Semi-Homemade Erotic Romance, with Smart Bitch Sarah

Back when I was learning to cook, I had an absolute monster file of shortcut recipes for The Poor Student Cook (that would be me). Honestly, I look back, and I don’t know how Hubby and I survived my cooking, which wasn’t so much about actual culinary skill but about embracing the mathematical answer to the question, “How much sodium can one person ingest in one meal?”

Slather chicken with condensed soup? Oh yeah. Slather more chicken with other processed goop? Yup. Save extra goop to put on the Lipton side, which consisted of noodles and sodium? Yeah. I’m embarrassed.

But back before I knew better, that was cooking. And I was so proud to be in my kitchen, my apartment, mine mine mine, that I cooked and cooked and cooked… using processed ingredients and all kinds of narst.

Little did I know, I could have been famous. Do you know Sandra Lee? Creator of the “Semi-Homemade” empire, which those who dislike her call “Semi-Ho?” Her entire schtick is to create “semi-homemade” meals using prepared ingredients that have been scooped, reconstituted, seasoned, and beaten into a shadow of their former sodium-laden selves. The hallmarks of her show are her habit of tilting forward Giada-style into the camera boobs-first, the massive, absolutely happy-hour-worthy cocktail pitcher she’ll make in every episode, and the “tablescape,” which looks like Michael’s Crafts and the Rag Shop did the hunky chunky together and in their moment of passion burst into flame and exploded, kind of like the couple at the end of Like Water For chocolate only much more explodey, and with a mother ton of tschotskes.

There’s a Sandra Lee drinking game, for heaven’s sake. Have a look at Sandra’s alcohol-drenched Christmas tree. From scooping out pre-made pumpkin pies to pouring 90% of a bottle of vodka in a pitcher and splashing it with a tablespoon of Sprite. If you really feel like working out your abs, find Heather Osborn and ask her about Sandra Lee. Lee is hilarious and horrific: hilarious because it cannot possibly be real – and horrific because, oh, yes, it is.

And (alert! Abrupt sort-of change in topic!) that’s kind of how I feel about a lot of the erotic romance on the market right now. I mentioned to Jane recently that the fallout of her turning me on to ebooks and my purchase of the Kindle-ade is that I’m a lot less patient as a reader. Used to be if I was trapped on the bus with one book, and I didn’t like it, I’d keep going because, well, I was trapped on the bus. But with the Kindle-Ade, if I don’t like something, click, click, there’s about fourteen thousand something-else’s I can try. There’s a much smaller window of opportunity to grab me when I know I’ve got a buffet of other books waiting in my hands.

Erotic romance is a tough one with me. This is not because I don’t like explicit sex, but because there are times when the construction of the erotic romance reads like someone took an average plot and brought it over to the Semi-Homemade set for some processed doctoring. Erotic romance, Semi-Homemade style, is a perfectly fine basic narrative, with sodium-heavy, tasteless, partially hydrogenated sex stuffed into every possible orifice, coupled with impossible paranormal backstories that allow any number of coy bestiality hints or what have you.

Look at it like this: imagine your basic contemporary plot. It’s a store bought angel food cake (Sandra Lee LOVES those) and you need to doctor it up for the erotic romance party that’s coming over to your house to gawk and chatter at the Kama Sutra tablescape you constructed with coathangers, some Chinese silk remnants, those web-and-flower-sparkle slippers that everyone wore two years ago, a peace lily, and a bowling ball. What can you do with your angel-food cake plot to make it over-the-top Erotic Romance, the semi-homemade way? Add the following:

Name Brands:

Always stuff as many named brands as possible into your erotic romance. Not only does it show you did your research, but it lends that touch of realism that just can’t be faked. Sure, your hero may have a fourteen foot man-hose, and the heroine might like triple-double penetration (that’s six dudes, two holes) and you’re wondering how that might be choreographed, but one mention of Folger’s crystals and your reader will be transported into a reality that is too, too real, and that makes the absolutely-anatomically-impossible sex that much more possible. And thus, more hotter.

Manwich:

ManwichThis is a two-part Semi-Homemade improvement. Dump two cans of Manwich on your angel-food cake plot. First, always have a threesome, or a manwich, wherein the heroine gets smushed between two men. It doesn’t matter who the other dude is. He might be an ancillary character. He might be some guy who is glued to the wall in a priapic state who exists merely for the manwich purposes. He might not be a he—he might be a pole in the ground. Doesn’t matter. Not only does the heroine need to take it in the two-hole for it to cross the border into erotic romance, she needs a double-stuffing for that erotic romance to float the boats of today’s discerning crowd.

What, angel food cake and Manwich don’t really go together? Tough. We need manwiches and threesomes galore.

And speaking of men, there’s part two of the Manwhich requirement. If your hero can muse to himself as much as possible using the word “Man,” it adds that certain touch of quality to your erotic romance. Nothing says “man who thinks with his dick” than constant use of the word “man” itself. From Man, her ass was tight inside her jeans, so tight he wondered if he’d be able to pull them off or would he have to get the shoehorn he kept hidden in the bedside table as a backup amorous device? to Man, her boobs jiggle a lot, the erotic romance hero must constantly self-identify to remind himself that he is, in fact, so manfully manly and manhoodly-man-man. Man.

Scent:

Why do all these scents have penis-shaped bottles?Your Brand-name Manwich angel food cake erotic romance plot needs scent. All these alpha predatory male heroes, man, are sniffing up her skirt, scenting her essence, and generally remarking on the whiff eau heroine, man. This is particularly true for paranormals, because it’s not an erotic paranormal romance unless the animal-esque hero ruminates upon the smell of her arousal at least three or four times. Get it? He’s part-animal, that sexy man-beast, and his sense of smell is fourteen thousand times more sensitive than everyone else’s, and so you have no secrets every time you’re hot to trot. There’s nothing more erotic than being turned on and having the dude who turned you on inform you that he could tell each and every time you were turned on in the past four years since you moved into the apartment next door, and what is it about QVC that gets your love honey flowing, anyway? Is it the Quacker Factory?

Love’s Baby Soft:

Why do all these scents have penis-shaped bottles?After you’ve covered your angel food cake plot with Manwich, threesomes, some additional scent, and enough name brand references to choke a shopaholic, there’s just one more thing you need to make a Semi-Homemade Erotic Romance: “baby.”

Ever notice that moments after the erotic romance hero meets his erotic romance heroine, and he’s figured out that between that page and the end of the book he’s gonna get a loooootta tail, he starts calling her “Baby?” It’s part of that whole alpha-male protection thing, and part of the sexy treatment that makes any Semi-Homemade erotic romance such a total treat to read. If he’s not remarking to himself, man, he’s calling the newly-met heroine “Baby,” regardless of whether she’s older than he is, or whether she might even like the reduction of power inherent in a diminutive nickname. Maybe she has a name, but after she meets him, it’s “Baby.” And you can bet your sweet bippy he’ll be putting baby in the corner, over the banister, in the back yard, up the wall, in the shower, and on the kitchen table.

Now that you’ve put your personal Semi-Homemade touch on a basic romance plot, and used 30% fresh ingredients to make that narrative your own, it’s time to shop it around for sale. This is when the Kama Sutra/Bowling League tablescape will come (ha!) in handy: invite all the erotic romance editors whose names you can find online over to your house for a Semi-Homemade erotic romance party.

But don’t forget the cocktails that are at least 85% alcohol. They’ll need at least three.

Remember, keep it simple, keep it smelly, keep it sexy, but always keep it Semi-Homemade Erotic Romance.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    GrowlyCub says:

    Hmmm.  Now I wanna know what titles you’ve read.  Besides the threesomes (and the paranormal sniffing thingie, which I have heard of but not seen, since I don’t read paranormal), I can’t say I have noticed any of the other issues that you describe, at least not enough to consider it part of a ‘formula’ (let me add I love reading 3-somes, I recommend Anne Douglas!).  Rather, the ‘man’ and the branding thingie seem to be an issue in contemp/paranormal (specifically Ward and Bird, funny how they are the same author, grin).  I’ll make an ass out of myself and assume that you’ve read a lot of EC titles?  I gave up on those really quickly.

  2. 2

    Growlyclub, babe!

    Why would you assume Sarah read a lot of EC titles?

  3. 3
  4. 4
    GrowlyCub says:

    Because I thought they are available for the Kindle and because the quality on the ones I read was (except in a very few cases) rather less than what I could have wished for (both in plot and editing).  That’s why I stopped buying from EC.

    As a side note, I just looked at Amazon and was rather surprised to see Emma and Pride and Prejudice listed under Kindle erotica… go figure.

  5. 5

    Me, I stick to authors I like and follow them around publishing houses if they write in diverse genres. Actually, I don’t forsake entire publishing houses but I do put authors on my do-not-buy list. Sometimes, I’ll try a new author, regardless of what I think of the pub, and if I like him/her, hey, bonus!

    Does that mean you have a Kindle, Growlyclub? And if so, are you satisfied with it? I’m looking at buying an e-reading device and they all seem pretty “Beta version” to me.

  6. 6
    Sherri D. says:

    Sarah—Try some Megan Hart contemporary stuff from Harlequin. Most of hers are one-on-one and actual believable scenarios. No extra sniffing involved.

  7. 7
    GrowlyCub says:

    Actually, no I don’t have one, Nathalie. Sorry if it sounded that
    way.  I have seen and read a few pages on one though and if it weren’t for the proprietary format and the price I would have been very tempted.

    I want an e-reader that doesn’t tie me to a proprietary format and costs a whole lot less.  I read e-books on my 10” laptop which works okay, if not as comfortable as it could be.  And yeah, if a favorite author were to write for EC I might check the title out.  I started my e-book reading career with EC titles and found some authors I really liked, but also ended up with a rather larger number of not so great works, but one should never say never, you are right!

  8. 8

    Yeah, I read on the laptop of PC as well. The price is a big thing since I’ll probably use mine solely for reading and not multitasking as phone, etc. I absolutely agree about Kindle and its proprietary linking system. Hostage situation, anyone?

    About never saying never: I tried romance back in my teen years, came across some pretty dumb heroines, implausible plots and arrogant/rapist “heroes”, and thought, that’s it for romance. It ALL sucks French poodle ass. Then a few years ago, I came across this here site and Dear Author, and started to read comments about books that sounded pretty damn aweseome. And they were romance! So I gave it another try, found some true gems, stumbled across some shit along the way. But I’m still reading romance and now all these kickass sub-genres filled with sexy, gun-totting heroines and handsome, Matrix-dressed heroes. Romance is COOL, dude!

    Am I glad I found this site! Thanks to Victoria Dahl :)

  9. 9
    hot tea says:

    *ROLLING* Ah, the Laurel K. Hamiltons novels which this describes!

  10. 10
    ev says:

    I must admit, I really don’t read a lot of erotica. Why? Because the scenarios are so damn implausible and unbelievable, i spend more time laughing that anything else.

    I like my stories to have just that- a storyline. If it doesn’t hold up without the sex, BAM! against the wall. And it has just gotten to the point now, where IMHO, everyone is just trying to out-sex everyone else. Who can do what to whom, with what, how many time and how many body appendages. Or other things.

    Now, I am not slamming anyone here who writes erotic romance. Don’t even go there. It’s just me. If I want to read a book full of sex, I’ll go read a LKHamilton. At least they are characters I have grown to know and understand.

    I just prefer storyline to Man, smelly, babe, sex.

  11. 11
    Trix says:

    GrowlyCub, I feel the same as you about proprietary formats and e-readers. I’m looking into the BeBook reader myself, since the price is decent, and it supports a myriad of formats (although I’ll wait until they release the version that includes Mobipocket, since I already have purchased a few books in that format, or maybe the end of the year when they are intending to include WiFi).

  12. 12
    ev says:

    And I must add I am glad I am not the only one who can’t stand Sandra, or for that matter, Giada. They make me want to shoot myself.

    Oh, goody, another electronic format to add to the mix of trying to figure out what I want. sigh

  13. 13

    My husband and I watch Sandra Lee avidly and laugh hysterically at each episode. That Christmas tree is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. If I didn’t have a four year old I would do it in a heartbeat.

    I too would like to purchase an e-book reader, but the price will have to come down substantially. Especially since like most technology the darned things will be obsolete in less than five years.

  14. 14
    Meg says:

    Ev, I’m with you—I’d rather read a good romance with kinky, horny sex than a load of kinky, horny, very-nearly-impossible sex patched together with a poorly thought out (and overly detailed) plot.  My list of favorite authors has adjusted itself accordingly.

    I also have to admit to watching “Semi-Ho” everytime I visit my parents—my mom and I can sit and mock her for hours on end (provided the alcohol is flowing free and strong).

  15. 15

    I like my erotica to have cracktastic plots.  I just hope the Spice readers like it, too.

    Hot eunuch-on-eunuch action!  What more could one ask?

  16. 16
    Tracy says:

    I’ve been frustrated with erotic romance of late, but couldn’t really put my finger on why. Sarah has nailed it—I totally agree with her take on the Sandra Lee-esque style of erotica. It’s bad when I find myself skipping over the sex because it’s so unbelievable, and wishing someone would die (even a character I might like) or a new hero would emerge or something drastic would happen to shake up the formulaic storyline.

    Lately, I find myself being more concerned about the typos, font issues, and other copyediting snafus I come across in books. In my opinion, e-books are notoriously poorly copyedited, and I’ve come this close on numerous occasions to emailing a publishing house to offer my services. ;-)

    Is anyone else bothered by Sandra Lee’s need to color coordinate her kitchen and kitchen appliances in every episode? Wish I had that many different KitchenAid stand mixers. All for show, never used… sigh.

  17. 17
    Teddypig says:

    There’s nothing more erotic than being turned on and having the dude who turned you on inform you that he could tell each and every time you were turned on in the past four years since you moved into the apartment next door, and what is it about QVC that gets your love honey flowing, anyway?

    SNORT! I love you.

  18. 18
    Teddypig says:

    Growlyclub, babe!

    Why would you assume Sarah read a lot of EC titles?

    Good point, they could be Amber Quill or Cobblestone

  19. 19

    Down with the manwich!

    Brought to you by The Union of Unemployed Beasts with Two Backs.

  20. 20
    LucyMaude says:

    Heh! My two least favorite pop culture phenomena are paranormal romance and Sandra Lee. I must now go read some Hamilton ASAP to see if it is really as bad as all that.
     
    Also, if you have never seen Sandra Lee’s Kwanzaa cake “recipe”. . .
    http://randomaccessbabble.com/2006/11/sandra-lee-is-foods-natural-enemy.html

    Your welcome.

  21. 21
    Jessica says:

    Sarah, you had me falling over laughing too early in the morning, when I should be packing for Nationals. 

    I keep trying erotica because my friends swear it’s good, but the scenting, the 3 somes, 4 somes, etc., that first sex scene with the guy she’s going to break up with—are dead boring.  And if you skip over the sex – then you can finish the book in about 14 minutes. 

    They’re too much like men’s porn movies, sex with a tiny sprinkling of ‘plot’ to make them acceptable.  If they are straight up porn, then so be it.  I have moved all mine out of the house via paperbookswap.  I’m also wary now of the term, ‘erotic novel,’ as I now believe it is code for no plot.

    I’m sticking with sexier contemporaries for plot and steam in equal proportions.

  22. 22
    TracyS says:

    And you can bet your sweet bippy he’ll be putting baby in the corner

    bwahahahahahaha That right there had me laughing so hard my 6 year old wanted to know what was so funny.

  23. 23
    JenB says:

    I love this post.  You nailed it.

    I’m totally with you on the whole e-reader makes picky customer thing.  Authors (and pubs) need to realize that readers have nearly unlimited choices now, so the recycled cookie-cutter amateur stuff just ain’t gonna cut it anymore.

    The next time I read about a man smelling like sandalwood, I’m gonna throw up.  Have you ever smelled that shit?

    And don’t get me started on the heroines that smell like peaches.

  24. 24

    As an author whose three erotic romance novellas have been variously described as “mechanical” and “too vanilla,” and who has gotten so bored trying to read what passes for it at this stage of the erotica/erotic romance boom I can use the stuff in place of sleeping pills, I can only suggest that people use the ratings most ebook publishers have to alert buyers to the level of the nasty their books contain. And the definitions therefor, because one publisher’s three is another’s five.

    For the most part, the lower-rated books are, in my experience, heavier on plot and character, and contain fewer libidinous cliches, than their “scorching hot” counterparts.

    But even that won’t guarantee quality. And sadly, the reason there’s so much of what Sarah describes has one basis: it sells. Like crazy. And don’t you dare call it porn, even though some of it is too raunchy even for Penthouse forum.

  25. 25
    Jen says:

    the Kama Sutra tablescape you constructed with coathangers, some Chinese silk remnants, those web-and-flower-sparkle slippers that everyone wore two years ago, a peace lily, and a bowling ball.

    Dude – that’s WAAAAAAAAY too subtle to be an erotic romance tablescape.  Throw in a giant dildo (maybe one of the ones with sparkles in the silicone!), some bricks (to symbolize the wall of a building that everyone has sex up against by Chapter 2) and a bunch of chunks of Fake Fur (yay coy beastiality!).

    less83?  No, less is not more for Semi-Ho.  but 83 grams of Sodium per serving sounds about right . . .

  26. 26
    ev says:

    I also have to admit to watching “Semi-Ho” everytime I visit my parents—my mom and I can sit and mock her for hours on end (provided the alcohol is flowing free and strong).

    Maybe this is my problem- not enough alcohol to watch her. I will need to try it that way.

    Is anyone else bothered by Sandra Lee’s need to color coordinate her kitchen and kitchen appliances in every episode? Wish I had that many different KitchenAid stand mixers. All for show, never used… sigh.

    You forgot the matching outfits and booze too.

    I must now go read some Hamilton ASAP to see if it is really as bad as all that.

    i actually like Hamilton and the sex is all part of the plot and her ever increasing powers that bridge the Vampire and Were world. But sometimes there is just waaaaaay too much of it.

    shown57- yes so far she has shown at least 57 ways to do it with a vamp, were or any combination there of

  27. 27
    Katie Ann says:

    The only erotica (is it the same thing as erotic romance…?) I’ve read so far was “Natural Law” by Joey W. Hill because it was so highly recommended and raved about.  The book was excellent, and I just ordered “The Vampire Queen’s Servant” by the same author.  I’d probably read even more erotica, but I’m pretty picky about what I spend my money on and reeeaally hate when I’m wanting to skip past sex scenes because they’ve gotten tedious, and it seems like that could happen way too easily in the plot-deprived world of erotic romance.

  28. 28
    dangrgirl says:

    Still reading all the comments, so if someone else pointed this out I’m haven’t gotten that far yet.

    My own drinking game to Sandra Lee involves sipping every time she says the word “just.” She must say that word a couple hundred times per episode and it JUST drives me nuts.

    Also, in addition to the over-the-top tablescapes, how about the fact that she matches the decor of her kitchen to her outfits?

  29. 29

    What timing! I’m reading this right after reading & reviewing Bertrice Small’s “Dangerous Pleasures.” After reading about her best-selling status and history of winning awards I was expecting to enjoy the book, but wow, did I not. It read almost exactly like what you’re describing here. Everything other than the sex felt like it was just there to move you to the sex scenes. It was about the quality I’d have expected if I’d found the sex scenes presented separately on an internet erotica site, and definitely not what I expect from a book that supposedly has a plot.

    By the way, you’re making me want to watch Sandra Lee just for the amusement value… maybe after looking up that drinking game, though!

  30. 30
    RfP says:

    Good lord!  Where are you finding these??  All I’ve ever seen is the paranormal sniff test.

    Enquiring minds want to know: is the brand-name-dropping instructive (heroine prefers the Bullet to the Rabbit)?  Is it critical (relatively drizzlability of Godiva versus Hershey’s chocolate syup)?  Is it pop-culture referential (heroine likes to watch The Daily Show on TiVo during the act)?

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