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Welcome to the Romance Issue of Vox’s The Highlight

The insular world of romance novels shunned black and queer writers. Then those writers started speaking up. Plus: Weddings in quarantine, a comic about true love, and more.

Shyama Golden for Vox

True romance, according to the conventions of those who write it, must end happily. Nearly four months into this pandemic, it’s easy to wonder whether romance and happy endings are dead.

But our June issue, the Romance Issue, is filled with stories of courage and adaptation — and even happy endings — in the midst of difficult circumstances.

Romance novels have long had a reputation as frivolous women’s pap. But the genre is one of publishing’s most lucrative, and Romance Writers of America, its powerful trade organization, was a fearsome gatekeeper, defining what romance should look like and who ought to write it. Then one author after another began to reveal tales of racist microaggressions, attempts to censor queer authors and storylines, and the refusal to recognize the work of authors of color. Can these authors force the romance writing industry to reckon with a question that’s currently getting big across the nation: Whose voice matters?

The promise of romance also seems to have eluded couples who had planned to get married this year, but some have decided that there was no reason to wait. We talked to four couples about why they chose a quarantine wedding and the ups and downs of improvising their big days.

Impromptu weddings, on the other hand, are the very reason couples head to Las Vegas. In another story, the owner of the city’s Little Vegas Chapel shared tales from the altar and how the coronavirus has changed the Vegas wedding.

And finally, a comic looks at one of the most intense relationships there is (best friendship!), and we asked five experts about the future of sex — in a pandemic.


Shyama Golden for Vox

Bad romance

Romance was one of the sexiest and most lucrative genres in publishing, and it had an ugly secret. Then its writers started speaking up.

by Constance Grady


Little Vegas Chapel

10 weddings a day: What it’s like to run a wedding chapel in Las Vegas

From drive-through ceremonies officiated by Elvis to couples a little too tipsy to make the biggest decision of their lives, the owner of Little Vegas Chapel has seen it all.

by Sarah Zlotnick


Adam Mason/Mason Photography

“You think about what marriage has become”: 4 couples on having virtual weddings

And how they’re finding more intimacy during these stripped-down ceremonies.

by Lavanya Ramanathan


Alanna Okun and Aude White

Best friends, a love story

“Wanna hear something super bitchy?” is a kind of love language.

by Alanna Okun and Aude White


Photo of a couple covered head to toe in odd protective masks and outfits. sot/Getty Images

The new rules of sex

In the Covid-19 era, health officials are urging lovers to don masks, embrace monogamy, stop kissing, and start improvising. But will we listen? Five experts weigh in.

by Alex Abad-Santos

Science & Health

Healing, a saga

Identities

For protesters, trauma lingers long after the marching ends

Features

The sad, predictable limits of America’s “economic recovery”

View all stories in The Highlight