I make no secret of being a romance addict. I love the genre and consider myself a bit of an expert. Of course the best expert is one that reads and reads and reads. So I scoured my laden shelves, I paged through my extensive Kindle library. These were the ones that stand out as the hottest, sexiest books out there. They vary from Level 2 heat factor to erotica, BDSM and all sorts of deliciously naughty stuff. Here is my top list of seriously sexy books that any self-respecting romance author must read.
Anne Rice Beauty Series by A. N. Roquelaure
Heat Level 9 (erotica)
This was a totally secret underground get-your-rocks-off series for those girls lucky enough to find it. A. N. Roquelaure is the pseudonym for American author Anne Rice (she wrote Interview with a Vampire amoungst many other books). Rice said she wrote the BDSM books many years ago because she "could not find an authentic erotica in bookstores." I bought the four book series in an arty bookshop during university and then it disappeared for years off the shelves. I heard rumours that it was out of print. Then when electronic publishing started I found it again. Then in 2012 when BDSM hit the mainstream with 50 Shades of Grey she re-released the series with her own name on the cover and published by Plume, an imprint of Penguin!
The plot is (very) loosely based on Sleeping Beauty but the thread is really tenuous. Prince Charming’s role after awakening Beauty from her decades long sleep is her complete and total sexual enslavement. What follows is a fairytale orgy of dark sexuality, bondage, BDSM, LGBT play, toys, whips, chains and even rape and loads of anal play (think male slaves as horses with tails attached to a plug that goes up). There is some loose plot about Beauty refusing to fall in love with Charming…. I forget! It’s vague and you will skim through the narrative to the next outrageous sex scene. This book is so raunchy you are going to lock it well away from any prying younger yes. The absolute win is that it is well written and a touch poetic so it stands on the side of erotica. This is way before E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey and Sylvia Day's Bared to You and far, far, far hotter…. EL James would even be blushing.
Treat yourself and buy The Sleeping Beauty Quartet
Shanna by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
Heat factor 3
Shanna needs a husband in name only, so she weds Ruark Beauchamp, a prisoner in Newgate. But Ruark is not a criminal, he is a nobleman wrongfully accused and he will surprise Shanna, infuriate her and test her to her limits.
What follows is a sweeping and epic historical romance by the author that launched the romance novel as we know it - Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, creator of the modern historical romance. 36 millions readers cant be wrong! This is a good place to start your romance education. Lots of conflict (they hate each other but are desperately desperately attracted to each other), a steely hero, a feisty heroine. Both have secrets they want to hide… it will keep you hooked to the last kiss.
I recently found the one our household of three girls passed around for years. It is well thumbed and the pages with the bodice-ripping, gasp-inducing love scenes almost threadbare.
If you like Shanna you have to also read Come Love a Stranger (or basically any of Woodiwiss’ historical novels)
The Black Dagger Brotherhood Series by JR Ward
Heat Level 6
Any serious paranormal romance reader or erotica reader know that JR Ward and her Black Dagger Brotherhood are the sexiest, baddest, biggest, roughest lovers out there. These books are just straight up sex on speed and they are the golden standard for all subsequent paranormal romance pretenders. All JR’s heroes are dark, dangerous and tortured bad boys. These are straight up genre novels that follow a tried-and-tested formula. It’s a bit embarrassing but it’s so darn sexy you can get over it. But the books are strong and more just writing great romantic tension and sexy heroes, JR Ward is a master at building an entire world and mythology that will keep you riveted. Do yourself a favour and follow the crazy, heartfelt and chest-thumping adventures of Wrath, Rhage, Phury, Tohr, Payne, Vishous, Rhevenge, Xhex and the fiery women who finally bring the warriors to their knees.
Here’s a taster:
“I can smell you,” he groaned against her ear as he ran his fangs up her throat. “The most beautiful thing in the world—except for your taste.”
Book 1 in the Black Dagger Brotherhood Series
Warning this has a binge-buy compulsion so you may want to just get a discount on the first 4 books
Black Dagger Brotherhood Series
Throne of Glass Sarah J Maas
Heat Level 3
This global bestselling Young Adult fantasy series is also a massive sweeping epic love story. The heroine is 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien and the story starts as she’s dragged before the Crown Prince Dorian to complete in a fight to the death to become the new royal assassin. It is hard to give you the overall picture without a spoiler but this is a complex plot that is tightly woven and gets better and better with each book. The romance is a slow. tight build that is steeped in passion that cannot be consummated. The secondary characters are multi-layered and complex.
Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass series Book 1)
Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning
Heat Level 5
This is a thrillingly sexy series featuring heroine MacKayla Lane and the dark Jericho Barrons, a man of deadly secrets. When her sister is murdered, Mac journeys to Ireland in search of answers. There she finds out she’s a sidhe-seer, which gives her the rare power to glimpse beyond the realm of Man, and into the dangerous realm of the Fae. Mac is soon locked in a battle for her body, mind, and soul in an erotic and paranormal world laded with Celtic mythology and dark, sexy danger. This is a crossover romance and fantasy novel series. The romance is a slow, dark and dangerous build. When the two leads finally give into their desire (Book 3) you are so invested in their story you are crying with relief. And then the heat level soars from a 5 to a 9. It is dark, graphic and steamy. It has so much heart you will cry long after the series is finished… and read it again.
The Series order is Darkfever, Bloodfever, Faefever, Dreamfever, and Shadowfever.
I would suggest you treat yourself and buy the bundle... you are going to want to.
Fever Series Bundle
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Heat Level 3
Forget the TV series, if you really want to be dragged into the world of 18th century Scotland you will read the book. Warning you may not leave your house until you have devoured the first three books. I am not rating this a total romance as the book is far more diverse and it is not based on the traditional romance model. The heroine is outspoken Second World War-era nurse Claire Randall, who tumbles back through time to 18th century. In order to survive the brutal times she needs to marry the brawny younger highlander Jamie Fraser. So the story starts with them married and then travels a journey of danger, political intrigue and betrayal. The book is a bit of a genre-bender as it crosses adventure, historical, political and fantasy themes. But holding it all together is the steamy, dreamy romance between the two compelling leads. Claire is older and more sexually experienced than Jamie, but he is a complex and layered character and holds his own. I have to confess that I got to book 2 and lost interest. But my mates are way into the series and still reading, or watching on Netflix.
The Outlander series has sold about 25 million books since the first book was published in 1991.
Lace by Shirley Conran
I first read Shirley Conran's Lace at age 14 and it taught me far more than Cosmo about sex. Graphically. I passed it to all my girlfriends until the cover fell off, then we fixed it up with tape and all read it again. The power of Lace is not just the explicit and outrageous sex scenes. Its power is in the deeply real characters in for the form of the four leading women. The women of Lace are Judy, Pagan, Kate and Maxine. Kate, the supremely talented war correspondent; Maxine, a successful interior designer; Judy a public relations dynamo; and Pagan a business-oriented, charity fundraiser. We meet Lili, a single-minded actress, clawing her way to become the most famous film star in the world. We follow these four through disastrous marriages and illicit affairs, but m mostly their careers.
The book is heavy with sex and glamour, intrigue and scandal. But at the heart of it are strong and complex female characters and a riveting plot.
Riders by Jilly Cooper
An entire era of 15-year old girls have lovingly thumbed their mom's copy of Jilly Cooper’s absolute 80s classic for decades. It is a non-stop bonkfest set in the glorious Cotswold countryside. Central to all the books is the devilish cad Rupert Campbell-Young who beds any girl in poking distance. All Jilly Cooper books are such a guilty pleasure. They are all just packed with hilarious and well-endowed heroes, screaming orgasms, load of sperm, endless outdoor shagging, drunken shagging, all types of shagging and a massive amount of heart. These are not your genre romance but a racy holiday / beach read that builds a world that is compelling and unputdownable.
Delta of Venus, Anais Nin
This is a book of fifteen erotic short stories by Anaïs Nin. Nin was a Cuban /French writer, artists and essayist who was most famous while living in the US during her adult life. She was famously linked to Henry Miller and wrote widely about her own life and affairs - although she was married at the time. Although she wrote some longer novels it is her erotic stories and diaries that she is most known for. These became popular with the feminist teachings as they take ownership over erotica for women by including the emotional inner world of the woman. Delta of Venus was written in the 1940s as erotica for a private collector and published posthumously. This book is seriously sexy and covers so many gasp and taboo moment (including dildos, The Hungarian Adventurer, rape fantasy and well endowed black men). She effortlessly stays on the right side of porn with her poetic heart and prose.
Heat Level 2
I am putting Nora in this list because I am a life-long fan. I don’t need to single out a single title, just any of her books will deliver a heart-read. Her small town stories have been my friends through breakups, heartbreak, hospital visits, death and illness. I have read every single Nora Roberts novel (don’t love the JD Robb books) and some a few times each. As a novelist Nora just got stronger and stronger. Her earlier books reveal strong characters and a tight story, but as she progresses as an author the magic unfolds. She knows that at the heart of a romance is longing and she weaves her words around desire and longing and gives it a form.
Sarah Bullen is a writing coach, literary agent and book editor. She coaches writers on how to become authors and how to write to get published.