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Mis Labelling

Dear Gentle Reader:

Tease Today I went to the bookstore to see what new releases where out. I picked up Suzanne Forster’s Tease. I had intended to buy it. A friend informed me that this was part of Harlequin’s new Spice line. It was in the New Romance section of the bookstore. It has a nice pink cover. It is labeled romance erotic fiction, but the blurb reads like a romance. But, dear reader, it is not. It is an erotica book and I truly mean an erotica book. It is about the sexual exploration by the main female protagonist and it does not have an HEA that I could see.

I read the last two chapters of this book to ascertain whether this was a story that I could buy despite the trade paperback price. In the last chapter, the female protoganist is letting her final inhibitions (control) go and allowing herself to be taken by a masked man. Now this masked man is probably the main male protagonist but it certainly allows the reader to make other assumptions. I don’t have a problem with this story in general. I have a problem that it is being marketed and sold as a romance.

I know that there are a whole slew of new erotica books being offered from Harlequin to Avon. I would caution the readers who like the spicier books that these new stories may not be romances no matter what the cover and the blurb may be selling. I tend to think that this is going to backfire. Will there be many returns? If I had bought Tease, unread, I would have returned it. EC’s, Samhain and other’s offerings are primarily the spicy within the romance confines, within the traditional HEA. What’s your thoughts, readers, on the practice of marketing erotica as romance if there is no HEA?

Best regards,

Jane

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

11 Comments

  1. Alison
    Apr 25, 2006 @ 22:25:59

    Spice isn’t marketed as romance; the cover says An Erotic Fiction Novel. If the store stocks in in the romance section, they’re in the wrong. Spice is a straight erotica imprint! :) Even the eHQ site says: SPICE Erotic Fiction

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  2. Keishon
    Apr 25, 2006 @ 22:39:19

    I don’t care for the new lines of erotica, cropping up and am having less and less reason to shop in the romance section anymore, because with the medicore romance that’s out there now coupled with the erotica that being shelved there as well, leaves little choices for those who just want a simple lovestory without ten to twelve pages of sex and beastiality. Joking on that last part, maybe.

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  3. Jane
    Apr 25, 2006 @ 22:39:25

    I do see that the HQN site calls it Erotic Fiction but the blurb for Tease (not for the other book in the line) reads like a romance. Hero/heroine language. Frankly, I think if the book is shelved in the fiction aisle, no one is buying it.

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  4. sybil
    Apr 26, 2006 @ 00:45:42

    Thanks! I knew it was being called a Erotic line but didn’t think all of them wouldn’t had a HEA. Either way you just saved me some money, LOL that I didn’t have anyway ;)

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  5. Nicole
    Apr 26, 2006 @ 07:33:06

    Ah Jane, but you know what they say about assuming things. :-) Spice hasn’t been marketed as romance, but it has been marketed TO romance readers. Which I think is different. The marketing people realize that some of the people who like erotic romance may like straight erotica. And hence the packaging.

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  6. Jane
    Apr 26, 2006 @ 08:17:46

    Oh, Nicole, I didn’t assume anything which was why I read the last two chapters. I wanted to make sure I was getting a romance but clearly it wasn’t. I think by marketing it to romance readers, and making it sound like a romance (read the blurb at Harlequin’s website), the packaging is deceptive. And I wonder whether it will backfire because of the lack of HEA. And curiously, I don’t know that I blame the marketing dept at HQN, Avon and the like for these practices. If they don’t market it to romance readers isn’t it lost in the fiction pile without a clear audience?

    On the other hand, I feel for readers who do assume that the Harlequin book they are buying is a romance because I think, in some cases, they will be disappointed.

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  7. Bookseller Chick
    Apr 26, 2006 @ 09:39:43

    We got the new spice books in last Friday and according to the computer they are supposed to be shelved in romance and not fiction (probably for the very reason that Nicole states). Unconvinced I checked a couple of other sites and they all said the same thing, so into romance they went. The only title we’ve sold out of has been the Forster, so it will be interesting to see if anyone returns it disappointed.

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  8. Jay
    Apr 26, 2006 @ 11:50:14

    I can’t speak to the Harlequin Spice line, but the arc for Parlor Games I read (from Avon Red) did feature an HEA for each of the stories. Some HEA’s were less believable than others but the attempt was there. So maybe it’s just Harlequin that’s not striving for the HEA. Or maybe I lucked out with Parlor Games. Or maybe Avon is leaning towards a spicier romance than HQ is. Or maybe they’re starting off with erotic romances and will morph into straight erotica later. Or maybe… (j/k)

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  9. Megan Hart
    Apr 30, 2006 @ 21:47:17

    I think it’s going to take a small bit of time for Spice to make its place. It is not being marketed or touted as romance, though I agree the blurb for Tease is more “romance-y” than some others. I can’t speak as to why it’s being shelved in the romance section, other than perhaps it’s because readers of romance are also the ones who might be likely to be interested in erotic fiction featuring strong female characters; female-centric erotic fiction, if you will.

    HEA is not forbidden according to the Spice guidelines, merely not required. The books aren’t required to conform to some of the traditional romance conventions — so if you’re looking for those, Spice might not be your best bet. But if you’re interested in reading erotic fiction focused on women, but not necessarily their relationships, Spice is going to be a good fit.

    As far as I can see, Spice is emphatically NOT erotic romance — but that doesn’t mean it can’t be about love or relationships, or emotion. It’s just not going to have the same traditional emphasis on the HEA that a romance would have. It won’t be for everyone, but I know I’m looking forward to see what the line publishes.

    Particularly since I’ve just sold to the line! ;)

    And Lauren Dane directed me here because she said someone was reading Playing the Game…? Which, you’ll be happy to know, IS erotic ROMANCE. Thanks for choosing it!

    I hope you enjoy it!

    –M

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  10. Rae
    May 07, 2006 @ 07:31:33

    I think that since the print publishers have finally caught on that erotic romance is HOT….they want in but don’t quite know what to do with the books when they get them. Most of the ones I have read definitely have HEA – Kensington’s Aphrodisia line is outstanding. I am just glad that print readers like myself have more options for our shelves.

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  11. Dear Author.Com »Blog Archive » False Advertising?
    May 23, 2006 @ 07:17:18

    [...] That’s working the system. I had the same problem with the Spice line placement. Bookseller Chick noted that according to the computer they are supposed to be shelved in romance and not fiction (probably for the very reason that Nicole states). Unconvinced I checked a couple of other sites and they all said the same thing, so into romance they went. The only title we’ve sold out of has been the Forster, so it will be interesting to see if anyone returns it disappointed. [...]

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