Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Friday, January 30, 2015

Billionaire Lurve


I’m guessing no one reading this blog has any doubt whatsoever why I’ve been writing a lot about billionaires the past two weeks. I’ve written a billionaire post for the Brit Babes blog and for my own and, since the Big B is a timely subject right now, I thought that for my monthly ERWA post, I would try to summarise why I think billionaire romance is so appealing.

The billionaire romance is loved and loathed far and wide. Though it’s always been a huge part of the romance cannon, it burst onto center stage in all its glitz and glam with Fifty Shades of Grey, and since 50SoG, the number of novels, novellas and stories available with the word ‘billionaire’ in the title is boggling.

It’s safe to expect the number of billionaire novels to skyrocket yet again with the Fifty Shades of Grey film due out on Valentine’s Day. That being the case, I found myself wondering the other day while I was doing the ironing just what it is about billionaires that we find so appealing.

OK, I suppose that sounds like a stupid question. People are always curious about how the other half (or in this case less than 1%) live. That’s only natural. And who hasn’t fantasized about how their lives would be different if they won the lottery or a long lost relative died and left them with a fortune? So here are just a few of the reasons I think billionaire romances appeal to readers so much.

THE MYTHOLOGY: BILLIONAIRES AS GODS:
In the secular modern world where the belief in magic, monsters, demons and gods is pretty much reserved for us paranormal fans, I would like to suggest that the realm of the billionaire romance is mythology and magic for contemporary romance readers.

As with the gods of mythology, the rules don’t apply to billionaires. Wealth and power allow billionaires to do the seemingly impossible, wining and dining the objects of their lust and sweeping them away to the proverbial Mount Olympus in their helicopter or private jet. Zeus seduced Leda in the form of a swan. Eros rescued the bound Psyche and swept her away to his glorious palace to live in incredible splendor. All sorts of magic and miracles can be performed with wealth and power, and who better to perform such feats than a sexy, brooding billionaire?

The general theme in billionaire stories is that the billionaire, like the gods of old, becomes obsessed by a mere mortal, an ordinary person living an ordinary life. The billionaire then sets about seducing the object of his or her obsession with whatever magic or miracle money and power can buy. In billionaire romances, the billionaire is no more willing to take ‘no’ for an answer than Zeus himself was.

THE PARANORMAL BILLIONAIRE
I would like to suggest that the reverse is also true. Money and power are the billionaire’s equivalent to fangs, claws and magic. Our love of vampires, werewolves, angels and demons and all things paranormal is just a different twist on the billionaire romance. With fangs and claws and magic, the rules no longer apply, and when the rules no longer apply, the situation changes drastically.

THE RULES DON’T APPLY
If money is no issue, then the rules that apply to most of us can be bent and broken. And who doesn’t fantasize from time to time about being able to break the rules without consequence? While money may not be able to buy love, it can certainly buy sexual satisfaction in more than fifty shades and way more colours than gray. There’s something very edgy and exciting about the idea of buying sexual control over another person. It’s a Dom/sub relationship based on wealth. When we live in an age when money is power and money is control, it’s not surprising that money is also very sexy. Neither is it surprising that many of our fantasies involve ‘being bought’ in some way.

THE FREEDOM
Billionaires don’t have the financial constraints the rest of us constantly live with. If a billionaire can buy it, he or she can have it. Helicopters, jets, palatial mansions in south France, yachts the size of the QE2, a private island in the Med -- all just an afternoon’s shopping spree. There’s something very appealing about the freedom that money buys, which leads me to my next point.



LIVING THE LIFE
The typical billionaire story involves a billionaire loving or at least lusting for someone who is very average. Again
the connection between the contemporary billionaire romance and the myths of gods seducing mortals is strong. And while we read that story, we fantasize ourselves right into that role. We become the character who is wined and dined, whisked away in the private jet and shopped for by a very exclusive personal shopper. In essence, we get one helluva makeover, readying us to walk in the rarified air of the billionaire’s world. It’s the luxury and adventure of our fantasies along with the hot nasty steamy sex of said fantasies.

THE LOOK
In billionaire novels the polished, airbrushed look of wealth is associated with the look or our dream guy or girl. We want our billionaires to conform to our personal fantasies of what sexy and rich look like, and it’s amazing, though not surprising, how often the two go hand in hand. If we’re going to have a fantasy man, he might as well look good AND be rich. And of course, he will lust obsessively after US! It’s gods and mortals getting nasty all over again.

SUFFERING BILLIONAIRES
Perhaps one of the big differences between the gods and mortals and the billionaires analogy is that our billionaire must suffer. No silver spoons in these stories. Our billionaires must have suffered tragedy and loss, been raised by crack whores, lost a loved one, had an abusive childhood, secretly suffer from self-doubt, self-loathing, horrible nightmares, think themselves unworthy of love. In the eyes of readers, there has to be a cost for wealth. Most of us can’t really imagine what it’s like to have that much money and power. If we’re being honest, we resent the hell out of people we feel have it but don’t deserve it. We find it gratifying to know that, yes, the wealthy really do put their pants on the same way the rest of us do, and they don’t get off without suffering. We need to see that suffering to make that love connection.

SALVATION IS AT HAND
Enter the love interest, just your ordinary girl/guy (insert your own name here) whose soul purpose in the story, as in all love stories, is to rescue the hero from himself, lift him above his self-doubts and heal him. The heroine’s job is to aid the wounded hero, even if he’s a surly billionaire, in becoming a better person, and lead him/her to a shared HEA. There’s something very satisfying about a billionaire who has everything, but is totally lost and impoverished until the love of his life saves him and brings him true love.

BALANCE OF POWER
It’s essential to the story that the love interest has something to offer to the billionaire that he needs, craves, can’t buy with his money. No one really wants to read a story about two perfect billionaires falling in love with each other in their perfect billionaire world. I’m convinced the billionaire story works because if offers the non-billionaire reader a balance of power. There’s something outrageously satisfying about an ordinary person having exactly what a billionaire needs, but can’t buy, what a billionaire is willing to give up all his/her wealth to have. The HEA in a billionaire story is the balance of power that happens when the billionaire and the ordinary heroine come to a state of equilibrium that allows love. Because the contrast in the beginning is so great, the achievement of this
balance of power can be spectacular to watch. And the HEA can be very satisfying because of that contrast.

In mythology, I’ve always been particularly fond of the stories in which the mortals, one way or another, infiltrate the realm of the gods. These days the distance between the very wealthy and the average person seems as great as the distance between the shepherd in his field and the heights of Mount Olympus. Divinity and magical powers are replaced with all things money can buy, which is a helluva lot if you have enough of it.

The billionaire romance affords the reader a visit to heaven, or to Mount Olympus or to paradise – chose one. We are transported to a place, which we can only otherwise go in our fantasies. We go to the penthouse and the palatial mansion right along with the billionaire’s lover. We become the billionaire’s lover – his Psyche, his Leda, his Persephone, his Anastasia Steele, and we visit the realm of the gods – a place where we don’t belong, but we want to. So, along with the heroine of the story, we have to find a way to stay there in paradise with our billionaire.

The moral of the story may well be that billionaires need love too, but I think it’s more likely that the moral of the story is the gods are alive and well and living in their penthouse apartments. Just ask Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele.

8 comments:

  1. Interesting analysis of this genre phenomenon. I do like Greek mythology, but not this trope.

    Count me among the loathers of billionaire romances. I want equality along with my hot sex. There can't be equality when one person holds all of the power. In a way, it's similar to pederasty, when one person doesn't feel powerful enough to say "no". And to me that's NOT sexy at all. I don't want to identify with the powerless person, nor do I want an all-powerful man to "save" me. Not my cuppa.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Fiona.

      I think you're in very good company in your feelings about billionaire romance. Power is played out in a lot of different ways in sex and romance, and I think a big part of our fantasies is the battle to balance that power. The way that battle plays itself out is definitely a different stroke sort of thing, and can be psychologically fascinating.

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  2. Interesting take on fantasies about billionaires. This makes sense, but not my cuppa either. I might fantasize about billionaires if I were starving, but as long as I'm not, I prefer to be with an equal.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Jean Roberta, and as I said, you're in very good company. :-)

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  3. I love your writing, KD, but I have to second Fiona's comment. Billionaires bore me to tears. Money to me isn't the least bit sexy. I'm not saying that a little fantasy isn't nice once in a while, but the billionaires you describe remind me of the reason I dislike some paranormal and sci fi books.

    Fiction loses its edge for me if there are no limits. Magic fails to enchant me if the person wielding it can do absolutely anything. In the same way, aliens or technology with limitless power lose my interest, because there's no suspense, no struggle, no shivering on the brink of destruction.

    Your own Lakeland Witches books demonstrate this extremely well. The coven wields power, but not absolute power. There's ebb and flow. Although at some level readers know the end will be happy, because it's erotic romance, evil is strong enough to make us wonder.

    If you're personally enthralled by billionaires, then by all means explore your fantasies and write about them. However, I don't think that the popularity of the current trope is necessarily a compelling motivation.

    (Then again you make your living as a writer, I believe. So maybe I'm wrong. Maybe you have to write what's hot. I couldn't.)

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  4. KD, having just finished Fifty Shades, it was a treat to read your analysis, which I find very convincing. I also can't help but think about real billionaires and hundredmillionaires. Living in Silicon Valley I've met some and know people who can speak from direct experience of others. What real power does to real people is very interesting, and not especially romantic. Take Sergey Brin and Elon Musk, two real bilionaires who might qualify as attractive. These guys can't stay faithful to one woman and in their work lives they are also ever restless. Not so different from the Olympians come to think of it.

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