Can You Pass The Heroine Around Like A Box of Chocolates?


The First time I tried to write an erotic romance, I made the mistake of not really understanding the genre.  I wound up with something that was half erotic romance, half erotica.  [What’s fascinating is I got very close to selling that first book.]  However, I was eventually turned down.  I went out and got a “how to” book on writing erotic romance, and forever more the distinction between the two is clearly embedded in my brain.

Ultimately, though, if I find a fairly obscure smexy book that hasn’t sold well, chances are it’s because the story telling tends to weave a drunken line back and forth between erotic romance and erotica.

Why is this such a problem? Well, we die-hard erotic romance readers mostly prefer our heroines to only have sex with her love interest.  If there’s more than one love interest, so be it, but the bonds must be tightly woven between them all.  Think of FORBIDDEN PLEASURE by Lora Leigh where the tension develops as Keiley attempts to have sex with both her husband and his best friend but worries she’s falling in love with the best friend at the same time.

SO WHY CAN’T YOU PASS AROUND THE HEROINE LIKE A BOX OF CHOCOLATES?  It’s been done before, of course.  For instance, the “I’m your guy, but I’ll hand you off to who I want and when I want” kind of BDSM scenario was in a book by  Maya Banks. But in that particular book, I winced and put it down over and over until I gave up reading it.  Why is it hard to read that kind of scenario?

Well, erotic romance readers want a very rich emotional experience.  The pit-fall of having the hero share the heroine with other random guys is that the sex scenes become less about emotion and much more like erotica–or even :< porn.  As a result, my experience is that the scenes tend to flatten out the depth of romantic feeling overall.  Even when it’s done to gratify the ‘needs’ of the woman, it still doesn’t work for me.  [It’s not like I’m trying to take a mental stand on this or say to myself that I’m sticking up for values I know to be right and true–it just doesn’t get me aroused.]

Which is not to say that you can’t make a foursome work with true erotic romance gusto, OR that you can’t flirt with the line a little. Maya Banks has another book called BE WITH ME where she avoids romance flat-lining by having three best friends each take the time to individually make a declaration of love for the heroine Regina before she has sex with all three of them at once.  Those sex scenes worked for me!

The first book in the LORD OF SATYR Series by Elizabeth Amber series also handles this conundrum neatly.  In NICHOLAS, the satyr lord does some fantasizing with his wife about commanding her to share herself with other men.  But he doesn’t actually do it, they just get off on the idea.  Alone together.   Later, when he does require her to have sex with his brothers– there’s a strong rationale in place.  It’s for her protection, and they make eternal vows of protection and commitment with her before doing so.  In other words, the sex comes with powerful ritualistic meaning for them all.  Her sex scenes with them strengthened the readers sense of her strong bond to the hero because he’s so tightly wound up with them too.

However, some authors do know the difference between erotica and erotic romance and simply don’t care.  What I call a drunken stagger, they call a Texas Two-Step.  A little bit to the left, and a little bit to the right, they keep the sex ramped up, while finding emotional nuggets along the way.

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2 Comments

  • Elizabeth Shore
    October 16, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Great post, Madeline. You raise a lot of interesting points. I’m OK with the heroine having sexual relationships with men with whom she’s not necessarily in love, but like other readers of erotic romance, there must be some sort of emotional connection for it to work for me. Maybe it’s kind of “in lust” but with feelings.

  • madelineiva
    October 16, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    Yes, you’re right. Exactly right. I like the kind of emotional connection that’s simply overwhelming “have to have you now-can’t-say-no” compelling intensity. I don’t think it’s easy to write though. Meanwhile, some define desire as the art of with holding. The more you pull that back in, the more you can launch those emotions when it finally happens. How many times am I reading pages and pages and pages just to get to that scene where the untamed lust is finally unleashed. Yum!

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