Defining Erotic Romance

A while back, there was a post at Romancing the Blog, another discussion on defining erotic romance.  Interesting post, interesting viewpoints from both sides of the fence.

I explained my take on erotic romance~it’s one that one of my editors shared with me shortly after signing on with Berkley.  She said, “A good erotic romance will hold together even if all the sex is taken out.”

I think that’s one of the best explanations I’ve heard.  But several people disagreed.  Valid points, all, and maybe I didn’t explain myself as well as I could have, so I’m going to attempt to do it this way.

Yes, the love scenes need to blend into the story.  They serve as a way to deepen the connection between the H&H and in some erotic romances, the sex leads to love instead of love leading to sex.  I personally do prefer there to be a connection before the sex but that’s my personal preference.

Yes, if you take the sex out, it’s no longer an erotic romance.

However, it should still be a romance.   It can even be a very steamy one because sensuality and sex aren’t synonymous.  Some of the hottest reads I’ve ever read are ones with very few, if any, sex scenes but they are so sensual simply because of the way the author writes it.

Furthermore, I think a good erotic romance will hold together and still make plenty of sense even if the reader skims certain love scenes or skips them altogether.  I’ve had a couple of people tell me that they skim or skip the passages in my books containing anal sex or menages just because it’s outside their comfort zone.

I’m totally cool with that.  In fact, I’m flattered that they want to read the story bad enough to buy it and read it even though it has some hot spots for them.  If they can skip them, and the book still pulls at them and they enjoyed the story, I think I’ve done something right.

Another example.  I love Joey Hill’s books.  I love them.  She writes BDSM, but I don’t read it for the bondage aspects.  Anything outside of light bondage games is totally outside my comfort zone.  The thought of letting somebody master me?  As if.  But she tells such an amazing romance, I can’t not read it.  A friend nagged me into reading Natural Law which features an alpha hero…that’s a submissive.  Alpha-submissive.  The two wouldn’t click in my mind.  But I was reading an excerpt from Natural Law and it grabbed me.  I had to read it.  I read it one sitting and then read it all over the next day.

But there were some serious hot spots for me.  The hero told the heroine, his mistress, that he wasn’t into male on male action.  There ended up being some.  That is definitely outside my comfort zone.  Male/male doesn’t appeal to me and I didn’t care to read it.  More, because the sub relayed his wishes to his mistress beforehand, I felt she should have respected his wishes a little more than she did. 

When I got the scene, I skipped it.  It just didn’t appeal to me, and in fact, jarred me out of the story.  I tend to relate to the characters and if somebody allowed something to happen to me that I said I didn’t want, I wouldn’t react well. 

But skipping it didn’t detract from the story for me.  Not one bit.  It was still a strong, powerful romance.  I could still see the love developing between the H&H and I could feel the trust in their relationship.  A reader who isn’t into BDSM could read this, skim over the parts, like I did, that made them uncomfortable and still love the book.  It’s just that good.

It was, and still is, one of the best romances I’ve ever read and not just erotic.  I mean, period.  Which, for me, illustrates my point.  A good erotic romance should be a good romance, regardless of the sex.

Thoughts… opinions?