The Role of “Other Women” in Supposedly-Bisexual Erotic Fiction

This entire post is based on only two books: Eden Bradley’s The Lovers and Megan Hart’s The Space Between Us – SPOILER WARNING for these two books. Don’t want to get spoiled? Go away. Want spoilers? Welcome…

NOTE: When talking about “traditional/NY publishing”, I mean Penguin, Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette, and Harlequin – major publishers.

NOTE: I’m well aware that stories and characters do not necessarily reflect authors’ views, etc.

Tired of reading library books, and wanting to make a dent in my purchased, unread books, I turned to one of my lists: all my unread books in order of least number of pages to most. (Read more books in a smaller time frame by reading shorter books first. Though some publishers fool you with smaller font size, unfortunately.)

And so I chose Eden Bradley’s The Lovers from my shelf. Though the aspect of writer-characters squicks me out (and rooting your fellow crit-group members, that’s a bit awkward), I was interested to see how the author would tackle a ménage…wherein there is only one man, but two women. I’ve only read one other m/f/f before: Megan Hart’s The Space Between Us. Not the author’s best, but good enough.

So I read the first chapter of Lovers, and already there was sexual tension between our narrator, Bettina, and female love interest Audrey. Skipped to the end…and this ending combined with Space‘s ending has brought out my “Fry Face”:

(Image from The Infosphere.)

Admittedly, I haven’t read ALL of Lovers yet – just the first chapter and the ending. But I have entirely read Space. See if you can the similarity:

Space: Woman enters ménage relationship with a woman and a man. The “other woman” turns out to be manipulative, so the female narrator and man live happily-ever-after together, just the two of them.

Lovers: Woman enters ménage relationship with a woman and a man. The “other woman” turns out to be manipulative, so the female narrator and man live happily-ever-after together, just the two of them.

For the record, both novels are published by Harlequin Spice, or Harlequin Mira. (Just as erotic fiction was really taking off, Harlequin shut down their erotic imprint. That didn’t make good business sense then, and it still doesn’t, now. To me, anyway.)

I understand romance and erotic fiction are about fantasies come true for characters, and erotic romances come with happy endings. But Spice is an EROTIC FICTION imprint, and Mira is MAINSTREAM. In other words, NEITHER ARE ROMANCE IMPRINTS. Thus I don’t expect non-romantic books to have happy endings. Ménage romances are certainly common in traditional publishing, though most (all?) are of the m/f/m or m/m/f varieties. In other words, only one female.

So what does it say that in two books with two females and one male in the ménage, the “other woman” becomes some kind of villain, with the narrator and the male living happily ever after with just the two of them?

You can make your own conclusions, but I have serious Fry Face right now. New York publishing doesn’t seem to be afraid of ménages with two men and one woman living happily ever after together, the three of them. But two women and one man?

So what IS the role of the “other woman” in these two books? Titillation? An obstacle for the hero and heroine to overcome? To its credit, The Lovers has female friendship (Bettina’s friend Viviane), but the two lead female characters here are…rivals?

I would love to read a traditionally-published book where f/m/f or f/f/m relationships are treated with respect. Not that it matters, but I’m heterosexual, though I’m bored with reading heterosexual romance. Introducing a lust-interest character of the same gender should not just be for titillation or an obstacle. They deserve to be PART of the story – not an antagonist or contrived complication. Where’s the respect?

I’m not sure whether to read the rest of Lovers or not. Yes or no? Your vote either way is most welcome.

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