While I’m not the type of writer to shy away from explicit heat or overt discussions of sex and eroticism in my stories, most of the books written under my pen name Holland Rae fall shy of being labeled “erotic romance.”
The distinction is arbitrary. What counts as light heat to me might tip the scales of eroticism for someone else, but I’ve always split up my pen names as “traditional romance” and “erotic romance.” The “erotic romance” uses stronger language but, more importantly, focuses on lifestyles and relationships that go outside of the mainstream, voyeurism and exhibitionism, BDSM, and menage relationships.
And, having just completed the third book in my menage romance series, I have to say – menage books are a ton of fun to write.
Every element of writing comes with its own complications and benefits. For instance, by book three in this series, I found that writing the actual explicit sex scenes had become something of a challenge. After all, at the end of the day, there are a limited number of slots and holes to contend with. This was made more complicated by my publisher’s insistence that the relationships remain strictly Male/Female/Male meaning I wasn’t able to experiment with connections between my two male characters or with bringing in a different dynamic.
In the future, I plan to do both, but even within these limitations, my menage stories have become some of my all-time favorite to write. And I can narrow that down to one specific reason.
My whole series – and it’s set up to be four books – takes place in the same setting. Each of the relationships is Male/Female/Male. There isn’t a lot of wiggle room for the exotic location or unique desires. Instead, the environments surrounding the characters are mostly all the same. Which means I need to get my something new from somewhere else.
Now, most of romance is driven by character. It’s how we can get away with having so many books about cowboys, dukes, and pirates. Yes, the outside clothing and circumstance is the same, but how does this unique hero or heroine react to their situation and falling in love.
Menage romance does the same thing but cranked up to eleven. Because everything about romance – the meet-cute, the black moment, the coming to terms, the miscommunication, all has to be done more than once, with more than one person.
For instance, in the first two books of my series, the heroine meets both heroes at the same time. In the third book, they’ve been best friends for years. In the fourth book, she’s coming home for the first time since high school and rekindling old flames. These tropes have all been done before, but now I’m doing them with two heroes, and heroines who have no idea how to contend with the type of attraction they feel for two men.
These books are set in contemporary times, where menage romances are not unheard of, but still outside the realm of most people’s realities. Because, of course, there’s the grappling with the I’m not supposed to want two men and the heroes with the we both like her, what do we do?
The way each character interacts with each other, even in the platonic relationships, both around the third party and alone, helps to push their characterization further into focus. Will they sacrifice their own shot at love for their best friend? Will they scheme to get her back? How do they feel about sharing a woman they love? Each of these questions further develops that hero into something tangible and real.
And, of course, it doesn’t end there. Actually sharing the person you love with someone else, their time, their emotional energy, it’s a commitment and many challenges lay ahead. While my characters weather the complicated elements of their new relationship, they develop and become more of who they fundamentally are.
Of course, I’m not saying everyone should write menage. It’s a specific type of story and if you’re not attracted to it, it won’t work. That’s okay! There are plenty of genres I don’t plan to write and menage isn’t for everyone. But if you’re looking for a unique challenge, for the chance to push your character development to a whole new level, to explore what love means outside of the traditional relationship, consider giving menage romance a try. You might just find that three is more company than crowd after all. ♥