Your first romance novel was published a year before I was born. I found it when I was twelve, tucked in the back of my mother’s closet between her snow boots and winter jacket—a clear sign that I was not meant to read it. Yet I picked it up and snuck back to my room, fearful my mother would know I had taken something from her. I waited until everyone else had gone to bed before I read it, and in all honestly, I don’t remember much more than giggling and smiling under my bedsheets. I did not realize it then, but a seed had been sown in my heart—a seed of romance. From then on, I became biased against all other genres.
As I continued my journey from reading my mother’s romances to writing my own, I was struck by words you once said: “I write novels about ordinary women who face seemingly insurmountable odds but through courage and determination find their heart's desire.” This resonated with me because most of the women you wrote about were Black, and for Black women, finding our heart’s desire is often difficult in a world that gaslights or completely ignores us. I realize now why the seed of romance was planted in my heart: because your book taught me at a very early stage that my joy—my love—matters.
I now wish to do the same for others through my work. I want to write stories in which women, no matter the time or circumstance, can find their voice, embrace their inner strength, and achieve their heart’s desire.
I have sought to do so throughout my career. I did so most recently with my upcoming novel Aphrodite and the Duke. Aphrodite, who is considered the best and most beautiful woman in her society, is jilted by her first love, and after years of running away from that pain, she must confront it and decide what she wants for her life upon returning to London. During a period in which women’s futures were often in the hands of other people—mostly men—I wanted Aphrodite to stand for herself.
I chose this period of history because I wanted to see a woman of color in Regency-era England not only respected and taken care of but also considered the most beautiful of her generation. You once wrote that you wished to create stories in which people of color were not bound by stereotypes. I wish for the same. I don’t just want women of color to see themselves in different roles—I want white people to see that as well. The sooner we start to see each other as people in search of their own peace and happily ever after, the more compassion we will have as a collective.
Author of the sumptuous and wonderfully written APHRODITE & THE DUKE, about a jilted beauty and a regretful duke who discover that second chances can be divine in this representative Regency romance.
About the book
Aphrodite Du Bell has always resented her name. As she can’t help but think that living up to the literal goddess of beauty is asking a bit much. Her renowned loveliness certainly didn’t stop the love of her life, Evander Eagleman, from jilting her and marrying another woman four years ago. Evander lost his chance for true love, but now that he is a widower and no longer attached, he is determined to win back Aphrodite’s trust—and her hand in marriage. But just as the couple make strides to mend old wounds, Evander’s true reason for rejecting Aphrodite threatens their coveted future…and even their lives.
This is the book J.J. has wanted to write for years, yearning to see characters that look like her represented in her favourite genre, longing to create a world where a Black girl wants and gets her happy ever after.
Judy’s previous books, including her first Ruthless People, were bestsellers in numerous countries and have been translated into six languages, earning her a large loyal readership.