I downloaded and read the Kindle previews for a lot of erotic romances a while ago, to see if I could find some I'd like to read, and this struck me as one of the most promising books of the lot. The setup: Anastasia is the only child of the ruler of a small but prosperous middle eastern-ish city-state in ancient times. She has been trained in statecraft by her father but she doesn't have his wisdom. She is maybe a decent person at heart but her upbringing has left her arrogant and unable to see people of less noble birth, especially slaves, as human beings ... as a result she often treats them quite badly. There are scenes of commoners sold into slavery and forced to strip naked at her command, and slavegirls whipped in very delicate and painful areas, that sort of thing.
At the start of the book, her father has been dead for a couple of years, and she's hard pressed to marry some man who would then rule the city, but she'd rather be single and rule She bungles ruling the city and there's a revolution, and she finds herself enslaved.
This BEAUTIFULLY sets up many long scenes of comeuppance as the former queen of the city learns what it is to be a slave in a land where almost everyone is royally pissed off at her. We know what happens to slaves under her rule, so we can reasonably expect a LOT of that for Anastasia, with her memories of her royal days making it all so much more painful, humiliating and degrading before she Learns Her Lesson that people are people, slave or noble, and finds that Hunky Guy who'll make everything all right for her, slave or noble. (Sigh. Like I said, I read a LOT of erotic romance previews.)
I would have liked to have seen Anastasia go through a more prolonged period of being a slave and endure more humiliations and awfulness before being rescued by Mr. Right. I would have liked her have a much rougher time acclimating to being a slave, after all, she WAS, for all intents and purposes, a queen. I would have liked to have seen a lot more explicit and erotic torments for her, arousing strange and unsettling feelings in her. I would have liked to have seen a lot more PUBLIC humiliaton and torment for Anastasia. There wasn't much of any of that in the book (actually, it's more of a long short story than a book. In fact, Anastasia mentally adjusts to being a slavegirl as readily or even more readily than most of John Norman's female characters do. That's a burn, I know, but I think it's deserved in this case.
But: caveat: I am a male reader of erotic romances. I might have a taste for more a more, um, pornographic approach to such scenes than most female readers. So there's that to consider. However, a lot of my interest in such scenes in the main character's psychological response to what happens, how she feels, how it changes her or doesn't, which is not the stereotypical male porn approach.
A scene I wouldn't have minded seeing in "The Last Slavegirl. What is Anastasia thinking and feeling at this juncture? Image courtesy of Public Disgrace.
In this instance I doubt if my complaint is purely the product of having a lust-filled male brain (though there's nothing wrong with that!) -- there's a reason erotic romances written by independents have burst out of the bondage (smirk) imposed by traditional romance publishers, and it's the same reason "Fifty Shades of Grey" was an indie bestseller long before the major publishers got wind of it: readers' tastes have moved on. And I don't think author D.W. Collins' tastes have moved on with her readers' tastes. I hope I am wrong, if she learns to write follow-throughs that are as good as her setups she'll be an author worth following.
There are a lot of "erotic romances" out there that just aren't all that erotic. In fact, I'm just going to call it: a lot of standard romance writers have joined the erotic romance bandwagon, but they aren't really writing erotic romances, they're writing standard romances gussied up with a few more explicit sex scenes than they used to write. Because here's the thing -- Fifty Shades of Grey, for all its lack of literary qualities that had the Lit Crit crowd rolling their eyes and whinging, focussed directly on the sexual relationship between Ana and Christian Grey. There was no shying back from it, it was front and center, part of the relationship, part of who these characters were. There's nothing like that in most of the erotic romances I've previewed ... most are vanilla romances with some dominance/submission overtones and very little bondage or actual dominance and submission sex. They use historical power imbalances between men and women as a crutch to sidestep the erotic elements in their stories, and it makes them, well ... dull.
I wish there was some way to sort the actual Good Stuff like Fifty Shades of Grey out from the faux erotic romances, but so far, I haven't found anything along those lines.
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