Regular readers of CFHW will probably have figured out by now that I read a fair bit of X-rated fiction thanks to various reviews, reading lists and summaries over the years. I enjoy it, it’s (usually) quick and easy to read, doesn’t require much thought or concentration and can be incredibly entertaining (often for all the wrong reasons).
Like many people, my first forage into the X-rated fiction department was Mills & Boon. There were a few on our bookshelves at home, either my Mum’s or my sister’s, and as I read pretty much anything, inevitably they eventually got picked up.
It was then I discovered just how easy to read they were. Not just Mills & Boon but a large majority of the genre. The stories are simple, generic and predictable – more often than not within ten pages you know who is going to shack up with who and what is going to happen at the end. This is no bad thing, it means they are gentle on you which is sometimes exactly what you need.
I often find myself a soft-porn novella to read after finishing a particularly long or difficult book, or even an amazing one, because they let my brain reset without having to really concentrate. They are also great for getting you back into reading if you have been struggling to get into anything. I am a big fan of the Amazon Kindle Top Free Romance section.
Of course, not all X-rated fiction is ‘soft’ porn. I have accidentally found myself reading more hardcore stuff (this is what you get for not reading blurbs and picking things by their covers or titles) but I must confess I usually find these ones a bit ridiculous. Sex isn’t particularly sexy if you get all brutally honest about it and in hardcore stories people tend to try and be more detailed instead of making it romantic and fluffy and it all gets a bit cringey and/or awkwardly hilarious.
Sometimes X-rated fiction is hilarious for all the wrong reasons. I have written before about people who try and write whole sex books without ever mentioning the character’s private parts directly. Euphemisms that involve sentences like ‘he stirred her love cauldron with his stick’ and such like are not sexy. They are just funny. This of course is one reason why they are so entertaining but it only really works out in short stories and novellas – anything longer than that and it drives you mad.
A well written X-rated book can have just as much literary merit as any other – if the author bothers to build up a storyline beyond ‘Oh look, hot guy. I’ll get me some of that!’ and has characters with personalities and depth. I really enjoy the Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh – they have mystery, murder, politics, sci-fi, fantasy and sex. The sex is not the point of the story, it is a part of it and serves purpose in the character’s development and relationships. I know they get looked down on a bit for being ‘too racy’ but they never pretend to be anything else so I don’t really know what those people are on about. Even the covers scream ‘sexy book!’
I know a few people have been a bit horrified when I casually mention reading such things when we are talking about books we read but I do read them and there’s nothing wrong with it. Nobody had an issue with people reading 50 Shades on the tube so why is it weird that I read books from the same genre (that are A LOT better written)? It isn’t.