I’ve been investigating these types of books lately. It seems that they are all over the place, especially now with the popularity of “50 Shades” and the advent of the tablet and e-reader. You can find them on Amazon.com, Lulu.com, ebook-eros.com, blushingbooks.com and many other sites. I have a theory and that is that with tablet readers you can download and read totally anonymously. Women, who I believe are the biggest market, need not visit brick and mortar bookstores (to the extent they still exist!) to buy erotica from a smirking teenage male clerk. No, they just establish an Amazon account, shop, one-click and it’s there, right on the device.
I’ve even gotten into the act myself as you can see in the side bar to the right. But strictly speaking I don’t always write romances of the type I’m about to discuss. I write stories…with spanking. Crime dramas, mystery, thriller, ghost stories, humor, historical drama and some romance but not romance exclusively. But I digress. We are going to talk about romances today.
So why the proliferation of romance novels that prominently feature spanking? A little history is probably in order. Romance novels have been for decades a staple of fiction that appealed primarily to women. From the sweet and chaste Harlequin romances to the edgier and steamier brands, there has always been a steady market for love stories that feature admirable heroines falling in love with handsome alpha males. Mr. Perfect is just as big a fantasy for women as Miss April is for men and the publishers have eagerly sought to give their readers the fantasy fix that they want. Perhaps the modern day romances are the great granddaughters of Jane Austin and the Bronte sisters novels. I’m sure some English literature PhD somewhere has written an erudite paper on it.
Thus there arose the “Bodice Ripper”. Everyone has seen Fabio and his like on the covers of these things dressed as a pirate, a Viking, an English lord, a knight or any other swashbuckling handsome devil. He is usually holding some gorgeous long haired angel in his arms with an aim to planting a searingly hot kiss on her breathlessly waiting collagen-enhanced lips. Or he is tugging at the top of her dress secured over her bounteous breasts by laces (her bodice) with an aim to rip said bodice away, baring them as a prelude to her impending ravishment (for which she has been impatiently waiting). These are tales of lusty men and fiery damsels, feisty heroines who give as good as they get. Headstrong, temperamental, and impulsive they most often have to be “tamed” by the alpha male hero of the piece. And just how would he tame her? Well, sometimes he gives her a spanking.
So here was a curious thing. Even in the mild Harlequins, every now and then the hero would either spank or threaten to spank his heroine for some misbehavior. There is an extensive catalog of spanking scenes in mainstream books right here in the library that was put together by Steve Richardson of CF publications. These scenes were actually fairly common, but usually given short shrift. “He put her over his knee and paddled the seat of her skirt” was about all the description you might get. But these scenes kept popping up, so clearly they had struck a chord. The incidence of such scenes diminished, however, in the 80’s due to the political correctness imposed on publishers by the feminist movement, to the point where publishers would make their authors delete any such references. There is an article written by Bethany Burke on her website (www.herwoodshed.com) entitled “Where Have All the Spankings Gone?” that makes this point.
With the arrival of the internet all that changed. The internet freed communication from the constraints of the printed word, publishing houses, physical media, and brick and mortar retailers. Cyber communities arose that were dedicated to everything one could imagine. And that included spanking—in a big way, as we now know. So perhaps it was inevitable that the market for spanking-oriented literature would be serviced by internet publishing. With internet publishing anyone can be an author. No longer is it necessary to secure an agent to approach the big publishing houses to get your book in print. The specialty houses for erotica and spanking literature like Ellora’s Cave, Pink Flamingos and Blushing Books will accept manuscripts from anyone (as long as they meet their guidelines).
I have discovered a couple of facts as I have investigated this new frontier of publishing. Fact 1: Women like to write and read romantic novels. Fact 2: A defined market subset of those women like their romance with generous dollops of sex…and spanking. That’s right, the spanking scenes that were downplayed, marginalized, or sacrificed to appease the sensibilities of the politically correct crowd are to be found in all their heady glory in the present day ebook spanking romances. So now we have authors like Carolyn Faulkner, Sullivan Clarke, Sue Lyndon, Renee Rose, Celeste Jones, Katrina Devlin and many others producing these books by the boatload. These are not your mother’s bodice rippers, ladies. All the hot, heavy-handed spanking action is right there in living color.
So finally we got what we wanted and all is well, right? Well, not so fast. In the old bodice rippers, there might be a spanking scene. Maybe even two. But dramatically these came at either a minor or major climax. In between we had the story. So now, if it’s to be a romance like before, only with a heavy spanking element to the story, how does that work? Spanking enthusiasts like lots of lovingly described spanking scenes. How can that work in a novel about cowboys, knights in armor or pirates?
Sometimes it doesn’t work. Many romance novels center around two people, the hero and heroine. They are destined to fall in love despite the obstacles placed in their way. So spanking scenes, when they occur, feature the hero and the heroine. As I’ve written elsewhere, spankings do not naturally occur in the rituals of courtship. Kissing and hugging do, sex does, but spanking does not. It takes an extraordinary circumstance to bring it about. For example, the hero may be in an authority relationship with the heroine and she is disobedient; or, the hero must protect the heroine and she ignores his instructions regarding her safety; or, the heroine acts like a spoiled brat. These elements can be worked into the plot if the characters are correctly drawn. The question is: how many times over the course of a novel can a reader reasonably expect the heroine to be treated in this manner by the hero?
Recall that in the bad old days the answer was—one or two times. Is it any different now? Can we have more spanking scenes lovingly and explicitly described just because the old restrictions are gone? No we can’t. There is the issue of whether such scenes are realistic in the context of the story. And this is where many “spanking romances” fail. In a nutshell, the story can falter because the hero spanks the heroine far too often and for much the same offense. Thus, the scenes may appear forced or contrived or non-sensical. If Sally, the fiery red-headed temptress, has been told by Jason, the studly cowboy, not to ride Diablo, how many times can she ride Diablo anyway and get spanked for it? Once or twice is believable. Four or five times is not. The story dissolves into mindless repetition. The reader begins to wonder if fiery Sally has an iron butt. The reader can’t believe it because in reality no character would keep doing the same thing over and over and keep putting up with the same result.
As a punishment, spanking works because it is the “nuclear option”. It is serious. Not a casual thing. To have it occur so frequently between the same characters dilutes its effectiveness and hence, its value as a dramatic device.
This is an all too common failing in such novels. Notice that in a short story of 5000 words, two such incidents is about perfect. In a spanking novel of 50,000-100,000 words it’s far too few to satisfy the readers drawn to the genre in the first place.
So what to do?
Fortunately there are some fixes.
Employ minor characters between whom spanking incidents can occur. Maybe Sally has a sister who is married to an old fashioned husband. Maybe there is a minister with daughters who misbehave often. Work them into the plot. Then you can write spanking incidents without diluting the dramatic tension between hero and heroine.
Employ a setting in which spanking or CP occurs naturally. A school, a religious cult, a reformatory, an odd society.
Employ the hero and heroine in plot constructions in which the heroine is punished by other characters and for reasons other than misbehavior toward the hero. For example the heroine is captured by antagonists, or goes undercover to investigate an odd cult.
These are just three ideas that I think can work well and some of the authors mentioned above do employ these plot devices so that their novels can deliver the goods for the spanking enthusiast while maintaining the integrity of the story and not make the hero and heroine look ridiculous.
So if you are inclined, take a peek. They are fairly inexpensive. And they are different from the “spanking story” genre because they are novels and novellas, not short stories. This gives the author more room to stretch out, to develop plot and characters. Happy reading.