The difference between romance, erotica and erotic literature is something that has been bugging me for a while now. Most of the time, the lines are blurred and thanks to Fifty Shades of Grey the whole bloody lot--the good, the bad and the downright ugly (many might argue Fifty Shades is the downright ugly,) are lumped together on the same shelves at the bookstore, regardless of the content or quality of such. For the first time in my life, I'm seeing Anne Rice and Anais Nin on the same shelves as Abbi Glines and I'm wondering what the difference is. And so, I've decided to choose one book from each and see if I can work out for myself what the difference is ...
Romance - The Marriage Mistake by Jennifer Probst
The Marriage Mistake is probably one of the gentler romances to hit the supermarket/department store shelves in the wake of the Fifty-Shades era. The plot plays out much like an extended Mills & Boon romance. The characters are all wealthy--the heroine comes from a rich family, the hero is a family friend and self-made billionaire. Both are living in the United States but come from a European background. Neither wants marriage or children. The heros looks are described in detail--he's blonde haired, blue eyed and enjoys working out and any other manner of activities that mean that the reader can imagine a tanned and well maintained torso. As for the heroine ... I have no idea what she looks like, but for a mention of olive skin and that the hero thinks that she looks good in shorts. The first three quarters of the novel moves sensually between the interactions of the two leads until they eventually give in to the sexual tension that was obvious in the first chapter. The last quarter of the novel is spent with both characters experiencing separate epiphanies where they realise that their arranged marriage (which is organised for family reasons,) is something that they both want and they are meant to be together. It's the classic tale of two sexually frustrated people being tamed by desire that turns into love.
The novel is very much trapped in a fantasy like world. We have wealthy, a sexy alpha male and a scatty heroine whose features are barely mentioned--this last part is intentional. The female reader is meant to imagine herself as the heroine, and she can enjoy some safe sexual fantasies that come complete with a guaranteed happy ending. She gets to enjoy both male stereotypes, the sexy alpha and the committed husband.
We know that real relationships don't work like this. People don't change and suddenly become family oriented just because they feel sexual desire for another person. Sexual desire isn't love or what holds a healthy relationship together. On the other hand, it is intended to appeal ones senses, not ones common sense.
Erotica - Eighty Days Yellow by Vina Jackson
This one is straight out porn. Two sexually frustrated people find one another and thanks to a situation involving a violin share some erotic adventures. This one really isn't for casual readers and I probably never would have finished it, had I not been given a free review copy. It's really intended for hardcore fans who want to read about some heavy sex and don't care about the happily ever after part.
Erotic Literature - Eat Me by Linda Jaivin
A controversial release that was banned in a number of US libraries, the novel opens with a hilarious though implausible scene in a supermarket where a consumer and an in-store detective pleasure themselves with fruits and vegetables. (It's later explained as being an erotic story within an erotic story.) What follows are tales of the sexual fantasies and exploits of four friends. Not all of the exploits are real and not all of the characters are honest. A big part of the fun is guessing what is what and having a bit of a laugh at the things people will do to get themselves off. And the characters are all very, very human. Each of the woman considers herself to be liberated and they certainly don't fall into the victim or helpless heroine role. The ending is not conventional. The story is basically literature with an erotic flavour.