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As we all know, I am and have been a pretty avid reader of romance novels, but smutty romance books are a fairly new avenue for me. I chronicled my first experience of reading a romance novel at a pretty young age. Since then I’ve been reading romance novels regularly. My foray into romantic erotica happened much later in life, somewhere around my late twenties.
So what’s the difference?
It is widely held that there are a few subtle differences between Romance, Romantic Erotica, and Erotica. Come with me on a journey to categorize these genres and hear about my first foray into smutty Romantic Erotica.
Romance novels focus on a the relationship between two people as the main narrative. This sounds obvious, but you could pull out every sex scene in the novel and still get your HEA (happily ever after) and- hopefully, a good story.
In fact, if I’m re-reading a romance novel I very often find myself skipping over the sex scenes since I’m really just there for the warm and fuzzies. There might be an additional plot (murder, family dynamics, obstacles to overcome) but at the end of the day you are focusing on two people falling in love.
It would follow that Romantic Erotica is a step up from a romance novel. Typically you still get your traditional HEA but there are a lot more nipple clamps and potential orgies involved. You still get a plot and relationship building, but if you pull out the sexy times you are missing a larger chunk of the novel than you would with a romance.
Now for Erotica. Straight up Erotica might not be aiming for a happily ever after, there might be more than one sexual love interest, typically always has sexual play, and (in the case of some erotica) if you pull out the sex scenes there’s really not a ton leftover. In fact, some erotica branches off into very niche tastes, so you can really find something for everyone.
Okay, now tell us about your first smutty book!
All of these sub-genres are equally valid and worth a read. I, however, had steadily remained in the romance novel section of the novel world. Not for any particular reason, just because that’s what I was most familiar with and kept getting recommendations for.
Then in 2017, I took a half-day from work because my most favorite author on the planet (Ilona Andrews) was doing a panel at a local university. Gender, Sexuality, Feminism, and the Romance Novel. I signed up and eagerly anticipated meeting them and hearing them speak. The panel consisted of:
This was right up my alley. Geeking out about books with authors. I was in heaven.
The panel was fun and super enjoyable. Eloisa James told a super interesting story about a pineapple that I will never forget. At the end, all the authors were doing meet and greets. I said my hellos to Ilona & Gordon and then popped over to Alisha Rai’s table.
At the time I wasn’t very familiar with her, but I had loved her take on the discussion topics and was excited to pick up some of her books. I told her as much and she very graciously gave me a copy of A Gentleman in the Street and signed it for me.
Whew boy. Let me tell you, I was not ready for the ride I was about to go on. A Gentleman in the Street was incredible. This was a feminist erotica. The storyline was actually good, which was a joy.
Badass billionaire businesswoman Akira Mori has a spine of steel. Our lead Jacob Campbell was written to perfection and it was very fun to read about these two pressing each other’s buttons in more ways than one.
Nora Roberts has nothing on Alisha Rai. Alisha Rai writes a sex scene like nobodies business. I’ve always liked Nora Roberts for her sex scenes because she doesn’t pull you out of the moment by saying something… that feels off to say it nicely. I’ve found with a few romance novels sometimes the sex scenes can get a little ham-fisted and it makes you roll your eyes.
Alisha Rai wrote about sex in ways that I had never even considered. I am so here for it. So often women are told there’s just one way to have sex and that our desires aren’t as valid. If a woman likes anything slightly out of the norm they can be marked with that scarlet letter. I love that in A Gentleman in the Street, Rai doesn’t shame our characters for their likes and dislikes.
I highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to dip their toe into Romantic Erotica and get a feel for it. I did a lot of blushing reading this book, but it was a great experience all around.
What was your first introduction to Romantic Erotica or Erotica?
Is there an Author I’ve got to add to my must read pile?