Hot Takes by Holly

Why I read smut: some notes on catharsis

Let me tell you a story. 

I rarely read books that Erin or Ingrid has already reviewed. One of the pressures of running a blog is that I’m always on to the next book, the next thing; after all, there’s so much smut to discover! 

But sometimes, I want to settle in and read a sure thing and not even have to consider writing the book up. Which is how I ended up reading Kate Clayborne’s recent release Love at First. (Note: It’s really good! All the buzz is well-deserved!)


What follows contains minor spoilers for Love at First. Continue at your own risk. 

By the time I got to the Big Dramatic Moment, I could barely see the word on the page through my tears. And then the kicker: Will tells Nora that she’s the first person who’s ever told him “I love you.” 

And I am a wreck. 

But here’s the thing. This passage is written to be extremely emotionally manipulative. And I am crying while also being fully aware that I am being led to this crying by the way the scene is structured but it doesn’t matter because I feel so light and clean and empty afterward. 

That’s why I read romance. To get that hit of being blatantly emotionally manipulated (and know it!) and then the cathartic release. The tropes, the patterns, the sex, the shifts in the genre: all of that is fun, but at the end of the day, when I really need something good, it’s all secondary. 

Tell me a story. Make me care about the characters. And then punch me in the face with emotion. 

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