Thursday, September 25, 2014

What's YOUR Favorite Romance Trope? All That Glitters Is Not Just Her Hoo Ha!

When it comes to the romance trope, I am especially fond of the “glittery hoo ha”, for the name alone. However, I consider it less a trope, than a de rigueur requirement of the genre. No matter the heat level, once the hero has, er, experienced the heroine’s “hoo ha” (or her lips for the chaste among our genre titles), he will be blind to any other woman’s non-glittery type hoo ha (seriously, a tarnished hoo-ha? I think not!). The heroine’s will remain his be all and end all go-to hoo ha, romance-wise.

So, while I chuckle over the term, I don’t consider it a trope, unlike the myriad others from enemies to friends (always good for conflict), to the ‘meet sweet’ trope (not one of my faves). There’s a trope out there for every taste, naturally, but if forced to choose, I am especially fond of what I’ve seen called “the broken bird” trope. (Though it trespasses a tad on the Beauty and the Beast trope, for in that case, the heroine must heal the hero’s psychological wounds and accept his scars, be they emotional or physical – in fact many of the tropes can be found in blended forms, and there are multiplicities of tweaks on all these tropes.)

The broken bird trope actually figures into my own writing quite heavily (perhaps all that misplaced maternal energy to heal and protect one of my characters, along with my tendency for melodrama?). Probably for the same reason that I enjoy suspenseful elements in my writing, and erotic romance – because the broken bird trope offers an opportunity for immense conflict, both internal (the broken character), as well as relationship-wise. It’s always a major uphill battle to heal the broken one and get that character to succumb to love.

However, I’ve most often seen this trope used in stories where it is the hero who is the broken one, and the heroine’s love that heals him. Because we love the tortured alpha bad boy, don’t we?

That’s the essence, in fact, of my recently completed BDSM erotic romance MS, Hold Tight. My billionaire hero (no, money doesn’t heal all wounds!) has been kicked in the teeth by life on a number of occasions. He now lives in his ivory tower, untouched by a woman’s love, and scarred by numerous past betrayals. And it is my average, every day heroine who comes along and recognizes the wounded little boy, and heals him with her love (and her tenacity and willingness to submit to his sadistic domination and mastery of her glittery you-know-what).

But I love seeing the broken bird trope turned upside down. It may be a bit more unusual to have your alpha hero be the strong, supportive and nurturing type who becomes the healer to a broken bird heroine, but I think it offers a wonderful opportunity. You get to create a hero who isn’t tortured or tormented, and who can be the lover to bring his heroine into the healing light. (And at the LIRW luncheon, and in several reviews I’ve read recently, the dearth of the “nice guy” hero was lamented…Voila! I have the answer!) (Keep reading…)

My second Stellato siblings novel, Hot In the City, is an example of this. My heroine is as dark a heroine as I’ve read lately. Not only was she abandoned by her father, and the father of her son, but now she’s smothered by her responsibilities, and her fears for her special needs son should she be unable to care for him. At first, what Berto offers her is hot sex – her only distraction from an anxiety-filled life. Alice sees her future as a bleak and demanding one, until Berto proves to her that he can give her more than momentary, distracting pleasure. He can protect her, provide for her, and love her – but he can also be a partner in life who provides the shoulder she’s never had.

I love my heroes dark and tormented. Mad, bad and dangerous to know. The strong, silent type hiding his wounds behind his muscles. The primal man unleashing his inner demons only to have them tamed by the heroine (and her glittery lady parts).

But it’s wonderful fun to also craft the solid, Gary Cooper, Atticus Finch, Mr. Smith hero who recognizes the humanity beneath a heroine’s tortured persona (and the allure of her glittery vajayjay) – whether she is using sex to block out reality, or cutting herself because of a trauma, or hiding behind an ice maiden shell to avoid pain, or a heroine battered by fate, going down for the last time – as she reaches out for the helping hand of the only one who can save her. When her white knight rides to her rescue, he may be a billionaire, or a boxer. A Regency spy or a WWII officer. A blue collar guy or a once-a-month shifter. But he’s the one who’s whole, and this time he’s doing the healing.

He is the hero broad of shoulder, compassionate of soul, with a heart of gold.

And he’s the proud possessor of the perfect complement to her glittery mound of Venus:

His “Golden Gun”.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

How Do I Love Thee? HOT That's How! Let Me Count the Ways . . .

Despite the popularity of kinky, BDSM erotic romance, replete with whips and chains and paddles and ball gags, it may not be for everyone. Don’t lose sight of the variety available for writers and readers of erotic romance. Here’s an overview of a few of the delicious options:

PRO: BDSM erotic romance, to start with, has the heightened plus of edgy sex play and the power exchange dynamic to augment the emotional relationship. From Master/slave, Dom/sub or Top/Bottom roles for heroes and heroines, to S&M paraphernalia, pain play, erotic humiliation, slave auctions; kink allows for an author to ramp up the sexual heat, tension, exploration and growth in a blended role with the emotional relationship. BDSM can also provide another layer of external conflict for characters who have to deal with societal biases against the lifestyle, and personal conflicts over these darker desires.

PRO: Like the kink but shying away from the heavy-duty stuff? Read a wide spectrum of BDSM erotic romance and you’ll see the breadth of coverage of this type of sexual activity. It can run the gamut from the serious scenes in an Eden Bradley, Roni Lauren, or Maya Banks novel to a tamer version that travels the middle road of kinky copulation.

PRO: Then there is what I call “BDSM light” (not a reference to the derogatory comments made about FSOG, BTW). I think of it as kinder, gentler BDSM. You can have an emotional BDSM relationship with the Dominance and submission emotional and psychological elements without the pain play, or the other edgier aspects like erotic humiliation. You can have mild physical “domination” such as being held down, and sexy mind play. This category allows you the opportunity to Alpha-up your hero (they don’t come more Alpha than a Dom, after all!) or heroine (I don’t write Female/male submission so I tend not to refer to it; but all aspects of BDSM can be F/m, M/f, F/f, M/m or any other permutation your kinky little heart desires.)

CON: BDSM, no matter the intensity or scene play specificity, requires a firm grasp of both the technical logistics, as well as the emotional and psychological mind-set of the participants. The more the reading public knows about the scene, the easier they’ll spot errors in your presentation if you don’t know what you’re talking about, S&M-wise!

But there are options, too, for writing smoldering hot ero-rom wholly outside the BDSM/kink realm. Here are two:

PRO: Ménage and polyamory. Here’s the sub-genre of ero-rom where no holes are barred. Any combination of heroes/heroines goes here. (Granted, you can have BDSM ménage, and it’s an incendiary sub-sub-genre all by itself.) Options abound. You can have a pair who bring in a third friend for a 3-way fling, or you can have a committed triad. Lora Leigh is the queen of multiple partner polyamory with up to 3 men per gal where all the men love the woman and she loves all the dudes. It works great with M/M/F, too, as illustrated by Lauren Dane. Whether your male partners are together first, or come together (pun intended) in a bisexual triad while also loving a woman, or whether it’s the M/F/M variety where there is no gay sexual aspect, it can be a super-intense, dramatic and sexy scenario. For one, you’ve got all those extra body parts to play with (and the object of this physical affection is really getting an overwhelming experience). But additionally this ero-rom choice heaps on the conflict. Society frowns on multiple lovers. There’s no legal “marriage” possibility. And there’s a third (or fourth) personality fraught with jealousy and personal issues in the mix that can ramp up conflict, both internal and external. But it’s the orgiastic couplings that are the real treat in this sub-genre.
CON: It takes a skilled hand to avoid falling into the orgy or gang-bang scenario (unless that’s what you’re going for, of course, you naughty thing!).

CON: Writing multiple-partner ero-rom also requires an in-depth exploration of your characters’ mind-sets to ensure that there is a viable emotional relationship and connection among the parties. Just tossing in an extra set of cojones for the fun of it won’t enhance the romance; which, of course, if the bottom line, regardless of the XXX rating. Make sure all your characters are engaged in the relationship (in and out of the boudoir).

CON: Ménage is NOT about cheating lovers. While your triad may have sex independent of one another in some scenes, they are all aware of the actions and no one is lying to another or cheating on an unsuspecting lover.

PRO: Perhaps the most obvious of erotic romance tropes in what I call “hot vanilla”. This is where erotic romance actually started (as far as my experience is concerned). The hottest of the hot couplings of an M/F couple (which now happily also encompasses the M/M and F/F couples). No dominance, no chains, no taking turns with a third, just two loving people having super-hot sex. It’s the nature of the graphic depiction of the love scenes that pushes the vanilla couple into the erotic romance sphere. Simple, straightforward, but hugely satisfying to the reader who loves the sex scorching, but shies away from the wilder side of lovin’.

PRO: One particular thing that can make a vanilla ero-rom smokin’ is that delectably taboo raunch: Anal sex. You’ll definitely find anal in BDSM and ménage (and obviously even in an erotic vanilla M/M). But inclusion in a hot vanilla allows you, the author, to push that envelope to the breaking point. Back door Betties are your friend! One happy way to include it and use it to cement a vanilla M/F relationship? The vaginal virgin is pretty much an anachronism these days (unless you’re writing historical), but your heroic fella can still be her “first” if she’s an anal virgin. Ass play allows for a wider variety of sexual activity and you can mix it up for hotter and hotter scenes.

PRO: Naturally, the good-old graphic BJ is less prevalent in the borderline sexy romance, but it’s a staple in erotic romance along with its “cunny” cousin. So don’t forget to have some give-and-take 69 action in your hot vanilla tale!

PRO: A couple of other ways to turn up the heat for your vanilla couple? Sex toys, mutual masturbation, phone sex, and fantasies. It’s all about exploration, and pushing those intimacy boundaries.

CON: As with any other variety of erotic romance, writing graphic sex scenes when you don’t feel it, or get squirmy (not in the good way) using all those hot 4-letter words, can be problematic. Using euphemistic language doesn’t fly with ero-rom readers. And they’re savvy when it comes to the sex scenes. Toss in a few because you need the heat but they’re not progressing the story or moving the characters’ relationship? They’ll call you on it. And be cognizant that an EROTIC ROMANCE has that requisite erotic plot line that is woven into the others (whether it’s a single romance plot line, or a story with an additional one, such as a romantic suspense plot line). It’s about the erotic, sexual relationship that grows and evolves alongside the affair of the heart.

Clearly, we have a delightful array of combustible possibilities for crafting erotic romance on the writing menu. Be it schtupping in a galaxy far, far away, fornicating in a gazebo in a country manor in the Regency, or doing the mattress mambo in the Big Apple, your options for writing erotic romance are breathtaking!

Can YOU stand the heat?