Monday, August 26, 2013

Unwrapping: Erotic Romance - How Far Do You Want Your Romance Reading To Go?


I read many kinds of romance, as you well know if you follow my reviews. I read romances that are sweet, charming, and make you sigh with the delicacy of the romantic nature. I read exciting romances filled with paranormal creatures and danger, and thrill with the intensity of otherworldly romance. I read suspenseful, edge of the seat romances, that keep you from turning out the light, and I read erotic romance – not erotica, not porn – erotic romance.

What’s the difference you might ask? Since the onslaught of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY by E.L. James and the description Mommy Porn being applied to romance novels, I believe the distinction is important.

Erotic Romance is a story written about the development of a romantic relationship through sexual interaction. The sex is an inherent part of the story, character growth, and relationship development, and cannot be removed without damaging the storyline. A Happily Ever After is an absolute REQUIREMENT of any romance including an erotic romance.

I enjoy erotic romance. Whether historical, paranormal, or contemporary in setting, I love steeping myself in the sexiness that some writers are capable of pulling from their imaginative depths to manifest in words on a page that leave me begging for more or in desperate need of a cold shower. Erotic romance is not for everyone and some works are more extreme than others, which is why I’m cautious about what I recommend to my dear readers. I’ve reviewed erotic romance here at Unwrapping Romance. I’ve reviewed some based in BDSM but those stories had an intriguing and captivating plot that was simply involved the eroticism of BDSM. Yes, I’ve enjoyed those reads, not because of the eroticism or uniqueness of the BDSM storyline, but because the writing was extraordinary and the characters had depth and pulled me in so deep that I was compelled to keep reading.

While on vacation, I decided to read The Seen Trilogy by Cynthia Sax, an erotic romance series from Avon Red. Reading it made me think back to when I read FIFTY SHADES OF GREY and why I had no desire to read on after book one. I was unable to connect to the characters in FSofG. I found the writing style amateurish, and when I reached the end of book one, I was so angry and annoyed by both the characters and the author that I knew right away that I would never pay out the high price for book two in the series. I had no desire to discover where their relationship took them.

Reading The Seen Trilogy was different although left me feeling somewhat the same. I purchased this trilogy for my own reading, without a request to read and review, and it turned out to be quick reading while stuck in a hotel room at the beach with three days of constant rain. Of course, the fact that I only paid 99¢ per novella helped a lot.

The Seen Trilogy consists of HE WATCHES ME, HE TOUCHES ME, and HE CLAIMS ME. When I finished reading the first book, HE WATCHES ME, I shut off my reader and gave reading book two, HE TOUCHES ME, serious thought. I decided to give Cynthia a second chance and decided to see where the story went. By the time I reached the end of book two, I was becoming very discouraged but when I saw her teaser for book three, HE CLAIMS ME, I hoped for the best - the shocking finale to the trilogy.

At first intrigued by the voyeurism of the story, I started reading, eager to become engrossed in this first person, present tense erotic romance. I tried to connect with Anna Sampson. I tried to understand her insecurities and her desire to remain invisible, but soon found myself annoyed with her easy acceptance of being so completely and perversely open to her neighbor, Gabriel Blaine. I began to question whether this was truly erotic romance or simply poorly disguised erotica bordering on porn.

To review each book as individuals would give away far too much to you if you should choose to read these erotic novellas for yourself. I’d like to leave it up to you, as a reader because I do believe wholeheartedly that there is a book for every reader and a reader for every book. The Seen Trilogy left me in a strange place. I enjoyed it, but not so much. I found the writing style exceptional, yet tired of the use of certain words being used repeatedly. I found the characters too one dimensional to connect with them on a level where I could feel any compassion for them. And finally, I found the subject matter, the mode of eroticism, well … creepy.

I had to keep reminding myself that Anna Sampson was a grown woman and not a young teen on the cusp of womanhood. She was entirely too virginal with fears of being touched, consumed, and seen, yet she opened her legs easily to a man who while fully dressed sniffed around her nakedness like an abusive stalker. My mind kept traveling back to Ana Steele of FSofG with her virginal thoughts and excessive desire to please  – is it coincidence that both of these heroines have the same initials?

I wanted to like Gabriel Blaine but I just didn’t know him well enough to do so. I found his love and desire to protect Anna more obsession than passion. I began to create a separate scenario, one that would help me make sense of where this relationship was going. I imagined that Blaine’s past connected with Anna’s father in prison leaving him indebted to the man and now he felt compelled to watch over and protect the man's daughter. I suppose it was my way of creating a story to make sense of all the sex scenes. I think that had I been allowed to know Blaine just a bit better, learn what made him tick so to speak, perhaps then I might have fallen for him the same way Anna imagined herself doing. I know more about Christian Grey and his past from one book than I know of Gabriel Blaine from three.

I’m still at a loss as to how I feel about The Seen Trilogy. The writing was excellent, but the characters lacked the depth I needed to connect with them. The story had great potential, but was flat and lacked the emotional layers to compel me to care about the characters, yet I was still pulled forward – like a voyeur – to finish reading the series.

Was it because of the sex scenes? I don’t think so. Was it because in each of us there is that need to know, need to see what happens next? I think so. I know I kept hoping that something new, something intrinsically exciting was going to happen that would make the story come together like a mystery that needed solving but in the end, it was simply creepy and certainly not romantic – not for me anyway.

I’ve read a lot of erotic romance and I will read more in the future. I will certainly be willing to read more from Cynthia Sax, but I can’t help but wonder if the need to be so completely different from other sexy reads overpowered this one and the sex got away from her.

My question to you, my readers, is this – when reading erotic romance, are you just looking for the extremes in sex scenes or do you still expect an equal amount of romance-building storyline?

I know that I want to know the characters who are exploring their sexuality, not just their sex. 

I’m not making a recommendation for The Seen Trilogy by Cynthia Sax, but instead I’m leaving it up to you. I do suggest that if you read them, read them in order, and one right after the other. It’s more complete that way.

Happy Reading Everyone!

HE WATCHES ME by Cynthia Sax, Avon Red, available in print and ebook formats at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobobooks.

HE TOUCHES ME by Cynthia Sax, Avon Red, available in print and ebook formats at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobobooks.

HE CLAIMS ME by Cynthia Sax, Avon Red, available in print and ebook formats at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobobooks.
***click on the links above or covers below for purchasing information.



kerriestrong said...

In the race to "top" EL James, I think erotica can certainly go too far. I've read some scenes that read like transcripts of porn movies, whereas some "regular" romance novels can have some incredibly hot, erotic scenes much more moving without naming body parts and including graphic detail. Eroticism is so much more than dirty words and actions.

Amy Valentini said...

Kerrie, I agree with you. I'm so glad that I'm not the only one who wants some real romance with their sex. ;-)

Thanks for coming by. I was beginning to think I was turning into a prude in my old age. Yikes! xoxo

Lisa Whitefern said...

Nice blog! The term Mommy Porn was only made up by one stupid man, but all the other journalists copied it. It's a pretty offensive term to me as a mother and erotic romance author, and I think it's ridiculouslly inaccurate because I suspect Fifty Shades original fan base were women in their late teens, who liked Twilight and Fan Fiction, and loved that the book was about a college age girl. Not mothers.

Amy Valentini said...

Lisa, I agree with you about the term "Mommy Porn" being insulting and inaccurate. I remember when I first heard the term on a talk show featuring FSofG, I nearly screamed. One of the things I try to do is educate non-romance readers about romance being a true genre of literature with talented authors, and amazing stories so to have it demeaned by such an inane literature wannabe like FSofG just infuriates me.
Thanks for coming by and I'm so glad you enjoyed the blog. I hope you'll visit often. I do try to bring my readers the best of the genre. :-)

~Crystal~ said...

"I'm so glad that I'm not the only one who wants some real romance with their sex."

Me too, pick me! I totally agree with you. Sex is great, but I have to FEEL the emotion otherwise it just seems out of place in the story.

-Crystal Donahue

Amy Valentini said...

Thanks Crystal, knowing I'm not alone in my opinion gives me hope for the genre. :-)