Romance or Erotica– What’s the Difference? by Desiree Day

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Romance or Erotica– What’s the Difference? by Desiree Day
In writing circles, reading groups and message boards, discussions invariably turn to romance and erotica and what is the difference between the two genres.  I will attempt to explain the difference.
According to Romance Writers of America, a romance novel has a central love story and an emotionally-satisfying and optimistic ending.  Merriam-Webster defines erotica as literary or artistic works having an erotic theme or quality.  Some might argue that erotica is porn, and according to my trusty source, Merriam-Webster who defines porn as the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement, they have a valid argument.  But for the sake of space restrictions, I will focus on only romance and erotica.
Romance Writers of America states that romance fiction generated $1.37 billion in sales in 2006.  Wonderful!  Broken down by sub genre, ‘Category/Series’ romance garnered 40 percent of that $1.37 billion.  And from ‘Other’ sub genre (which includes young adult, erotic romance, chick-lit, and women’s fiction) secured 5 percent.  There is a lot of reading going on.

I could end this essay right now, but I do not think that would be fair to either genre.

Growing up I always read historical and Harlequin romances.  I was ecstatic the first time I saw an Arabesque novel on the shelves.  For the first time, I was able to read a romance with characters that looked like me.  No more reading about flaxen-haired babes with milky white complexions for this budding book diva.  Now I was able to read about cinnamon hued, coiffed colored chicks who fell in love with handsome Black men.  I remember telling my mom, may she rest in peace, that these books are priceless, and to this day, I still have every Arabesque novel that I have purchased.

By college, I had graduated to much juicer reading, but I still remember how I felt after reading a well- written romance.  To me, reading a good romance novel is like sipping a glass of wine, eating Godiva chocolate while cocooned in a cashmere sweater.  How awesome is that?  A well- crafted romance leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy.

A lot of those romance novels were filled with purple prose, using such euphemisms as mounds, orbs or globes for female body parts.  Love tool, love stick or joy stick is occasionally used for the male anatomy.  If the words tit or cock were used, they were used very sparingly, sprinkled throughout the story like mini shockwaves.  The love scenes were sensual almost like draping silk over my body.

One key point is that romance novels are relationship driven.  The main characters are deeply in love with each other.  Although they are sexual, they are typically intimate with only one another.

Then there is erotica, woo hoo!  Erotica is very much in your face.  The language is not for the faint of heart, it is frank, open and real.  A good erotic story is sexually driven.  The characters are more interested in fun and exploring their sexuality.  They have one or more partners with no expectation of a relationship, but if a relationship occurs, it’s all good.  An erotic novel leaves you feeling hot and bothered and reaching for your partner or your favorite adult toy or whichever is within arms reach.

I came across a word on Ellora’s Cave website that caught my eye, romantica.  They describe it as a novel that is both erotic and romantic.  I immediately thought of my novels, Crazy Love, Cruising and One G-String Short of Crazy.  They all have the elements of a romance, central love story, an emotionally-satisfying and optimistic ending and they have an erotic theme or quality.

Here is the opening paragraph from One G-String Short of Crazy:

“Oh shit!”

“Oh, Miguel!”

“Work those hips, girl!”

“They’re working overtime for you, baby.”

“I’ma slap that ass!”

“Slap it hard!”

“Ooh, make it bounce, baby!”

“Nu-uh. You make it bounce for me!”

“I’m bouncing, baby! I’m bouncing!”

The sounds snatched Felicia Goodman out of a deep sleep. Her eyes snapped open as though unhinged. Anger built and worked its way up her spine with every grunt, moan and groan that seeped into her room until she went as rigid as a pole. The paper-thin walls muffled nothing. “Not again,” she sighed before pulling her pillow over her head. But the sounds trickled through her down pillow and into her ears. Cursing, she tossed the pillow to the floor and glanced at the alarm clock.

One G-String Short of Crazy is a perfect example of a blend of romance and erotica.  The opening exchange is actually between Aisha and one of her many lovers.  The love scenes in One G-String Short of Crazy are highly sexual, there are two love stories intertwined throughout the book, and the ending is very positive.

There are distinct differences between the genres and I am an admirer and avid reader of both.  Remember a good romance leaves a soft sigh on your lips.  A good erotic story leaves your other set of lips moist.  Choose romantica, that way both set of lips are happy.  Happy writing and reading.

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