American Culture Studies Ph.D. Dissertations


Love is (Color) Blind: Historical Romance Fiction and Interracial Relationships in the Twenty-First Century

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Culture Studies

First Advisor

Jolie Sheffer (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Pamela Regis (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Sridevi Menon (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Lisa Hanasono (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Kara Joyner (Committee Member)


This dissertation analyzes three historical romance novels—Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress by Theresa Romain (2015), The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran (2008) and The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan (2013)—to understand how postracial rhetoric is being contested and confirmed in a genre where the reader is promised an "emotionally just" ending. In historical romance novels, this "emotionally just" ending often involves a re-writing of history where institutional systems (often patriarchy) are made progressive and more hospitable to oppressed groups through the power of romantic love (RWA "About the Romance Genre"). I argue that depictions of interracial relationships in twenty-first century historical romance novels written by American authors for a primarily American audience helps to illustrate both the problem of postracial thinking and the complexities and contradictions of postracial thinking by rewriting both history and historical stereotypes. The inclusion of interracial relationships that seriously analyze issues of racial identity within the course of the narrative helps to trouble the dominance of the postracial narrative for readers of romance, 83% of whom are white according to a survey conducted by The Nielsen Company for the Romance Writers of America ("The Romance Book Buyer" 11).