I am closing in on the first draft of my Regency-set historical (65,000+ words, Amanda, for next time you crack that Hello Kitty whip and ask how it’s going!), and find that my hero and heroine are having a lot more sexual encounters than I’d originally anticipated.

Which is good for the ultimate sellability of my book, and it’s nowhere near as hot as some of the hottest historicals out there (never mind the erotic romance), but it does beg the question, how much is too much? By pushing the envelope one way, or we backing people into a corner another way?

For example, do you remember the hoopla when Lisa Valdez‘s Passion came out? I thought it was a fantastic book, but some people thought it crossed over the invisible appropriate erotic line. But in that book, the hero and heroine only had sex with each other, and it was all fairly vanilla, if quite frequent and usually public.

One way for authors to avoid being tagged “erotic,” and therefore not put into a further genre is to go the fantasy route; if your hero or heroine is otherworldly, of another species, you can have them do all sorts of things: Demons, angels, seals that turn into humans (are those selkies?), werewolves, ghosts, and yes, trees all get busy.

Jane Lockwood had a post about the evolution of erotic romance at the Spiced Tea Party yesterday; she says she and her fellow erotic writers are concerned erotic romance “was losing its romantic side, and, worse yet, wasn’t even story telling; that it was becoming formulaic and more like porn . . that there wasn’t enough emphasis on plot and characterization, the nuts and bolts of storytelling.”

I have read Jane’s book, and Pam Rosenthal‘s books, and Colette Gale‘s, and they are frankly sexual, but yes, have a plot. And although I would argue Pam’s books are, there is no way Jane or Colette’s could be called “historical romance” (despite what the marketers of Jane’s book say), but they are definitely not straight porn.

In some ways, I’d say books written by Jane, Pam and Colleen are suffering the same kind of fate traditional Regencies did a few years ago: With historical romances getting hotter and hotter, erotic authors are moving further and further into previously uncharted territories, leaving erotic plot-driven books stuck uncomfortably in the middle between hot historical and straight erotic.

I would argue, of course, that labeling books is silly; I liked Elena‘s suggestion awhile back of rating the hotness factor, the way All About Romance does, and leaving the categories alone.

What do you think? How much sex is too much in a historical romance? Do you read erotica as well as historical romance? Would you want your books labeled for their hotness factor?