Erotic romance

Publication year

From the introduction to the volume:

Jodi McAlister’s chapter on erotic romance (Chapter 9) begins by framing it in an “industrial context”: that is, by looking at how the term is defined and deployed by authors, editors, and publishers, as well as in guides for aspiring authors. She documents the modern publishing history of erotic romance, which long predates its twenty-first-century global visibility, and she clarifies its relationship to fanfiction, with particular attention to the writing, distribution, and impact of E. L. James’s Fifty Shades trilogy, the erotic romance series that has, to date, received the most sustained and widespread scholarly attention. (15)


what “erotic romance” actually constitutes seems to be a question of some confusion. While romance writers and readers have some strong working definitions of the subgenre, confusion still exists between the relationship between erotic romance and neighboring categories, such as erotica, erotic fiction, sexy/spicy/steamy romance, and Romantica. (212)


while the erotic romance still has the markers of a “mainstream” romance, with a central love story and an ending to that love story which is emotionally satisfying and optimistic, the structure of the erotic romance is often somewhat different, encompassing the post-HEA. Elsewhere, I have argued that the erotic romance fuses together the generic structures of the romance novel and pornography. The former builds toward an emotional climax, while the latter is based on the repetition of sexual climaxes. The erotic romance combines these apparently incompatible forms. (217)


Contrary to popular opinion (some of which, as mentioned earlier, has been perpetuated in scholarship), erotic romance is not a new genre. We can see its roots in some of the earliest novels in the English language: John Cleland’s Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (1749), for example, might be considered one of the ancestors of the genre. (217)