ONCE upon a time rich men dominated women, set against the backdrop of Victorian-era mansions. Now they just do it in bed.
Welcome to the romance novel.
There are three shelves of romance paperbacks at Warrnambool Books — and people are buying them in strong numbers.
Soon most copies will come with a sobering sticker slapped over the steamy covers, giving the book a classification for its sexual imagery and language.
Large publishers such as Simon & Schuster are introducing the ratings in the wake of the genre surge sparked by big titles such as Fifty Shades of Grey.
Warrnambool Books marketing manager Michaelie Clark is apprehensive about the ratings.
“I don’t think the erotica craze should have sparked this,” she said. “I’m divided on it.”
The labels won’t restrict young people buying the books but have set an interesting cultural precedent.
Hundreds of copies of Fifty Shades of Grey have passed over the counter at the store.
But there have been plenty of questions about the content of the book and other romance titles.
“When Fifty Shades came out there were a few girls in their late teens come in with their mothers asking if it was something they could read.
“We explained to them what it was about.”
Ms Clark pointed out that many romance novels were still balanced on a plot of male domination, whether it be the aristocratic men of fairytales or “the contemporary bondage thing”.
“It hasn’t changed that much. When Fifty Shades of Grey came out we had a book club meeting — or a girls’ night out to discuss whether the book could be classified as literary or if it was commercial.”
Despite thick chapters of erotic imagery spiking the interest, most people still wanted a plot with their story, she said.