What is Erotic Romance? The definition, common tropes and characters, book recommendations,  favorite authors and reading guides!

The definition of erotic romance can be subjective. But, the general gist is, is that sex is what drives forward both the romantic relationship and the story. In a lot of cases, the kinks of the characters, such as BDSM, exhibitionism, voyeurism, menage, has a significant impact on the story. Any book where these kinks are the central focus is likely to be an erotic romance. It is still a romance though, so alongside these spicy scenes by the last page you will also get a happily ever after.

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A romance where sex is an important aspect of the plot. The sex in the book will be explicit and help to drive the romance between the main characters forward.

So, to break it down a little more, the essential characteristics of an erotic romance novel are:

  • There will be little to no fade to black sex scenes. The sex scenes in the book will explicit and frequent
  • The sex will be integral to the plot and the development of the romance
  • The characters will be adults
  • There will be a happily ever after at the end of the book

In my essential characteristics, I also put there will be “a lot” of sex. Obviously this is a subjective measure. Maybe two extended and really spicy scenes seems like a lot in the context of the book, therefore you categorise this as erotic romance where perhaps another person wouldn’t. What seems erotic to one person will not necessarily be the same for another. However, in erotic romance, the emphasis will be on the sexual relationship as much as, if not more, than the romantic one. In the really great erotic romances the author will seamlessly tie these two things together, the sex will propel the romance and vice versa.

The setting of an erotic romance can change. You could be aboard an alien space ship. Tied to a bed in Victorian England. Have vampires and shifters knocking on your doors. Or perhaps just a 21st century person. The setting isn’t important, it’s all about how sex is used to drive the story and the romance forward.

Common tropes and character types

In erotic romance books you’ll find a wide variety of tropes and character types, mostly because you can have a historical romance about a rake and a wallflower and still be erotic romance as well. It really depends on the purpose of the sex scenes within the plot of the book! That being said, there are some staple tropes in the genre that are usually pretty safe bet to say they’re erotic romance:

  • Dark or Taboo
  • BDSM
  • Menage (or more)
  • Reverse Harem

And as for character types you can expect some of these:

  • Bratty submissive
  • Bully or jerk hero
  • Quiet and intense dom
  • Main character with a tortured past

What is the difference between erotic romance and erotica/smut?

I am of the opinion that there are two types of erotic novels: erotic romance and erotica/smut. Honestly, it’s a massive pet peeve of mine when people call erotic romance smut, it has such different connotations. So, I want to define what the difference is between these types of books.

Erotic Romance

The key word here is “romance”, an erotic romance novel will have romance in it. By the end of the book the couple will have formed an emotional bond and a happily ever after, all whilst having a lot of sexy fun. This is essential; erotic romance is a sub-genre of romance and although there will be a lot of sex it should serve the purpose of bringing the characters together in a long lasting and meaningful way. Yes it’s sexy as hell, but it isn’t in the kind of “any hole is a goal” mindset, the sex scenes should show an element of emotional chemistry and connection as well as physical.


Smut/erotica will just be sex with little or no pretence of a story nor any attempt at an emotional bond being made between the characters. Often these books will be less than 150 pages – in fact 150 pages would be an epic erotica! And although the line between contemporary romance and erotic romance is blurry, smut and erotic romance are very different creatures. In essence…smut is porn, it wants to engage your body without trying to engage your emotions.

The difference between a kink and a fetish

Knowing the difference between a kink and a fetish isn’t essential to understanding erotic romance, but I think it’s an interesting difference to explore. And, it comes down to this: a fetish is something someone needs to have to become sexually aroused. A kink is something that someone enjoys, but it isn’t essential for their arousal. For example, a fetish would be if you couldn’t orgasm unless you were tied down, a kink would be you liked to get tied down, but you can orgasm without it.

Why we love the genre

Of all romance sub-genre, erotic romance is probably disparaged the most. But, sex and a healthy attitude and openness towards sex is essential to a good romantic relationship. We love that erotic romance promotes this. It’s also a genre that empowers women to enjoy sex and to have their emotional as well as physical needs met. It celebrates people’s bodies and the pleasure they can bring without objectifying them. Also, often the women are in control, even in a BDSM when a woman is a submissive…she choose that. She has often set her boundaries which her partner or partners must abide by. A great erotic romance is a beautiful thing and here at Under the Covers we love it!

Want to learn about more book genres? Click here!

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