Date of Award

May 2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Christine Evans

Committee Members

Elana Levine, Rachel Buff


African American, Black love, Black readership, Popular romance, publishing, romance novels


In 1994, Pinnacle Books, an imprint of Kensington Publishing Corporation, launched a new line of romance novels that featured Black characters written by Black authors. The new line was called Arabesque, and it was the first of its kind in mainstream publishing dedicated to love stories that explored Black life and culture. The line influenced other publishers to follow suit in acquiring similar titles and authors, and because of the number of African American writers signed to major publishing houses in 1994, the year was deemed by the press as the birth of the African American romance novel. This study examines the significance of African American and Black romance through the perspectives of editors, writers, and readers. From an editorial and industry standpoint, it analyzes romance publishing of the 1980s and 1990s and the elements that potentially influenced Pinnacle Books to invest in an African American readership. The craft of writing Black romances is explored through the motivations and strategies of pioneering Black authors of the genre, and the politics of Black love in romance novels is examined to understand the guiding question of this project: Why do Black women read Black romance fiction?