If you ask romance readers what we love about this genre, many of us will say that a big part of it is the guaranteed happy ending. After all, romance is supposed to be, when it comes down to it, about hope. But a question that keeps coming up is…Who deserves a happy ending? Instinctively, the answer might be everyone. And yet, is this reflected in publishing? Let’s go to any bookstore and look for the romance shelves. What is the percentage of authors of color? Of stories written by, and featuring, LGBTQ characters? Let’s narrow it down even more: What’s the percentage of romances written by Indigenous authors?
I don’t know about you, but in my long and illustrious career as a romance reader, the answer is not enough.
Oh, I have found books featuring Indigenous protagonists in these stores…but most of them were written by white authors fetishizing First Nations’ cultures, and it shows. Looking for Indigenous romances can feel like filling out some sort of horrible, depressing bingo card. Titles playing on racist slurs? Check. Covers leaning on ridiculous and offensive stereotypes? Oh yeah. Blurbs about White Saviors? You bet. Indigenous people deserve happy endings as much as anyone else, but publishing does not seem to agree.
But you know what? Not only do Indigenous romance authors exist, they’re knocking it out of the park. In this list, you’ll find eight romance novels by Indigenous authors that are guaranteed to melt your heart.
Heartbeat Braves (Crooked Rock Urban Indian Center #1) by Pamela Sanderson
Rayanne Larson is not happy when her special project is handed over to her leader’s nephew. The thing is, neither is the nephew in question. Henry Grant has no interest in working at the Indian Center…until he meets Rayanne.
Taking on the Billionaire (Redhawk Reunion #1) by Robin Covington
Adam Redhawk has very specific plans for private investigator Tess Lynch, and they are both professional…and personal. Becoming embroiled in her quest for revenge, however? That was not part of the plan. Throw in an unexpected pregnancy, and things become really complicated really fast.
Not Meeting Mr Right by Anita Heiss
Alice Aigner has a plan: she will meet Mr Right and marry him before her 30th birthday, two years away. But you know what they say about best laid plans…
Two Princes (When We Were Young #1) by Maggie Blackbird
In this YA romance, Billy Redsky, sick of his alcoholic mother and criminal brother, starts dealing drugs to earn quick money. Needless to say, out of all boys he could’ve fallen in love with, René Oshawee, the chief’s popular son, is the worst choice.
Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Another YA pick, this one follows Louise Wolf, who, after dumping her boyfriend for mocking her Native heritage, decides to focus on the school newspaper. Falling for Joey Kairouz, the new photojournalist, was not part of the plan. And neither was the storm that breaks out when the diverse casting for a school musical brings up racist sentiments to the surface.
Reckless in Texas (Texas Rodeo #1) by Kari Lynn Dell
When Violet Jacobs decided to hire a bullfighter to work at her family’s rodeo, she didn’t expect to fall in love with him. But Joe Cassidy has a knack for surprising her.
Wild Ones by Kristine Wyllys
Bri Martin likes trouble, so it’s hardly a surprise when she finds herself drawn to underground boxer Luke Turner. But will he turn out to be the good kind of trouble?
Convenient Cowgirl Bride (Red Dirt Royalty #4) by Silver James
Chase Barron has no interest in marriage. If only his family had not issued an ultimatum: either he finds a wife, or they find one for him. Savannah Wolfe, a cowgirl who appears in his bed out of the blue, might be the perfect cover…except that the more time he spends with her, the more he wants to make their fake relationship real.