. She hid those magazines from me, which made them a lot like chocolate…you knew you were eating too much but you loved the taste.
When I grew up, I always wanted to write but didn’t want to compete with my mom, because I thought I’d fail. Then one day I realized SHE didn’t write BOOKS! AhHah! So I began writing books in the closet of my family and didn’t come out until I had completed one. My first sale was my third book, my second book sold second and I never sold the first one…but it taught me how to put a book together.
Then my Mother and my good friends, Parris Afton Bonds, Sondra Stanford and Peggy Cleaves agreed we needed to have our own writing organization. We called it Romance Writers of America. It took us four years to get it going and find a sponsor. But we did, and now we have hundreds of friends both in and out of the business, and enjoy the RWA conference every year. I honestly believe that RWA would never have taken off if it hadn’t been for three things: 1. The need was necessary for us to fill and 2. All the people who helped carry the banner to make romance legitimate in the eyes of the publishers and 3. The volunteers who came to my home and spent long hours toward getting it established and working it into the force it is today.
Romance Writers of America signature award, The Rita, which is the highest award of excellence given in the genre of romantic fiction, is named after me. The R.W.A. also awarded me their Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000. That, dear readers, is one great honor! It humbles me.
So now, I’ve had 40 books and novellas published by six publishers, and my friends are still my wonderful friends. And after my home flooded and lost everything, including several working manuscripts, I’m back to placing some of my works on Kindle as well as working on new books. Life is good!
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A novelist who's fed up with the establishment profiting from "Black" entertainment uses a pen name to write a book that propels him to the heart of hypocrisy and the madness he claims to di... Read all A novelist who's fed up with the establishment profiting from "Black" entertainment uses a pen name to write a book that propels him to the heart of hypocrisy and the madness he claims to disdain. A novelist who's fed up with the establishment profiting from "Black" entertainment uses a pen name to write a book that propels him to the heart of hypocrisy and the madness he claims to disdain.
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Paramount cuts streaming losses to $238m as subscribers grow to 63m.
The Bob Bakish-led conglomerate saw its filmed entertainment unit swing to a $49 million loss amid production shutdowns while content licensing revenue fell during dual labor strikes.
By Erik Hayden
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Amid its quest to slim down its asset portfolio to scale up its core entertainment ambitions, Paramount Global hit 63 million global streaming subscribers in the latest quarter (up from 61 million as of the end of June) and kept narrowing losses in its direct-to-consumer segment to $238 million, a possibly encouraging sign for Wall Street.
2024 super bowl commercials sell out for cbs, the end of 'yellowstone': what is known about the final episodes.
Overall, Paramount reported $621 million in operating income profit for the third-quarter, up 10 percent from the same frame a year ago. The company also disclosed “nearly $60 million of strike-related idle costs” in its latest quarter amid the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA strikes, CFO Naveen Chopra said. “These are incremental expenses incurred to retain production capabilities while the strike is ongoing.”
Its flagship streaming service Paramount+ is powered by Taylor Sheridan-universe shows like 1883 and Special Ops: Lioness , NFL games, Star Trek spinoffs and its new Fraiser update, but the direct-to-consumer division lost $424 million and $511 million in its last two quarters. In an effort to cut costs, the company has sunset its standalone Showtime app, raised prices and integrated the premium cable brand’s shows like Yellowjackets and Billions into Paramount+.
“We continue to execute our strategy and prioritize prudent investment in streaming while maximizing the earnings of our traditional business,” Bakish stated on Thursday, highlighting that he expects streaming losses this year “will be lower than in 2022 – meaning streaming investment peaked ahead of plan.”
Before issuing its earnings report, the company unveiled the timeline for the final episodes of its biggest show, Sheridan’s Yellowstone , which will bow on the Paramount Network in November next year. (The series, which streams on rival platform Peacock due to an early deal that leadership likely would do over, also is getting two more spinoffs , titled 2024 and 1924 .)
During its latest quarter, its filmed entertainment theatrical studio unit also swung to a loss of $49 million, compared to a gain of $5 million in Q2. Paramount cited “incremental costs incurred during production shutdowns and lower revenue from studio rentals and production services,” for the loss. Bakish also mentioned on an earnings call that the company’s film slate has been impacted by the SAG-AFTRA strike.
The quarter saw Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One find middling box office results ($567 million globally) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem ($180 million) successfully reviving the franchise. The filmed entertainment division saw revenue rise to $891 million, up from $831 million the prior quarter when Transformers: Rise of the Beasts bowed at the box office en route to $438 million in theatrical receipts. The studio also singled out the PAW Patrol library “serving as a top engagement driver on Paramount+,” without citing figures.
In its linear TV media segment, home to the company’s collection of broadcast and cable networks, advertising sales fell 14 percent in the quarter, following a 10 percent decline the prior quarter. Lower political advertising was cited for the drop for the TV networks. Additionally, amid the dual strikes, licensing and other revenue fell 12 percent “driven by lower revenue from original content produced for third parties,” the company said.
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