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I Can’t Believe I Missed Dulcé Sloan’s Steamy Homage to Queens of Contemporary Romance Novels on ‘The Daily Show’

Dulcé Sloan reading Indigo by Beverly Jenkins. (Image: The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.)

Leading into the Valentine’s Day weekend, The Daily Show With Trevor Noah writer Dulcé Sloan took to her segment Dul-Sayin’ to highlight the under-recognized Black women that made the romance novel what it is today. Staying true to the themes of seduction and fun, Sloan came all dressed up in a two-part satin robe while reclining on a velvety carmine lounge seat prepared with both a stack of titles and a glass of wine.

I didn’t catch it at the time, and now that I’ve seen it, I have to make sure others who missed it don’t go without it for a second longer. In this sketch, she looks over a passage from historical romance icon Beverly Jenkins’ third novel, Indigo. There to aid Sloan in reading these sultry passages was leading man Jesse Williams. Of course, Williams came prepared by donning a form-fitting flannel shirt and suspenders. Each time Williams reads a different selection, he dresses up in a costume fitting for the novel and subgenre.

After highlighting Jenkins (whose rise to fame began in the ’90s), Sloan reads from Ruby Saunders’ 1969 novel Marilyn Morgan, R.N. This novel was the first of a four-book series and was one of the first doctor-nurse romances written by a Black author and with Black characters. Later, Sloane lingers on one of the most influential romance novels of the last century, Adam and Eva by Sandra Kitt (1984). The most nuanced joke comes precisely at the 4-minute mark.

No conversation about romance novels would be complete without discussing Romance Writers of America (RWA) founder Vivian Stephens. Sloan notes, “We would never have known many of these authors if it wasn’t for book publishers like Vivian Stephens. She was groundbreaking not just because she sought out writers of color who wrote about women with real depth. But also, because she wasn’t afraid to publish explicit sex scenes. She changed the game with her publishing company Candlelight Ecstasy.”

Romance G.O.A.T. Vivian Stephens

Stephens didn’t just create Candlelight Ecstasy, and it ended up working out. She did market research and found that women readers who picked up romance novels wanted stories of heroines with sexual experience. Back in 2021, Stephens told The Washington Post, “I kept in mind the culture of America at the time: We were going through the sexual revolution and the women’s movement, and women wanted to reach the glass ceiling. I decided that the heroine should be at least in her 20s, and she should have a job and be upwardly mobile. The hero was the icing on the cake, but she already had a life — he just completed it. It wasn’t Cinderella; the hero isn’t going to save you.”

After starting with financial support from Dell Publishing, Houston-based Candlelight Ecstasy went from publishing 24 novels a year successfully to 96 books a year in about three years. Stephens would eventually step down from RWA leadership to focus on the business side and then move to Harlequin books. While the RWA are known for being slow to change and favoring white Anglo-Saxon Protestant stories and narratives (no matter how genocidal and problematic) for the last ten-plus years, they had radical beginnings with Stephens. Stephens not only spearheaded the effort to desegregate romance publishing but sought out stories from women of color, included sex scenes in narrative novels, and created a community (the RWA) to celebrate these books.

(image: The Daily Show With Trevor Noah / Comedy Central)

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(she/her) Award-winning artist and blogger with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. Starting as an Online Editor for her college paper in October 2017, Alyssa began writing for the first time within two months of working in the newsroom. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3. Still trying to beat Saxon Farm on RCT 3 (so I can 100% the game.)