Love Between The Covers Documentary


For the last five years, documentary film maker Laurie Kahn and crew have been following players within the romance industry, culminating in the Love Between the Covers documentary which released earlier this year.

This last Saturday, the film showed at the St. Louis Film Festival followed by a panel of published romance authors from the MORWA chapter, of which I was asked to moderate.

From left to right: Jeannie Lin (moderator), Angie Fox, Shawntelle Madison, Lynn Cahoun, Amanda Heger, Eileen Dreyer, Claudia Shelton

From left to right: Jeannie Lin (moderator), Angie Fox, Shawntelle Madison, Lynn Cahoun, Amanda Heger, Eileen Dreyer, Claudia Shelton

Watching the film was like a Who’s Who of the romance industry and I have to admit that coming from within the industry, it was just so much fun to recognize all the familiar faces. And our own Ruby Sister Elizabeth Essex had a major role in it as well!

In my personal opinion, the movie was one of the few in depth views into what it’s really like in the romance industry — capturing the close relationship between authors and readers, but also the networking and connection between the authors themselves as they collaborate on both a professional and personal level. It seems like every other month there’s some clickbait romance is all bodice-rippers and bondage article written off of a few stereotypical impressions and not even a cursory attempt at Google research. It was refreshing to see a journalistic viewpoint that actually tried to dive deep into what makes romance such a popular and powerful industry from so many different perspectives.

All in all, it’s a feel good film about inclusion, with interviews from lesbian romance author and publisher Radclyffe and historical and contemporary romance author Beverly Jenkins taking front and center throughout the narrative.

Another major narrative featured Elizabeth Essex, award-winning historical romance author (Ruby shout out!!) and her then unpublished critique partner, Joanne Lockyer, in her publishing journey as she crafts her novel, makes the decision to indie-publish and takes it to publication. The documentary fittingly ends with Lockyer proudly holding her first print copy of her book in her hands — what author doesn’t remember that feeling?

Though the documentary was undoubtedly one of the more positive and comprehensive looks into romance, a few observations did come out in the following panel:

  1. Where was M/M romance? There were no mentions of male authors — which understandably are few in romance — but M/M was a growing sub-genre within romance during the documentary period. I would argue that it has a bigger market share than lesbian romance, but from the treatment  in the film, it was practically non-existent. This absence was actually brought up first by one of the viewers, who said he was surprised and disappointed that there was no mention of it. We authors on the panel are convinced Damon Suede is somewhere on the cutting room floor. Editing is a bloody process, is it not?
  2. The traditional romance industry – agents, editors, publishers – were largely given a back seat to the author-focused stories. Of course, that was an editorial choice — one I personally agree with. This is a story about the authors and readers and their empowerment. BUT — it did downplay the key role that publishers play in the community.
  3. The struggle of the aspiring author – Aside from brief snippets of pitching and critiquing, the film does gloss over the publishing journey. Perhaps it’s not fascinating movie-making or particularly uplifting contnet — who wants to hear that rejection is pretty much the reality of the business?
  4. Eileen Dreyer made a point to say that Romancelandia has the best parties in the genre fiction world. On top of that, though the percentage of authors who make a living writing is low overall (something covered in the film), the percentage of romance authors earning a living is significantly higher. On our panel of six, two authors were making a living and one was on her way.

On a personal note, the focus on Radclyffe and Beverly Jenkins created the narrative that romance is an inclusive genre. And I do think that it is inclusive in that anyone is allowed to play and will find it easier to be accepted in Romancelandia than perhaps other genres. There is also the message that there is a wide range of variation in types of stories. As Sarah Wendell put it, “Whatever your cup of tea is, someone’s pouring it.” However, the emphasis on lesbian romance and African American romance is so prevalent in the documentary, that I think the film implies much more inclusion and diversification in the genre than there really is.

Both of these women are icons of the romance world who have large followings, but their experiences are exceptional and their sub-genres are niches where authors still struggle for representation and market share. On the other hand, their stories go beyond a tale of diversity. Both Radclyffe and Jenkins have built significant connections in the industry, creating projects that go far beyond just writing books. So in that respect, their stories speak to the depth of the author/reader connection and how empowering the industry can be for its authors.

And if the filmmakers did make a choice to show Romancelandia in perhaps a more idealized, inclusive light, and that’s not a bad angle. It’s definitely something to strive for.

Overall, I found the film uplifting and inspirational — an intimate look into what it’s like the be an author and reader in a unique space. The film also covered the networking and pay-it-forward attitude. Successful authors are very open and generous in sharing their knowledge and helping out the next generation of authors. To the point that your idols suddenly becomes your friend and all are welcome.


Find out more about the documentary and screenings at

Have you seen Love Between the Covers? What were your thoughts? Wasn’t Elizabeth totally rockin’ in it? What would you like to see covered in a documentary about the romance industry?

9 responses to “Love Between The Covers Documentary”

  1. Elisa Beatty says:

    I’m so eager to see the documentary. I had a ticket to see it when it played in a film festival nearby last month, and then got sick.

    But sooner or later…. It’s so great to have the validation for our industry. Plus I want to see Elizabeth do her thing!

  2. Thanks so much for the shout out, Jeannie. It was a real pleasure and privilege to get to work with the filmmaker through the long process of making this film.

    But the truth is I was a really small part of the film—as the critique partner to a ‘character’ in the film, who was the ‘newbie’ or ‘as-yet-unpublished’ character.

    My own take on the film was that Laurie Kahn did an incredible job of narrowing down her subject—which is the powerful community of women who create & read romance, which is a billion dollar industry—to five basic stories that represent the diversity of author experiences.

    And while I might agree that both Radclyffe and Beverly Jenkins may write in sub genres or niches of romance, my take is that their connection to the readers were the strongest—their stories are NECESSARY to their readers, and give their readers a fulfillment and self-recognition, in a way that goes far beyond what mine or Eloisa James (another ‘character’) historicals could do for our readers. And I think that author-reader connection is why the filmmaker chose them as ‘characters’ within this commercial community of women.
    And it is the reason why diversity, be it Suede’s M/M romance or Jeannie’s Asian-set historical romances, is important within the industry—because romance exists to bring stories that are important to READERS and the readers’ sense of self, even if our stories are generally dismissed by the literary community as a whole.

    So glad you had a marvelously full panel at your showing! And I’m really glad to see the film get out into the world. 🙂

    • Jeannie Lin says:

      I loved seeing you! And it’s so true how you become a character in someone else’s story — ultimately the filmmaker’s story. That’s definitely the writer in you talking there. 🙂

      And I do agree that Beverly Jenkins and Radclyffe tell a story beyond the genre that they write in. I think they take the narrative from not only what the romance industry is, but to what romance can be to people — making people who have never felt beautiful, feel beautiful and validated. That was one of the really powerful messages of the film.

  3. Love this post, Jeannie. I’m going to have to look for the documentary!

  4. Liz Talley says:

    Great post. Haven’t seen the documentary yet, but I’m dying to see it.

  5. Tamara Hogan says:

    Jeannie, what an awesome panel! I can’t wait to see the documentary. My RWA land chapter is planning an Open to the Public event for early next year which includes a screening of the movie.

    –> “Whatever your cup of tea is, someone’s pouring it.”


  6. Jeannie Lin says:

    Our chapter was planning some sort of event, but then we lucked out when the movie was entered in the St. Louis film festival. It was a lot of fun to have a chapter outing and also great to see how many non-romance/non-writerly people attended.


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