These erotic novels may not all have happy endings, but you sure can
10 steamy titles for your reading pleasure
Every school library had that one book – and you knew exactly where it was located. In most cases, it was Lady Chatterley’s Lover by DH Lawrence, or a Mills & Boon appearing mysteriously in the mix. We knew exactly which page of Forever by Judy Blume to turn to get to the one intimate scene. These erotic novels were, for most of us, a kind of introduction to not just sex-ed but the sensual power of literature.
There was a time when erotic novels were hidden in the backs of closets or tucked under mattresses, away from people’s line of sight. But in 2011, dawned a sexual revolution in Fifty Shades Of Grey. The book sold 20 million copies in four months, at a rate of two copies every second at its peak.
Hundreds of thousands of women around the world devoured the kinky world of business tycoon and BDSM enthusiast Christian Grey, and his conquest/conqueror Anastasia Steele. As Grey whipped out handcuffs, whips and giant vibrators, he encouraged his timid cohort — and readers — to let that freak flag fly. We felt emboldened in our desire to sexually explore kinks and fetishes.
What separates erotic novels from porn, according to author Rosalyn D’Mello, is that “pornography is preoccupied with sex. Erotica is more concerned with the subject of sexuality.” She argues that the characters in erotic fiction are ‘given agency to operate, to self-determine, to exercise free will, to not be governed by the limits of the writer’s imagination’.
Erotica spends less time exploring the act of sex than the feeling of unbridled desire, inviting the women who make up an overwhelming majority of its readership to enjoy themes of sexual exploration, subversion and domination.
Of 661 Tweak readers polled, 80% said they enjoyed reading erotica. Maybe it’s the idea of a handsome stranger sweeping you off your feet and into the bedroom that gets women going in a way that pornography hasn’t been able to crack. Or maybe you really just want to be bent over a stool at the back of a stable late at night, and realistically haven’t been able to achieve it.
Experts believe that it’s because erotic novels make women the focus. In mainstream porn, you usually have a man in charge and the woman is a tool to achieve what he wants. While domination could be your thing, it’s rarely the woman’s satisfaction that takes centre stage. It becomes more of an afterthought to titillate the male audience. That’s not to say women don’t watch and enjoy porn. Our country is one of the largest consumers of pornography in the world, even after it was technically banned.
Arousal and sexual satisfaction for women need more than just nudity. Ninety percent claim to use ‘mental framing’ for arousal according to one study. Another found that ”women became aroused by the context of the story rather than the visual offering of porn.” The fact that we need a little extra something to keep the wheels greased and turning is evident in the ‘orgasm gap’ between heterosexual women and their male counterparts.
Erotic novels are able to tap into every aspect of women’s imaginations with their stories. Some are short, sensual and straight to the (sexual) point, others get into darker fantasies, role-playing and more. There are also those books that tease out the tension that builds like steam in a pressure cooker right before the seeti blows.
With the power of the internet, you’ll find erotic novels that suit every mood and sexual desire. They also let you remain anonymous in your consumption, given that society still fears that female sexuality will sully our culture like a paan stain on a white wall.
Whether you’re looking for a relatable story, like falling for your best friend’s sibling in Falling For Sin, or a fantasy that will bring your own to life, like the X-rated version of Sleeping Beauty, in The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, this curation of erotic novels has something for everyone.
If you’re looking for an erotic novel series to lose yourself in
The long drawn out teases, the dramatic break-ups and reunions, a villain trying to put a dampener on our protagonist’s sexual adventures… A good erotic book series can give you the best of both worlds — narratives to invest in and sexual tension that’s more titillating than the climax itself.
Bared To You by Sylvia Day
Sylvia Day gave the world the Crossfire Saga, highly recommended erotic novels by the Tweak family of readers. There are five books in this series covering the story of Gideon Cross and Eva Tramell.
Bared To You shows the coming together of our two twenty-something protagonists, both with a history of trauma. Eva is out to make it on her own in the big bad world, and the company she ends up working in is owned by none other than Gideon. If you like a dark, tortured hero, he’s your guy.
It may sound cliched but their chemistry will have you hooked onto this series. It’s a “highly erotic, sexually-driven read,” according to one reader and for a change, you’ll get to read about a lot of female-focused intimate acts (and more). ₹210
The Duke and I by Julian Quinn
You are familiar with the Bridgerton series and the dashing Duke who shook up our lockdown lives. If you devoured the show over one weekend and have been longing for more, may we suggest the series of books upon which the show was based?
Relive the period romance of Daphne Bridgerton and Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings and dive into the more intimate details. Daphne, the eldest daughter of the eponymous family, makes her debut in London’s cut-throat shaadi market. She has set her eyes on the Duke, other suitors have her locked in their sight too. Much drama and wistful glancing ensue.
You can even get a bit ahead of the show with the rest of the books in the series, each diving into the love life and romances of the Bridgerton siblings. ₹468
If you’re not up for a major commitment
You don’t have the time to commit to a long, drawn-out saga of boy meets girl. There are only a few moments of alone time in your day where you can savour erotic novels away from the gaze of kids, spouses and relatives. Or maybe you’re just not a big reader and prefer something short and sweet that gets right to the point.
The Sensualist by Ruskin Bond
Did you know Ruskin Bond wrote erotica that almost got him jailed? The Sensualist novella is one of his lesser-known and perhaps most controversial works.
The back cover reads, “The story of a man enslaved by his libido and spiralling towards self-destruction. Gripping, erotic, even brutal, the book explores the demons that its protagonist must grapple with before he is able to come to terms with himself.”
Doesn’t sound like a Rusty adventure, does it?
In The Sensualist, a teenage boy has his first brush with intimacy and sex as he becomes a man. One particular encounter changes his life when he feels his libido being drained after the woman takes complete control over their sexual escapades. Feeling there’s nothing more to experience in his life, he retreats to the mountains.
A traveller stumbles into the cave where our protagonist has re-homed himself and it is the retelling of his life experience to the traveller that we get to read. ₹150
Panty by Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay, translated by Arunava Sinha
Panty comprises two novellas written in Bengali by the writer and translated into English as Hypnosis and Panty. Both have women at the forefront.
Reading Panty will almost feel like a fever dream as you straddle two different worlds. The eponymous panty is found discarded in a cupboard by our heroine when she moves to a flat in Kolkata. After a series of unfortunate events, she ends up putting it on and suddenly feels like she’s “stepped into another woman” – the original owner of the underwear.
It’s an experimental read as the protagonist feels her sex life intermingling with that of the previous owner of the panties. Read about sexuality, eroticism, apathy, love and isolation of city life in this dreamy, fragmented piece of literature. ₹289
If you want to explore queer intimacy
Erotic novels have always been an avenue for queer writers and community members to explore their sexuality in a world where their desire has been kept under wraps.
While porn fetishised their identities, erotica managed to bring in more perspective and realism in their lives. Especially when queer writers pen their own stories.
To Italy With Love, and Other Stories by Fiona Zedde
This book of erotica is a rollercoaster ride of three stories, featuring women stepping out of their respective comfort zones for exploration with old lovers and new flames.
You won’t be able to forget the titular story, set along the Amalfi coast, where Iris, a recently dumped serial monogamist encounters a much younger provocative woman who forces (more like encourages) her to push her boundaries.
In That Girl, She’s a Killer, we’re introduced to a “mildly sociopathic” heroine shaken out of her controlled life by the return of an old dangerous lover to the city, whom she just can’t resist. The final story, Vicissitudes, almost borders on sci-fi. It tells the story of Ro who remembers herself as a thirteen-year-old female, the next time she wakes up she’s thirty and lying in bed next to a woman, Alma, to who she seems to be engaged.
Expand your own understanding of gender fluidity, identity and romance in this book of queer erotica. ₹1,231
Twice in a Lifetime by Clare Lydon
More romance than erotica (it does have some saucy scenes though), our protagonists Harriet and Sally were once lovers who fell out of touch, reconnecting years later to find the chemistry between them is as electric as ever.
But there are trust issues that come into play, not to mention that they live in different states.
Will the teenage sweethearts be able to overcome their past mistakes and sustain their long-distance romance? ₹1,218
If you want folktales with an erotic twist
Fairytales, lore and princesses – some erotic novels have given our childhood tales a makeover.
Let’s call them fairytales of passion, where you can step into the princess’s glass slippers for the night and get jiggy with a Prince Charming. Think BDSM dungeon in the castle, nymphomania curses and more.
The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice writing as AN Roquelaure
Before the Fifty Shades of Grey books made BDSM-style erotica mainstream, there was Anne Rice’s best-selling series starting with The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, in 1983.
Rice gives the fairytale an erotic spin. Instead of breaking the curse and waking her up with a kiss, it’s a much more… intimate act. This series is definitely for the more experienced erotica readers as it gets deep into bondage, sexual slave fetishes and more.
If that’s your kink, then go for it. Leave your inhibitions behind before picking this one up. ₹822
Scarlet by Emmanuelle de Maupassant
The tale of titular Scarlet in this short story is based on a Danish folktale called The Red Shoes where a young woman is taken over by an uncontrollable urge to dance by a pair of shoes.
Told as a first-person narrative from the perspective of an older woman, unhappy in her marriage with an unfaithful husband and pretty much fed up with life. During a trip to the loo, she meets a strange woman who gives her fiery red lipstick.
The lipstick unleashes her inner desires as our protagonist sheds her inhibitions and indulges in her carnal pleasures. The story is only 18 pages long but will leave you hot and sweaty.
Read it online here
If you’re fantasising about handsome strangers and changing power dynamics
It’s the forbidden fruit trope of off-limits relationships that make things all the more irresistible. Between boss and employee, business relationships, a friend’s sibling that would elicit Ross’s reaction to seeing Monica and Chandler together in Friends.
We want what we cannot have, even more so when others tell us to stay away. You’ll find those fantasies coming alive in these erotic novels.
Falling For Sin by LaGloria Franks
This book isn’t winning any awards for prose, but it brings to life an experience that many may relate to. Falling for your best friend’s sibling.
In this case, Blair finds herself more and more drawn to her friend Maya’s brother, named Sin. It’s a bit on the nose, but hey, it works. Blair has spent countless nights fantasising about Sin, but he’s always been off-limits, for the sake of her friendship.
Things change when the brother comes home from college and finally starts to see Blair as more than just his sister’s friend. Sin isn’t a stranger, so to speak, but he’s a different person when he comes back home, one Blair can’t seem to decode. ₹960
Just One Night by Kyra Davis
Kassie is an independent, successful businesswoman, engaged and pretty set in her life. Her friend takes her on a trip to Las Vegas for her thirtieth birthday, encouraging her to have one final fling before she gets married.
Reluctant at first, she gets drawn in by a mysterious stranger and they end up spending a steamy night together.
She later learns that the man she met, Robert, is the owner of a firm that her company does business with. He demands she lead their next project. Their electric chemistry starts of their romance, in this first book (of 3) by Davis. ₹1,119