Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Okay, now that I've got your attention, I'll clarify that. How important is sex, to you, in a romance novel?

That's what I'm wondering about this Wednesday.
There are books that offer the specific promise of action between the covers – Harlequin Blaze, Silhouette Desire, Ellora's Cave, and lots of other single title novels. But when you read a romance that isn't specifically represented as being sexy, are you disappointed if the characters don't have sex?

I'm wondering because lately, I've read several books where it felt like the sex was thrown in just because it was required. It's not explicit, so it's not there for the steam factor; but it doesn't really seem to advance the plot or the relationship either. And usually, the hero and heroine have only known each other for a couple of days. The characters' motivations seem realistic in every other respect … but in the real world, it doesn't seem (to me) like they'd be ready to jump between the sheets so fast.

Do we just expect relationships to develop more quickly in a romance because the genre offers a heightened, more intense version of real life? Do publishers ask for lovemaking scenes because they feel they're expected? Or do readers need to know the characters made love in order to feel that they've really connected?

Or … maybe … is sex becoming obligatory in some romances?

Whenever I bring up a subject like this, I feel like Grandma Moses. So let me clarify one other thing: I'm not against sex in books. I'm just not necessarily for sex in all books. If it's not there for the rush of sensuality (which can certainly be fun!), and it doesn't contribute to the story, I just wonder … why is it there?

Sierra Donovan
MEG'S CONFESSION, Avalon, February 2007


Kalen Hughes said...

If it's not there for the rush of sensuality (which can certainly be fun!), and it doesn't contribute to the story, I just wonder … why is it there?

If there's no rush of sensuality, and it doesn't move the story forward (or backwards!), I don't want it in the book!

Let's be clear, I write HOT books. I enjoy plots that revolve around attraction and sexual escapades. But some of my favorite romances, the ones I read over and over, are Heyer’s. There’s no sex in them, and very little sexual tension.

But I don’t want to read books where the sexual tension is clearly missing, or where things are kept “clean” just for sake of being “clean”. If you saw Bride and Prejudice you know what I’m talking about. There were moments that had clearly built to a kiss, then there was this wholly unnatural pause, and a they’d break into song or something. It was awkward and simply didn’t work, IMO. I sure don’t want to read that.

Nancy Morse said...

Sierra, I agree. I don't want it there just for the sake of having it there, although I think readers expect sex in a romance novel. I also think that sex and sensuality are two different things. I personally prefer love scenes that are sensual and leave much to the reader's imagination as opposed to sex scenes that are graphic depictions of body parts and positions. The popularity of erotic romances may mean that I'm in the minority, but for me, the love/sex scenes are the least interesting part of a book for me to read or to write. That said, sex does have a habit of going hand in hand with falling in love, and humans being sexual creatures, it's only natural for the hero & heroine to have sex. I do have a problem, however, when they hop into bed too soon.

Sierra Donovan said...

Kalen and Nancy, I'm glad you know what I mean! The thing is, the books I'm complaining about have been well written, with well-drawn relationships. But the issues of the relationship have been built on the head and heart, not the pull of passion that's essential in a steamier book. Romantic/emotional tension can be different from sexual tension, and I don't think it should necessarily lead to physical consummation right then and there.

I think the bottom line is what's appropriate for the story and the characters. I'm afraid authors may be getting pushed into inserting sex (heh heh) just because it's expected. But it's been VERY incidental in the books I'm talking about ... and it's not like the publishers are even using it as a selling point.


DeeandDee said...

There are authors like Crusie, Foster, Banks, and Anderson, that write phenomenal sex scenes, and they are both huge sellers. I wonder if it's more the author pressuring themselves to be more like the big sellers than the pub houses pushing? I don't know, LOL everytime I think about it I come up with something different!

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