Dark Eroticism + HEA = Dark Romance?

by Oct 1, 2023Genre, Musings

I came across an interesting conversation on social media the other day involving an erotic horror novel that a dark romance reader was raving about in a dark romance group. She said even though it wasn’t a romance, she loved it. Several other people chimed in that they also loved the book. And here’s the really interesting part: a few actually said that it had an HEA, so to them, it was a romance.

I am so curious to know how common this sentiment is in the dark romance community. If I write a good novel with a hot, compelling villain, lots of dark spice, and I have the heroine and hero get together at the end, have I written a dark romance?

I would personally argue no. A romance has to center around two or more people falling in love with each other and fighting for that relationship to work/last.

But here’s what I think this idea gets at: a certain percentage of dark romance readers aren’t really reading for the romance. Not really. They’re reading for dark eroticism enhanced with a full story and compelling characters. Those are the people I need to target.

Not for the first time, I believe this means the dark erotic subgenre is in desperate need of subcategories beyond “dark romance.” I’ve seen “erotic horror” gaining life again, but we need more. For now, though, if enough dark romance readers count anything with a lot of dark smut and an HEA as a dark romance, why not take advantage and label anything I write that falls into that category as dark romance?

Of course, there’s always the issue of multiple partners for me that thwarts my attempts to write anything marketable, but I thought it was an interesting observation. After writing my novella, The Crow Prince, I am a lot more confident that I can find an audience among fans of dark fantasy romance. Many dark romance readers are willing to read anything with a hot, compelling villain as long as the heroine gets with him in intimate detail and they end up together. And that’s naturally what I love writing.

To wrap this short post up, seeing more readers define dark romance in a way that doesn’t center romance suggests that a decent subsection of this genre’s readers don’t need the swoony romance beats. And in time, that will probably lead to the emergence of new, more precise dark erotic subgenres. I can’t wait.