Haunting Jasmine I consider myself a reader who enjoys a wide variety of books. In terms of historical periods, I enjoy everything from the Roman Empire to WWII, and I now read a lot of Inspirational Historicals. In fact, the main reason I began reading Inspirationals was for the wider selection of historical periods. I also read a variety of sub-genres and genres. I look for books set in a wide range of locations. Then this past month Dear Author posted a blog which inspired this post on the potpourri board. The post had me wondering about the diversity of my reading in a whole other area.

How many romances do I read that involve characters of varying ethnicities who are neither white Americans nor English people? Looking back at my 2012 reading year I saw that as of the last week of June, I’d read seven. There was The Rose of Winslow Street which included a Russian immigrant as the hero. Sixty Acres and a Bride by Regina Jennings had a Mexican heroine. The Golden Hour by Margaret Wurtele had a Jewish-Italian hero and an Italian heroine. Joan Swan’s Fever had an Asian American heroine. There were two African American heroines in Siri L. Mitchell’s Something Beyond the Sky. Riaz Delgado from Nalini Singh’s Tangle of Need has two ethnicities – he is both Hispanic and a changeling wolf. A Chinese hero and heroine from Jeannie Lin’s My Fair Concubine rounded out my list.

I have not had to search for any of these books and none of them were read because of the character’s race or nationality. In fact, for over half of them I had no idea that the characters had any kind of unique heritage at all when I picked the book up. I’ve only thought about it now because someone brought it to my attention.

I was pleased to see how diversely I’d read without trying, I think it reflects well on romance publishers, writers, and readers because it seems that more multicultural romances are starting to become available. I decided to challenge myself to keep the diversity going. I ‘m calling it the Melting Pot Challenge to celebrate the diverse, unique people who populate our country and I am determined to read at least one book per month that has a character from another culture. I wanted to add a bit of purpose to it this time out, so I went to the internet and did some research. It was surprisingly easy. I entered a phrase like “”Asian American Romance Novels” and voila! a list would inevitably pop up.

I’ve already read my book for this month. I had a lot of choices but I’d never read any romance books about a Japanese American so I decided to go with Sushi for One? by Camy Tang. Tang has several novels out with Japanese American characters but what drew me to this one was the comedic aspect of the novel. Lex Sakai is out of step with her family in several different ways. She is single at thirty years of age and not looking for a man. She loves sports, especially (or should I say obsessively?) volleyball. She is not an over achiever (the rest of the gang are) and to top it all off she is a Christian. To her family of Buddhists, the last is the most odd. Fortunately, three of her cousins are also Christian, so she has good company in that area. Her family may not find her understandable, but they still love her and want what’s best for her. Unfortunately, her Grandmother has decided that what’s best for her is for her to find a serious boyfriend and then turn that boyfriend into a husband.

Lex has some good reasons for not wanting to pursue a relationship but when her Grandma threatens to pull funding from the volleyball team of Junior High girls she’s been coaching she begins tentatively taking a new look at the men in her life. But the only man she really wants is not someone Grandma would exactly approve of . . .

This novel had some great points in its favor. I loved the way it looked at how you could still be part of an ethnic group four generations in. While Lex didn’t speak Japanese, her life was still in many ways ruled by that country’s culture. I also liked its candid look at Christianity. The Christians Lex knows aren’t perfect and that shows on just about every page.

I had some struggles relating to the heroine due to her love of sports. Her passion for volleyball was just not something I could share and she had a lot of passion for it. But I liked the book enough that I will be continuing with the series.

I’m looking forward to continuing my challenge. I’ve already done some research for my next book which will be Anjali Banerjee’s Haunting Jasmine. A touch of India, a haunted book store, and romance. Sounds just about perfect to me.

What about you – how many multicultural romances have you read recently? Which would you recommend? And are you interested in joining me in consciously reading more?

– Maggie Boyd