Romance vs. romance

A few weeks ago, the New York Times announced that author Sylvia Day is getting an eight-figure advance for her next two novels. In Publisher’s Marketplace terms, that’s a major deal on steroids. And though I’m thrilled to see this kind of cash go to a female author in the romance genre, I kind of wish it had gone for books that are not quite so…racy.

Did I say “kind of”?

Okay, so I really, really wish it hadn’t.

Yes, I know books like Day’s sell, and yes, I’ve bought more than a few myself. But I’m not the only one who thinks they’re more erotica than straight-up romance, and besides, aren’t we about done with this literary equivalent of the sexual revolution? Because I sure am.

Before you go calling me a prude, I’ll just say for the record that I read all kinds of romance, including the racier, 50 shadier kinds. I like everything — from Jane Austen to Diana Gabaldon to J.R. Ward. I don’t mind nudity or cussing or even a little well-placed freak in my stories. I’m about as far away from a prude as you can get.


Sex on the page, no matter how hot, does not a romance make. I want my characters to feel something beyond whips and clamps, to grow more than beyond their own sexual hang-ups. I want pounding hearts and longing looks and pages and pages of build up to an amazing first kiss culminating in a, yes, sexy romp under the sheets. But above all I want straight-up romance, the good, old fashioned kind.

And I want those who write it to get a major deal on steroids, too.

About Kimberly S. Belle

Kimberly Belle grew up in Eastern Tennessee, in a small town nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians. A graduate of Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, Kimberly lived for over a decade in the Netherlands and has worked in marketing and fundraising for various nonprofits. She's the author of two novels, THE LAST BREATH and THE ONES WE TRUST (August 2015). She divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam. Keep up with Kimberly on Facebook (, Twitter (@KimberlySBelle), or via her website at

Posted on January 31, 2014, in Blog Posts. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Can’t add more to that! I agree. I thought “writing to trends” was a “no no”. I guess not. Ever since the fifty shades “thang” I don’t know what’s going on.

  2. I agree that our taste in romance is the same. I’ve read the racier stuff, although not 50 shades and not Sylvia Day. I didn’t read the 50 shades books because I heard the writing was awful and I hate to read poorly written books. I never picked up Ms. Day’s work because it looked like a 50 shades knock off and I’m not much into reading BDSM…

    My biggest beef about this deal is the lopsidedness of it. I’m thrilled a romance writer is making the big bucks. Any time a publishing house is willing to shell out money to romance authors, it makes me happy. Romance sells, so the authors should receive their fair share.

    But eight figures?? What this says to me is that there is now less money in the corporate pie for other authors–and that’s what I think stinks. She’s going to be publicized to the hilt so they can make their money back and the other authors on their roster are going to suffer.

    It’s like there’s no middle ground in publishing. You either make a little money or you make lots of money. How about publishers paying their authors a living wage? This is why so many authors are self publishing.

  3. I’m totally with you, Kimberly! And I will say, more than a few of the reviewers of my current series, Ladd Springs, seem to agree. They are thanking me for a good, clean story — no sex, no real violence, no curse words. Perhaps there’s a change under way?

  4. I’ve heard that the BDSM craze is expected to die down after the 50 Shades movie comes out. It’s impossible to say what the next big thing will be, but recent history suggests it’s likely to be something completely different. Over the past 15 years, the mega-bestsellers have been Harry Potter > DaVinci Code > Twilight > Hunger Games > 50 Shades. You see the thread there? No? Me neither.

    I don’t begrudge Sylvia Day her deal, because she’s done a lot for the profession. I think it’s a fair bet she’ll continue to do so. “Bared to You” is what 50 Shades would have been if it had been decently edited. I can’t really consider it a knockoff since it was better than the original 🙂

    Roni Loren writes amazing BDSM novels that are full of romance and sexual tension. Her “Melt Into You” was nominated for a RITA – and it’s an M/M/F menage! Edgy stuff, but full of emotion.

    But I also understand the desire for something…well, less demanding. Erotic romance can be dark. For me, it drains the psyche. I often have to turn to something more nourishing and affirming after reading it. The romance genre has room for all kinds of stories, from inspirational to erotic, and they all have value.

  5. Absolutely, great post. Sex does NOT equate romance. It does not a quality storyline make. Nothing wrong with it for enhancement purposes, but when it’s all a manuscript goes by…

  6. I’m all about the characters. If they grab and hold me, then I’ll read the story. But if the characterization is lacking…if they don’t have a purpose in the story other than sex…then I’m closing the book and moving on to a better read. Wonderful post, Kimberly. 🙂

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