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.