Erotica or Erotic Romance?
By Tina Folsom
I often read reviews for my books where a reviewer refers to my books as Erotica. I’ve never written Erotica in my life, so maybe it’s time that I explain what I consider Erotica and what I believe is Erotic Romance. Because there is a difference.
When I first joined the Romance Writers of America, I quickly found out about the many rules of writing romance. There were several vital ones that no romance writer can break and still call her novel a romance.
In a romance, erotic or not:
· The hero and the heroine have to end up together; ie. Happily Ever After, also called HEA.
· The hero and the heroine may only have sex with each other. That is not to say that they have to be virgins, but that from the moment they meet, they can’t be intimate with anybody else.
In Erotica, everything goes. The hero and the heroine may sleep with anybody they want to. There can be ménages, orgies, or anything that the writer finds titillating. There is no necessity for a Happy End, however oftentimes Erotica does have a Happy End, but it can be a Happy End between more than two people. A novel like “Patton’s Way” comes to mind where the heroine ends up with three brothers.
Venice Vampyr is a novella series I’m writing. In the first of the series, the vampire Raphael is rescued from drowning by the human Isabella. Subsequently, he seduces her. Their sexual encounters are scorching and include bondage and even voyeurism. But does the intensity and explicitness of the sexual encounters between the hero and the heroine make it Erotica?
Let’s look at it more closely: In Venice Vampyr, Raphael only has sex with Isabella and vice versa. How about the voyeurism though? There is a scene in which Raphael and Isabella have sex in a dark archway and are observed by a passerby. Does this scene make it Erotica? It would if the stranger joined in, but he never touches Isabella or Raphael.
The sex remains monogamous, even though it might be a little risqué. However, Venice Vampyr closes with a Happy End, thus fulfilling the promise of a romance. It is clearly a romance, yet a very sexy, very erotic one. But it isn’t Erotica.
I could certainly have turned it into Erotica if I had wanted to go that way. What would I have had to change to make it Erotica?
In Venice Vampyr, I would have changed the archway scene to make it so that the stranger joined in and touched Isabella and changed places with Raphael by having sex with her. I could also have had Raphael feed from other women and in the process have sex with them. In either case, their relationship would not have been monogamous anymore, and while they could still have had a Happy End, I wouldn’t have classified the novella as romance anymore. I would have broken one of the cardinal rules of romance.
Not all novels are always clear-cut, but I think you probably get the idea. Monogamous and a Happy End = Romance; multiple partners and/or ménages = Erotica.
Happy reading whatever you’re into, Erotica or Erotic Romance. Enjoy!