Friday, September 11, 2009

A Whale is Not a Fish

This is the title of the book that my son is reading by Melvin Berger. It's all about animals that share characteristics, but have very important differences--it boils down to the fact that they may be similar, but they are not the same.

After reading a different book -- for the purpose of doing a review -- which had been labelled an erotic romance, this very same reality was brought home to me.

Of course, I've read erotic romances before, don't get me wrong. Even the books I've written have been termed (by some) to be erotic romances. And I really don't mind hotter sex in what I read, I like that there's an option, that I can choose that if it's what I'm looking for at any particular time.

But what I'm always looking for in my romance--erotic or otherwise--is ROMANCE.

This doesn't sound like it should be so hard, but I find myself getting frustrated with the labels being thrown around out there these days. The books I write are ROMANCE: first, foremost and always. The biggest part of the story is the development of the emotional connection between the hero and the heroine. I think that if you're going to include sex in that equation it should be an integral component that works in conjunction with the conflicts and character arcs, but also that if you took away the sex, you'd still have a really powerful love story.

And while I can understand that "erotic" romance is going to put more focus on sex, the tag there on the end--that word ROMANCE -- means that the couple's relationship is still supposed to be the key component, otherwise call it something else whether that name is erotica or what-have-you.

The book I just finished (title will remain unnamed) started out fairly promising. It had an interesting premise that I was looking forward to getting into. But the sex started at about page three-I mean, really. Come ON people! It didn't even make sense to get them into bed at that point. They were supposed to be strangers and on opposite "teams". After that, it seemed the author had little use for an actual plot, and the story got worse as the sex got more inventive.

So, why exactly am I ranting about it?

It's not that I begrudge an author writing anything he/she damn well pleases. There is a market for this particular book, a lot of people would probably like it well enough, and good for them. But the thing that bugged me is the use of the term ROMANCE. Erotic, yes. But this was not a romance. For me, I care because I need the romance. Times are tough and I don't want to buy something only to find that isn't what I spent my money on. I want to look at a book and know that I could trust whatever label it had been filed under.

What if someone read an "Erotic Romance", was disappointed for the same reasons I was and turned away from any other book that ended up with a similar label in the future? They'd probably miss out on my book then...and that would be a shame, really.


Maggie Robinson w/a Margaret Rowe said...

LOL. I've abandoned a whole lotta books larely, not so much for not living up to the romance part (I actually finished one that really had no sex to speak of---eek!)but because they just felt flat. Or maybe it's me. I'm convinced I'm too distracted to appreciate anything.:(

Cai said...

So totally agree! If you're going to call something a ROMANCE, it had damn well better have a real ROMANCE in it!

Recently read something that was billed as romance written by a man that was in no way, shape or form ROMANCE but it was EROTICA. Then shortly after that read something else written by a man that was billed as EROTICA that was truly a ROMANCE...go figure!

I WANT the HEA!! I don't care if they have lots of sex to get them there - more power to them (LOL), but give me that HEA!!

J.K. Coi said...

Maggie, I'm getting more discriminatory in my reading as well! I used to think if I'd started something I should at least finish it, no matter what--well, not anymore. I don't have time for that!

J.K. Coi said...

Cai, I totally agree!

But it's not even the HEA--A lot of these books lately pretend that they're giving you a romance just because the hero and heroine decide to stay together in the end. But the HEA is so FAKE! The "relationship" is tacked on there as an afterthought at the end. The hero and heroine's arc has been non-existent. They haven't grown together, they haven't learned anything and the internal conflicts (if any) have been so poorly developed that an HEA is almost an insult.

Samantha Hunter said...

I'm with you, but I suppose a lot of people also confuse sex for romance in real life, which is why divorce rates are so high. ;)

But it is annoying in a book we spend money on, to not get what we expect. Lines seem to blur a lot these days, like the ones between mystery and suspense -- there is a difference between those two, and yet I have read several mysteries that are NOT. Sigh.

But I hear you -- we often get the opposite with Blaze, which is always mysterious to me, since Harlequin is always a romance. But people often think we are "only about the sex" and I often have to remind them that as a Harlequin line, we are first and foremost romance, with each line offering more or less sexual content.


RKCharron said...

Hi :)
Thanks for the great blog post JK!
The romance part of the label is integral to the type of novel like Paranormal Romance, Historical Romance, etc. - The key being the integral romantic plotline.
To not have romance in a romance novel is like buying an Urban Fantasy and getting no urban or no fantasy.
All the best,

J.K. Coi said...

Sam, I love Harlequin for just that reason--no matter what heat level or genre, you always get a strong romance!

J.K. Coi said...


Moira Rogers (Donna) said...

I think the trend to call something erotic romance instead of erotica when it's clearly the latter is a marketing technique. Maybe editors and publishers feel that romance is more accessible--or accepted.

At any rate, the "pasted on" HEA is rampant these days, and it fairly drives me nuts.

J.K. Coi said...

Yep, Donna. It's definitely a marketing technique and I can definitely see why it’s done. But yeah, drives me up a wall.

Maria Zannini said...

Absolutely! If something is billed as romance, regardless of the heat level, I expect a romance. To do otherwise could potentially hurt future sales.

There's a place and an audience for erotica and erotic romance, just let me know ahead of time so I'm not disappointed.

Good topic, JK.