I've blogged about this very recently, but Emily Veinglory says it better than I can ever could:
...This leads to the usual insistence that nothing of this sort could ever be considered romance in any way (subtext: you freak). It seems to me that whenever a person is being told by self-appointed representative of the romance genre-slash-community that their stuff is too perverted to sell, they may be onto something (exhibit 1: erotic romance, exhibit 2: m/m, exhibit 3: BDSM, exhibit 4: menage -- need I go on?
Here is may own reply at Karen's:
"And I think the romance market is broader than many people realise or are willing to accept. A small publisher, to succeed, needs to have a niche. Not so long ago m/m was perverted, not romance and never going to sell to women. Now several successful publishers make most of their money from it. Then it was menage, BDSM, and now twincest that was not romance, perverted and not going to sell to women. Funny how those books are also selling well to those (largely silent) customers who want to read them.
There is a *big* difference between 'not for me' and 'not romance'. A love story with a happy ending is romance. The rest is a matter of taste and even if it disgusts one person it might delight many others."
I get uncomfortable whenever someone steps into a blog and starts making Moses-like statements about what makes or breaks romance. It doesn't matter if it is Nora Roberts who says it or some blogger. One person's personal preferences shouldn't be confused for What Must Be kind of laws.
But that's not what I want to blog about here, heh. I'm more curious about how things will change in the erotic romance landscape as the lines between traditionally accepted romance conventions and traditionally prevalent erotic fiction conventions meet. What I find rather amusing - ironic even - is that the same people who appoint themselves to tell everyone that incest, et cetera, is not romance are the same people who tore RWA to pieces for trying to declare romance as a heterosexual concept while trying to squash erotic romance authors away from their conventions and stuff.
I think the problem here is that romance readers and erotic fiction readers need not be one and the same but erotic fiction publishers are currently targeting romance readers because that is where the money is. Just look at how Aphrodisia and Black Lace Books market themselves as erotic romance when some of their stories are actually erotica with very little romance in them. Themes that thrive in erotic fiction (incest, rape, prostitution fantasies, "white wife willingly getting impregnated by big strapping Black man while happy wimp hubby watches" cheating fantasies, et cetera - just look at the categories in Literotica if you will, and take note that the biggest and most popular categories are the incest, rape, and adultery stories) may not be themes that romance readers, even erotic romance readers, are ready to deal with.
After all, we are talking about readers who proudly admit to (or publicly pretend to) be against pornography. Personally, yeah, I like pornography. I only don't like pornography if it's bad pornography. But not every romance reader is like me, and in a genre where we have all spent more than a decade trying to tell critics that the genre is not pornography, the blurring of the lines between erotic romance and pornography is not going to make everyone happy. I have mixed feelings about the blurring of the lines myself but I am going to wait and see before I say anything more.
But, theoretically, in a fair world, the genre should be big enough to make everyone happy. So... what's the problem? Why are there angry people insisting that there is only room in the genre for their personal preferences and that everyone who enjoys anything else is a pervert of some sort? Are they scared that they will pick up such perverted stories one day... and enjoy themselves?
Here's an interesting thing. A romance author recently wrote to me saying that she's thinking of switching to erotic romances or maybe outright erotica. She's not the first one to think about this, though. These authors are not doing it for money, mind you, they are tired of the limitations of the more conventional romance genre and they feel that the erotic subgenre allows them to write about things that they can't do otherwise: sexually experienced heroines, darker emotions, et cetera. In this case, I think the rise of erotic romance may not be such a bad thing if it allows romance authors an opportunity to write new things. The "mainstream" romance genre, after all, is sanitized to the point that it seems as if only two or three kinds of characters and storylines are acceptable. Everything else is "immoral", "unromantic", "selfish", "amoral", or even "pornography" if we are to look at outraged reviews on Amazon or romance review websites catering to mainstream tastes. I can only imagine that some authors will feel more free to write in the erotic romance genre without worrying what Big Sister will think or approve.
My only grumble about the rise of erotic romance is the annoying trade paperback formats these books tend to come in. They are too expensive for me to afford. Why else do you think I hardly read Brava, Aphrodisia, Berkley Heat, Avon Red, et cetera? I will have to sell my kidneys, all two of them and maybe my liver too, if I want to read them regularly.
But other than that, well, feel free to bring on the anal stuff, the skanky heroines, whatever. BDSM is not my cup of tea in general, but hey, to each his or her own. I'll be curious to see how the first generation "more hardcore" stories will turn out. Personally I'm hoping for stories with naughty priests. Er... why is everyone looking at me like that? I suspect that such mainstream publication of material usually found underground will either find only to a small audience or take off like nobody's business until Ellora's Cave start cramming their Exotica line with similar taboo stories. And then, when everyone is used to such stories, someone will come up with... oh, tentacle romance, I suppose. And then, the same people who have started to enjoy incest romance will then start complaining that tentacle porn is never romance, no way. And the cycle of life, Internet-style, will begin anew.
Oh, and before I go, here are two pretty... interesting covers. I don't know what to make of the codpiece on Mr Talnut while for some reason I can tell at once from the cover that Mr Boomerang is a hero in a gay romance. Click on the covers for bigger versions.