Is it romance or is it erotica?

Erotica is often considered a sub-genre of romance, but the one thing that separates it from the genre is erotica does not require a happily-ever-after (HEA) ending. The Romance Writers of America, in its definition of romance, doesn’t use the words happily ever after. They require an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. The word happy does not appear in their definition.

Her Twisted Pleasures is not a romance. It does not end happily; however, I believe the ending is emotionally satisfying—for one of the characters at least. Twisted is erotica. I have never called it a romance, and I never will. It has an element of romance: individuals falling in love and struggling to make their relationship work, but the optimistic ending doesn’t happen.

Actually, I can’t find a definition of erotica. I saw ‘HEA optional’ in a publisher’s guidelines once, but I have no idea where it was written. But I like it that way. I like the freedom writing erotica gives me. I can write the story from my head or from my heart, and it doesn’t have to fit anyone else’s definition.

Twisted isn’t a happy book, but The Devil Made Me Do It is. I could call Devil an erotic romance, but since it’s a short story collection—not a novel—it’s been labeled couples’ erotica. Each of the stories has a couple struggling to make their relationship and their sex life work, and their struggle leads to an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending—all the elements of romance. But since sex is the central focus of each story, it’s called erotica.

So if you’re looking for happily-ever-after, be aware that you may not find it in erotica. Sex does not always lead to love, but sex can lead to some highly satisfying emotions. The optimism is up to you.

About Amelia James

Amelia James started reading steamy romance novels in junior high, but her mom took them away from her, so she started daydreaming instead. After she got married, she wrote some of her naughtier daydreams down and sent them to Playgirl magazine. Two of them got published. She kept daydreaming and writing stories until her dirty stories turned into trashy books. She lives in Colorado, but she’ll always be a loyal Wisconsin Cheesehead. When she’s not lusting after her next bad boy hero, she looks for inspiration in sci-fi and action movies, football players, bloodsucking lawyers, muscle cars, and kick-butt chicks.
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5 Responses to Is it romance or is it erotica?

  1. An interesting distinction. My erotica novella, releasing Sept. 1st, doesn’t have an HEA either, but it is quite emotionally satisfying. It definitely has a conclusion. Short stories really don’t meet the same requirements. Because it is short, it isn’t expected to wrap up all loose ends and therefore doesn’t have to be happy in any way. I’ve never thought of myself as a romance writer, probably because I’ve always lived in a “happy for now” world.

    • I think happy-for-now fits into the erotica genre better than happily-ever-after does, but there are some readers who expect everything to be tied up in a pretty bow. I can do that, but the cynic in me likes a little ambiguity in my endings once in a while. ;)

  2. I’ve always imagined ‘erotica’ as something you plopped on top of an other genre to mean, plus there is a heavier emphasis on the sex. Typically this ‘other genre’ is romance… but urban fantasy is another popular one. Space opera would be cool. ;-)

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