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Naughty Books

By Lorry Kikta | February 19, 2021

In the wake of E.L. James’ softcore S&M breakout sensation, 50 Shades of Gray, a new wave of self-published romance authors came onto the scene. Naughty Books follows some of these new-era romance authors, showing the ups and downs of self-publishing and the faces behind some of the smuttiest books out there. It has been a long time since I saw my first romance novel, somewhere in the dark recesses of a shelf in the guest room of my soon-to-be stepmother’s house. I’m pretty sure Fabio was on the cover. The world of romance novels is still steeped in that cheesy fantasy, but there are some modern takes on the genre as well.

C.J. Roberts is one of the most famous self-published romance authors, and she says that “If you thought Fifty Shades went too far, I’m not for you.” Her books explore dark sexual themes, and it’s interesting to discover that she grew up in a strict Catholic household. Kristen Proby started self-publishing her novels and had great success. In the documentary, we see her introduction to the world of mainstream publishing and the differences between the two. Then there’s Kelli Maine. She’s a young adult author through a mainstream publisher under her real name but found out she could garner some success in the self-publishing boom. She had some success but ultimately decides that the romance novel game isn’t for her.

“…showing the ups and downs of self-publishing and the faces behind some of the smuttiest books…”

I am absolutely not a fan of romance novels…like at all, but I very much enjoyed Naughty Books because it explores the real lives of writers, and not just writers, women writers. This movie is floor-to-ceiling with women, from the people featured to the people who made it. The same can be said for the romance genre, particularly the self-published side. Romance as a literary genre is for women, by women. There are even two sisters, Bea and Leah Koch, who own a bookstore called The Ripped Bodice that is entirely devoted to the romance genre. It is mentioned in the film that out of mass-market book sales, romance novels always make the most money, but you hardly ever hear about any of the authors on TV or anything. However, names like James Patterson and Dan Brown are household names. There’s as much inherent sexism in the literary industry as there is in every other. I appreciate the fact that Naughty Books points that out.

So, if you are a writer, a woman, or an avid reader regardless of genre, I think you will love Naughty Books. It may inspire you to self-publish your own book. You learn a little bit about how it’s done which could be valuable to any burgeoning novelists, romance or not. As a writer myself, I certainly found it interesting, even though I have little to no interest in the genre that these authors work within. I did earn a little bit more respect for romance authors after watching this.

I must admit I find the quivering loins and all that jazz are definitely not my thing, at least not my literary thing. I’m still in the middle of a years-long attempt to finish Infinite Jest, so what the hell do I know? I don’t disparage anyone who reads or certainly anyone who writes romance. So if you are unlike me and you love the genre, please forgive my lack of taste. You will love this documentary, probably even more than I did, and I liked it a lot.

Naughty Books (2020)

Directed and Written: Austen Rachlis

Starring: C.J. Roberts, Kristen Proby, Kelli Maine, Laurelin Paige, Glorya Hidalgo, Jane Dystel, Bea Koch, Leah Koch, etc.

Movie score: 7/10

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"…could be valuable to any burgeoning novelists..."

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