If you read many blog posts or magazine articles about why women read romance you’ll no doubt find at least some, if not most, of the articles heavily sprinkled with the word fantasy, as if living out our fantasies is the sole reason we women (and men) read romance.
As those of you who read this blog know, I began reading the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy a couple of weeks ago. I was curious why the book had made such a huge splash and why it was selling so well. As a publisher I’d like to duplicate the success of 50 Shades with some of my titles if possible.
Like everyone else I’d heard the whispered comments about it being BDSM focused…and again…the sly comments about women and their romance and fantasies. At the same time I began hearing comments on blogs, in groups, and on Twitter and elsewhere that as erotic romance goes 50 Shades is on the tamer side of things. That got me thinking…what gives? If there are other BDSM books that are as erotic or even more erotic why is 50 Shades climbing the charts of bestsellerdom while some of the more erotic titles are not enjoying the same phenomenal sales?
That got me thinking more deeply about the books that I read, write, publish and about the books that have become all time favorites of mine. There are of course my own books…and books by other authors published by BVS…but there are books by Cherise Sinclair, Sarah McCarty, Catherine Anderson, and others who have become favorite authors. What is it about those books and authors that separate them from authors and books that I enjoy but not enough to search out the author again?
Yes, there are certain plotlines that I like. I like stories in which the hero and heroine are forced together in some way…marriage of convenience…stranded together in a snowstorm…running for their lives from a madman… I like those plots…not because I fantasize about being in marriage of convenience or being stranded with my enemy who later becomes my lover…and definitely not because I want to flee from a crazy person. I like these particular plots because they force the characters together under tense circumstances…often without a bunch of secondary characters…and I like that.
Sexual fantasies…we all have them. Some of them are tamer…some are more kinky. But by and large it isn’t the sexual fantasy element that makes me add a book or author to my favorites forever list. Catherine Anderson writes sweeter romance. Sarah McCarty writes erotic but not as erotic as Cherise Sinclair. My enjoyment of these authors isn’t reliant on the steam factor of their books.
For me the thing that really stands out…the thing that makes a book or author really special is the author’s ability to create a character who is imperfect or who feels imperfect…perhaps one that even feels totally unworthy of love and then they pair them with a character who loves them unconditionally. This is especially poignant when the flawed character learns to love and trust because of the unconditional love of the other character.
I think for me with 50 Sades it’s not the BDSM or the varied ways the couple make love that make me enjoy the story…(there are a lot of ways…and by book three I’m kind of mentally skimming sex scenes). Instead it is the fact that Christian feels totally unworthy of love…and Ana loves him unconditionally. That’s not to say that she doesn’t have issues…that there aren’t things in his past that give her pause. There are. And they do. But she loves Christian in spite of them. For Christian’s part, Ana is everything he doesn’t think of as an ideal submissive. She has a smart mouth, she argues, she questions, she is frequently disobedient. Yet…in spite of her being everything other than what he wants in a submissive Christian is drawn to her. She loves him unconditionally and as she does she teaches him how to return her love. He starts out believing he is not a hearts and flowers kind of guy…and by the end of the second book he is a hearts and flowers kind of guy. That kind of change is beautiful…and if there is a fantasy that I am looking for in the romance genre that is probably it.
Romance is at its most basic about the love relationship between the characters. I’m a real fan of characters who love each other unconditionally. What about you? What are some of your favorite reads which have characters who love unconditionally?
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