Do you Read Romance for the Sex or Skip Those Scenes?
Romance vs. Erotica
There is a fine line between romance and erotica these days. The books that used to be hard to find (The Story of O, The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by Ann Rice writing as A.N. Roquelaire) are easy to get these days. Fifty Shades of Gray and its two sequels opened up a whole new world of erotica/soft porn to many readers. Saturday Night Live even did a skit where a mom was in bed reading on her Kindle while the kids were fixing her breakfast on Mother’s Day, and it was pretty clear that she was readying something very steamy.
Where does that leave romance?
As I began this experience of publishing No Strings Attached, I opened myself up to many friends and family members who had no idea that writing was my life’s passion. I told them a little bit about my book, and warned them that it was a bit “spicy,” although I don’t consider the book erotica by any stretch. My mother and sister said it was too spicy, but they are on the conservative side, so I wasn’t that concerned. Others loved the chemistry between the characters, and wrote reviews to that effect.
When it comes to spicy, I try to think about the way that Harlequin books are organized, with Blaze being the spiciest, and Presents being the most conservative (at least from my perspective). No Strings Attached trends toward the Blaze, although it may not be quite as spicy as Blaze. Fox takes some actions at one point in the book that some might say are a little kinky, but we still wind up on the vanilla side. In real life, people give and receive, and for one person to always be on the receiving end of passion rang false for me.
I tried to build a convincing relationship between my two characters. I felt the sex was a part of building that emotional connection, and not just thrown in. The core of the book is the relationship, and the real-life drama that keeps them guessing before they can each fully commit.
I had one final category of readers: The people who told me that they don’t read romance, but they loved mine. They surprised me the most. While I was flattered, I’m not quite sure how I can use that statement to find new readers. I don’t see how I can market myself as “the romance for non-romance lovers”.
I’m fully committed to the romance genre. It’s what I like to read, and it’s what drives me to write. I feel like the romance genre has gotten a bad rap from so many formula-driven books, from the historical romance bodice-rippers to the modern “she married a billionaire cliché.” So what if they always have a happy ending? Aren’t mysteries always solved? The pleasure that I obtain as a reader is in meeting the characters along the way and seeing how they work through their issues. I read all types, from historical, to paranormal, to contemporary, and I love them all.
I’m considering offering an E-book version of No Strings Attached that would be the same as the original, but that fades out before the sex scenes. I don’t know if it would still read with the same intensity, or if it would fall flat. What do you think? Would you rather have the camera fade out as the couple is going into the bedroom, with the understanding that they are going to be intimate, or does leaving that open for interpretation come across as pandering? If I took the sex scenes out, would it then fall under mystery? Probably not, but it would seem to more evenly straddle the two genres, running the risk of pleasing neither. Isn’t it hypocritical to leave the sex out if the book opens with a hot weekend fling? Who knows.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments.