The rise of 'steamies': British publishers get wise to American craze for teen erotic fiction

'Irresistible' by Liz Bankes is the first in a new genre to hit the UK billed as 'Judy Blume for the Fifty Shades of Grey generation'

Nick Clark
Friday 14 December 2012 17:05

“I cry out as a sweet explosion spreads from between my legs throughout my body, and as I do his mouth finds mine.” Welcome to the world of “steamies” - a new erotically-charged genre of fiction for teenagers that has been described as “Judy Blume for the Fifty Shades of Grey generation”.

Irresistible by Liz Bankes, the story of a 16-year old girl torn between caring Dan and wealthy bad boy James, was released as an ebook earlier this month, the first British book of the new genre.

Steamies are described as “escapist romances, featuring young women, the same age as the readers, exploring their first sexual desires and their first sexual experiences” by the book’s publishers.

The bandwagon has already started rolling in America with titles including The Vincent Boys, by Abbi Glines, and Nightshade by Andrea Cremer proving popular.

Brenda Gardner, managing director at Irresistible’s publisher Piccadilly Press, said: “Young Adult publishers have been looking with envy at Fifty Shades knowing we couldn’t do anything like that. Everybody was trying to work out what would be the next big thing.”

The publishing industry discussed the issue over the summer amongst themselves and with booksellers. “We thought there would be a way of doing it. But it’s not about graphic sex, it’s about passion,” Ms Gardner said.

Simon and Schuster UK has picked up titles by Glines, Nicole Williams and Steph Campbell for a series of “hot romances set at college or university” aimed at young adults.

Bankes, 26, said her book was the kind “I would have wanted to read as a teenager: full of gossip, some rude bits and sequences that would fade to black if they were in a movie. For me a steamy is all about the emotional connection of first love, and the sheer excitement of first lust.”

Judy Blume’s Forever, published in 1975, was one of the first young adult novels to deal frankly with teenage sexuality. The subject matter meant it was banned in many schools and faced censorship.

Ms Gardner said the steamy was a new genre although admitted it did draw heavily on Blume’s novels. “There are parallels, it’s a much more contemporary look at the issues of being a teenager. Bringing it up to date there’s more danger.”

The publisher said offers young people a sexually charged story where one partner was not a vampire or a werewolf. “Recently everyone went to the paranormal. There was a dearth of contemporary love stories.”

Ms Gardner said: “Some parents may not be happy with a 14 year old reading it, but many of that age group are sophisticated. They would probably be reading Fifty Shades or Jackie Collins if there wasn’t something like this; a book that gives young people something to identify with.”

Irresistible is Bankes’ first novel, and she is about to start work on a second. “Some publishers thought it was too racy but others didn’t think it was racy enough. The booksellers will decide where it goes and hopefully soon there will be a steamy section.”

Extract from Irresistible by Liz Bankes:

The four-poster bed is enormous. I slide my legs around on the duvet as Jamie goes back down to the showers to get my stuff. He leaves me his T-shirt to wear.

There’s a huge window covering most of the opposite wall so the room is flooded with moonlight. It looks out over the grounds at the back of the castle.

If I went and looked out, I would be able to see the pool house. Where Cleo is waiting. I shift on the duvet again, more uncomfortably this time. What happens now?

I’m interrupted by the trap door opening and Jamie lobbing my bag into the room. ‘Watch out! You’ll break my...clothes,’ I say. He lifts himself up into the room and doesn’t acknowledge my comment.

He’s just in his jeans and the moonlight bounces off his muscled chest. I get a flashback to the passageway and an echo of what I felt ripples through me.

Then he stands at the end of the bed and drops his jeans. Slightly in shock, I say the first thing that comes into my head. ‘Easy, tiger.’

He completely cracks up. I start laughing too and struggle to get my words out. ‘That . . . was ridiculous, though. What . . . What are you doing?’

‘Sleeping. Are you going to take up the whole bed, tiger?’

We both slide under the covers and lie there, looking up at the ceiling. The question forms in my head, but I can’t say it out loud. What happens tomorrow?

‘Oh my God, tomorrow!’ I make him jump. ‘

What?’ he says.

‘It’s results day.’

‘I don’t suppose you have anything to worry about.’

‘No . . . Well, I don’t know. I need five Bs to stay on for 146 sixth form. It’s just . . . I’d hoped to . . . do something else. Like, travel or something. It feels like from tomorrow, everything’s set.’

He doesn’t reply. I realise I don’t even know what he’s doing next year. He must have got his results last week. Unless they do it differently at private school.

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