Thoughts About Books

An author I follow on Facebook shared this article earlier, talking about the rise in popularity of erotic romance. The basic gist of the article: thanks to epublishing and ereaders more and more women are reading erotic romance than ever before.

Got it.

And I would agree–epublishing has most definitely changed the game when it comes to what and how we read. However, that wasn’t the only reason given for the rise in popularity of erotic romance. The article also cited this:

According to “The Siren” author Tiffany Reisz, erotic romance is a “way to show women acting like normal women in 2013.” The genre is particularly popular now because it feels more realistic in an era of frequent casual sex. Reisz explained that in erotic romance the couple usually has sex early on and the question is when they will fall in love and admit it to each other. In traditional romance, on the other hand, the characters form an emotional attachment and the focus is on when they will have sex and when they commit. As Lainey Reese asked, ”if the morning after the man you were with looked at you not like you were a slut, but like you just blessed him with the most amazing night of his life and he couldn’t be more grateful or greedy for more, wouldn’t you just dive right in?”

For some reason, this paragraph in the article really stood out to me. Maybe it’s because of the fact that I am, when it comes down to it, a “good girl.” Maybe it’s because I’m conservative. I don’t really know. But something about THIS particular idea kind of bothered me.

And that makes me feel like a hypocrite because, yes, back before I met Phillip I did have a little casual sex. Or as casual as it can get for a girl with issues who was literally looking for love in all the wrong places.

This is one of those subjects I’m very conflicted about, to be honest. On one hand, I’m realistic–I know that in today’s day and age the vast majority of people have multiple partners before they find The One, and that some of those partners will indeed be one night stands. I also know people who have waited until marriage to have sex. To each their own.

I think what really bothers me is this: “Reisz explained that in erotic romance the couple usually has sex early on and the question is when they will fall in love and admit it to each other.”

Yes, this is true for erotic romance. And that’s fine. But I think this statement hit the nail on the head for me and why I can’t read erotic romance anymore.

Here’s the irony: The two books I’ve had published are erotic romance (although, to be fair, they’re probably more sexy romance than erotic romance). I still stand by those books–they’re pretty damned good, even if I do say so myself–but they were written in a very weird time of my life. I was in therapy and dealing with All the Crap, including my looking for love in all the wrong places. I’m one of those women who has a really hard time untangling sex and emotion. Back when I was single and heading towards a path of self destruction, I kind of envied those women who were able to separate sex and emotion and just enjoy the ride. But me? Couldn’t do it. And it left me feeling empty and used and like the worst kind of person. And, yeah, a little slutty, because I was raised to be a “good girl.”

So for me, the concept of sex leading to love is unrealistic, and it’s completely because of personal experience, I willingly admit that.

I’ve been trying to figure out for a while what it is about erotic romance that’s turned me off (pun intended), and I think that that simple paragraph stating the differences between erotic romance and mainstream romance did it. Romance novels are so popular in part because of the fact that when we read them we experience that rush of falling in love over and over again. It’s a happy feeling, and it makes the reader feel happy (and hopefully sad and angsty and other emotions, too). Romance novels pull at our emotions in so many ways, and I honestly believe that’s why they’re so popular.

The funny thing is that I don’t mind sexy romance, which is different from erotic romance, in that it’s a traditional romance with a little more sexy times, maybe raunchier, more descriptive language (but there’s also a weird line for me that I can’t define, but I know when it’s been crossed). But even with sexy romance, the emotion is already there before they do the deed. And to me, as a reader and a writer, that’s important. Sex is great. Orgasms are great. And the other great thing is that I’m finally at a place in my life where I can say, “Y’know, I enjoy reading traditional romance more than erotic romance because the characters aren’t having sex for the sake of having sex. The sex MEANS something. There’s emotion there, even if they haven’t admitted it to themselves yet.” And too many erotic romances feature sex for the sake of sex, with plots that make my brain hurt, and characters who suddenly love each other after going at it like bunny rabbits, but there’s been no development of the emotional aspects of the relationship.

Notice I said “too many erotic romances;” I’ve read some where that isn’t the case, where the emotional aspect of the relationship is just as well-developed as the sexual aspect. And I admittedly haven’t read any erotic romance in a few years, so God knows the quality has probably changed since then. I just honestly have no interest in it. Even traditional or sexy romances have a line with me…if they’re boinking all the freaking time I start to get frustrated. I want emotional and character development, dammit. I want dialogue that isn’t something like:

“Do you want me?” He asked, his voice a low growl that had her panties wet in two seconds flat.

“Yes,” she moaned.

“Do you want my cock in your pussy?”

She swallowed and nodded.

“Say it!”

At least not all. the. fucking. time. (I read a book this weekend where that was their sex talk pretty much constantly, and it seemed like it was every fifteen pages, and it got real old real fast.) Once, sure, if it fits the characters and the situation. But every fifteen pages? Shoot me now. That’s how a book gets thrown against the wall.

(BTW, I totally made those lines of dialogue up, but I see that basic idea way too often in contemporary romance, which may be why I’ve been reading so many Regencies here lately.)

So, yeah. I’m glad erotic romance is doing so well, and that more women are reading it. Seriously. Whatever gets people reading. But for me? It just doesn’t float my boat. And that’s all right, because I’m pretty sure my books probably don’t float everyone’s boats, either. That’s the joy of fiction–we read what we connect with. 🙂