This is an excerpt from a 2-star review for Red Grow the Roses on Amazon.com:
"It hurts me to say I didn't care for this book. At all.
I have read a couple of this author's other books [Heart of Flame, The King's Viper ] and REALLY LOVED them, but so much of this just wasn't for me. I like erotica, but I'm just not into shame, and rape, and whatever like that. I like sexy sex between two people who WANT it with each other. Sadly, that is only present here a small portion of the time. So the rest just made my skin crawl."
Ouch. Poor reader. I mean it - what a disappointment for her! - and I'm not in the business of trying to disappoint my readers.
Actually, I feel this is my fault entirely. The reader has started with two of my American publications - for Samhain and for Ellora's Cave - and she's really enjoyed them (AND written enthusiastic reviews online, which makes me feel worse). Coincidentally, they're the two novels I've written which are not straightforward erotica. They've got plenty of sex in them, oh sure, but the focus is on the growing love relationships, so they're technically romance despite the copious bloodshed and anal sex, and both have Happy Ever After endings.
Then the poor reader has (Yay!) tried one of my other books. And she's found out that my other novels just aren't genre romance. There is a HFN ending for trying-to-be-good-guys Reynauld and Amanda in Red Grow the Roses, I suppose ... but only after they've been horribly morally compromised and it's been made clear that they're inevitably going to get worse. We're talking about vampires here, guys.
So, the thing is ... should I have written the more optimistic and romantic stuff on my spectrum under a different name? Is it fair to lure innocent romance fans into the murkier depths of my erotic imagination?
Certainly other authors have made this distinction. KD Grace writes her genre romance as "Grace Marshall". Kay Jaybee is branching out into the sweet stuff as "Jenny Kane".
Should I have done the same? Should I have had a "Janet Ashey" pseudonym?
And yet ... where do I draw the line between erotica and romance? I write what appeals to me at the time, and sometimes it's heavy on the emotion and sometimes it's heavy on the kink, and sometimes it's heavy on both. If anything, my romance is more likely to be angsty and doom-laden than my erotica. Wildwood has a blossoming romance relationship, but I'd definitely call it erotica. I'd put The King's Viper in sort of the same category, even though it's a lot more monogamous and the heroine's a virgin. Argh, does virginity change everything?
I'm all torn and confused!
Future publication Cover Him With Darkness is intended to be a non-erotica trilogy, by the way. It has kinky sex and domination, but it's all about the characters and how they relate (and how they are trying not to get killed by each other). I may be getting deeper into the mire of confusion here.
I have to be philosophical about this, I guess. I tell myself:
1) It's too late now.
2) At least she didn't pick up Named and Shamed...
And BTW, at the World Fantasy Convention this year, I'm going to be on a panel that discusses precisely this topic.