Where has the romance gone?

Where has the romance gone?

I remember the first time I read an erotic romance. It was OUTLAW by Susan Johnson and man, reading that book was a life altering event. It was 1995 and a friend and I were driving to Nashville for our first Romantic Times convention. It was a six hour drive and we spent most of it reading the naughty bits aloud and giggling madly.Who knew this type of fiction existed?As a writer, from that moment on I felt liberated. I loved reading sexy romances that included strong characters, ones that I could relate to, the evolution of the relationship AND what happened in the bedroom…the living room…the car…under the kitchen table…As a reader and a writer, I wanted it all.After reading OUTLAW, I devoured every Susan Johnson book I could find. Then I glommed on to Thea Devine, Bertrice Small and Linda Howard. Okay, Howard isn’t exactly erotic romance but you have to admit, her stuff is HOT!

After writing for four years, I felt free to embrace writing romance on my terms.

My first book was ONE WITH THE HUNGER but the term erotic romance hadn’t been coined yet. In those days, (it feels like a century ago!) romance was the most important aspect with regards to the erotic titles. First and foremost was the evolution of the relationship, the growing sexual awareness, the characterization, the plot – all deftly woven together into a deep, satisfying read guaranteed to please any reader who liked it HOT.

Since 2001, the sale of erotic romances has taken off like a rocket. What was once the primary domain of small presses was embraced by the New York publishers and the gold rush…or sex rush began. Every year hundreds of erotic romances are released and the readers eat them up and, in the beginning, I did as well.

Now its seven years later and I’m afraid my point of view has changed as the line between erotic romance and erotica blurred. With publishers pushing for more sex, more sex, the romance, the foundation of these novels, is falling by the wayside. Sex as a plot (I call them walking erection books) is like eating blueberry pie for dinner. It’s good the first few times and when the sugar rush is over you’ll kill for a steak.

I’m not saying that NY’s interest in erotic romance is the death knell for the genre – not at all. My point is this, with the publishers, all publishers, pushing for hotter books, there is a price to be paid for the increased level of sensuality.

One of the biggest issues facing publishing is the rising costs of producing paperbacks. We’ve all seen the price jump from 5.99 for a new book to 7.99 and up, so the publishers began putting the brakes on the word count of their books. I’m of the opinion that a novel takes as many words as it takes to tell the story properly but I’m afraid the days of an epic one hundred and twenty-five thousand word tome is long gone.

At the core the issue is this, with rising costs, restricted word counts and the increased pressure for more sex, more sex, something has to give and from what I’ve seen it’s usually the plot or characterization.

As a reader and a writer, those are the two components of a romance that aren’t expendable. When I read a book I want the relationship, the mystery, the adventure of falling in love. I want to delve into the lives of the characters and see the world from their perspective. Watching them grow as people and as a couple, to overcome the obstacles in their path while learning to combine their lives is what I live for!

This is the heart of a romance novel – the core of what drew us to these wonderful books in the first place.

While I believe every writer has a duty to write what they are called to write (meaning their creative soul), the romance is rapidly becoming secondary in many of the erotic romances on the market today. Sex without soul is empty and meaningless and this is the antithesis of what true romance novels are about.

Personally, I’d rather have a little sex with my plot rather than the other way around. J How about you?




12 Responses to Where has the romance gone?

  1. Renee M

    Hey JC/Dominique 🙂 I agree 100%. I am a romance reader first and foremost. I love erotic romances and I have been hooked since I read my first one. But I want to connect to the characters and feel all the emotions that they feel. I need that way more than I need the sex in the stories. I have enjoyed erotica but I had always felt something was missing which is why I fell in love with erotic romance. But I still read some of those sweet series too because I enjoy those stories too.

  2. Amelia

    I can agree with you all, sometimes I’m thinking that there is almost too much sex in today’s books… and I’m old enough to remember when some of these books would have been put “behind the counter” in stores so that you had to be 18 or older to have access to them…. My sister had 3 granddaughters now – 10, 8, & 4, and she’s already thinking about what is not going to be allowed where they can read them in her home… In their parent’s homes that’s up the the girl’s parents, but not in her home. I’m more the plot and for humor, if it’s there, then for all out sex. Some stories seem to loose part of their plot line because the star characters of the book are always ripping off their clothes, so to speak. So if they are in room a having sex, how can they suddenly be in room c talking to joe blow who just came into the room (in a few of the stories that I’ve read in the last few months THAT IS the way the book has been published – either it got editted out or the proof reader did not catch it)

    Dominique/JC it is nice that you will be in Portland next month – I did not realize that there would be anything going on here in town, so it was nice to see that there would be something here… maybe, if there are at the door tickets available, I can go to one of the week-end day events… I’ll have to see closer to that time.

    Have a great New Year everyone.

  3. manbros

    online dating service is becoming more & more popular and people are interested in it. All info is great.

  4. Margay

    I totally agree with you, too. I would much rather have more plot, less sex. I’m afraid that romance is being buried under the sex for the sake of sex, no-strings-attached model currently out there. What’s to stop this from becoming porn? Porn may have it’s place, but not in a book my children might see. As an author, I have no problem with sex scenes, but I do prefer that they grow organically from the plot and that the characters have feelings for one another when they have sex – even if they don’t realize they have feelings for one another. Emotions are key to a satisfying read – for me, at least.

  5. Linda C.

    Agreed. The characters and relationship are the most important thing in any book I write or read. All my books are different. Two of them have one sex scene, one has four, another has two or three. It really has to come with the flow of the story. If I read a book with too many sex scenes in it, as others here, I skip over the later ones, (the machinations are pretty much the same) and get on with the story. And I really dislike when the hero or heroine has sex with someone other than their intended. It’s a romance, and there’s nothing romantic about gratuitous sex. But that’s just me. I like an erotic sex scene in a story, but I don’t read erotica.

  6. Dominique Adair

    John – I think every writer asks themselves ‘how do I top the last book’. Where the disconnect comes in is the push for hotter and hotter when the plots possibly don’t lend themselves to hot.

    Desire, sensuality and lust all must come from character as much as the setup. As an erotic writer friend always says, ‘its hard to get the panties off when someone is shooting at their heads.’ 🙂

    Sandie – Amen, sistah!

  7. sandie

    I agree completely. My first requirement is that it have a great plot and a HEA! After that I would prefer that it not to be just fluff.

    Then please add some heat. It’s a bonus and not a requirement, but the hotter the better. And I love menages.


  8. John Klawitter

    It seems to me that the mindset that identifies a book as ‘erotic romance’ or ‘erotic’ puts a strain on the author. As several of you have noted, you wouldn’t want to read an explicit sexual scene if it was thrown in as a mandatory bit. Well, when you imagine the plight of writer, one thing that must come to mind is ‘well, how do I top my last book?’ And, as you suggest, it must be in the appropriate interweaving of the erotic with the plot.

    Even though this is my belief, I’m not prolific in this genre, and probably shouldn’t be talking. I only wrote one erotic short story, The Whopper, and that one by accident. I mean, it is so smoky hot I’m embarrassed to think about it. My wife, also my best fan, is an avid reader of romance novels. She has generally chided me for not moving in this direction. “Why do you think people read?” she asks. Truthfully, my novels have been about as chaste as anything by Dick Francis, Ray Bradbury or Stephen King.

    But I think when I wrote The Whopper I proved to myself that I actually could write something that smoked a little without it being gratuitous or silly. So my new novel (HOLLYWOOD HAVOC: The Llama Goes Up) has several scenes that may hit 2 or 3 on the Richter Scale of Romance.

    For me, the only way that seems to work is the lust has to come out of the character’s needs and desires, and must move the story forward. But I don’t know that much about it. Maybe that’s what all writers say.

  9. Karin

    That totally makes sense. If the love scenes in the store don’t enrich it, then I don’t want them there when I’m reading it. I can do without them in that case.

  10. Dominique Adair

    Lois – I hear you! I was reading a recent release from NY and I found myself skimming the sex as well. Love scenes have to serve a purpose other than the titilation factor or I’ll skip them, too.

    Karin – Romance is about the relationship for me too. First and foremost the story should be compelling and the love scenes should make it feel ‘rich’ – if that makes any sense. LOL!

  11. Karin

    I can’t do anything but agree with you, Domini. When I’m reading a romance novel I want the relationship more than the sex. If the relationship involves sex and it helps the story than that’s a bonus since I do enjoy a well written sex scene.

  12. Lois

    yes, totally agree! 🙂 Well, have to say I’m not an erotic romance reader, but even with the books I do read — I like sex scenes as much as the next gal, but the thing is, sometimes I actually find myself skipping them if I just really want to get “back” to the story — the plot is way more important. Even with some mainstream, traditional, whatever the proper term is for the ones I read, some can be really steamy and the like, but if there is no purpose behind all the steam, I just really think, what’s the point? I can do without any sex scenes quite well if the story is very compelling and fascinating. We know in the end, they’re going to go to that bedroom and have a terrific time! So if we don’t see it, or don’t see it all, that’s totally okay! LOL 🙂


Back to Top