To be spicy or not to be—that’s definitely what Shakespeare had in mind
Jayde Atchison (she/her) // Opinions Editor
Yohannah Loker (she/her) // Illustrator
Romance novels can sometimes get a bad rep from, let’s face it—the snobs of the reading community. It seems like their idea of romance is the harlequin novels with Fabio and his hair flowing on the cover—although there’s nothing wrong with enjoying those novels either. The romance genre has always been there, but as the years go by, the bigger the variety of styles seems to grow. The biggest debate between readers on Bookstagram seems to be which is the better read—tame, tension-building romantic tales or raw, sexual and often kinky novels.
I like my books to make me feel something when I am reading them—the best books I have read made me cry uncontrollably, laugh out loud on the bus, and physically cringe out of disgust. If I don’t have some sort of bodily reaction from the book I’m reading, then I don’t consider it a very good read. So when it comes to the romance books I have read, a higher level of spice piques more of an interest.
Yes, there is something to be said for the Bridgerton type of books that get readers excited through a longing look or a touch of the hand—the build up is enticing and what makes the book stand out, eventually leading to a hit television series. However, the enemies-to-lovers sexual tension and inevitable intercourse that follows is something that cannot be beat. The most talked-about series with a level of spice that doesn’t define the book (like Fifty Shades of Grey), but keeps the reader engaged in the sexy moments between Feyre and her partners is the ACOTAR (A Court of Thorns and Roses) series.
Depending on what your level of comfort is with sexuality—talking about, reading or listening to—the ACOTAR series is a fun fantasy with battles and adventure in between the sexier moments and a good intro to the spicy romance genre. It’s consensual, doesn’t discuss anything that might be triggering, and not hard to follow along with (I’m looking at you, J.R.R. Tolkien). Plus, Rhysand is a total babe.
There should be no shame in reading something with an explicit story arc—HBO is a success for a reason. Sex sells and people will indulge in spicy culture if it’s offered. There is not nearly as much flak given to those who watch Game of Thrones as there is to those who read “smut”.
It’s healthy to activate an interest in the sexual realm outside the real world. Reading spicier books can open an avenue of interest you may not have ever known you needed. There’s a chance you can learn something about your sexuality, preferences or desires you have yet to unlock.
I also encourage discussion between friends or book clubs, because a lot of the time we repress the topic of sex and this can create a lot more shame around sex itself. This could hopefully draw people away from harmful porn or feeling like they can’t be honest with their partners about what pleases them. Yeah, I said it—spicy romances could save relationships (for legal reasons, this is not sound advice).
Ultimately, I think as long as you’re enjoying what you’re reading, that is probably the best genre for you—but be willing to branch out and try something new. Read whatever the hell you want and don’t let other people (read: snobs again) make you feel less than for liking any certain genre. Whether you’re into kinky Fae porn or Jane Austen-level modesty, there’s no wrong answer—be proud that you’re getting pages read at all.