Apr 5 2012 4:00pm

If You Build It, They Will Come: Erotic World-Building

Blue Angel by Logan BelleEven though I’ve currently declared a moratorium on paranormal reading, that does not mean I ignore the subgenre completely; I still buy plenty for my library patrons to read, and I follow many bloggers who are diehard paranormal fans. One thing that is typically always mentioned in reviews for paranormal books is the world-building. Was it good, bad, or indifferent? In some cases, the world-building can make or break a book for a reader—too much and the romance gets lost. Not enough and the reader is slogging through wallpaper. But what about world-building in other corners of romance?

Any story worth its salt—regardless of genre or subgenre—needs to have decent world-building. It’s what helps transport the reader into the story, as opposed to relegating us to the sidelines where we’re barely interested observers. I love getting lost in a book, sucked in to the point where I don’t want to come up for air. World-building does that for me.

Some of my favorite worlds have been built within the realm of erotica and erotic romance. An excellent example would be Logan Belle’s Blue Angel series. It follows the travails of Mallory Dale, a law student who hangs up her legal briefs for pasties when she gets sucked into the world of the New York City burlesque scene. What Belle has done very well in this series is flesh out that scene for readers. She’s got an excellent back-drop to populate her characters with, she sprinkles in plenty of drama, and gives readers a soap opera feeling against what, for many of us, is an exotic lifestyle.

Broken by Megan HartMegan Hart takes a slightly different approach, especially in her early Spice novels, Dirty and Broken. It wasn’t the setting so much as the characters. She has a way of slyly interesting recurring characters without beating readers over the head with a series-baiting stick. Newcomers won’t feel like they’re missing anything, but fans will get a giddy thrill recognizing and seeing former secondary players again, waltzing across the pages of multiple books.

But as well as Hart does this, Portia Da Costa is the pro. Da Costa has a long and extensive career that carries across several publishers and lines. What I love about her books is that she’s designed her own erotic universe. It’s like all the characters she’s ever created reside in this giant bubble, and they can pop up in any given book.

Entertaining Mr. Stone by Portia Da CostaOne couple that the author seems especially fond of is Maria and the enigmatic Mr. Stone. These two got their own book with Entertaining Mr. Stone, showed up in In Too Deep, and even crossed publishers to make an appearance in the recent Carina Press book, Intimate Exposure. Then there was the time the couple from In Too Deep, one of my personal favorites, was spotted in a crowded restaurant scene in Kiss It Better. It detracts nothing for the newbies, but for someone who had read all those stories, it caused my heart to skip a beat.

The misconception with erotic writing is that as long as the author delivers the sex, readers will happily return to the trough to gorge. Is the sex important? Yes, but it’s not nearly enough. For a book we can really sink our teeth into, one that will linger beyond just a few scintillating moments of feeling naughty? We need the characters and we need the world.

What are some of your favorite moments of world-building in erotica and erotic romance?


Wendy the Super Librarian also blogs at So dig that library card out of your pocket and head for the stacks.

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1. SarannaDeWylde
Logan Belle is one of my all-time favorite erotic authors. Talking about world building, she was an awesome choice. The Blue Angel series is so rich and lush from the characters, to the setting, down to the smallest detail.

As for the sex portion in any book, all of the other elements have to be there to make it a good story. If it's just Tab A into Slot B, I'm not interested. I want everything.

Great post.
Wendy the Super Librarian
2. SuperWendy
Saranna: There have been moments when those characters have driven me batty - but I am SO invested in that world right now. Between that, and the soapy drama feel to the conflict - I'm hooked. I've got the third book lined up to read sometime very, very soon.
3. CTomlinson
I like Cherise Sinclair's Club Shadowlands series from Loose Id. She's created this whole world that revolves around the private BDSM club. It's nice to see the previous characters in each book as it makes them seem like normal friends ... that happen to be into BDSM.
Wendy the Super Librarian
4. SuperWendy
It's nice to see the previous characters in each book as it makes them seem like normal friends ... that happen to be into BDSM.
LOL! I'm not going to lie - that just gave me my chuckle for the day.
Marian DeVol
5. ladyengineer
@CTomlinson, I agree with you re: Cherise Sinclair's Club Shadowlands series. It very much comes across as a group of close friends looking out for each other. She has gone out of her way to flesh out believably complex relationships. I think this is what makes the series one of the better written erotica I've read and what promotes it from momentary prurient interest to a possible entry on the TBRR (to be re-read) pile. ;->
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