Fiction, at its very best, elicits a powerful emotional response—be it fear, sadness, joy, or sexual arousal. Achieving the latter, however, may be the most difficult challenge to writers. Decades ago, when I first started editing and reviewing for B&N, one of my very first interviews was with the legendary Anne McCaffrey, who penned a multitude of novels in a diversity of genres (science fiction, romance, children’s, etc.) and was the first woman to win a Hugo and Nebula Award. When I asked her what was the hardest kind of sequences to write well, she didn’t hesitate and said, “sex scenes.” If a writer focuses too much on the graphic nature of the scene, it becomes mechanical and porn-like but if a writer waxes poetic and describes the scene with flowery description (“his velvet man-lance penetrated her dewy meadow…”) it can be downright comical.
(In all honesty, I love badly written sex scenes—and find great enjoyment reading them. Maybe I should write a blog listing some of the worst!)
Writing a good erotic romance is hard—no pun intended—but when it’s done well, it can verge on being magical. Think about this: if a writer, simply through putting words on a page, can make a reader’s heart start racing, their breathing intensify, their skin flush, etc., that’s powerful stuff! Readers can live vicariously through these characters and bask in the glow of passionate romance and godlike sex for a few days, or at least as long as the book lasts. These kinds of novels are the perfect beach read—or backyard read, if you’re practicing social distancing.
I love a good steamy romance and have reviewed many stellar traditionally published releases over the years by authors like Sylvia Day, Lorelei James, Lydia Michaels, and Opal Carew, to name just a few. But there are countless fantastic indie releases available as well—novels so hot I call them “oven mitt” reads.
So, if you’re looking for some literary escapism to make your hot summer days and nights even hotter, check out some of these titles!
• Dirty Cooking by Carley Mercedes (2019)
First off, I love this title and cover art. It fits the story’s tone perfectly—a romantic and sexy narrative that follows Melanie, a chef struggling to move her career forward, who takes a job as a live-in chef and… well, you’ll just have to read the book!
• Heartbreaker by Logan Chance (2017)
This is a great example of how a novel can be simultaneously sweetly romantic and I-need-to-take-a-cold-shower-right-now sexy. Great premise—a guy needs to fix up his parents’ house in order to sell it and hires a landscaper with whom he has undeniable chemistry with… excellent plot twists and some incredible sex scenes.
• The Protector series by Teresa Gabelman
Revolving around a group of vampire warriors who have taken an oath to not only protect their kind but humankind as well, this long paranormal romance series (the 15th installment, Bishop, was released in March of 2020) is smoking hot, featuring sexy supernatural males and the females who simultaneously complicate and enrich their lives.
• Bared to You by Sylvia Day (2012)
Originally self-published, Day took advantage of the phenomenal success of Fifty Shades of Grey (2011) with this novel—and her Crossfire saga— with a story that revolves around the relationship between Eva Tramell, a survivor of childhood abuse, and Gideon Cross, a billionaire who is also struggling to heal from past traumas. While the storyline has similarities to the Fifty Shades saga, this series is better written and much more emotionally intense.
• My Wicked Virgin by Ann Mayburn (2019)
Part of Mayburn’s Club Wicked series, these novels can be read as standalones. This novel revolves around a college student named Sunny who is struggling mightily to deal with her drug-addicted mother. She befriends a sponsor from Narcotics Anonymous Family Support—a brutally handsome man named Hawk—and a strong friendship grows. The BDSM element adds another layer of sexual tension as the relationship deepens into something much more…
• The Unbreakable Contract by Debbie Dickerson (2015)
Savannah Burgesson is a highly successful businesswoman who lives just outside of Houston on a sprawling 150-acre estate. Having just turned 40, she decides (perhaps on a subconscious level) to get past her feelings of guilt—she cheated on her fiancé Tristan and destroyed that relationship—that have been troubling her for years and finally begin living the life that fulfills her, that makes her happy. So she has a steamy affair with her assistant—a handsome piece of “eye candy” named Charleston. But Charleston isn’t quite the naïve young man he seems to be, and soon Savannah finds herself fighting for her life… sexy and thrilling.
• The Mate Mistake by Saranna DeWylde (2017)
The third Woolven Secret novel by DeWylde, this is top-notch paranormal romance as Parker, the youngest brother in the Woolven family, wakes up in a Vegas hotel room married to a waitress instead of the woman he was supposed to marry! A fast-paced and fun read with some steamy supernatural heat.
• Loser Takes All by Kora Knight (2014)
For those who enjoy MM romance, Knight’s Upending Tad series is a great example of how a little chemistry, a little BDSM, and a lot of sexual tension can go a long, long way…
• Wolf Unleashed by Heather Long (2019)
Part of the lengthy The Wolves of Willow Bend saga, readers who like paranormal romance undoubtedly already know about this series. The romance is steamy—that’s a given considering the topic of werewolves and wolfpacks—but the storylines are impressively intricate and the characters incredibly well developed, no pun intended.
• Burn for You by J.T. Geissinger (2017)
While the premise isn’t exactly original if you read a lot of romance, Geissinger’s ability to create emotionally connective characters—as well as a great sense of humor and a penchant for I’ll-have-what-they’re-having sex scenes—made this novel so utterly enjoyable. This line is a great example of the novel’s tone: “That kiss was hotter than a housewife reading Fifty Shades of Grey at the Magic Mike premiere.”
This list is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many excellent self-published erotic romance available—if you need more heat this summer, you’ll definitely find it in these reads.
Paul Goat Allen has been reviewing books for more than 25 years. In addition to BlueInk Review, his work has appeared with BarnesandNoble.com, The Chicago Tribune, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and more. He also teaches in Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction graduate writing program. Readers of this blog are offered a $50 discount on a BlueInk review by using the “key code” Allen. (This in no way guarantees a review by Allen.)