On the cover of DIRTY by Megan Hart are these three word: An Erotic Novel. Published by Spice Books, the story makes no claim to be an erotic romance, nor does it pass itself off as a work of women’s fiction with erotic elements. It simply states that it is an erotic novel. The question that might then follow is whether or not the story in an erotic novel should succeed or fail based on its level of eroticism. In other words, does the tale that is told need to turn on a vital erotic component, or is it enough that it offers readers detailed scenes of explicit sex?
For a romance novel to be rich and full, one of the usual requirements is that the heroine possess believable faults and, in some cases, many faults. Idiosyncrasies, difficult backstories, fears, dysfunctional families all help to fill-in the person the heroine is at the beginning of a story. Faults, yes, but rarely does a heroine seduce then suck the souls of the men she meets. That’s just not something a “normal” heroine does. Then again, a succubus is not a “normal” heroine and Succubus Blues is not the usual romance.
In high school, discovering whether or not a boy likes you is a matter of the growth process, with every action or reaction dissected by your group of friends. For Cammie “The Chameleon” Morgan in Ally Carter’s I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You it’s a matter of national security. You see, the girls of Gallagher Academy aren’t your average students but spies in training, and to them “normal” is just a buzz word for blending in.
The best romantic suspense villains exhibit which of the following traits:
- Shadowy, mushy goals and motivations which make sense only because the author says they do.
- The ability to hide their thoughts so well that the reader is more often perplexed than not.
- Violent, sometimes sadomasochistic tendencies that have appeared for no good reason.
- Clear, well-defined goals, motivation, and conflict.
Sometimes you enjoy a book, reading cover-to-cover with a speed usually reserved for eating your way through a family-size potato chip bag, and you have no idea why. Maybe the plot isn’t all that new. Maybe there are flaws in the reasoning by both the heroine and hero. Maybe there are a few (or more than a few) “wait, what just happened?” moments. Maybe there’s an overly annoying character, or an immature character or an unnecessary character. Yet you keep on munching. Debra Mullins’ Two Weeks With A Stranger, an enjoyable read-it-in-two-sittings historical romance, has a bit of that flavor.
These days, good contemporaries are hard to find as bookstore shelves are laden with paranormal and erotic romances. Want a good romance with vampires? Sure, throw a rock and a dozen of those will be hit. Craving a good romance that’s a cover-to-cover sex romp? Good is highly subjective with those, but at least there are lots to choose from. But a good love story set in the present, in this world, between humans who do more talking than groping? Not so much. In this era of sharp teeth and high octant erogenous zones, stories about men and women falling in love that are simply stories of men and women falling in love are few and far between.