Here are several definitions of erotic romance, with links to verify at the link I’m posting here.
Erotic romance novels, as defined by Romance Writers of America’s (RWA) special interest chapter, are stories written about the development of a romantic relationship through sexual interaction. …
A novel where the sexuality goes beyond that of a most romance novels and may use sexually explicit language, but the romance is still the core of the book. Can be either contemporary, historical or paranormal.
Erotic romance blends traditional erotic fiction with a romantic backdrop. Erotic romances tend to be fairly graphic and explicit in describing scenes of intimacy between adults; they usually have strong sexual content and incorporate frank language into the storyline. …
I have a few reasons to post about this now, and one of them is that I’ve been asked this question many times and I agree with all of the above.
One thing I don’t see talked about is what I’ve always consider my own personal definition, which I like to keep concise:
An erotic romance is a romance with strong sex that moves the book and story forward. And if you take the sex out of the story there will still be a plot and a good solid book.
Whenever I release a book, or submit a book to a publisher, I usually do a final edit where I highlight all of the sex scenes to see if the book and story will stand up on its own without the sex. I know that sounds mechanical, but it works for me. The books always do stand up. In other words, if I were asked to rewrite “An Officer and his Gentleman,” with all the sex scenes removed (or toned down to an R rating without strong sex scenes) I know without hesitation I would still have a book and a story. One of the interesting things about AOAHG is that when I first submitted that book to the publisher, it was returned and I was asked to add more sex scenes. I didn’t mind. No author minds adding more. They just don’t like having to edit things out. I think it worked out well and I’m happy with the book as it stands. But I also take comfort in knowing that I could still release that book today without the strong sex scenes and still have a novel.
It’s a little harder to do with short stories. But again, I could tone the sex scenes down in every short story I’ve ever written to R rated scenes and I know I’d still have a story there.
I think the same standard applies to erotic fiction, too, not just erotic romance. In erotic fiction there should always be a storyline that can stand alone without the sex.
Of course a lot of this varies according to individual opinions. I’ve been told too much strong sex is porn by people who actually had the audacity to define porn themselves. That’s not even a place where I would venture. The definition of what’s considered porn has been fought about for ages and no one is any closer to getting it right.
But in erotic romance and erotica the story comes first and I like to think the sex moves the love and the story forward at all times. I will admit that I usually add a great deal of sex, and that’s because I’m writing for an erotic romance audience. It’s what they expect when they spend their hard earned money. I think the discreet readers of erotic romance and erotica are disappointed when they buy books that don’t have sex scenes…I’ve heard some say they feel cheated. Of course that can be a tricky place, too. The definition of what’s considered too much, or too little, sex can vary from reader to reader and author to author.
But I do think it’s safe to go by all the definitions above in a general sense. And for those who don’t agree, at least you know that authors and publishers are making it clear what’s contained in an erotic romance. That is for the most part. I’ve bought a few and sat there wondering, “Where the hell are the sex scenes?” I thought “Fifty Shades of Grey” was tame compared to other erotic romances. But I have a friend who thought it was “scandalous.”
I’m going to post more on this topic because I’m curious about it. And any comments, assuming they will be civil, are welcome on the thread. I’m open to other opinions, even if I might not agree with them.