Joey W. Hill – Day 12 – Erotic Romance, Universal Love

The Spirit of Romance

You know how people say that you should hold the spirit of Christmas in your heart all year long? When you’re a romance author, you do the same thing with the spirit of romance. For one thing, it helps me write my stories. It’s difficult to craft good romances if I’m feeling like “there’s no such thing as true love, romance sucks and I’m going to shoot Cupid right out of the freaking sky with a BB gun.” But enough about how I feel during the copy-edit phase of my books (laughter).The Lingerie Shop

Romance gets a bad rap, because the media has portrayed it as heroines with heaving bosoms and muscle-bound heroes who can inspire multiple orgasms with a smoldering look. And yes, I’m here to say – WITHOUT APOLOGY – that IS part of romance novels. A delightful part I’d never want to lose. I want a good fantasy when I read a love story. I want that erotic thrill, imagining my hero striding out of a creek in a pair of wet jeans and no shirt, carrying the three-legged puppy that nearly got eaten by an alligator until our hero risked life and limb to rescue him. And then I want to see that hero put the puppy down and ravish the heroine right there on the creek bank, giving her multiple orgasms.

Okay, yeah, I’m exaggerating, but you get the point. I went to college. I read the literary texts and “important” books that are supposed to change my thinking toward the world and make me a more enlightened person. Those books had many good qualities. But no story has ever inspired me to embrace the world and celebrate life like reading a really good romance.

Why? Let me step back a little to explain. So often the skeptics and highbrow academics don’t look past those fun parts to discover the secret that all romance readers know lies between the pages of a great romance. And that’s disappointing, because we’re more than willing to share! Here’s the big secret: the greatest romances are also great love stories. Yes, we like our muscular heroes and our intrepid heroines with long, rippling hair that never frizzes, but what we like even more is what else is part of the story: A love that faces down harsh obstacles, that offers compassion and laughter, that provides unforgettable, tender moments of self-sacrifice, because the very deserving protagonists are willing to do anything that will bring happiness to one another.

Want an example? Anyone a Kathleen Woodiwiss fan? Do you remember this passage from the Civil War romance, Ashes Divine Solace in the Wind, when Cole unwisely teases Alaina? He’s used to her being a stalwart spitfire who holds him at arms’ length. However, in this scene, she’s devastated to discover someone has burned, out of spite, one of the dresses she brought into their arranged marriage as part of her small dowry.

     “It was one of my best. Mrs. Hawthorne helped me to find it.” Her voice began to break. “I wanted you to be proud of me, not because of what you could give me, but because of what I could bring to you.”
     Cole had faced his first wife’s tantrums until they had become just another fact of life, but he felt helpless and unsure before the tears of this small wench.
     Ah, damn! The wisdom burned in his brain. Chide her! Get her dander up a bit! Anything is better than this—he thought.
     “What am I seeing?” he pondered aloud in a gentle, half-teasing tone. “Is this the one who took a mop to a man? Is this the one who dragged me from the river and saved my life in the middle of a war? Is this the same one I see crying over a spoiled dress? Is this Al?”
     Alaina faced him, and Cole realized his failure in the moment. The tears flowed freely now, making light paths through the smudge on her cheek. Her voice trembled with suppressed sobs.
     “I was a young girl with hair hanging past my waist, raised in a fine family to be a fine young lady.” She breathed deeply, trying to fight the heartache and tears. “I watched them all go, one by one. I buried my mother, then I had to cut my hair short and ragged. I had to rub dirt into it and on my face. I had to wear old, stinking clothes from somebody’s ragbag. I had to learn to walk like a boy, talk like a boy, fight like a boy. I had to listen to you prattle about giving me a bath”—she was sobbing aloud now—“when I felt so filthy I could have died.”
     She leaned forward, and the gray eyes searched his face in wonder. “Don’t you understand? Don’t you know?” Her voice broke in a sorrowful wail. “There was no Al! It was always me!” She beat a clenched fist against her bosom. “I have always been Alaina. There—never—was—any—Al!”
     The sobs broke and Alaina fled, still clutching the yellow gown. The sound of her grief dwindled until the bedroom door shut them off, leaving him to bear the oppressive silence alone.

That was the first time I remember crying when I read a book. The funny thing is that particular passage brings me to tears every time. I cried when I typed it into this post. Even more importantly, it captures why a great romance, a great love story, can convey just as many life truths as any other book. Needing the one you love to see who you truly are, and stand by you no matter what, are universal desires. And though Cole made a misstep there, he does exactly that. Through misunderstandings, pain and loss, he has one compass. The hope that Alaina will let go of her grief and misgivings and let him love her openly and forever. He wants her to take the journey with him that all those who fall in love hope to experience. We want to walk through life hand in hand, all the way to the grave.

At its heart, that is the kind of love story a great romance novel offers.

A relationship is a journey of ups and downs, good and bad, and sometimes a lot of stress and sorrows. Yet it’s often a memorable, wondrous thing, and great romances remind us of the good parts of that. It lifts out the important things about love, wraps it in lovely packaging (our handsome hero and brave heroine), gives us a story to cheer for, and makes us feel better about facing our daily lives as a result. It takes the diamonds of love in our own lives and gives them a polish so we don’t miss the shine. When I’ve read a good romance, I notice more of the good things my husband does and complain a little less about the things that drive me crazy. Instead, I think about how lucky I am to have someone in my life to love who loves me back, who can still make my knees weak after 25 years of marriage. And no, he’s no more muscle bound than I am free of cellulite, but he’s my hero.

And one of the main reasons I celebrate romance.

If you haven’t gotten all that from reading a romance, you’re not reading one of the many good ones. Go find an avid romance reader and get a recommendation today. I’m offering some of my favorites here.


Oldies but goodies (all historical romance, but it was the central love story, not necessarily the genre, made these so memorable to me) – Once in a Blue Moon by Penelope Williamson, Flowers in the Storm by Laura Kinsale and of course Ashes in the Wind by Kathleen Woodiwiss, noted in my essay.

Erotic treasures (these are by newer authors, part of the delightful rise of erotic romance) – Daniel’s Surrender by VJ Summers, the Phoenix Rising series by Denise Rossetti, Bound Odyssey by Michelle Polaris and Glitterland by Alexis Hall.

 Questions for the Author:

Describe the most daring, adventurous or inspiring thing you ever did.

Anyone see Nim’s Island with Jodie Foster? I’m less daring and adventurous than she is. I TOTALLY related to her praying on the plane in the storm, promising she will embrace her phobias and never leave the house again if she can just live through that trip (laughter). So hmm. Let me think about this. Actually, I went and asked my husband, and he reminded me that about 15 or so years ago, we bought a 30-foot sailboat and, with minimal sailing experience, the two of us went to Oriental, North Carolina and sailed it home to our then home in Southport, North Carolina. The journey took three days. He says the most daring thing HE ever did was let me dock the boat when we were fueling. I got it stuck in forward and rammed the fuel dock like a Viking invasion force. Ahem.

That aside, I’d say that trip ranked among some of the more daring things I’ve done. And it was a lovely adventure I remember fondly as a result.

Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer. (How did you decide to get started? Did you always know or was there a specific moment when you knew?)

I started writing in fifth grade, inspired by my love of books, which started pretty much from first conscious thought, since my mother taught me to read well before I ever entered school. Simple cause and effect: I loved reading great stories so much, I wanted to try and write some. And the books that stuck with me the most were always very romantic and character-driven, starting with books about Arthurian legends and Robin Hood, as well as classics like Little Women, Black Beauty and Call of the Wild. I was a big fantasy reader – Lloyd Alexander, Stephen Donaldson, Mercedes Lackey, Raymond Feist, Jennifer Roberson and Marion Zimmer Bradley. Then I moved from that into mainstream and historical romance – Nora Roberts, Valerie Sherwood, Kathleen Woodiwiss, etc. As a result, my first published book was a “fantasy-romance” – a fantasy plot with a very strong central love story.

That didn’t happen until my twenties. I wrote a variety of unpublished novellas and some award-winning short stories until college, then detoured into animal rights for about a decade before I returned to writing. I’ve always been glad I gave myself the time for that life experience, because I think it enhanced my writing considerably. It took about four years to craft my first published book, during which time I learned about the business of queries, synopses, Writer’s Market, etc. However, try as I might, I couldn’t find a home for my book through traditional avenues. While I’m sure being a writer still learning her craft contributed to the rejections, established publishers were also pretty closed to “cross-genre” romance like “fantasy-romance” or “erotic romance” (versus erotica OR romance). They didn’t feel it had a readership. Boy, did that turn out to be wrong! (laughter) Hence the popular categories of paranormal romance, urban fantasy and erotic romance readers enjoy today.

I feel e-publishing had a great deal to do with expanding the choices for readers in that regard, and I was honored to come in on the ground floor with e-publishing and erotic romance, and be part of the phenomenal growth of both. That fantasy-romance book and my subsequent first erotic romance were first published by a couple of small e-publishers that didn’t survive the ups and downs of that medium, but then I landed at Ellora’s Cave with the erotic romance (Make Her Dreams Come True). That’s when my career started to gain momentum and I found the niche I most loved writing – BDSM erotic romance.

That journey has taught me a lesson I continue to try and observe in my writing career. Readers, not marketing departments, determine what books go on their keeper shelf, and that’s my ultimate goal as a writer. I want to write the kind of books a reader doesn’t want to give away after they’ve read them. As a result, I may never be rich, but I do my best to write a character-driven story worth visiting over and over again.

Tell us about The (or A) Book That Changed Your Life. (Why?)

I think every romance I read that made it to my keeper shelf probably sculpted me as a writer, and made me feel about romance the way I expressed it in my essay. However, as far as the erotic romance side of things goes, Roarke’s Prisoner by Angela Knight and Exit to Eden by Anne Rice were the first two erotic romances I read that made me think “Yes, THAT’s the way erotic romance should be written.”

I was a romance reader who wanted more erotic content in the books I chose to read, but so many people equated more sex with poor writing quality, i.e. “The author threw in a bunch of sex to save her the hard work of actually writing a story.” Grrrr….

To my way of thinking, a great erotic romance should have every bit of the great characterization, emotional intensity and story development that any other book must have to be a worthwhile read. Because of those two stories, I had more confidence that a BDSM romance could be a keeper shelf book, right there next to any other genre. Thank you, Angela and Anne!

Joey is generously giving away three books (reader’s choice from existing titles, e-book or print). Two to U.S. readers (entry below) and one to an international winner (enter here).

JWHillWinner of the 2011 Romantic Times Career Achievement award, Joey W. Hill has over thirty contemporary and paranormal BDSM erotic romances, including multiple series. Her characters include everything from vampires, mermaids, witches and angels, to boardroom executives, cops and simple housemaids. Free excerpts from all her works are available at her website, Additional vignettes, character interviews and graphics inspired by the work are at the fan forum site, access info at You can also find her on Twitter: @JoeyWHill or Facebook:


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