Books & Writings of Gina
Creative Writing

Is Erotica Becoming the New Harlequin Romance?

Remember when romance novels pretty much followed one formula or another?

Victorian romances always presented a mystery and some element of danger, along with usually two romantic rivals between whom the heroine had to chose? The heroine tended to be chaste but responsive, yet never did more than kiss the man. Often there were children in the story, usually belonging to one of the romantic rivals, and the heroine was their governess/teacher/nanny. These novels were set in castles or huge Victorian homes belonging to men of vast wealth. They were entertaining, but not full of surprises. And there was no sex.

Regular romance novels had their own cookie cutter themes. Although the settings were more widely varied, several common plot devices repetitively surfaced. The heroine and her man were intensely attracted to each other but for any number of inane reasons, deprived themselves of quenching their hunger. There was usually a misunderstanding, sometimes so trivial the reader is screaming “get over it!”, that eventually resolves and the lovestruck couple ends up together, happily. There was very little sex, lots of buildup and hot kissing.

Then romance books began to move into modern times and the heroines were often divorced or widowed, often with a child. She was not innocent, but neither was she promiscuous. There was sex, but not graphic. Still the same tired plots persisted, however. The lovers resist committing to each other, generally over some misconception or a blunder committed by one or the other. Yawn.

Now we have erotic romance. The genre is like regular romance novels, but with sharp edges and added sex. We have heroines who are lusty and free. We have open-minded characters willing to explore alternate sexual experiences. We have explicit descriptions of the sexual acts, and the sharp bite of blunt terms for body parts. So we would assume, we also have fresh plots and storylines. Not so. Even in the world of erotica, there are rules and formulas to be followed. Although the characters experiment feverishly, they will ultimately end up as an exclusive couple (or threesome). There is little or no nonconsensual play. And there is some deliberately induced pain, but it’s all in fun and completely acceptable to both the painer and the painee. We don’t generally have deeply conflicted characters, surprising developments, or edgy insights.

The cookie cutter is back. It’s just naked now.

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