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Erotic Romance

What is the Erotic Romance Genre?

Over the past decade or so as the romance genre has gotten more graphic there has been some confusion about the difference between romance and erotica. In short, romance focuses on the relationship development and the HEA (happily ever after) ending; erotica focuses on the sexual development of the characters, no HEA required. Enter this genre: erotic romance. In this genre, there is relationship development AND graphic sex (significantly more than the regular romance genre), and there is usually a HFN (happy for now) if not a full HEA for the characters in the end.

What to Expect in the Erotic Romance Genre

  • Usually extremely graphic language

  • Frequent sex scenes

  • A lot of experimentation/kink/alterative practices: S&M, m/m, f/f, 3- and 4- way and 5-way

  • The journey toward happiness is focused on the ability to explore one’s sexuality

Erotic Romance Characteristics

  • Level of Angst

    The level of angst in this genre is low. There are several types of journeys that occur – (1) the exploration of someone who has a “go for it” attitude and (2) the nervousness of a virgin/virgin-like character who is exploring for the first time. There are frequent sex scenes which eliminate any tension for the reader.

  • Character Development

    The characters in this genre are only really fully developed with relationship to their sex lives. It is the driving force for all character interactions and relationships.

  • Plot Strength

    You would think that the plot strength in this genre didn’t matter, but it actually does. There are a variety of approaches to this genre, and the psychological needs and goals of the characters can be really compelling.

  • Romantic Tension

    No romantic tension in this genre. The whole point of the genre is sex (exploration of sex), so there is no real development of romantic relationships.

  • Level of Eros

    High. This is the whole point of the genre.

  • Prose Quality

    The prose quality in this genre can be outstanding, and can be ridiculous. The “sex as revenge” stories tend to be sillier, but the “coming of age” and “sexual exploration” stories tend to be pretty good. Ultimately, there is a pretty fine line between erotic romance and porn, so the genre is aware of it, and tries to have actual character development and stories which make some sense and don’t have scenes which just move from bed to bed, although sex is definitely the driving force.

Related Romance Subgenres



  • Many: There really are numerous possibilities for subgenres here – every single other subgenre can become an erotic romance if written with more focus on the physical relationship – so there can be Erotic Time Travel romance, Erotic Historical romance, Erotic Paranormal romance, Erotic Western, etc. The only genres which would not have an erotic option would be Christian and Inspirational romance.

“Erotic” Romance isn't for you if

You like the development of a story before a sex scene. You like relationships that are focused on/limited to a single relationship. You are not comfortable with explicit sex scenes (a LOT of them). You like (expect) HEA endings

“Erotic” Romance is totally for you if

You tend to skip the dialogue and move right to the sex scenes, explicit sex scenes, and physical relationships.

Popular “Erotic” Romance Books
  • 1 Forever (1975)

    By Judy Blume. One of the first erotic romance novels ever written. It has been republished several times – both in 1989 and in 2014, which really speaks to the ability of this novel to stand the test of time. It tells the story of a young girl who falls in love, but then starts to wonder about what “forever” means when she starts having feelings for others, as well.

  • 2 Scruples (1989)

    By Judith Krantz. Is another “grandparent” to this genre, telling the classic story of a luxe Beverly Hills boutique and the people who work and shop there.

  • 3 Fifty Shades of Grey (2011)

    By E.L. James. Is the classic “erotic romance” story about a man who meets a woman and pushes her sexual boundaries way beyond her comfort point. He refuses to share a bed with her, which would create intimacy, but is more than willing to explore sexual boundaries in his “hidden room.”

  • 4 The Professional (2014)

    By Kresley Cole. Has it all – international intrigue, a sexy bodyguard, the beautiful daughter of his employer, and a LOT of hot sex.

  • 5 Dirty (2012)

    By Megan Hart. Tells of a woman who meets a man in a candy store. She is unapologetic about her desires, direct about her needs, and willing to take on everything that her attraction suggests might be possible.

  • 6 The Siren (2012)

    By Tiffany Reisz. Tells the story of woman who writes erotic novels and her tempestuous relationship with her editor.

  • 7 Deep Desires (2012

    By Charlotte Stein. is about two people living life on the outside looking in. Starting off as a voyeuristic relationship, it soon develops into much, much more.

  • 8 Beyond Shame (2012)

    By Kit Rocha. Is a dystopian novel about exploring one’s inner needs, despite the outer trappings.

  • 9 Natural Law (1984)

    By Joey Hill. Is another novel that has been reprinted several times for new generations of readers. It is the classic power story – a tough cop who is always in charge during the day, but through a case learns that he likes to be submissive at night.

  • 10 Slave Girl (2014)

    By Lisa Cach. Is about a woman born into slavery who is being raised to become a personal concubine to the king. She is being trained in the exotic arts as she prepares for her new role, until she willingly gives up her virginity to a man who lusts after her. No longer “fit” for the king (aka: no longer a virgin), her life is at risk. Can she find the man who stole her body and her soul, and who represents freedoms of all kinds?