The Reverse Harem Trend – When 3 or more is far from a crowd!
This article was written with the help of the book-club/group Reverse Harem and I’d like to thank the ladies who helped me do the research!
What is a reverse harem? Well, let’s start by defining a harem. A harem is a group of women who love/are married etc a single man. A reverse harem is a one woman with three or more male lovers.
This new, unique sub-genre seems to have been birthed by Laurell K. Hamilton with her Merry Gentry series. Of course, her Anita Blake (which sort of made urban fantasy a serious genre on its own instead of a sub-genre of the fantasy genre) has a very, very large harem, that came later than Merry’s.
The draw to the RH, no matter the originating genre is a sense of freedom and intrigue for the readers. Whether or not there are sex scenes, the romance is always there. For instance in her Seraph Black series (Charcoal Tears, Watercolor Smile, and Lead Heart) it is clearly laid out by the men who happen for be four brothers in love with said Seraph Black, that there will be no sex. But their love and her love is very clear.
There is also a level of power given to the women who are the center of these RH’s. They are in control, as can be seen in Amy Sumida’s The Godhunter saga. When the men and even she believe that 5 is enough for her, her magic makes her reach for the 6th because SHE will decide on her lovers, no one else.
Almost as if this phenomenon is the next step in the sexual revolution that began way back in the 1960’s, with the creation of the Pill and the rise of the Women’s Lib or Women’s Rights. Where it used to be men were expected to extremely experienced or to date many women at once, and often the Old Boy’s Club would laugh and wink at the man who had the perfect wife at home and two or three women on the side, women are finally able to spread their wings without fear of chastisement. In fact, it may again be due to the Rise of the Millennials, experimentation and sampling is common for them, not only romantically and sexually, but in finance and employment, food and living arrangements. Their enthusiasm has created a safe place for stories like this to be written and enjoyed, even by their predecessors in GenX.
Most of the writers, from LKH to Amy Sumida to the awe-inspiring dynamic duo of Autumn Reed and Julia Clarke, are ladies of the highest order. The RH phenomenon appears to be by women for women. Nary a male writer is out there and in my experience, there are few straight male readers of most RH books. Maybe it is an ego thing for them. Men do write romance novels, though they will publish either with just their first initial and last name or under an androgynous pseudonym. When it comes to the gender of readers, LKH’s Anita Blake series may be the one true equalizer between the genders, although I have to admit the latest, Crimson Death, left me and my husband cold. Neither of us made it past 50%, because there is no story, even that far in, just a lot of bed hopping and negotiating.
Reverse Harem does have its own search parameter on Amazon.com, so one day it may exist as its very own genre as Sci-Fi Romance, Post-apocalyptic Romance, YA Romance, and Urban Fantasy now exist. But for the moment, RH seems to be a sub-genre, living in the world’s of Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, YA Paranormal Romance and so on.
Until then, readers and fans, writers and their followers, pass new titles and series amongst themselves, in secret. If Alien Abduction Romance can become a specialized genre, so can this new, uniquely flavored brand of love.
I’d like to thank the lovely ladies of my RH Book-club who helped me with this article and the lists of RH series and stand-alones that will soon follow. Those lovely ladies are Amy, Samantha, Autumn, Julia, Rebecca, Amyra, Anna and Lissa. I couldn’t have done this without you.