Seriously, I'd be very interested to know how "serious" people who review erotic romances say how well they work for those people. I've been reading many erotic romances lately - I tend to rotate genres or subgenres, moving along when I've had enough of one, and it's just that time for erotic romances.
I find myself thinking, it's very easy to make fun of a badly written erotic romance, because the jokes write themselves. The author will give the reader enough rope to hang the author by means of awfully written sex scenes, hilarious phraseology, or such. However, how do you celebrate a well-written erotic romance?
There are review sites out there that judge such books using things like "five vibrators" or "seven hot bananas", but I personally feel such methods are so not my cup of tea. Then there are readers who say things like how the book drove them into "Me and my BOB" frenzy. Good for them, but I wouldn't like to give the reader of my reviews the impression that I am going to be doing such things in the background while they are reading the review. It's a little... undignified, let's just say, not to mention embarrassing especially if the review is read by someone who knows me in real life.
In fact, I sometimes get very self-conscious when I am declaring my love for a story that I know feature very... um, let's just say, unconventional things. The rise of MM romances, for example, allow me to open my closet door where my "other" reading preference is concerned, and I'll be one of the first people to tell you how glad I am to get an alternative to depressing literary queer lit where very few people are ever happy by the last page. (As an aside: queer lit veteran Edmund White has written some of the most erotic/raunchy MM scenes I've come across - too bad his characters are rarely happy.)
But I still get emails and reactions from people who will go, "Oh wait, I never pegged you as one of those types!" I know I have lost some long-time visitors when I begin reviewing MM and erotic romances because they couldn't reconcile the old me who read Avon and Harper romances to the same person who also reads naughty stories. I've seen my favorable reviews of erotic romances mocked at other places, with those people quoting what I thought were amusing phrases to describe how well the stories worked for me as evidence of how... off I am as a person. We are not talking about fluffy fan girl hangouts, mind you, which are easy to dismiss. So yeah, I guess after a while I have to look back at those reviews and think, "Okay, so maybe I do come off as a little too much like an embarrassing horny old woman..."
I have said many times that I have labored at my website for ten years now because I like what I do - in a way, it's more about me than anything else - but I have to also admit, I can't help feeling a little self-conscious after getting enough of those reactions. I don't think it's shame I am feeling here, since heaven knows, that feeling has never caused me to give up reading those Dirty and Shameful (snort) Stories. I think it's more like a self-conscious kind of "Wait, am I actually embarrassing myself by gushing so much about these things? Is it TMI to let people know that I like reading stories of sodomy? Am I going to give people this impression that I am going to abuse the showerhead after reading this story?"
Maybe it's a Chinese thing - we old coots are raised to be prim, proper, and always "keep face" in public. We are not supposed to be doing overly excitable things that may embarrass ourselves after all, and perhaps it is inevitable that as a result of my upbringing, I feel self-conscious about letting people think that I am going to do things that mother had warned would make me go blind just because I've read a hot book.
Which brings me back to the question: how do I give a well-written erotic romance a great review without being overcome by the self-conscious thingy? How do I write it without instinctively pausing over a sentence because a part of me is worried that I may lead people to think that I am going to be streaking naked across the lawn after this to have a threesome with the guys next door?
Perhaps it's a matter of me trying not to worry about what people may think about me, my sex life, my relationship with the showerhead, or what sex toys I have in my collection because of a review.
Oh, I don't know. That's why I'm seriously thinking that, if I have the time, I'd start a sister site under another pseudonym to review things that will really shock some people even more out there. That will be easier than having to examine my own feelings or whether I suffer from some kind of secret shame about my reading preferences. Sigh.