When I started reading erotic romance back in the early to mid-2000s, erotic romance meant “bedroom door wide open”, the author would use graphic terminology that the regular romances wouldn’t. The act of love making between the hero and heroine was captured in all its glory, so to speak, instead of closing the door or the camera panning to the window and only panning in once the couple were in the cuddling after-glow stage. There were some books where the hero was dominant (not with a capital D), and some where there was a certain kink factor. Especially when the paranormal was involved — the one that springs to mind is Lora Leigh’s Elizabeth’s Wolf. OMG hot!
But as time went on it seemed that the “envelope had to be pushed” to include kinkier and kinkier acts. It’s pretty much a given in any of the books I’ve read lately that anal sex will be included. The menage a trois that used to be scandalous has become almost passe to have only three partners and not more. (The logistics of all those body parts and what fits where and the gymnastics that have to be gone through to … well, it’s an intricate act of choreography.)
Is it just me or has the tide shifted so anything labelled erotic romance has to include BDSM? It seems to be industry prevalent — the Romance Studio doesn’t even have an erotic romance category in their CAPA awards anymore, now there’s only a BDSM category (and it’s not just at TRS I’m noticing this phenomenon.) My editor at Samhain tells me that to qualify to be a Red Hot in their store, the story has to be about the sexual journey more than an outside plot. But is an excursion into the realm of BDSM the only journey left to explore these days? Is everything else too “vanilla”?
Personally I like writing (and reading) characters using bondage in the bedroom. As a writer it’s fun to explore their psyches as they relinquish control, as a reader it’s just fun to read. And while bondage is the B in BDSM, I think it’s the SM part that bothers me as a reader the most. While I’ve written characters who are into spanking and flogging (yes, there is some in PERSONAL PROTECTION, and more (for both good, and bad) in HIDDEN HEAT, personally I find it difficult to write heroines being turned on by pain. Wearing my reader hat, I generally find a hero who causes a heroine pain, even in the name of love, makes him less heroic, and when there is pain it tends to lessen the romanticism of the scene for me. In both cases, I know that my own life experiences are coloring my preferences, which, for a writer, can be dangerous because I am not supposed to let the dreaded “author intrusion” occur.
So I’m interested to know what other readers of erotic romance expect these days. Do you prefer your erotic romance to involve BDSM? What are the boundaries of that envelope that’s being pushed? Are you reading erotic romance for the romance or for the eroticism? What changes have you noticed? What trends do you like? What trends are you getting bored with?
What about those of you who prefer the bedroom door left partially closed? Are you finding more and more graphic sex creeping into what used to be regular contemporaries?
I’ll give away a digital copy of the winner’s choice of erotic romance from either Samhain or Carina. I’ll close the comments next Monday April 9th at 9 a.m. to give a chance for everyone to weigh in, and choose a winner using random.org, then post the winner later that morning. Congratulations to Annabelle for her comment–she won the contest. Thanks to everyone else who took the time to comment. Just because the contest may have ended, doesn’t mean the conversation has to stop…