I can't tell you how many conversations I've had about erotic romance over the past year. How many people—in real life and via social media—have asked: I loved Fifty Shades . . . but what can I read next? Or: Why are millions of people reading this trash? Everyone has an opinion about the popularity of erotic romance. My two cents? I just want people to find a book that suits their taste.
I will say that I've grown a bit bored of the whole innocent-young-woman-is-seduced-by-a-billionaire plotline. So I was really excited to learn of S.E.C.R.E.T. by L. Marie Adeline, which gives the trope a feminist spin: What if the women control the fantasies? And I was intrigued by the novel's New Orleans setting. Forget boardrooms in big-city skyscrapers. Can you think of a better background for erotic romance than the French Quarter?
In a guest blog post, Adeline explains how she came to write erotic romance in the first place—and why her book stands out in a crowded market. If you've been on the fence about reading erotic romance, I hope you pick up S.E.C.R.E.T., which is on sale today.
Embracing the "what ifs" of erotic romance
By L. Marie Adeline
As a writer I always start with “what if.” When I set out to write S.E.C.R.E.T., a book about a woman named Cassie Robichaud who’s on a potent sexual journey, my “what if” had to do with my own reluctance to write erotica. The question became “What if you got over that fear and reached a wider audience, one now so clearly illuminated by the success of Fifty Shades of Grey?”
I’d always written about women’s struggles with intimacy. But I’d mostly get my characters to the bedroom doorway, then mutter, “Okay. Bye. Have fun. I’ll catch up with you later.” Maybe I’d linger for a kiss, but rarely did I watch it go down. Why? What if my idea of good (or bad) sex didn’t resonate with readers? What if my character’s proclivities were ridiculed?
When Fifty Shades began its bestseller climb, I had been working on a financial advice book. My editor basically dared me to man up (or woman up), and try my hand at erotica, and, well, I did. Following close upon the heels of my first literary “what if” came other questions:
What if my character wasn’t a very young woman but was a little older? What if I gave the story a feminist angle? What if a woman could learn to stay emotionally detached to men she’s sexually attracted to, and what if she could learn to be sexually attracted to men to whom she is emotionally attached? What if other savvier women taught her how to do that?
That’s what I feel differentiates S.E.C.R.E.T. from other novels in this genre. In my book, women help other women develop better sexual attitudes towards their partners.
In S.E.C.R.E.T., Cassie is recruited by a secret society of women in New Orleans that helps her overcome her sexual blocks. The group orchestrates nine daring sexual fantasies over the course of one year. With the group’s support, Cassie becomes more alive to herself. It’s not that Cassie doesn’t “fall” for some of these incredible men, but her guide, Matilda, is there to warn her of the pitfalls of mixing lust with love. Wouldn’t it be great if we all had a Matilda to tell us the truth about the Heathcliffs, the Rochesters and the Christian Greys? In Matilda’s mind, the men in S.E.C.R.E.T. are fine for sex. Perfect, in fact. But for true and lasting love, not so much. And Cassie needs to hear that from another woman who’s been there, done them.
That’s not to say Cassie isn’t on a romantic journey as well. There’s this guy, see, and of course it’s complicated . . . but in S.E.C.R.E.T., the erotic and romantic are explored separately before they finally, hopefully, come together at the end.
Here’s the key: For Cassie to have uninhibited sex with these fantasy men, she needs support and guidance from other women who overcame the same fears, the same reluctance, the same self-doubts Cassie has. She needs to see that women who take big risks often reap great rewards. She needs to be gently nudged out of her head and into the bedroom. The women in S.E.C.R.E.T. carved a path, and support Cassie, and frankly, that’s what E.L. James and other daring erotica writers have done for me. And for that, I’m grateful.