Lately I’ve been thinking about how to define erotic romance and I think I've come up with a new way. It’s not just that erotic stories are more explicit than other romance, not just that they’re about a sexual journey, not just that they use the “C words.”
It’s not erotic romance unless rules get broken.
For instance, ménage. That whole one man/one woman rule? Gone. GLBT breaks the “rule” that a relationship involves both genders. BDSM breaks rules separating pain from pleasure, and shatters ideas about what sex is supposed to involve.
Here’s the thing about rule-breaking -- If the heroine/hero simply follows all the rules, they’re behaving only in the way that’s been dictated to them. But if they go beyond the rules and discover what they truly want, then they’ve discovered their true nature – and so have we, the readers.
Since we’re talking erotic romance, the rules that get broken are sexual ones -- and nothing has more rules associated with it than sex. They’re drilled into us from an early age. If a character is strong enough, or desirous enough, to break the rules around sex, then they’re bound to make a worthy hero or heroine of an erotic romance.
When I write my erotic stories, nothing’s more fun to me than taking a situation ridden with rules and exploding them into a sexual free-for-all. Take the boss-employee set-up of my Receptionist series. She’s a receptionist with two sexy bosses. Just think of all the rules that apply – and how much fun subverting them can be. She has fun, anyway – not to mention the fun I had writing it.
My next release, Beautiful Obsession, may involve more rule-breaking than any other book I’ve written so far. It breaks rules about resident advisors and students – three students, to be exact. These three students have already broken the rules by being wrapped up in a very intimate threesome since their teenage years. It may be unconventional, but their relationship has its own rules – which they choose to break in order to bring in someone new.
So what do you think of my new definition of erotic romance? Am I way off base, or does it make sense to you? How would you define it?