GS vs. STA: Erotic Novellas

I've received a few email requests for erotic content similar to 50 Shades of Grey  [GR | A | BN | S | K] and a few bazillion Google searches for '50 shades synopsis' and '50 shades review'  and, my personal favorite, '50 shades free download.' Heh. Good luck with that last one.

This week at Kirkus I talked about the erotic romance that might appeal to those who enjoyed 50 Shades of Grey, from titles with BDSM to explicit sex (and strong heroines, hooray!) and shorter works of erotic fiction. People are still reading and finishing the book, and a few are looking for something like it. 

The problem is, it can be difficult to figure out what it was about a book that contained so many major romance and erotica tropes that you liked specifically so you can go find more of it. Was it the BDSM? Was it the first person POV? Was it the sexual tension? It's probably a different answer for each reader. There are several great recommendation threads, including one at DearAuthor, but one email this past week caught my attention: 



“I really liked 50 Shades, though I know you didn't, and I wanted to read more like it. But to be honest, I got tired of how long the book was – it went on forever! I know there are erotic novellas – can you recommend some for me?”

Erotic novellas – good idea. Let's build that. Short of time commitment, but long of story and depth.

Writing novellas is not easy – there has to be enough character depth to make the story seem both complete and yet served by the short format. When I read a novella, I want to feel as if I've read a complete story, not an introduction or an epilogue, and I want to experience the characters as vividly as I would in a full length novel. No small order, I know.

Some of the best erotic novellas I've read include Anne Calhoun's What She Needs (Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo HQN), which was a Sizzling Book Club selection two summers ago. I also liked A Gentleman Seduced, a 2009 novella by Sharon Page (Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo), but at $5-$6.50, I rarely discuss or recommend it. That's too much money for the length of the book.  Lorelei James, who I also mentioned at Kirkus, has novellas in her Rough Riders series, though they are extentions of prior books, or scenes involving characters that readers may already know. 

There are novellas that feature sexual scenes, but I think this reader is looking for erotic novellas specifically. What do you recommend?  


Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Tam B. says:

    There is a range by Resplendence Publishing called Erotic Gems written by authors in the genre.  These are all short stories and have the m/f, m/m varieties.  It might be a good starting place if you’re looking specifically for novellas.

  2. 2
    Nadia says:

    The Secrets series of romantica anthologies by Red Sage Publishing. Like all anthologies, they can be uneven, but names like MaryJanice Davidson, Lisa Marie Rice, Angela Knight, Cynthia Eden and Emma Holly are prominent.


  3. 3

    The Wicked West by Victoria Dahl; Under His Hand by Anne Calhoun; and I’m not sure if it’s novella or short-novel length, but Willing Victim by Cara McKenna.

  4. 4
    Carin says:

    My favorites include
    The Wicked West by Victoria Dahl
    almost anything by Anne Calhoun
    The Countess trilogy by Alison Richarson (it starts with The Countess’ Client)
    Lessons in Indiscretion by Karen Erickson
    Another Chance by Portia da Costa (sequel to Chance of a Lifetime, but stands alone.)

  5. 5
    cleo says:

    Rachel Kramer Bussel has edited many anthologies of erotic short stories – usually organized around a theme (male dom, fem dom, oral sex, spanking, etc).  I haven’t read all of them, but I’ve liked the ones I’ve read – I think she’s one of the better erotica editors.  There’s usually a good mix of straight, gay, multiple partners etc, stories with an hea and some without, and everything’s well written. 

    Another good anthology is Agony/Ecstasy, edited by Jane Litte.  It has good stories by Anne Calhoun, Meljean Brook and Jessica Clare and many others.  My fave is probably Safeword by Delphine Dryden.

    And I second The Wicked West recommendation. 

  6. 6
    Marc says:

    I really enjoyed Unlaced which was an anthology in print with Joey Hill, Jasmine Haynes, Jaci Burton and Denise Rossetti. 

  7. 7
    Mandi says:

    Sheltered by Charlotte Stein (although it is on the longer side for a novella)

    Curio by Cara McKenna (present day male prostitute and heroine is a virgin.) Really well done


  8. 8
    Jennifer says:


    I’d recommend Willing Victim by Cara McKenna too!

    Annabel Joseph has two short books, Mercy & Cait and the Devil, that fit the “naive woman/ dom male” category.  However, the “heroes” were a little WTF for my taste.

    Charlene Teglia has 3-in-1 books (Wild Wild West and Satisfaction Guaranteed) that are quick and light…Likewise, Nikita Black’s Cajun Hot.

  9. 9
    Bella Leone says:

    Personally, I feel that 50 is *NOT* BDSM. It’s Sadism with some Dominant tropes poorly handled leaning toward abuse. It is truly not a good reflection of the BDSM community in the least. I feel there are many other writers out there who’ve taken the time to do the research or are actually a part of the community and know what they’re writing of.

    Here are some of my favorites:
    Cherise Sinclair’s Shadowlands series
    Anne Calhoun
    Delphine Dryden
    Joely Sue Burkhart
    JP Barnaby for those who enjoy m/m
    AB Roquelaure/Anne Rice
    Sherri Hayes
    CB Conwy for those who enjoy m/m

    Those are just some of my favorites. All thoroughly researched/experienced before writing with good advisors/editors behind them.
    Spend your hard earned money on those 🙂

  10. 10

    They’re more short stories, but I adore Portia da Costa’s Ladies Sewing Circle series: “A Gentlewoman’s Predicament”, “A Gentlewoman’s Ravishment”, “A Gentlewoman’s Pleasure”, and “A Gentlewoman’s Dalliance”. Her latest novel, “In the Flesh”, is also part of the series, but the short stories are delicious all on their own. And thirding, fourthing, or whatever the recommendations for “The Wicked West” and anything by Anne Calhoun. I recommended AC’s “Versed in Desire” to a couple of librarian friends who are new to/rediscovering erotica and they were all like “whoooo, baby!”

  11. 11
    M. says:

    Authors that come to mind: Sahara Kelly, Cheyenne McCray (check out her stories write under her alter pen name of Jaymie Holland), Kate Douglas, Joey W. Hill, Shiloh Walker, Jaid Black, and Diane Whiteside, Emma Holly, Robin Schone, are among my long list of favorites that include the BDSM trope.  I certainly recommend checking out Ellora’s Cave, Samhain Publishing and Loose-Id.

  12. 12
    Bella Leone says:

    I completely agree with checking out the publishers like EC, Samhain, and Loose Id. I also go to others like Torquere, Dreamspinner, Silver Press, and there is a site I like, AllRomance, https://www.allromanceebooks.c…. They have an entire BDSM section and a lot of free short stories you can download.

  13. 13
    Rose says:

    Another vote for Cara McKenna – Willing Victim is fantastic.

  14. 14
    KarenG says:

    A few more authors who do BDSM stories that I’ve enjoyed: Joey Hill (of course), Madeleine Oh, Doreen Orsini, Katherine Kingston, Dominique Adair.

  15. 15
    Abby T says:

    I’m so glad you posted this. My bookclub just decided to read 50 Shades for our June book and I’m DESPERATE to put some better erotica in their hands.  Looking forward to some great suggestions here.  Thank you, Smart Bitches!!

  16. 16
    MsSarahB says:

      If you’re going to allow short stories in the discussion, PLEASE go find “The Things That Make Me Give In” by Charlotte Stein.  It is hot, smart and at times very funny.  It’s worth the price ($10.29 for Kindle—more than I’ve ever spent on an ebook and it was worth it.)
      Remittance Girl has a collection of stories that is remarkable. “Coming Together Presents: Remittance Girl” by Remittance Girl, edited by Lisabet Sarai and Alessia Brio. It’s only $2.99! Remittance Girl has several novella but I haven’t read them.  I just discovered her this week. She can WRITE, and it’s dark and sexy stuff.
      I also recommend Cara McKenna’s Willing Victim and Curio.

  17. 17
    Hollyg238 says:

    These are a cross between novella and short stories but Maya Banks, Mari Carr and Jayne Rylon have some great stories.  I really enjoyed the Marr Carr/Jayne Rylon books: The Compass Brothers.

  18. 18
    SB Sarah says:

    I agree with you completely about the BDSM elements present in 50 Shades. It makes talking about the book for recommendations very difficult: “If you liked the things that were called BDSM in that book but really were not, there is a lot more that’s better, responsible and conducted by and written by people who understand the entirety of the process….”

  19. 19
    SB Sarah says:

    The recommendations for specific stories are awesome – thank you! I know many readers know which publishers offer explicit erotic novellas, but when you get to a website with a few bozillion titles on display, it can be really difficult to find something that’s good. There is, alas, a lot of crap erotica writing.

  20. 20

    If you’re going for booklength, consider Broken by Megan Hart or Natural Law by Joey Hill.  Both are amazing.

  21. 21

    No Regrets by Helena January. My foray into erotica, a realm that is very difficult to write, as it turns out. But I think I did okay. So really, I don’t know if this is GS or STA, to be honest!

  22. 22
    Jenny Lyn says:

    I genuinely believe that there were just that many people out there that had no clue this kind of writing existed, a storyline with more erotic love scenes. IMO, Fifty is a poor representation but that horse has been beat to a pulp. There are soooo many really good erotic novellas and full-length novels to be had. Maybe that’s the positive thing that will come out of all the publicity FSoG is getting – people will start to dig a little deeper to find this kind of writing. It’s out there and it’s amazing.

    Anne Calhoun, Victoria Dahl, Megan Hart, Cara McKenna, Beth kery, Lauren Dane, Jaci Burton, Charlotte Stein, Lorelei James, Joey Hill, Cherise Sinclair. For m/m I highly recommend L.A. Witt and K.A. Mitchell.

  23. 23
    Keziah Hill says:

    Remittance Girl. Definitely Remittance Girl. And a lot of the selection on the Erotica Readers and Writers’ Association web site.… (including moi).

  24. 24
    Alexis says:

    I just finished reading The Thorne Boy, which was spectacular and spectacularly different.  It’s “set somewhere between The Outsiders and The Chocolate War,” so it’s got this beautifully retro, vintage feel.  Is it BDSM?  There’s no whipping going on, but there’s definitely a power gradient.  Maybe it’s BDSM before BDSM had a name, which just makes things more interesting.  And the ultimate story arc is one of sexual awakening + feminist self-actualization, so it didn’t squick me.  It has a generous free sample on Smashwords:…

  25. 25
    Aubrey Watt says:

    One of my erotica friends wrote a fantastic short story that was very similar to 50 Shades, and it’s getting good reviews, so it’s not just me who liked it 😉 It’s definitely shorter than a novella, but she’s writing at least one sequel to it, so there will be more to come:…

  26. 26

    I dunno if it’s okay to recommend my own… but I’ve got one called BEG ME.  It’s not going to work for everybody.  The heroine has rape fantasies and then actually was raped.  The story takes place a few years later when she decides she’s going to take control of her life again.  If anybody is curious about it, it’s in ebook at pretty much most of the big vendors and you can read an excerpt at my site.…

  27. 27
    DONNA says:

    Currently, Sylvia Day’s ‘Bared to You ’ is being touted as the newer and sexier Fifty Shades. I’ve read it, but probably wouldn’t have if I knew it had similar subject matter. Love erotica, but I could have done without the drama. It’s also going to be a series.

  28. 28
    DONNA says:

    Just clicked on Harlequin ‘s guide to erotic romance and it specifically says if you liked Fifty Shades, you might like…. There’s a glossary of terms and everything for the BDSM novice. Who woulda thunk it???

  29. 29
    Kelly says:

    I love love love the Joker’s Wild trilogy by Lena Matthews – smokin’ hot smexy times AND hilarious AND heroines of size and color. The boys are pretty good too 🙂

  30. 30
    Bella Leone says:

    I second LA Witt. I can’t believe I forgot LA! Awesome author. And a doll.

  31. 31
    Lynn S. says:

    Brazen by Cara McKenna.  It’s more erotica than romance, but has all the character-driven goodness that the author is known for.

    The Art of Desire by Eden Bradley.  I’ve had problems with other books by Bradley, but this novella and her full-length novel, The Lovers, were both wonderfully done.

  32. 32
    Kaetrin says:

    I’d definitely recommend Curio and Willing Victim by Cara McKenna.  Curio is not remotely BDSM and Willing Victim has consensual rape fantasy.  Both are excellent IMO.  Both of these stories also have a HFN/hopeful type ending so even though they are erotic stories, they still fall into the category of romance I think.

  33. 33
    Kaetrin says:

    I really enjoyed Bared To You.  I haven’t read Fifty by the mutual obsession of Gideon and Eva in BtY was like crack to me.  I’m eagerly awaiting book 2 in October.

  34. 34
    Jcode says:

    I really liked this one!  In fact, now that you mentioned it, I wouldn’t mind reading it again…

    But I agree that it might not work for everyone.  I read it around the same time that I read “Willing Victim”, which I also loved.

  35. 35
    bookstorecat says:

    Check out Needing Nita by Nora Wilson for a quick, sexy story that turns romantic. Or, for a REALLY short read, anything by Lizzie Lynn Lee: “The Wolf She Married,” “The Alien King and I” (a title that makes me laugh every time it surfaces in my vast nook library of smutty smutty smut—I am giggling about it right now, in fact.  Tsk.)

    Really, if you want to try some different types of erotic novellas, just head over to and check out their Free Reads.

  36. 36
    bookstorecat says:

    And if 50 Shades was a bit long for you, but you’re still interested in reading novel-length works featuring BDSM: EXIT TO EDEN by Anne Rice. No vampires, lots of sexxx.

  37. 37
    Tdelrahim says:

    There are a fair amount of free novellas with erotic stories at the text repository  Look under “collections”, you can find various stuff.  One of the best is the Kristen Collection, which has tons of stories sorted by themes.

  38. 38
    Claire says:

    Great idea…  recommendations for short erotic novels. I had the same issue as your emailer…I enjoyed 50 but it was way too long for me, especially on my ipad. The page count was astronomical and made it seem like I’d never get through it. Is the page count higher on ipads than actual books?

  39. 39

    I haven’t read 50 Shades of Grey yet, but sounded like it is erotica?  There are erotica short stories posted at this free website that has been around since the early days of the internet, hundreds of thousands of free stories, many short novel length – is the name based on the old newsgroup name structure, the archive is at this location  All free, no registration etc, go to the collections area, check out…  or if you are looking for something by category check out the Kristen collection

  40. 40
    MaryMary says:

    For more recommendations and discussions, book of the month, etc. check out the BDSM group and/or Kindle Smut on Goodreads – great groups with lots of good books to recommend 🙂 Fictionwise also has a good selection of smut and they have coupons every week.

Comments are closed.

By posting a comment, you consent to have your personally identifiable information collected and used in accordance with our privacy policy.

↑ Back to Top