From Erotica to the grit of Western Historical Romances

southern-seduction

The Victorians - Two

 

 

Thanks to Sherri Goodman for an article on the resurgence of interest in the romance genre. She makes some good points here comparing today’s erotica and western romances to those of yesterday. Covers shown range from Luna Zega’s erotic Southern Seduction to Velda Brotherton’s gritty Rowena’s Hellion. I’m pleased to have her as a guest while I tend to some health issues. Hope to be back next week.

It’s difficult to talk about the recent surge of interest in the romance genre without mentioning E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey. Erotic romance had a following before, no doubt, but it is now a genre that is adored, lauded, and openly discussed by millions of women. And while Fifty Shades certainly isn’t the first of its kind, it’s safe to say it played a role in catapulting the contemporary romance genre into the mainstream.

Then again, perhaps it’s not just the success of the Fifty Shades trilogy that has the genre buzzing, but a shift in the attitude of the modern American woman toward erotic reading material. It seems the majority of women are no longer ashamed of their preference in reading material. And if they are shy, the popularity of the e-book allows for a certain level of discretion, not to mention convenience. After all, downloading an e-book is a much more anonymous transaction than hitting the checkout line at a brick and mortar retailer.

According to Romance Writers of America, women make up 84 percent of romance book buyers—76 percent of whom are talking with friends and acquaintances about the romance novels they’re reading. Therefore, it makes sense that the romance genre should adapt as the wants and interests of the modern American woman shift. So what is it that women expect from a romance novel?

Contemporary Romance Evolved

A quick stroll through the romance section of any book store will provide plenty of options for the avid reader of this genre.  While the covers look mostly the same as they always have—handsome, shirtless man with impeccably good hair holding a beautiful, cleavage-baring woman in his (ridiculously toned) arms—the content inside has evolved quite a bit. Romance novels of today are not what they used to be. They’ve changed, and it’s for the better.

The same formula is still there—the love story with a happy ending—but the themes, characters, and language often differ from the Harlequins your grandmother may have kept stashed beneath the mattress. No longer the damsel in distress or the virginal young woman prone to blush at even the hint of stirrings beneath her petticoats, the heroines of contemporary romance tend to be independent, brazen, and vocal about their interest in sex, in very not-safe-for-work terms.

There is also more variety available when it comes to what we define as “erotic novels.” They no longer have to be those aforementioned formulaic pieces that so many of us have come to expect or, at least, assume about this genre. According to Adam and Eve, these books now “run the full gamut of sex positive possibilities,” which means you can find novels that dip into political/societal themes, how-to guides in a more long-form setting, and everything in between. This diversity in terms of content only leads to a bigger, equally diverse audience for erotic novels as a whole.

Some of the purported reasons why women are so infatuated with romance novels are fairly expected: they provide an escape from the stresses of reality and allow them to play out their deepest desires. But it’s more than that. Psychology Today notes that by reading romance novels, women can live vicariously through the heroine and fall in love with the hero without any of the consequences—no cheating, no pregnancy, no regret the next morning.

The heroine of the novel could be anyone, even the reader. She is often described in vague terms as the average, every-day woman, solely for this purpose. The reader, then, can instead see herself as the heroine. By the end of the book, all of her desires are fulfilled: she snags the roguish-yet-sensitive, adoring, handsome man who only has eyes for her; a sex life that is always hot and never neglected; and then live happily ever after. When it comes to reading contemporary romance novels, women really can have it all—at least for three hundred and some odd pages.

Bio: Sherri is a blogger and freelance writer with a passion for all things health. Whether she’s researching the latest super food, or new ways to keep a long-term relationship hot, she’s always on the hunt for new ways to better herself, and help her readers do the same. Right now the only guy in her life is her adopted dog Charlie, but ever the (somewhat clumsy) optimist, she loves having the opportunity to share all of her relationship adventures and blunders with her readers.

My blog :: sherrigoodlove.wordpress.com Twitter: @sherrigoodlove.

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About veldabrotherton

I'm primarily a writer, but I also speak and teach workshops and co-chair a large critique group. My brand is SexyDarkGritty and that applies to my western historical romances, mysteries, women's fiction and horror novels. After almost 30 years in this business, I still have something to learn and attend conferences to network with other writers, publishers, editors and agents.
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One Response to From Erotica to the grit of Western Historical Romances

  1. cjfosdick says:

    Reblogged this on The Calling Stone.

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