For most of the previous entries in this Ten Nights of Love series, I automatically knew who the various authors were going to be and all I had to do was make sure I arranged them in chronological order to tell the story. For this last post, though, I knew what the content was supposed to be about but had three author under consideration and three different reasons for selecting them, which for some odd reason totally and completely confused me, but more on that in a moment.
You see, a couple of years ago, I actively started dipping my toe, heck, my entire foot, into the so-called erotic romance sub-genre. I call it “so-called” because I’m still not entirely convinced that all the books with that tag are labeled correctly. So, while I knew that I wanted this post to be representative of that most recent shift in my reading choices, I first had to figure out what that meant – for me personally as a reader – so that I could then in turn figure out the best author to represent that change in my focus. Not necessarily the best writer, mind you, but the one that makes me grin the most over this entire development, if you get my drift.
The whole thing is complicated by the fact that I don’t think most people do agree on what erotic romance means, at least not from the romance perspective. There are no boundaries. There are too many boundaries. It’s all over the place. What one person tells you it is, another individual says that’s not it. What one publisher labels as erotic romance, another simply labels as hot or spicy, which is no help at all for the average reader. So, before I even attempted to tackle this one, I went back and reread an article from Teach Me Tonight called “Classifying Works Containing Sexual Content” that always helps me clarify my own thinking about erotica and erotic romance as well as a couple of other terms that get tossed romance novels way. It doesn’t necessarily help me define erotic romance, mind you, but it does help me understand what I’m looking for personally here. Or not looking for, as the case may be.
Then I looked at the three authors I was dithering over for this post again and I realized something very important. They are all authors that have at one point or another written books that have been labeled as erotic romance – originally with e-books publishers. They’re also all authors that are slowly moving into the mainstream, i.e. getting contracts with New York print publishers. Each one of them in their own style employs various elements that I believe sometimes get mistaken for erotic content. What I can’t help wondering is whether these things are truly erotic content or simply not the norm for traditional romance.
That, however, is not my problem.
It does bring up some interesting points about why I had so much difficulty deciding, though.
The first author I seriously considered was Bianca D’Arc, partly because she’s a definite favorite of mine that I’ve talked about quite a bit in the past. In truth, if the primarily consideration I’d been looking at was alternative lifestyles then this post would’ve been about her. By alternative, I mean anything other than simply male/female, but specifically multi-partner. Because, to be quite honest, she’s the only author that I’ve been able to find a comfort zone with that theme. However, that was not the only thing I was looking at.
The next thing that came to mind that gets brought up a lot in discussions about erotic romance is animalistic behavior, to put it nicely. Had that been my top criteria then without a doubt my choice would’ve been Lora Leigh and not solely based upon the rather unique quirks in her Breed books. One of the first things I noticed in reading her books is that she gets alpha-ness, meaning that in the animal kingdom it’s both a male and female thing. Her females are just as strong and important as her heroes.
All of which brings me finally to Shelly Laurenston/G.A. Aiken and the reason I ultimately chose her – the power her female characters weild and I do not mean in a supernatural way. Or really even in an erotic way, although, I suppose that enters into it in some respects. It’s just not the first aspect that comes to mind when I think of her books, which is what’s so confusing about the erotic romance label being tossed around so much.
In a word, her heroines are simply downright–
And I don’t say that as an insult, at least not from my standpoint, just that there’s no other way to describe them. It radiates off them in waves. Shrinking, fainting, wilting violet heroines of the past, they ain’t. Put it this way, to call them alpha would almost be a step down and totally irrelevant in many ways. Ever heard the phrase about “the hero as villain” used to describe the typical romance hero of the past? Well, these gals would eat those poor guys for lunch and then ask for desert.
Literally, in some cases.
Think I’m joking? My son read one of her books and was appalled, absolutely, totally appalled, by the fact that the heroine was basically a psychopathic (my son’s word) barbarian conqueror intent on winning back her kingdom from her brother. Granted her brother was worse. I think. But the comment my son made that caught my attention was when he wondered whether her people – who wanted her help to dethrone her brother – would be any better off with her, particularly since she was now going to have a clan of dragon shifters, i.e. her “hero’s” family, at her beck and call to do her bidding and massacre her enemies. Dragon shifters who make no secret of the fact that they indulge in the occasional human snack when the mood or situation warrants it, I might add. So, I can’t really argue with my son’s outrage - to a point, anyway.
And it probably wouldn’t stop me from arguing with him but that’s another matter entirely.
Seriously, though, I couldn’t help wondering if she was supposed to be nicer because she was female or if it was the whole conqueror bit that made her seem so, er, psychotic. And if you’re curious but haven’t read the book I found two reviews of Dragon Actually, one from Mrs. Giggles and one from Dear Author.
See, I get it. Heroes, and heroines, are supposed to be, well, heroic. It’s just that we’ve been debating about heroes acting like idiots and jerks for decades. We’ve also been whining about those poor, put upon, wimpy heroines too. So, don’t mind me if I sometimes, not all the time, but definitely sometimes, thoroughly enjoy a heroine who can give as good as she gets – in all ways.
Just the thought that this kind of almost villain romance heroine could actually be published in a mainstream print romance line makes me smile because, frankly, you have to admit, that’s a long way from where we started.
God, I love romances. All of them.