I've been writing and traditionally publishing romance novels for several years. I've written many a love scene, but as soon as the word "erotic" was attached to my latest venture -- my debut erotic romance A TASTE OF YOU -- even my friends started to titter and ask probing questions.
Was I now writing porn (and did that explain my new pseudonym)? Had my sex life improved? Was I aware that (insert name of someone I barely know) and her husband were into (insert kinky thing)? And most frequently, could I explain the differences between an erotic romance and an erotica novel?
Which got me thinking. About a lot of things, but most importantly about what exactly are the differences between the two genres, since both were new for me.
In this writer's opinion, the lines between a love story where the characters' sexual encounters are graphically described (i.e. an erotic romance) and a story centered on the characters' sexploits in which they might also fall in love (i.e. erotica) are blurrier than ever. Based on my "research," which is not at all expert or scientific, I offer the following analysis:
Not so different, right? And yes, you can pick up all types of what's been coined "mommy porn" along with shampoo and paper towels at your local big box store.
Given the myriad "shades of gray" at play here, I think readers shouldn't get hung up on whether a book is labeled an erotic romance or as erotica. Trying to pick between the two is kind of like asking which is better: a slab of decadent dark chocolate cake or a bacon-wrapped fig drizzled with warm honey? They're both yummy and it just depends on what you're in the mood for. But there's no denying you're hungry. And oh boy, are readers hungry.
It's a fact that E.L. James' Fifty Shades trilogy helped bring sexy back. Her global publishing phenomenon prompted the masses to talk openly about BDSM, to buy riding crops, and to buy books. Millions of books. Lots of sexy books.
Two years later, the current bestseller lists are loaded with novels featuring vivid, detailed descriptions of all kinds of sex -- whether between people who are falling in love or who are just having a good time. From Scottish highlanders to futuristic CEOs, from art patrons to ex-military commandos, college students, perverted 19th century royals, and in my case, a devastatingly handsome Chicago billionaire gourmand, there's a hero for every mood and every preference. From heart-breaking love stories to titillating tales of sexual exploration, domination, submission, and everything in between, it's all out there, proud and readily available for purchase -- online but also in stores everywhere!
Personal tastes regarding sexy novels are just that: personal. One woman's Sunday poolside read is another woman's special book she keeps hidden in the back of her closet. Which means labels really don't matter that much; it's more about what you're into. What is important to keep in mind is that good authors write good books and don't limit themselves to "genre conventions."
That's exactly what's going in today's erotic fiction renaissance. Veteran authors and newcomers alike are skewing the rules -- or ignoring them -- and are simply creating some great characters that readers care about and crafting creative scenes which draw readers in and make them feel intimately connected to the story. And everybody's on some kind of sexual journey.
I answered my girlfriends' probing questions about my foray into the erotic and then I asked them some in return. Most copped to reading Fifty Shades of Grey, but also to reading more recent releases that featured hot couples and very hot sex. And they liked them. A lot. Which was on par to saying they used to watch Law & Order reruns before bed, but recently upgraded their cable and now watched Cinemax After Dark. These were giggle-inducing reveals, from grown women. I am not sure I want to know the intimate details of my pals' very personal reading choices. But you can bet your lunch that I'll be checking out the contents of their shopping carts the next time I bump into one of them at Target.