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REVIEW: The Seduction of Miranda Prosper by Marissa Day

Dear Ms. Day,

I never know what grades to give erotica, because, much like exotic foodstuffs, it is a genre that is peculiarly subjective to what Englishmen call taste, the French call bon gout, and everyone else chalks up to appetite. But let’s be fair, Ms. Day, most erotica is-’even without the idiosyncratic presence of taste mucking up objective perspective-’crap. Oh yes, it is. Even when it makes you horny, there is always moments-’indeed! often there are many moments, in which the reader is forced to roll her eyes heavenward, not in ecstasy, but in an emotion that can be more succinctly summarized as, "Oh For the Love of Jesus and All the Angels, you have GOT to be kidding me with this?!" a moment, which is, invariably, a buzz-kill.

The Seduction Of Miranda Prosper By Marissa Day In short, most erotica sucks ass in both a literal and metaphorical sense.

Going into this book, I had no idea it even was an erotica. In retrospect, this is quite funny because I should have cottoned on to something upon viewing the cover. But perhaps I am so inured to clinch covers that a scantily dressed female hardly registers in my brain as code for "Erotic Romance." So when I started reading, I was a bit annoyed to find hard cocks a-thrusting against trouser plackets before the word go. I said to myself, as I so often do, "What the hell is this?" It took me until page 5 to figure it out, when I experienced a petty and slightly squalid version of Damascus. "Ohhhhhhhhhhhh!!!" I exclaimed. "It’s an erotica! No wonder! Okay, I’m with you now." This was not your fault, Ms. Day, but mine. Sometimes, I’m the slow kid in the class.

The plot follows along these lines. The erotica is set in an alternate and magical Regency era, in which the borders between the land of the fey and our own become thin every once and awhile. During these periods, humanity is in danger from the fey. The fey seem to be a species whose idea of a good time is tormenting humans and feeding off their magical energy. Kind of like aliens from outer space, who for some reason always want to probe people. Such are these fairies. They enjoy a good probe. The humans keeping the borders safe are sorcerers. Sorcerers are born with a certain amount of energy, which becomes depleted after heavy use and they have to wait for it to regenerate. However, certain other humans exist called catalysts. These are men and women who can tap into the earth and its magical power and feed that magic to the sorcerers in order to give them more magical energy when they are running low. Magic in this world works a lot like electricity. Let me have one of your characters explain it:

Corwin's brows shot up in genuine surprise this time. "Excellent. Then you are perhaps aware that the electricity may be both generated and stored."

"I have heard something of it, yes."

"It is rather the same with the power of magic. Like electricity, magic is a natural occurrence. A Sorcerer carries a store of it inside himself on which he may draw to work his art. But that store is small, and can be quickly depleted. Much larger supplies of magic exist in the natural world. Some places, indeed, are huge reservoirs of power."

"Then why does not the Sorcerer draw on those?" Miranda asked.

"They do," replied Corwin. "But tapping nature's reservoirs can be difficult, and time- consuming. It takes great skill and sometimes many years to create the tools necessary to reach it."

"You're talking of magic wands and so forth?"

"I am." Corwin nodded. "And such tools are not always reliable. They can channel too much magic into the wielder, or not enough, or the shape and nature of their making can warp the spell. So, most Sorcerers prefer to rely on their own inner stores of magic, or on a Catalyst."

"And what, pray, is that?"

"A Catalyst is a person who can naturally attract and channel the magic of the world around them, as one of Dr. Franklin's lightning rods channels the lightning.

"You, Miranda Prosper, are a Catalyst."

Actually, the magic part is the part that works best. As a long time fantasy reader, I can tell you that the limits and parameters of how magic works is often the thing that goes wonky the fastest. However, Ms. Day, you conceive a magic that operates in a clear manner and does not enable the sudden creation of a deus ex machinas, or even make for head-scratching actions that are nonsensical within the limits of the world you have created.

Back to the plot. Miranda Prosper is just such a catalyst, although she doesn’t know it. What she also doesn’t know is that catalysts all over London are being kidnapped and murdered. That being the case, two sorcerers have been sent to guard her. Corwin and Darius. In a switch from the predestination that is a character's hair color, Corwin, who is the dark one, is the happy go-lucky half of the duo, whereas Darius, the blonde, is the grim and suspicious one. Corwin magics Miranda out of the ballroom, where she is sitting as perpetual wallflower, out into the back garden where Darius is waiting-’naked. They then proceed to divest her of her virginity and are amazed by what a powerful catalyst she is. Sex, of course, is the best way for catalysts to get power to sorcerers. Heck, this is an erotica.

I rolled my eyes very few times while reading this. An unusual occurrence when I read erotica, I tell you. Given what little space there actually is for things like character development, you handled the burgeoning relationship and its requisite anxieties, among Miranda, Corwin, and Darius quite well. Corwin is a bit insensitive, like. He is under the impression that things will turn out well. He and Darius are already in a long term relationship, and while they have shared women before, they have neither developed feelings for them. Darius is quite anxious about Corwin’s feelings for Miranda and can barely process his own. Miranda, who isn't as dense as Corwin, picks up on this anxiety and is reluctant to hurt Darius or intrude upon the relationship between the two men. You played this out quite well, given, again, the limited space in which you had to do it. Even so, both the plot and the characters feel truncated, as if they were a quick sketch rather than a fully developed picture.

Which brings me to my main problem with this book-’it often felt like the plot was there as mere scaffolding to hold up the many erections required by erotic romance. Everyone's emotions begin and end, as far as I could tell, at their genitalia. Maybe I'm being picky, but in my mind the difference between erotica and pornography is the plot. This is particularly true of erotic romance. I think, and I don't believe I'm wrong in this assessment, that I should be equally interested in the development of the relationship and the story rather than just waiting for the inevitable next sex scene. To paraphrase Dirk Diggler, you want an erotica where they come for the sex, but stay for the story. I stayed for the sex and often glossed the story.

This was because of the   ever present problem of erotica. Everything gets solved by shagging each other senseless. Worlds get saved, people realize their true feelings. Childhood traumas are healed. If anyone ever writes an inspirational erotica, I imagine the onset of the Second Coming will be directly preceded by the main characters knocking boots. In this book, there is a similar tendency. Darius and Miranda are left alone together by Corwin to work out their feelings for each other. Which they do. By shagging. The world is not saved by shagging, thank god. But characters are built through shagging.

This is just an aside but, what is it with every menage a trois having to lead to a relationship between all three participants? Like why can’t there be one where the main couple is like, "Hey, thanks for playing. That was awesome. Grab a mint on the way out and help yourself to anything in the fridge." Huh, huh? I mean, I don’t have anything against the trope, I’m just curious as to why that is the case to such an extent that I can’t even recall having SEEN the alternative.

So in conclusion, the sex was hot and the plot was more sparse than I prefer in my erotic romance. Still, you spared me from some of the more atrocious acts committed by erotic romance writers. The world building made sense.   There was a story there, just not a fully developed one. There was a relationship there, just not a fully developed one. And the villain was only ever so vaguely BDSM, still an annoying trope, but deployed at safe levels of radiation.

Once again, taste is the thing that is hardest to guess about other people. An erotic writer has to guess what is going to titillate others. Not an easy task. Have you met people? Trying to get them to agree on where to go for dinner is a Herculean endeavor. Trying to guess what turns an amorphous and varied collection of people like "readers" seems even more difficult to me. But perhaps, the law of averages suggests that you’ll hit on something that a good many will enjoy. Of course, then you have to write it.

The story, I find, is everything. And it was the story that was lacking here. C.

Lazaraspaste

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Lazaraspaste came to the romance genre at the belated age of twenty-six. While she prefers historicals, she's really up for anything . . . much like her view of food! Some of her favorite authors include Jo Beverley, Anne Stuart, Lisa Kleypas and Joan Smith. Once a YA librarian, she is now working towards an advanced degree in literature with the mad idea of becoming a critic and teacher. Though she loves romance, fantasy has always been her first love. She hates never-ending series and believes the ending is the most important part.

43 Comments

  1. CD
    Feb 10, 2011 @ 14:41:29

    Hilarious review! If only all problems in the world could be solved by a good shag… Although I was told that good regular sex stops you from getting spots, so there you go ;-).

    “This is just an aside but, what is it with every menage a trois having to lead to a relationship between all three participants? Like why can't there be one where the main couple is like, “Hey, thanks for playing. That was awesome. Grab a mint on the way out and help yourself to anything in the fridge.” Huh, huh? I mean, I don't have anything against the trope, I'm just curious as to why that is the case to such an extent that I can't even recall having SEEN the alternative.”

    Try the original “Menage” by Emma Holly. Great relationship building between the three participants with sex scenes that are not only hot hot hot but also illuminate and push characters forward. Also, grown up enough to show that great sex is not the be all and end all even in an erotic romance ;-)… I seems to remember an early Lora Leigh and some old Black Lace books where you have a central couple who dapple in a threesome sex, and it’s just a kinky night out. The whole threesome relationship seems to be a relatively recent thing. More far-fetched than fairies or sorcerers imo.

  2. DM
    Feb 10, 2011 @ 15:04:22

    Lasaraspaste, this was a hilarious and insightful review, but if you haven’t read an erotic novel that was free of buzzkill moments, you have been sadly deprived. For contemporaries, try Kristina Lloyd’s Split or Asking for Trouble. Or for a historical, the Countess Trilogy from Harlequin Spice.

  3. jayhjay
    Feb 10, 2011 @ 15:36:08

    Does anyone else think it is odd that this is a menage story with only two people on the cover?

  4. Jane
    Feb 10, 2011 @ 15:42:45

    @jayhjay Me. Actually the review has my interest piqued. A good plot, sexy scenes, magic that made sense in the worldbuilding.

  5. Jane
    Feb 10, 2011 @ 15:43:49

    There are actually quite a few menages like that. Why not give a short from EC a whirl – Raine Latimer’s On the Edge?

  6. GrowlyCub
    Feb 10, 2011 @ 15:55:29

    I am a bit disturbed by the conflating of erotica with erotic romance. As far as I’m concerned those are two separate entities.

    As for menages that end with a couple, Anne Douglas’ Par 3: Husbands and Wives and Lovers. Has the added advantage that the main couple is older, which is unusual.

    I would have preferred they all end up together, but if that’s what you want I think you cannot go wrong with this one.

  7. orannia
    Feb 10, 2011 @ 16:04:26

    Thank you Lazaraspaste. I love fantasy, and the magic aspect of this book has me intrigued. On the other hand, I don’t like my characters to develop only through sex..and I like slow relationship development with the ‘why’ (as in why the characters are in love) explained :)

    …it often felt like the plot was there as mere scaffolding to hold up the many erections required by erotic romance.

    See, now I have this image in my head of a fence with… *attempts to scratch image out*

  8. infinitieh
    Feb 10, 2011 @ 16:13:10

    Thanks for the review. I’ve been waffling about getting this book. Given the cover (with Paul Marron), I didn’t realize it was a menage either. However, considering my first erotica read was a BDSM menage set in a post-apocalyptic dystopia (I know, what was I thinking?), this one sounds pretty tame.

  9. Janine
    Feb 10, 2011 @ 16:23:02

    @DM:

    Or for a historical, the Countess Trilogy from Harlequin Spice.

    Yes, the Countess Trilogy! It is the awesome. It’s been over a year since I read those stories and I’m still haunting eharlequin in search of Alison Richardson’s next work, like an addict looking for a fix. If only she had a website!

  10. Jan
    Feb 10, 2011 @ 16:35:24

    I’m not sure if I’ll be picking up this book, but what a delicious review.

    As for the menage, I seem to suffer from the opposite problem, that way too often for my tastes it turns out to be a threesome thing instead of a triad thing.
    And the false advertising is really bad sometimes – story blurbs that imply the HEA will be for all parties where the book ends up with a twosome HEA… HORRID. It breaks my heart every time.

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  12. kate Pearce
    Feb 10, 2011 @ 17:14:58

    I’m also confused by the equating of erotica and erotic romance, I write both but not at the same time or in the same book and they are quite distinct in my mind.

    I’m not sure what you’ve been reading, but there are many many great erotic romance writers out there-Maya Banks, Joey Hill, Lauren Dane, Pam Rosenthal-I could go on all day. :)

    I’ve written 6 erotic romances for Aphrodisia and although there are threesomes aplenty, they don’t end up as permanent. I will attempt one of those one day :)

  13. Kristen A.
    Feb 10, 2011 @ 17:33:59

    Just for the record, if anybody ever writes inspirational erotica, Second Coming should be the title.

  14. Moriah Jovan
    Feb 10, 2011 @ 18:21:04

    The cover says Regency historical romance to me.

    Also, I’m not getting an erotica vibe here, either. Erotic romance, yes. Erotica, no.

  15. jayhjay
    Feb 10, 2011 @ 18:25:55

    Just for the record, if anybody ever writes inspirational erotica, Second Coming should be the title.

    :

    HA!

  16. Sunita
    Feb 10, 2011 @ 19:05:03

    Berkeley is definitely marketing this as a historical erotic romance. I believe the author has written YA/fantasy under a different name.

  17. SonomaLass
    Feb 10, 2011 @ 20:10:47

    Just out of curiosity, is there any homage to Shakespeare’s The Tempest in this book, other than the heroine’s name?

  18. willaful
    Feb 10, 2011 @ 20:20:50

    I read the sequel to this book — http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6124672-heat-of-the-moment — and gathered from it that there’s a threesome, which ends when two of the participants get married.

  19. Liz M
    Feb 10, 2011 @ 20:37:28

    @SonomaLass: That would be cool. Her next one definitely seems to have Tam Lin allusions: “Centuries ago, Sir Thomas Lynne was seduced by the faery queen Tatiana. He does her bidding while Tatiana's magic keeps him young.”

    I am tempted to take a flyer on this after reading the review. But the e-book is 10.49 before honking Canadian tax.

  20. Beth Kery
    Feb 10, 2011 @ 21:36:21

    Just for the record, if anybody ever writes inspirational erotica, Second Coming should be the title.

    Snort. That took me by surprise. Good one.

  21. Dana S
    Feb 10, 2011 @ 23:16:12

    We should switch books Lazaraspaste. I usually prefer menages that end with a HEA between the three. But I usually get temporary menages in books, especially in NY pubbed erotic romances.

    The cover is misleading. I would never have guessed that this was an erotic menage historical either.

    @Kristen A.: Hee! Although, I’ve tried a couple inspirationals and both had a really creepy relationship with God. I can only imagine how that would translate into erotica.

  22. meoskop
    Feb 10, 2011 @ 23:36:22

    I am in love with Lazaraspaste for at least the next twenty minutes, but I’m willing to consider cheating on her with Kristen A.

  23. MaryK
    Feb 10, 2011 @ 23:42:38

    Yeah, I don’t like the Erotica and Erotic Romance are interchangeable trend. I haven’t read much Erotica but what I have read I’ve generally found depressing. So I avoid it. When an author is all “ooh I write erotica, I never thought I’d do that” I scratch her off my list.

    If “Erotica” becomes interchangeable with “Erotic Romance,” what does that make the Black Lace books?

  24. Maili
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 06:53:53

    @MaryK:

    If “Erotica” becomes interchangeable with “Erotic Romance,” what does that make the Black Lace books?

    Black Lace had always made a big deal that they published “erotic fiction by women for women”, which included both erotica and erotic romance, under its three lines. So I think the answer would be “erotic fiction”.

    There is a good article by a BL author who explains the difference between erotica and erotic romance under Black Lace. I’m pretty certain it’s Janine Ashbless. If it’s not her, then it’s Alison Tyler, Emma Holly or whoever wrote that Russian-setting 1920s story (Natasha something).

    I’m wondering if there’s a difference between erotica written by women and erotica written by men. I think there is. Debatable?

  25. DianeN
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 08:52:58

    I’m not sure that someone who thinks all erotica is crap should have reviewed this book. Yes, the cover is misleading, but surely once she realized it was neither erotic romance or just plain romance she could have declined to read it. Those of us who don’t share her erotica=crap opinion would rather read a more objective review.

  26. Jane
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 09:47:49

    @MaryK Agree. Don’t find erotica and erotic romance interchangeable at all. I really want a committed menage in romance and actually am unhappy when there isn’t. (or often am unhappy).

  27. MaryK
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 11:50:29

    @DianeN:

    Those of us who don't share her erotica=crap opinion would rather read a more objective review.

    But that’s the part she liked. It’s the storyline she thought needed work.

  28. MaryK
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 11:57:27

    @MaryK:

    When an author is all “ooh I write erotica, I never thought I'd do that” I scratch her off my list.

    To clarify – I don’t always dig deeper to verify the genre. If the author is mischaracterizing her book’s genre, she’s doing herself a disservice.

  29. Erica Anderson
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 12:07:01

    Wow–sounds like you’ve had some bad luck in your erotic romance reading. If you’re interested, I’ll send you (with some trepidation) a copy of my own Regency-set erotic romance, Not Quite a Lady (Ellora’s Cave 2010). No menage or magic wands, but there is plenty of shagging.

  30. MaryK
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 12:18:46

    @Maili: I’m not exactly widely read in that genre, but I think it’s probably a matter of taste like it is in Romance. As a broooaaad generalization, I find male writing to have a more “modern” ambiance – spare, sleek, and chilly. Whereas, female writing is more warm and cozy with a liveable maybe even slightly cluttered feel.

    [Wow, look at all those great literary terms I used. That English degree was so worth it.]

  31. HollyY
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 12:22:45

    You say, and I quote,
    “But let's be fair, Ms. Day, most erotica is-’even without the idiosyncratic presence of taste mucking up objective perspective-’crap. Oh yes, it is.”

    Okay people. WHERE is the outrage? When Morning Gloria over on Jezebel dismissed all romance as trash and romance heroes as “rapey” the hue and cry was everywhere. So where the F is all the outrage today? I’m pissed by this blanket dismissal of erotica/erotic romance as crap. Oh, YES, I am…

    Speaking of genre definition… First of all… Let me instruct.

    Erotica – erotica is like women’s fiction. It is the journey of an individual protagonist through his/her life journey. This life journey/story arc plays out through this person’s sexual experiences. At the end of the story, the person’s awakening or various experiences have changed them and there may not be – and in my experience usually is NOT – a HEA. Think 9 1/2 weeks.

    Erotic Romance – two (or more) individuals meet and the focus of the story is the growing romantic and love relationship between the protagonists. Main points and characterization are developed THROUGH the sexual experiences between the protagonists. Yes, these same things are explored outside of sex, but sexuality is an important part of the story. Sex is NOT simply employed for the purposes of titillation. Sex for sex sake is porn. Neither erotica nor erotic romance is porn. Nope. It just isn’t.

    Now, on to another point. If you NEVER (and I’m quoting you here) know how to “grade” what you call erotica, then why are you reviewing it in a public forum? By all means read. That’s all good. But you’re here to write a review and let other people know the positives and negatives of a representative work within a genre which you have specifically indicated you NEVER know how to grade. If erotica/erotic romance isn’t your thing – hey that’s cool. Review something else rather than make a blanket statement which labels an entire subgenre of romance as crap.

    I get that you set out here to write a snarky/funny review. Granted, that’s a hallmark of this site and one comes to expect that. I don’t usually see romance (as a genre) dismissed as crap here though.

    Once I quite hyperventilating over the dismissal of a subgenre of fiction I really LOVE, I finished reading what you had to say. Basically, you liked the book. You weren’t wowed, necessarily, but it was a decent read but you would have liked a bit more story. Okay – that’s fine. I haven’t yet read this story so I don’t know whether or not you’re right. But these are reasonable comments in a review.

    So why was it necessary to preface the review with such negative commentary about erotica and erotic romance? It was really unnecessary to the overall review you wrote and downright insulting to those of us who do NOT view erotica/erotic romance as crap.

  32. Mandi Schreiner
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 12:35:27

    I only read maybe the first half of this book – I didn’t like the erotic scenes. I’m all for erotic books but the storyline didn’t sit well with me in this one.

  33. HollyY
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 12:40:03

    BTW – I went looking on the net. Hey, I’m a librarian and that’s what we do – character flaw? Not sure…. Anyway, this book is labeled a romance everywhere I can find reference to it. So that would make it an erotic romance, not erotica. Just to clarify the discussion.

  34. Jane
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 17:28:57

    @HollyY I’m going to have to take responsibility for this. I send out books randomly to reviewers so that they get a variety of books. I don’t recall what kind of publicity papers came with this book (it could have just been a bound manuscript as some trades are sent to us that way). It is possible that the book came and wasn’t publicized as erotic romance. (and yes, I would categorize this as erotic romance versus erotica and that there is a big difference). I’m reading it right now though.

  35. DM
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 18:51:17

    “But let's be fair, Ms. Day, most erotica is-’even without the idiosyncratic presence of taste mucking up objective perspective-’crap. Oh yes, it is….In short, most erotica sucks ass in both a literal and metaphorical sense.”

    I feel the same way about paranormals. And fantasy. And literary fiction. The problem is, of course, that most of everything is crap. I believe Sturgeon’s Law puts the percentage at 90%.

    And unless you read exhaustively in your particular genre or sub-genre, you rarely find the 10% that’s any good. It only feels like there are way more quality (insert your favorite genre here) books, because you read so very many of them.

  36. lazaraspaste
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 18:59:37

    @Sonomalass–As far as I could tell there was no relationship between the name of the character and “The Tempest” except as an allusion.

    @HollyY–Despite Jane’s willingness to take the blame, I will gladly take responsibility for my own review.

    It might seem from the review that I have not read a lot of erotic romance or that I dislike it. But I assure you, that is not the case. I do like erotic romance and erotica. Perhaps I have not read as widely in erotic romance as in other sub-genres, but I have read my fair share. So while I was being hyperbolic in the opening paragraph for effect, I’m going to make the bold and controversial move of standing by my original statement. I do believe that much of erotic romance is crap. Not all, but much. And I believe this for exactly the same reasons that I believe that a lot of literature, in general, is crap: because the author does not develop the characters and the plot sufficiently. Instead, they rely on a shorthand of generic tropes, cliches, and other narrative moves as a substitute for that development, turning characters into caricatures, and plot into a bunch of stuff that happens. For me, erotic romance feels more prone to this shorthand because of precisely how the sex scenes are used to move characters and plot forward. It is in the abrupt change in characters' responses to each other or in the arc of the plot, where having sex seems to be the sole reason for these changes in perspective and understanding. Before the sex the characters feel one way, and after the sex they feel the opposite way without the sex scene having actually told me or shown me why there was this change of heart. That, to me, does not show the journey of the protagonist. It does not reveal an integral part of the growth and development of the relationship. It just feels like the needle skipping on a vinyl album. One second we are in Kansas and the next Oz, but without the connecting factor of the tornado. The pleasure I get in reading romance is in reading about how the couple or the threesome gets from where they started, emotionally and psychologically, to true love.

    For me, this book had strong world building as a fantasy and good sex scenes. Things I said in the review, but it failed where I, personally, believe many erotic romances fail and where many romances fail, in that it did not develop the characters outside of the sex scenes or even through the sex scenes. This is something I see, personally, in a lot of in erotic romance. And it bothers me more there because there are more sex scenes and thus more opportunity for this kind of elision of development to happen. This might be my own judgment and prejudice based on the selections I’ve made as a reader, but that is all I have to work with when I write a review. I certainly would not say that this is a problem isolated to erotica or erotic romance, because I have the same problem with most books, regardless of genre. In romance, I need to be shown how they fall in love. Sex is not love. Love is not sex. I want to see enacted in the plot and the characters how the two aspects of the human erotic impulse meet up for a particular couple. It is that meeting of sexual desire with romantic desire that is, to me, the best part of a romance, erotic or otherwise. The movement from lust to love, was NOT made clear to me in this book. And, in my experience of reading erotica, it is often a connection that is left unmade by the author because they use sex as a substitute for the growth of love and affection. Am I just supposed to believe that because they’ve had lots of awesome sex together that they are going to live happily ever after? I, personally, need more than that as a reader to believe in the HEA or even a HFN.

    I’m sorry you were offended. It was not my intention to be offensive or to castigate all erotica everywhere. I like erotica and I like erotic romance. (I also like rhetorical hyperbole) However, I am often disappointed with it as genre for the reasons I have just explained. This particular book had that problem for me.

  37. Robin
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 19:39:31

    Some elements of this book, as described in the review, remind me vaguely of Emma Holly’s Fairyville (although the Holly is a contemp), so count me among those intrigued enough to try the book.

    re. erotica, erotic Romance, and Black Lace books, I was kind of surprised when Berkley started republishing Emma Holly’s Black Lace books and categorizing them as erotic Romance. I’m not sure that’s because of the way erotic Romance has become so popular or because of some evolution in the subgenre, but I did wonder if it was partly a marketing strategy to expand the readership. Although I think Holly is often writing on the line between e and er, so maybe it could go either way with her books.

    As for the difference between e, er, and porn, I don’t view it as a question of plot. I have made a distinction for myself that I apply when I’m reading and it seems to work pretty well for me in general:

    erotic romance is the exploration/discovery of a love relationship through sex;

    erotica is the exploration/discovery of the self through sex;

    pornography is the exploration/discovery of the body through sex.

    One of the reasons I’ve never really located the difference in plot is that a lot of erotica (historically, that is) is written as the episodic adventures of the narrator/protagonist. For me, erotic Romance requires the most “plot” because of the focus on the development of a romantic relationship. Although I’d argue that all three benefit most from strong characterizations.

  38. Moriah Jovan
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 20:40:04

    @Robin:

    …a lot of erotica (historically, that is) is written as the episodic adventures of the narrator/protagonist.

    I think that is an excellent summation/definition.

  39. MaryK
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 20:41:55

    @lazaraspaste:

    In romance, I need to be shown how they fall in love. Sex is not love. Love is not sex. I want to see enacted in the plot and the characters how the two aspects of the human erotic impulse meet up for a particular couple. It is that meeting of sexual desire with romantic desire that is, to me, the best part of a romance, erotic or otherwise.

    Nice breakdown! Got any recs for romances that qualify?

    (Though I suppose I could just look up your other reviews.)

  40. Estara
    Feb 12, 2011 @ 15:10:04

    Are you aware that Marissa Day is a Book View Café writer’s pen name? She’s been posting blog posts on writing sex to promote the book recently.

    As many of the BVC authors have more than one pen name, I am not 100% sure, but I vaguely remember that Marissa Day is another pen name for Sarah Zettel. I like her Fool’s War sf with muslim heroine.

  41. Robin
    Feb 13, 2011 @ 11:16:58

    @Estara: Ooh, you are right. Following up on your comment, I did a search and found out that she’s also CL Anderson (http://www.sarahzettel.com/about-me/), whose book, Bitter Angels, won the 2009 Philip K. Dick award (http://www.philipkdick.com/links_pkdaward.html). Interesting.

  42. Estara
    Feb 13, 2011 @ 14:45:43

    Yes, and if you count all the pen names of Judith Tarr and Phyllis Irene Radford there are a heck of a lot authors there – I’m sure some of the others have one or two pen names as well – I remember Steven Harper Piziks posting he was using a female relative’s girlhood name to write romance for Carina Press ^^.

  43. HollyY
    Feb 14, 2011 @ 10:37:06

    @lazaraspaste: Thanks for clarifying your comments.

    You certainly have every right NOT to like a particular book. What I objected to was the hyperbole you used to dismiss entire subgenres as crap.

    Romance has had to fight those types of sweeping generalizations for decades and erotic romance has been nailed with that ever since people started writing it and that bothers me.

    I can agree that individual works may be crap. Or even that some erotic romance authors may not make the transitions between sex and love as clear as all readers would like.

    But please, don’t make sweeping generalizations about ANY genre or subgenre of literature (whether you’ve read a lot or a little). It’s sure to make me screech like a cat protecting its territory. :-)

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