There is no one but Smart Bitches, Trashy Books to blame for the 500% increase in romance novels on my Kindle. The problem with breaking in a new genre is that you don't know how to find the gems; I'm good at finding the right fantasy and sci fi books for me, but I never had the context for romance before.
But now, I have a neverending supply of romance novels highly rated by smart feminists with good taste, and I am rolling in it.
This is where I read this review of The Red, by Tiffany Reisz. I don't know that I've ever read published erotica before; there's plenty of that in fanfic, whether you're looking for it or not. But the review was glowing, and I was curious, and the book was on Netgalley, so now I'm reviewing erotica, which....does that change the rating on this blog?
I have specific critiques that would get kind of X-rated, so let's skip that. I'll say that I really liked the structure, how the protagonist and her lover came to an agreement--a sexual relationship for a year that includes whatever he wants, in exchange for enough money to save her art gallery (called, titularly, The Red), delivered in the form of art. I loved how much pleasure the deal gave her, and the balance between Malcolm's demanding dominance and his desire to bring her happiness.
My main complaint came toward the end, so I'll be vague for spoilery reasons: I found the relationship at the end to be way TOO alpha-male takes what he wants. I think the book tried to pull off a switch where my goodwill was transferred from one situation to another, and the switch didn't quite work for me.
But we're talking last-ten-pages quibbles. If what you're looking for is a fun, sexy story that's a little bit fantasy and a little bit kinky, this is a really nice starting place. It reminded me of the things I like about sexy fanfic, but it managed to do those things while getting me invested in characters I've never met before, which I think is pretty impressive.
There. I reviewed erotica. But I think, new rule: no Netgalley requests that I'd be embarrassed to talk to my coworkers about!