This prompted a person in a locked post to say "Erotic romance? Isn't that just, like, romance, but with the sex left in?"
Now, I am not an expert, but to me the answer is oh my god no. I have read perhaps a dozen of these, and I can always tell when I am reading one, because they have this tedious feel, like they are just marking time until they can get to the next sex scene. Now, the romance novel as a genre has its own pitfalls, but in the 'erotic romance,' to me, it reads as if someone had the brainwave that "women like written porn? Quick, we need to watch a bunch of porn and then novelize that shit so we can monetize this!"
The plot tends to be constructed to rationalize a series of erotic encounters with many partners, (serially or otherwise) and then at the end, one of our heroine's many partners will confess that they feel "...more" for her, and our heroine will admit relief, because she too feels more, and then the whole thing will be wrapped up. To me it reads as if the plot is a way to make the fantasy of sexual freedom "justified," because it leads to/ends in a fairly conventional romantic love. (Or sometimes M/F/M vee relationship. I've never seen a more equilateral relationship, but I haven't extensively surveyed it. Also, I'm sure there's M/M stuff out there, but I haven't gone looking for it.)
My most common complaints are as follows:
- the sex isn't sexy (a totally subjective complaint. Maybe just me!)
- a lot of time is spent telling the protagonist how sexy she is, with the weird result that even though she is the POV character, it seems like it is more about her being desired than desiring.
- oh my god I don't care about these people. (subjective!)
- the stringing together of sex scenes with a 'plot' really just underlines how little plot there is.
- nothing is at stake in these.
- when something is at stake, it is usually solved by someone having a feelings!revelation. "Oh my god, I can no longer deny my feelings for you!" Pro-tip: when Mr. Darcy did that, it wasn't the solution, it was the problem.
Now this sounds like I am against stories that end up in a pairing finding romantic happiness with each other, and this could not be further from the truth! I for example super-duper enjoyed Birthday Boy, in which for Reasons, Stiles has sex with everyone, and it is great.
Now, admittedly, Birthday Boy has an advantage with me, in that I already care about the characters, but I think one of the things it does right is that each sexual encounter is different because all the participants are different people. And not just in the trite "it's never been this way before with anyone else!" where we're expected to believe that "love" makes a sexual encounter tangibly different in some indefinably (yet better!) way.
And, okay, fair, lots of people do enjoy sex with people they love more than sex with people they're just fond of or have no particular feelings for, but it's not very good writing if all you can convey is "oooh, it's so much ~more~ with you, baby!!" Like, on a normal amp, the volume knobs go up to ten? But these go up to eleven!
So, a series of questions for anyone who's made it this far:
Your favourite "Debbie Does Dallas" type fic?
Do I have the wrong end of the stick with Erotic Romance? Am I misidentifying it? Just reading the bad stuff? Reading it wrong?
How does one Do it Wrong/Right?
This post also on dreamwidth ( comments)