Love Embodied Romance 2022

Fat representation in romance has increased in recent years: consider the works of Jasmine Guillory, Talia Hibbert, and Rebekah Weatherspoon. Still, plus-size protagonists are relatively uncommon in the genre, and some authors and editors say there is still much work to be done.

Patience Bloom, senior editor at Harlequin, has been with the publisher for 24 years and concedes that the move toward body diversity has been slow going. But now we have to keep up with the pace [of body-positive submissions], she says. Her acquisitionHow to Fake a Wedding Date(Harlequin Desire, June), Karen Booths third Little Black Book of Secrets, is a steamy romance that fans of the brothers-best-friend and fake-dating tropes will want to snap up, perPWs review.

It also features a plus-size main character, socialite Alexandra Gold. We can see how much readers love these books, so we push ourselves, Bloom says. How can we do it even more?

PWspoke with editors and authors who are answering that question with their new and forthcoming releases.

Several titles focus on acceptance and appreciation. InSet on You(Berkley), Amy Leas recent debut, plus-size fitness influencer Crystal Chen finds positivity and power in the gym, until fit firefighter Scott Ritchie hogs her favorite equipment and generally upends her chill. Sparks fly and the pair find strength in each other, but a viral photograph and vicious trolls test their mettle. Leas prose is clear, witty, and powerful,PWs review said, delivering an ode to all those who struggle with self-acceptance.

In Danielle Jacksons debut,The Accidental Pin-Up(Berkley, July), boudoir photographer Cassie Harris, a proud plus-size Black woman, finds herself not behind the camera but in front of it. Ive always wanted to be accepted for me and not how I looked, but that isnt the world we live in, Jackson says. Romance is escapist, but its important to be able to see our real selves in it. Theres always a line in a romance, He rested his hand on the curve of her hip. What if that curve of the hip was larger? He can 100% be attracted to that. We see that sort of attraction every day in real life.

PWs review welcomed the sentiment: A glamorous cast of bold, driven womenand the men who learn to love themmakes this romance a treat.

When Life Gives You Vampires(Sourcebooks Casablanca, Oct.), Gloria Dukes debut, follows Lily Baines, who awakens one morning from uneasy dreams to find herself transformed into a vampire. Tristin, her paramour, didnt mean to bite her, but whats done is done; the pair do battle with slayers and with Lilys mother, whose romance and diet advice are not at all appreciated. Lily struggles with her size, but as a vampire she will have to live with the body she has for eternity, the author explains.

Years ago, a character like Lily in a romance novel wouldve had a makeover and the guy would decide that he now sees all of her good qualities and fall in love with her, Duke says. But Lily doesnt get a makeover, because its not about changing herits about changing the way she thinks about herself.

Many of the authorsPWspoke with lamented the lack of fat male protagonists in romance. There have been some really good conversations on Twitter about what we do with the concept of desirability and what happens in a community when we say were attempting to turn the patriarchys view of women, says Jodie Slaughter, author ofBet on It(Griffin, July). Theres something to be said about the communal fantasy of being a person whos not seen as desirable by societys standards. Its important that we keep examining what it is that we like about this particular trope of a fat cishet women with a thin or muscular or tall man. (For our q&a with Slaughter, see Big Love)

Olivia Dade, whose romances includeSpoiler AlertandAll the Feels, has been outspoken about why fat representation in romance matters to her as a reader and as a writer. She features a fat hero inShip Wrecked(Avon, Nov.): Peter, a thick-thighed, sexy Viking of a man and an actor who once had a one-night stand with fellow actor Maria. When they reconnect on set years later, Dade deploys a bounty of romance tropes: forced proximity, second chance, slow burn, and friends-to-lovers.

In some books, the main characters size is secondary or inconsequential to the plot, though their body diversity is apparent on the cover and in the text.Cant Resist Herby Kianna Alexander (Montlake, July) finds Summer Graves and Aiko Holt both living in their hometown of Austin, Tex., 15 years after one passionate kiss in high school. The women are at odds: Aiko, an architect, is a determined developer; Summer sees her efforts as gentrification. Even in their arguments, Summer and Aiko are an easy couple to root for,PWs review said. Readers will hope to see both of them achieve their goals.

Allison Avery, the female protagonist in Jenny L. HowesThe Make-up Test(St. Martins, Sept.), is a striving literature PhD student. In a romance-worthy coincidence, she and her ex-boyfriend, Colin Benjamin, are assigned to TA for the same professor. Allison and Colin match wit and lit, until a family emergency and a sexy Scrabble game make them rethink their competition. The wordfatcomes up often in the book; Allison sees reclaiming the word as an important step toward changing how the world perceives her and fatness in general: Fat was only an ugly word if you let it be, the character says.

After Hours on Milagro Streetby Angelina Lopez (Carina Trade, July), whichPWs starred review called a passionate, un-put-downable rivals-to-lovers romance, launches the authors Milagro Street series. Alejandra Alex Torres has moved home to Kansas to revitalize her grandmothers bar, a local landmark. Jeremiah Post, the sexy professor upstairs, hopes to turn the bar into a museum instead.

Kerri Buckley, executive editor at Carina Press, singles out Lopez for the way she writes sex. This book is off the charts: its like five chilies or whatever system you want to use, she says. Alexs body, and Jeremiahs appreciation for her body, play very heavily into those sex scenes. He revels in her soft stomach and he acknowledges the strength in her thick thighs, and he loves her giant ass. Hes just gone for her physically in a way that is so gorgeous and gives insight into the dynamics of their relationship.

Like Bloom at Harlequin, Buckley is cautiously hopeful about the future of fat-positive romance. Were still up against a very white and thin and heteronormative landscape, but the industry is trying hard to change that, she says. Its not going to change overnight, or in a year, or even probably in the next couple of yearsbut we have to keep moving forward.

Pooja Makhijani is a writer and editor in New Jersey.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the name of Angelina Lopezs new series.

Big Love: PW talks with Jodie Slaughter

Slaughters Bet on It (Griffin, July) begins with a bingo-based sex pact and ends with two broken souls finding each other and themselves.

Forthcoming historicals reflect the markets demand for more inclusive historical romances.

Countless books have taken inspiration from the Bard of Avon, including this trio of romantic tales.

A version of this article appeared in the 05/30/2022 issue of

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