I had to laugh watching the Oscars on Sunday when Melanie Griffith and Dakota Johnson tussled over whether or not Mom/Melanie should see the FSoG movie. Looking over various blog posts and tweets, I guess I disagree with a lot of people out there on the interwebs. I don’t think Melanie is ashamed of her daughter for making the film. I think she feels that watching her daughter in the role of Anastasia Steele might be uncomfortable. I have a 20-year-old son, and umm, I’m right there with you, MG!

What with Valentine’s Day, the Library of Congress Romance Symposium I attended in D.C. and the cinema release of Fifty Shades of Grey all in the same week, you might imagine I’ve had a number of conversations about the romance industry in general and that book in particular, often with people who were waiting for me to disparage it. But as someone who advocates for an industry that is wildly popular and often savaged by critics, I try very hard not to judge other things that are wildly popular and savaged by critics.

Fifty Shades of Grey got people reading. It changed the conversation about sex, love, and romance, and if for nothing else, we can be grateful to it for that.

I like the occasional steamy storyline, and while I don’t often step into erotic romance, there have been some great ones I’ve stumbled across over the years. So I thought it might be fun to ask some romance rising stars if they could recommend some titles and/or authors in the genre.

Rita-award winner Molly O’Keefe is one of my favorite contemporary authors, and after her Crooked Creek Ranch (Crazy Thing Called Love) and Boys of Bishop Bay series (Indecent Proposal), I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. When I asked her about erotic romance, she recommended J. Kenner.

Molly: “One of my favorite Erotic Romance/Erotica authors is J. Kenner. I love her heroines; there’s always something very relatable about them. They’re funny and down-to-earth, yet when push comes to shove, they’re tough. Kenner knows how to hook a reader into a series, I just can’t stop reading them!” (J. Kenner’s Claim Me won a Rita last year, which might be a good book to start with if you want to give her a try, though the series starts with Release Me. –Bobbi)Wicked Burn-2

I’ve really enjoyed contemporary author Jennifer Bernard’s Bachelor Firemen series (The Night Belongs to Fireman) and am really looking forward to her Love Between the Bases series—you all know I like baseball, right? Go Royals!—which starts in May with All of Me. As for erotic romance, Jennifer recommended Beth Kery.

Jennifer: “Wicked Burn by Beth Kery is one of those books that not only blows your mind, but expands your idea of what’s possible in an erotic novel. Niall, the heroine, is in a state of deep pain due to a personal crisis. What brings her back alive is her scorching encounter, and subsequent torrid affair, with the playwright Vic Savian. These are sophisticated, complex characters who engage in unapologetically graphic sex for which there’s always an emotional context. It’s extremely erotic, but also genuinely moving. It’s right at the top of my favorite erotic romances.” (I haven’t read this one, but can also recommend Kery’s Because You’re Mine series. –Bobbi)

My favorite erotic romance author is Nina Lane, mostly because her USA Today bestselling Spiral of Bliss trilogy explores a married couple trying to find their way back to happy-ever-after after life has sent a few painful twists their way. Very sexy, very romantic and very satisfying. (Full disclosure, Nina is also a RL friend, but I love these books, and the writing is exquisite!) When I asked Nina for a recommendation, she sent this along:Linger

Nina: “I love Lauren Jameson (aka Lauren Hawkeye), an amazingly prolific author whose books are both smoking hot and beautifully crafted. Lauren writes the In Vino Veritas series, which focuses on a wine bar/kink club. Lauren's third book in the series, Linger, twists the traditional BDSM romance trope with complex and unique characters, including veterinarian Logan Brody, an alpha-male, submissive cowboy (yes, you read that right). When dominatrix Scarlett Malone arrives in rural Montana for a veterinary internship, she spends an evening with a gorgeous submissive man at a local BDSM club. The next day, she discovers the man is none other than her new boss, Dr. Logan Brody. Scarlett and Logan's explosive sexual heat grows into a bond far more intense than either of them expected. Entwining powerful sex scenes with real emotions and ultimate love, Lauren Jameson is a true mistress of erotic romance.”

Bobbi Dumas is a freelance writer, book reviewer, romance advocate and founder of ReadARomanceMonth.comShe mostly writes about books and romance for NPRThe Huffington Post and Kirkus.