Love in the Margins Turns One!

August 14, 2014 Uncategorized 20

A birthday cake with the "doge" dog on it and the words "WOW SUCH BIRTHDAY"One year ago we launched Love in the Margins with a review of The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan and all sorts of grand ideas about reviewing a wider variety of romance. We’re hobbyists, first and foremost, so every book we read was something we wanted to read. We’re working through our TBR shelves, grabbing shiny things from NetGalley and accepting the occasional free book offered by an author. Since we’ve marketed ourselves as a blog trying to read outside the mainstream, though, let’s look at what we’ve done over the past year and see if we’re doing what we said we would.

We’ve had our ups and downs, but we seem to have settled into a somewhat regular posting schedule of two or three reviews and three links roundups each week with the occasional opinion piece. We posted 133 reviews over the past year, with contemporary-set books leading the pack at 70 and historical coming in second at 32. The bulk of our romance and erotica reading, 93 books, featured m/f pairings, with f/f and m/m fairly evenly splitting what was left at 14 and 13 books, respectively. Two books had bisexual characters, one had a transgender character and one had a genderqueer character.

Figuring out what the numbers were on racial and ethnic representation is a little tricky because of how we tag reviews. While we have tags for Black Romance, Multicultural Romance, Interracial Romance and African-American Romance, for example, we’ll use one or more of them on any given book. So you don’t really get a sense of what proportion they were of our reviews overall. We can look at the tags for the individual characters’ ethnicities/races, since those are used more uniformly, but that’s not perfect either. Most of our reviews featured white heroes and heroines, 76 and 65 respectively, but some of the white heroes and heroines were in books with a partner of a different race or ethnicity. Additionally, m/m and f/f skew the numbers a bit, since an f/f with two white heroines is only going to get tagged once as WW. With that in mind, here’s how the tags break down:

6 Asian Man
7 Asian Woman
21 Black Man
33 Black Woman
5 Desi Man
6 Desi Woman
3 Latino Man
4 Latina Woman
5 Multi-ethnic Man
5 Multi-ethnic Woman
2 NDN Man
0 NDN Woman
76 White Man
65 White Woman

Our review grades fit a pretty typical curve. Our only A+ review was The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan, which is fitting, since our very first post was a Milan review. We also only had two F reviews, Phantom Waltz by Catherine Anderson and The Necromancer Chronicles by Amanda Downum. Our favorite grade to give out was a B, which we gave to 22 books. Next was B+ at 14, then A-, B- and C+ at 13. On average, we liked what we read, maybe because we weren’t afraid to bail if the book wasn’t working, as we stamped 12 books with DNF.

So what should our goals be for the next year? What do you think? If you ran the zoo, what changes would you make? What could we do better?

Here’s what I’d like to do:

  • Go through the site and tweak the theme to improve readability and usability. Replacing the patterned background with something solid should improve readability and switching to previews, rather than full text, on the front page and in searches should make browsing faster.
  • Review more books that fit into the B and T of LGBT and more queer romance by queer authors.
  • Find some books with disabled POC characters. Every romance featuring disability that I’ve reviewed had white characters and I need to do better.
  • Add another reviewer. I’d love to add a reviewer who’s trans or genderqueer, especially for books featuring characters who identify as such and the book’s author is cis, and I’d love another reviewer who’s a POC. Being 3/4 white women and 4/4 ciswomen seems like something we should diversify a bit.
  • Edit the tags so that reviews use one set and links use another.
  • Get caught up mirroring reviews on Booklikes

Finally, thank you all for visiting here, whether you comment or lurk. This is something we do for fun as a hobby, but diversifying and critiquing romance is also something we deeply care about. Seeing other people care about it along with us is tremendously satisfying. So, thank you guys, and I hope we continue to be a place you want to visit.

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An ice hockey fan from north of Boston and the genre's most beloved troll, Ridley enjoys reading contemporary and historical romance, as well as the odd erotica novel. As someone who uses a wheelchair, she takes a particular interest in disability themes.

Latest posts by Ridley (see all)

20 Responses to “Love in the Margins Turns One!”

  1. Fiona McGier

    Hey Ridley, I love your site not just for the reviews, but for the links you send out regularly to other sites that have interesting topics being discussed. You are one of my “go-to” places for direction on where to find challenging topics being discussed by adults, with a minimum of insults in the comments. Your commitment to diversity is truly amazing, and I’m glad to see you wanting to improve even more in that respect. Please keep on doing what you’re doing, and good luck on another great year!

  2. Nu

    Happy birthday! :) Hope the site continues to get better and better! I’m pretty sure you reviewed one book with a Syrian heroine. So there’s another one you can add to the list, lol!

  3. Merrian

    Happy Birthday LITM and crew :) I love your work, your focus and your intentions. The way you all reflect on things brings so much into focus for me. I’m glad you are able to keep this blog and all your thoughtfulness about our world, books and the romance genre going.

  4. cleo

    Congratulations. I enjoy this site and I’ve started relying on the links posts.

    I agree that switching to previews will improve readability. I’d also like to be able to search or find reviews by author, as well as by grade. (I loved the old author word cloud feature on DA but there are probably other ways to do it).

    And yes to more reviews of romances with bi and trans* main characters.

    Keep up the good work.

  5. Heidi Belleau

    Happy birthday to one of my fave review blogs to read!

    And yes please to more bisexual books reviewed! Have you checked the bisexual_books tumblr to start off your reading list?

  6. Laura Vivanco

    Happy Birthday LiTM!

    I really appreciate the way you approach the books, ready to critique their assumptions (whether about people “in the margins” or about social norms). I also look forward to the links posts.

  7. mel burns

    Happy Anniversary! I check LITM every morning to see what you’ve posted. The links are always informative and interesting and I especially like the GIFs and Meoskops historical reviews. Cheers……to another great year!

  8. Meoskop

    I totally agree with Ridley’s wish list. I’d add more guest reviews too, because as a slacker myself I get not being able to commit to frequent reviews. We’ve had some great guests, they should come back.

    Cleo – If you type the author’s name in the search bar you will get all the reviews we have for them, unless I screwed up tagging. Or do you mean as a drop down choice?

  9. rube

    Happy birthday! You’ve accomplished so much already! Thanks for running this site.

  10. Anna Richland

    Happy Birthday (a day late). I assumed LITR had been around for longer b/c you all have it down, it seems to this reader at least.

    Many more!

  11. cleo

    @meoskop – I meant as a drop down choice. I do use the search option and it works. I just like seeing the actual names listed, since I’m bad at spelling names.

  12. Tina

    Happy anniversary. I really enjoy the blog and the reviews. Looking forward to what you guys have planned coming up!

  13. Ridley

    Thanks everyone!

    @cleo: We tag reviews with the author’s name, but I can’t think of any way of making a pull-down menu with them. It’s just a limitation of WordPress.

    To make a pull-down menu for grades, I could make grades a category rather than/in addition to a tag, but that will display the grade up with the post title, which I think spoils the review. I’m willing to be persuaded, though, if people want it.

  14. cleo

    @Ridley – I’m not sure I meant a drop down menu. What I really mean is have a page with something like DA’s author word cloud, which I assume is done with a WP plug-in (although it looks like a list, not a cloud, since they moved servers) –

  15. Ridley

    @cleo: I am currently turning the backend of the site inside out to make this possible. Gimme a couple days to iron out the details.

  16. cleo

    @Ridley – Awesome! I’m looking forward to all of the changes.

  17. lawless

    Really late to the party here, but I wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate the blog’s first birthday and let you know how much I appreciate that it exists. I was beginning to think that there were few if any others who value the same things I do.

    BTW, I’m another huge Courtney Milan fangirl. I might have given up on romance as a genre if it weren’t for her. *waves at Meoskop*