AAR Mini-Polls

Mainstream Sexy Titles | Erotic Romance

November 2, 2006 ...Updated November 6, 2006


Do Ya Think These Books Are Sexy?

Top Ten Mainstream Sexy Titles
Passion Lisa Valdez
Behind Closed Doors Shannon McKenna
After the Night Linda Howard
Dream Man Linda Howard
Welcome To Temptation Jennifer Crusie
Devil's Bride Stephanie Laurens
Untie My Heart Judith Ivory
Jane's Warlord Angela Knight
9 Mr. Perfect Linda Howard
Dark Lover J.R. Ward
Beyond Innocence Emma Holly

Passion, which also won in our annual reader poll in the Most Luscious Love Story category, left other titles in the dust. Interestingly enough, no other past Most Luscious Love Story winner placed in this top ten, although Untie My Heart earned honorable mention behind Emma Holly's Beyond Seduction in our poll for books published in 2002 and Holly's Beyond Innocence earned honorable mention behind Lisa Kleypas' Suddenly You in the poll for 2001-published books. Kleypas, btw, had another Most Luscious Win, for Suddenly You for 2003-published books, though none of her titles made it into the top ten.

As far as where other previous Luscious Love Story winners placed in the poll, well, most of you considered The Lady's Tutor by Robin Schone, to be Erotic Romance as opposed to "mainstream sexy"; it tied for 25th place among mainstream titles but earned the top spot in the Erotic Romance poll.

Dara Joy's Mine To Take tied for 31st place and Duke of Sin by Adele Ashworth tied for 32nd place. The remaining two winners in that category of our annual reader poll received no votes here - Shattered Rainbows by Mary Jo Putney and Connie Brockway's As You Desire (which earned a "warm" rating when reviewed here).

Three books by Linda Howard landed in our top ten; it's clear her books resonate for their sexiness. In all, 17 of her books received votes. While most of her releases continue to earn "Hot" ratings, those in our top ten were older releases: Dream Man was published in 1994, After the Night in 1995 and Mr. Perfect in 2001.

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And while Stephanie Laurens more recent titles no longer seem to be “must reads,” her 1998 release, Devil’s Bride obviously still resonates with readers for its sexiness; it was the first book in her very long-running Bar Cynster series. A Secret Love, another book in the same series, btw, won as Most Luscious Love Story, for books published in 2000.

Shannon McKenna has also written several books since her first full-length title, Behind Closed Doors, was published, but again, as with Ms. Laurens, readers seem to prefer her earlier work. As you'll read later on, both Behind Closed Doors and Passion both received lots of votes in the Erotic Romance poll.

Erotic Romance

The results of the Top Ten Erotic Romance titles are interesting in that they show the varying opinions on where the line between a sexy mainstream romance novel and a hybrid of Erotica and Romance is drawn. Some people rely on how a book is marketed or labeled; for others different criteria are used. Laurie, for instance, starts with a book's spine, cover information, the sensuality rating given (if the book was reviewed at AAR), who the publisher is, and the story's length; she considers many Brava anthologies to be Erotic Romance because of the relatively low page count and how much of that page count is devoted to sexual activities.

Top Ten Erotic Romance Titles
The Lady's Tutor Robin Schone
Menage Emma Holly
Behind Closed Doors Shannon McKenna
Elizabeth's Wolf Lora Leigh
Marly's Choice Lora Leigh
Personal Assets Emma Holly
Wolf Tales Kate Douglas
Passion Lisa Valdez
The Lover Robin Schone
Midnight Man Lisa Marie Rice
Awaken, My Love Robin Schone

Regardless, the fluid status of those considered to be "mainstream" and those considered hybrids should be considered good news. These books vary in erotic content; some are "vanilla" while others feature three-ways, anal sex, and other erotic content not found in mainstream sexy romances. For those of us who have not moved into Erotic Romance, the poll results provide a great start. Not only that, but all the books are available in paperback even though some of the authors and titles were originally published as e-books. Therefore, if you are looking to try new authors you will now find all these books available in print.

More than 300 titles were submitted in this poll and the ten slots changed up to and including the very last ballot counted.

Three of Robin Schone's titles ranked in your top ten, a significant achievement given she only has six titles in print and her last book was published in 2001. The Lady's Tutor was first published in 1999 and is a testament to the story of Ramiel and Elizabeth that it landed in first place.

The Lover and Awaken, My Love are in ninth and tenth place and were published in 2000 and 1995 respectively. The latter title earned a grade of B- at AAR while the former - along with The Lady's Tutor - each earned DIK status. Awaken My Love is the earliest published book to make the list and has been around for eleven years, although a "director's cut" was published several years later. Robin Schone's long-awaited Scandalous Lovers is supposed to finally be released in February 2007.

Emma Holly landed in two slots of the top ten; Menage placed a very close second and Personal Assets held firm in its sixth place slot. Menage, first published in 1998, earned DIK status at AAR, and may well have been the first erotic romance featuring multiple partners to be reviewed at AAR. Personal Assets, a 2001 release, also did well at AAR with a B+ review. Emma Holly's latest release, All U Can Eat, received keeper status as well. Her next book, Prince of Ice, will be released later this month.

Shannon McKenna's Behind Closed Doors came in third and placed second among sexy mainstream titles as well. Does this mean that this author straddles the line between the mainstream and the Romance/Erotica hybrid? McKenna's publisher's website indicates that Brava is " Erotic Romance", but on the spine of most Brava titles we've seen is not "Erotic Romance", but "Contemporary Romance" or "Contemporary Romantic Suspense". This may be where Laurie's designation comes into play where the Brava anthologies are concerned. Cindy, who has read some Bravas, is surprised at how tame some are. Brava is a Kensington imprint, and Kensington launched Aphrodisia earlier this year, which is their true Erotic Romance line. After a bookstore visit earlier this week to a new Barnes and Noble, Laurie discovered that at this location, Aphrodisia titles filled almost ten percent of the romance section, and her perusal indicates they are far more explicit than the Brava titles, anthologies included.

Elizabeth's Wolf and Marly's Choice by Lora Leigh are our first e-books on the list and placed fourth and fifth respectively. The success of publishers like Ellora's Cave in e-format is a major reason for the demand of erotic romance in print publishing. Initially Ellora's Cave filled that need, but nearly all major print publishers now publish an Erotic Romance imprint - Spice is Harlequin's foray into single title Erotic Romance, Aphrodisia, as mentioned above, is Kensington's, and while Berkley doesn't have an imprint per se, erotic romance is showing up in their "Sensation" imprint. Marly's Choice, which has a controversial storyline, was first published as an e-book in 2002; it went into print the following year. Elizabeth's Wolf, part of the author's Breeds series, was published electronically in 2004 and in print in 2005.

Two more e-books made the list (well, sort of): 2006's Wolf Tales by Kate Douglas landed in seventh place while Lisa Marie Rice's Midnight Man tied for the tenth slot with Robin Schone's Awaken, My Love. Parts of Wolf Tales were originally published by Changeling Press in 2004 as an e-serial; it was released as a trade-sized book by Aphrodisia earlier this year (our readers didn't specify in which medium they read it, but Douglas' book did launch Aphrodisia). Ellora's Cave published Midnight Man in e-book format in 2003 and in print the following year.

Having three (three and a half?) or four e-books place in this category is further indication that e-publishers have found their niche in the romance marketplace and are holding strong. We as readers have started to see the results as most print publishers have opened their doors to racier, sexier, and non-traditional romances.

Finally we come to Lisa Valdez's Passion, which placed eighth in the Erotic Romance poll and blew the top off the Mainstream Sexy poll by grabbing onto first place and not letting go. Although graded B at AAR, as previously stated, it won as Most Luscious Love Story in our poll of books published in 2005. The book generates many threads on our message boards, including one discussion of whether it was truly a romance because of the love scenes' coarse language. The fact it placed first in the Mainstream Sexy poll shows that most readers do consider it a traditional, albeit very sexy, romance but its placement in the Erotic Romance poll continues to show the difference of opinion on what now constitutes "mainstream".

We invite you to consider these questions and post about these poll results:

  • Where do you as the reader, draw the line between a sexy mainstream romance and an erotic romance? Is it as simple as sex or is it the language used? Or do you look to the insignia for a clue as to what you are reading?
  • Do you agree with the results? Are there titles among the top ten that you don't feel were sexy enough or were unappealing in some way, or weren't what you would consider romances?
  • As far as e-books go, are you surprised that the top ten e-books are all erotic romances? If you read e-books, when did you start? How many of you have not yet tried an e-book?
  • Now that many of the e-books can be found in print, will you be more likely to give them a try?


Lee Brewer, LinnieGayl, and Cindy Smith

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