Category Archives: Erotic Historical Romance

HOW FAR THE BAR?

Greetings, everyone. Thea here today. This past weekend I had the pleasure of speaking at t CTRWA March meeting about writing erotic romance from my perspective. Which admittedly goes back at least twenty years, when one of my historical romances, Beyond Desire, was the first romance to be reviewed as erotic romance — a totally new designation at the time. And not one that publishers jumped on either.

That took the publication of the anthology, Captivated, in 1999. Labelled “tales of erotic romance,” it flew onto the USAToday bestseller list in no time. And even then, the industry sat back and watched as the follow-up anthology, Fascinated, zipped onto USAToday as well.

There were constraints at the time as to what terms you could use, what body parts you could name, how far you could go.

Twenty years later, 50 Shades changed everything.

Now everything is on the table (and in the bed) as far as combinations and sex — front, back, side, upside down, inside out, casual, meaningful, manacled, chained, blindfolded, whipped, flipped, one night stands, one day, one hour get it on and get off, no commitment, scratch the itch and over you go.

So now that there are readers for every sexual taste, where’s your line? How far will you go? You could push the bar even further — male/male, female/ female, triads, quadrads, and any multiple combination of that; bestiality, hard core bondage/domination/punishment, corset discipline, flogging, gagging, needle play, fire play … .

And so my question to you, which I asked at the meeting as well, is — do you feel the need to compete with 50 Shades? To push further? To define the bar rather than straddle it? To be the one to make waves? Or you do have your own strict won’t-go-there parameters?

Thea Devine’s books defined erotic historical romance. She’s the author of 27 historical and contemporary erotic romances and a dozen novellas. Look for “Beyond the Night”, the sequel to “The Darkest Heart,” to be released as a Pocket Star eBook, fall 2014.

Do You Remember…?

Do you remember all your plots? I mean, if you had a backlist that dated from the mid-80’s, would you remember every character, every storyline?

Several years ago at an RWA conference, I was talking with a reader who in the course of conversation told me that one of my books she liked best was the one with the nun. I said there was no book with a nun. She insisted. I was firm. She was certain. I held tight. No nuns.

A few months later, for no reason I can say, I picked up ANGEL EYES, the fifth of my five backlist reissues now available in Kindle eBooks, and there, in the opening chapters, Angelene, my heroine, in a bold move to escape the murderous future her mother has planned for her, disguises herself as a nun to try to make her way to her wealthy grandmother in England.

Really. I couldn’t believe I didn’t remember. I felt like an idiot, remembering my conversation with that reader. How could I forget a detail like that?

Since then, I’ve reread several of my backlist titles, and it was like reading someone else’s books, I was that far removed from the writing of them. They felt new, It was fun to read them, and it was interesting to see the evolution of my writing and my perspective. I kept thinking, did I really write that — then? Did I honestly get away with that scene? Those words? That many pages of foreplay and sex?

Apparently I did, and at a time when the language was much more circumspect and hard core words were tacitly not used. That my early books were reviewed as “spicy” and several years later, “erotic” is still amazing to me and a testament to how powerful everyday words can be.

These first five backlist books are all westerns.. But as I’ve written previously, my true love is antebellum romance. I wrote three of those, which are still to be released, and I’m beyond excited that these backlist titles — anyone’s backlist titles — can now have a second and longer shelf life on-line and with it, a new generation of readers.

Thea Devine is pleased to announce the following titles are now available in KIndle eBooks: Reckless Desire, Ecstasy’s Hostage, Relentless Passion, Montana Mistress and Angel Eyes. She’s currently working on an erotic contemporary romance.

The Vampire Secret

Thea Devine today,having just finished Beyond the Night (Pocket Star eBook April 2013), the sequel to The Darkest Heart, and I thought you might enjoy a little insight into how I got the idea for the Darkest Heart.

Actually, I’m Romanian on my father’s side, so you’d think I’d be steeped knee deep in vampire lore.

But in fact, apart from being scared to death on viewing Dracula when I was eight years old, I never gave vampires a half a thought until I was looking for an idea for my thirteenth book. And even then, and in the subsequent vampire book I wrote, the hero was not a vampire.  In Sinful Secrets, the whole English parliament were vampires;  in Forever Kiss, the vampire had a doppelganger who pretended to be him, so that when the vampire finally returned to his stomping grounds, he had to pretend to be the doppelganger pretending to be him.  Believe me, he was royally peeved — for lots of fun-to-write pages.

However, I couldn’t find a way to wrap my head around vampire as romantic hero.  So when I was thinking about my next book, which it was suggested to me should have vampires, I really was at a loss.  I needed an idea and I needed this vampire to be a hero.

And I really needed to figure out some real ways a woman would feel an attraction to a vampire — because all I’m thinking is blood, gore, dessication and rot.  Coffins and fetid grave dirt.  NOT very sexy.

I was in a local store one day, talking about this current project, when the teenaged clerk overheard me say, vampires, and she exclaimed, “Oh, I love vampires.”   I asked her why and she said, because they were sooo Romeo and Juliet.

Right:  yearning for something, and never to have it.  And it all ends in bloody gory death.  Murderous immortality.  Not hardly romantic.  Not quite the jump-start I was looking for.

So I listed all the reasons why a vampire is supposed to be seductive:

He is the love that cannot be

He’s immortal.

He has super-powers

He’s dangerous to love

He’s super sexual

He’s protective (paternal and sexual)

You yearn for what you can’t have

Reckless endangerment:  death is but a kiss away

Still — nothing in that list sent plotlines roaring through my head.  I was discussing it with my husband one night and I read him the list.  Then I asked him why he thought vampires were so seductive.   I mean, there’s nothing like the male perspective, right?

John said, “they’re victims.”  He said, “they have no choice.”

My jaw dropped.  The heavens opened.  Light flooded the earth, angels sang, and everything fell into place.  Of course.  Genius.  But my husband always says genius things just when I need to hear them.

Victim.

A whole other side of the vampire.  Immediately plot questions steam-rolled through my mind.  What would he do, feeling like that?  How could he take anyone else’s life?  How would he live?  Did he want to die?  How would he survive?  What lies would he tell himself?

AND, if he’s a victim, you then have a heroine wanting to somehow help, nurture, make it better, change it.  If you have the love that cannot be, one might feel the call to sacrifice for the other at some point.  And there was the bedrock of the story — vengeance and sacrifice.

So I wrote this as my logline:

He’s been exiled to the dank bloody world of the undead

He lives solely to destroy the one who sired him

He’s been living to die

Until he encounters the one he can’t live without

And eternity is not an option.

And from that one astute observation, I wrote The Darkest Heart, and the sequel, Beyond the Night.

Thank you, John!

What about you?  Has your husband ever contributed something brilliant to your plotting and planning?   Does he have any input at all, ever?

Thea Devine’s books defined erotic historical romance.  She just completed Beyond the Night (April 2013, Pocket Star eBook), the sequel to The Darkest Heart.  The reissue of her erotic contemporary romance, His Little Black Book, is available now.

Let’s Have That Sex Talk

Thea Devine today, talking sex.  Or writing sex, actually, based on a talk I gave at the NJRWA meeting this month.

I’ve been writing erotic romance for nearly all my writing career.  I don’t plot and plan all the sexual compass points.  I have an idea of something I want to do, like, oh say, nipple rings, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t ever started a book knowing just when and where I’d use something like that.  It all comes organically out of the plot and conflicts, and that’s overlaid by other things, like my watching an HBO show one night with a belly dancer and those rings, and thinking, after a week of walking around with my arms crossed over my breasts, what if the rings weren’t pierced, what if they hung there. Just so.  Just so you feel them.  Where could I use that?

As it happened, I was writing Beyond Desire at the time and the heroine was in a harem, and there were all these bare breasts and …  Beyond Desire was the first historical romance that RT reviewed as erotic romance.  That was 1993.

It didn’t cause even a ripple in the industry.  But in 1999 Kensington books shook up mainstream publishing when it released Captivated, a trade paperback anthology of steamy novellas. And they put the words “tales of erotic romance” on the cover.

Nobody fainted.  And the book blasted onto USAToday in about thirty seconds.  Fascinated, the follow-up, blew out of the stores and onto USAToday as well, proving — obviously — that women will pay for sex.

Erotic was suddenly the next new thing.

Then recently, for the last two years or so, there’s been a pull-back on the assumption that readers were going to the internet for erotic content because — why? more privacy, more variety, more tailored-to-the-taste choices, easier access, e-readers.

And then came 50 Shades of Grey , and erotic was suddenly the next new thing.

So what about erotic romance as a platform for you?  Can you write erotic romance?  There are editors who believe that authors who write it can’t NOT write it, that it’s absolutely integral to the way some authors write.

If you’re wondering what your husband will say, your mom, your sister, your minister, if you think people will wonder what goes on in your bedroom — then maybe erotic romance is not for you.

I never had those qualms.  I’ve written explicitly from the get-go, right from that scene in my first book where, as I’ve recounted elsewhere, I had the cornered heroine put her hand between the hero’s legs.  In that scene, I found my erotic philosophical footing — that adversarial relationship which gives a just-can’t-help-themselves edge to the sex and the story.

But when I first started out, in 1987, I couldn’t use four letter words, or proper terms for body parts.  We used none of those one syllable hard hitting hard-core words you would expect when writing a sexually explicit book.  .

Try to describe something which is essentially indescribable:  I mean, how do you describe a kiss?  And orgasm?  A man’s touch?  How do you do that without relying on those time-tested sex words?  There’s no language for it.  Yet we could — by using plain old every day household words to write about sex from a woman’s point of view.

I think that was extraordinary and a revolution all on its own.

Now, when nothing is off the table,  you can be as over the top as you want or care to get.

Is anything goes right for you?  How far are you willing to go?

I essentially write erotic male/female relationships, with the heroine and the hero constantly wresting for control, tons of sex, and a happy, or cusp of happy, ending.

My own guidelines from day one were:  no negative visual images (she isn’t on fire;  he doesn’t impale her with his molten rod). He doesn’t hurt her (he can, emotionally).  She has some control.  Sex is consensual (no matter what’s going on).

But you could push even further — orgies, male/male, triads, foursomes, bestiality, hard core bondage/domination/punishment, corset discipline …  There’s a place for all of it now, and readers for every taste, from graphic and raw to sweet and super romantic..  Only you can decide where to draw the line on how far you’ll go.

A guest at a conference once asked me how much of what I write is really me. That’s a question to strike full-blown terror in a writer’s heart. I really had to think about it.  And truthfully, in the end, some of it.  Not everything.  But that scary thought is huge barrier to some authors to actually put themselves “out there” that nakedly in fiction.  I mean, what if someone thought all of that sex toy play was all about you?  Was it?

If you have constraints but you want to write erotic, why not try?  It’s you and your computer screen.  No one ever has to see it if you don’t want them to.  You can let yourself go — or you can say NO — and delete before things go too far.

But if you really love to write explicit romance, write those scenes as if your characters are Adam and Eve and they just discovered sex — and you did too.

I have to confess I have been asked to tone things down a couple of times.  Once I was told there was too much semen in a particular novella.  Really, people, can there ever be too much semen — in fiction or in life?

You could view erotic romance as a love letter to men — or as a sex act in and of itself (lots of foreplay, climaxes and reader satisfaction).  It’s safe sex, and the best fun in the world.  And if you choose to play, I promise I’ll respect you in the morning.

Can we talk?  Do you write, or want to write, erotic romance?  What are your boundaries? What won’t you do?  What won’t you read?  How far can an author go with you?

Thea Devine is nearly done with Beyond The Night, the sequel to The Darkest Heart.  She is the author whose books defined erotic historical romance and the USAToday best-selling author of 25 historical and contemporary erotic romance novels and a dozen novella. She is looking forward to the reissue of His Little Black Book next month.

The Family Memoir

Several years ago, my cousin’s youngest daughter got married in a fabulous setting deep in the heart of PA — it was a living Andrew Wyeth painting:  a sparkling pond, rolling green hills, deep blue sky, old red barn silhouetted against the blaring hot sun, a rustic stable opened to provide a dance floor and seating where you could take the barbeque that was served on the adjacent side porch.  A little stone house where the bride had the privacy to dress.  A hundred friends and family, kids running around, playing ball, playing games.  People rocking out on the lawn.

And there I was, sitting with my husband, thinking:  this perfect day, when, maybe, someone is found dead in the pond;  or maybe that little girl in the yellow dress disappears and someone doesn’t want the mother-in-law to write the family memoir.

Honestly, it was the best wedding ever.

And subsequently, a couple of years later, my cousin asked if I’d like to read those memoirs, with his mother-in-law’s permission.  This was such a privilege.  The author is in her 90‘s;  she wrote about 28 single spaced pages.  Her voice, dry, humorous, pragmatic, came through so clearly. And there was so much more under the surface that I wanted to know. And I wanted so much more of HER — her reactions, her responses, her true feelings.

What a gift to her family, that she’s able to translate her memories into words.  I told her all this when I wrote back, and that I hoped she’d continue to add to the memoir, more of her, more of what she experienced, what she felt. I had particularly strong feelings about it because now that my parents, and aunts and uncles are gone, there’s no one left who knows all my family history.  And no one who had the wont, the patience or the will to write it all down. They were children of immigrants who’d had unspeakable childhoods and just didn’t want to talk about it — ever. So a first wife we were never aware of, a brother whom no one knew was really the child of a first marriage, a runaway child, — all nebulous stories dredged up through cryptic statements over the years which told no more than that.

I was struck forcibly that I knew nothing, really, about our grandparents in either family.  We do have my maternal grandfather’s immigration papers from which we make inferences and piece together some of the story,  but dad’s history remains opaque: I know his mother came from Romania to join her sister in America.  She was the second wife of a man with two children. Her husband died very early in the marriage after she bore him four children.  She never wanted to talk about any of it.

My sons know everything about their dad and me, but I never thought, maybe never maybe could envision a time when my parents wouldn’t be there to answer questions.  And for some reason, one never asked.  Later, when I got curious, my mom didn’t much want to talk about it either.  Or claimed she didn’t remember.

I now have a bound booklet of those memoirs, complete with pictures.  How lucky my cousin is that his mother-in-law decided to talk about her life in a concrete and lasting way.  It inspired him.  He now wants to aggregate as much of our maternal family’s history as possible.  I’m happy he wants to take on that pleasurable task and I‘m hoping he can fill in some of the blanks.

But better than that, it leaves me (selfishly) free to contemplate the fictional problem of who was killed at the wedding and the even greater pleasure of writing it..

As you can see, I’m obsessed by my family’s history now. What about your family?  Is someone writing a history? Researching the family tree?  Have you ever been at an event where you were plotting fictional murders while talking to your husband’s boss or a relative you hadn’t seen in years?

Thea Devine is the author whose books defined erotic historical romance for which she was honored as a Romance Pioneer by Romantic Times.  The Darkest Heart, Pocket/Gallery, June 2011 is her 25th novel. Visit http://www.theadevine.com for excerpt and video.