Romanticon 2013: On the Importance of Hot Shirtless Men


By Alexa Day

Last year, on Columbus Day, my mom and I were enjoying the last complimentary breakfast of Romanticon 2012 when a couple sat down at the table next to us. We started a conversation, mostly small talk about where we were from and why we were here and all that. We told them we were in Canton for a conference. You know, a book conference. For writers and readers. Of romance.

Erotic romance.

The woman looked cautiously interested. Her man gave us a disapproving look. The two of them had passed through the lobby and public areas of the hotel at various points during the weekend and encountered the posters and the swag and the Cavemen. The Cavemen are the hot shirtless guys featured on the covers of Ellora’s Cave books. They’re sweet guys and great dancers, and they make quite an impression, which in this case was reflected in our new friends’ facial expressions.

“So do you read these books, or are you a writer?” the woman asked.

Mom said she read and then added with maternal pride that I wrote them. My mom is awesome.

“And these dancing men,” said the man. “I suppose they’re beneficial to the process in some way?”

The hot shirtless men of which our new friend spoke. How can this not be beneficial?

The hot shirtless men of which our new friend spoke. How can this not be beneficial?

This is a no-brainer to the rest of us, even for the woman who didn’t know Romanticon existed until we told her about it. Of course they’re beneficial. But after a whole weekend at Romanticon, the annual conference presented by Ellora’s Cave, it’s easy to forget that there are still People Who Wouldn’t Understand What We Do. These are not prudish people, necessarily, which makes it even more difficult to understand what the issue is.

I’ll be honest with you. Among romance fiction conferences, Romanticon is probably hotter than average. Right now as I’m sitting here, in front of the coffee station, I can hear fellow attendees enjoying a photo shoot with the Cavemen, happily posing with up to two of them at a time in any number of positions often found on the covers of our favorite books. In a little while, we will disperse for lively games of Sexy Charades and BDSM Bingo. Some of my Facebook buddies held a workshop yesterday involving inflatable dolls and sex positions. Some more of my fellow authors ran a session about bringing hotter sex into both fictional and real-life relationships. This afternoon, there’s going to be a game of Pin the Junk on the Hunk.

It does get a little explicit here. But the underlying cause – the reason for the season – is praiseworthy.

Yesterday, I participated in a panel called Naughty Confessions. Really, it was a big game of I Never. The leaders would read out various … activities … and we participants would stand up or sit down, depending on whether or not we had engaged in those … activities. We shared heartwarming stories about partners and relationships, and we laughed and everyone learned something. At one point, I think I shocked my editor. (I probably didn’t; I think she was just mildly surprised. But let me have my moment.) In a way, this is what erotic romance is all about. On the surface, it looks like little more than a bunch of stories about sex, until you realize that behind each steamy tale, there are people learning about themselves and each other and exploring their feelings as well as their boundaries. Erotic romance is romance. When all is said and done, it’s about people just like us finding joy with other people just like us. I don’t want to state the obvious here, but when people joyfully interact with each other in a romance, they typically end up in bed. With their shirts off.

As far as the dancing men go, well, for most of us, this weekend is the only opportunity to be this close to guys this hot and this shirtless without fear. Here at Romanticon, the Cavemen are the open-armed ambassadors of our genre. They are a constant reminder that hot shirtless men really can be gentle and sweet and warm and wonderfully touchable, just like the ones we are reading and writing about. It is of critical importance to all genres of romance, for readers and for writers, and for skeptical men, that the world knows men like this are real.

Romanticon is a weekend full of best parts, but I think the best of the best is that moment when the hotel staff starts to join the fun. Usually, around Saturday afternoon, you start to see them wearing the Romanticon t-shirts and the swag and moving out of the shadows to dance with the hot shirtless men. It’s like being at a family reunion where anyone can decide at any time that they want to join the family.

Not sure what’s wrong with that. If you all figure it out, let me know in the comments. I’ve got to have a look at the photo shoot.

Be sure to follow the ladies of Lady Smut! And remember, hot shirtlessness is totally okay. Totally.

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14 Comments

  • LizEverly
    October 13, 2013 at 6:16 am

    “On the surface, it looks like little more than a bunch of stories about sex, until you realize that behind each steamy tale, there are people learning about themselves and each other and exploring their feelings as well as their boundaries. Erotic romance is romance. When all is said and done, it’s about people just like us finding joy with other people just like us.”
    So true! Bravo!

    • Alexa Day
      October 14, 2013 at 1:52 am

      Thank you! I just think the best thing about erotic romance is how much it really is like non-erotic romance.

  • Madeline Iva
    October 13, 2013 at 9:24 am

    Some of those guys are so sweet! Their cray-cray muscles and, um, glamorousness are like nothing I’ve ever seen in real life before. (And this is after living somewhere *ahem* where you could easily run over movie stars in the cross walks if you weren’t careful.)

    • Alexa Day
      October 14, 2013 at 1:49 am

      I actually come away from here less jaded about reality in general and men in particular. It’s pretty remarkable! I just have to remind myself from time to time that in reality, the rules about touching hot people are somewhat strictly enforced. 🙂

  • Elizabeth Shore
    October 13, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    I remember years ago attending an RT convention with male cover models galore and really, they were the nicest guys. Totally polite, respectful, supportive of the genre. Oh yeah. And hot.

    Great post, Alexa! Romanticon sounds like fun. Laughter, hot books, and the people who create and read them – what’s not to love?

    • Alexa Day
      October 14, 2013 at 1:46 am

      I’m always excited to go to Romanticon and always a little bummed to leave. Re-entering reality is always a little difficult from here! Still, it’s good to recharge the creative batteries after a long weekend surrounded by other writers and hot shirtless men.

      I love this job. 🙂

  • Denise Golinowski
    October 14, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    I know you enjoyed yourself and every event. Glad to read your post. Stand up for those men, and your genre! (as if you need any encouragement) Romanticon sounds like a totally mind & eye-opening experience for newcomers that rapidly becomes self-affirming! Can’t wait to see pics and hear more.

    • Alexa Day
      October 15, 2013 at 11:56 am

      You know me. Stalwart defender of the hot and shirtless. 🙂

      I’m going to comb through my photos this weekend and put everything on Facebook for everyone’s viewing pleasure.

  • Patti P
    October 16, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    I have to say I have gone for the last three years and the men are so not what you expect. They are really sweet, kind hearted guys and when you start talking with them they are really fun. They are also great for your ego because they also treat you so well. I always feel a little bad for them when I think of the people that just see what is on the outside and treat them like they are just there for their looks. Most of them have this great positive energy about them that just sweeps me up and makes me smile. I love being around them because they are just wonderful people to be around and I can’t deny that looking at them is a pleasure too. The authors at Romanticon are wonderful and I learn so much just talking with them and being around the other readers is such a great opportunity to find new friends.
    If you have never gone before and have the chance to go next year I can not think of a strong enough way to say you should really plan on going. It is really a great time.

    • Madeline Iva
      October 16, 2013 at 9:21 pm

      It’s a very friendly conference, isn’t it? There’s something so hot about a super muscle-y guy being so gentle when he puts his hand on you and draws you into an embrace for a photo.

    • Alexa Day
      October 17, 2013 at 12:54 am

      Patti, how did I miss you? Did you sign my guest book? I’m a little brain damaged since coming back. Re-entry is always a challenge.

      I had a couple of great conversations with Cavemen last weekend about dance — so cool for me as a dance teacher! There’s so much more to them than just the hot shirtlessness. And then there’s hot shirtlessness on top of all that.

      Romanticon is such a terrific experience. Watching the coffee station transform into a candy station as I sat on the couch writing this post was downright inspirational. There just never seems to be enough time to do everything there is to do.

  • Cris Anson
    October 18, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Awesome take on Romanticon, Alexa! I agree, the Cavemen are super wonderful. Each of them have a way of centering their attention on you as though no one else in the room matters. And of course, eye candy waaaay off the scales! I’ve been to all 5 Romanticons and can’t wait to sign up for 2014.
    Cris Anson

    • Alexa Day
      October 19, 2013 at 7:33 pm

      I’ve been to all five Romanticons, too. It’s a family tradition! I’m already wondering what next year’s theme will be.

      And I agree with you, having the undivided attention of a really hot man is just wonderful. 🙂

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