Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Romance and That Thing They Do

No, this is not an author's version of the birds and bees talk, but . . . well, maybe it is. Let me start with a couple of thoughts from my point of view as a READER. 

Sex is not romance. 

Pages of detailed sex does not make the romance stronger.

Now that I have that out of the way, let me explain. First, I'm not a prude (at least I don't see myself as such). In fact, I'm far from it. Sure, I'm conservative, old-fashioned, and I prefer most of my reading material to be void of detailed sex. Why? Because I have a pretty wild imagination, and I don't need certain things written out in detail.  I read for enjoyment and pleasure, and if I wanted to read about sex, I'd pick up an erotic novel. But I don't want to read about it, so I have to pick and choose books carefully (I often read reviews to get an idea of the content). 

Anyway . . .

Sex is not romance. What do I mean by that? Let me use an example of a book I read recently. Excellent story, excellent writing, and a beautiful romance. I wanted to keep reading, so I did. I stayed up hours past the point of exhaustion because the book was that good - or at least the first 2/3 thirds was that good. For reasons I still cannot understand, this talented author decided to add an extremely graphic sex scene. Granted, she did a great job with the build-up, and sure, I expected something to happen, but the detail was a bit of a shocker. For a minute I thought I'd picked up an erotic novel. So, I skipped over the pages and kept reading. Whew, the story was still amazing, but then she did it again. And again. And yet again. By that time, this amazing book with a beautiful romance story, had lost much of it's appeal. The sex had taken what was a lovely romance and deep passion shared by the characters, and cheapened it with an overabundance of sex.

Right about now you might be thinking 'prude.' Well, one of my favorite authors is Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, and anyone who has read her books, knows that she wasn't afraid to write a graphic scene, but to this reader, I always considered those passionate scenes rather than sex scenes. To some there might not be a difference, but to this reader, there's a significant difference. For me, passion written well doesn't detract from either the romance or the story. Sex on the other hand, is what I seem to come across more and more in books, and not just romance novels. Sex in books is the detailed sharing of an intimate act, and read like they were tossed in to fill pages. There's no love, no sweeping passion, and no deep connection because the focus has shifted away from the couple, to the act itself.

Right at this second, as I'm writing this sentence, I wonder if there are others who feel the same way. Perhaps many people don't care either way, and some may think that to be a romance story, there must be pages of detailed sex. 

Have you ever seen the movie Dangerous Beauty, or read the book 'The Honest Courtesan'? Well, if you have, you'd know that Dangerous Beauty is a stunning movie, with a bit of sex, and a lot of passion. (See, no prude here). Oddly enough, that movie bothers me far less than many of the graphic sex scenes found in books today. It's difficult to say exactly why, except that to this reader's way of thinking, sex in a book (or movie) does not replace the romance. When it enhances it, that's what I consider passion, but that seems rare. Mostly, it's just sex. I skip over those pages and don't feel like I missed out on anything. 

Anyone who has read Alaina Claiborne, knows that I do have a steamy scene in there. It lasts a few paragraphs, and then it's over. That's the only book in which I've added anything like that, and there's a good chance it will be the only one, though I honestly can't say. My main concern was to ensure that it wasn't just sex on a page, but rather passion fueled by love and romance. I knew that in order to accomplish that, I had to make it brief, and it had to pass the ultimate test. I let my grandmother read the book. My prudish, 87 year old grandmother read it, and to my surprise, didn't bat an eye. Whew, I knew it worked. 

Don't worry, you can think I'm a prude and I won't hold it against you.

So, now that I've gone on and on about sex in books, and possibly confused you with my rambling, I'm curious about what other readers think. Do you choose to read a romance, or any other book, based on the sexual content? Does it bother you, or do you think it adds something to the story? Do you care either way?

I ask because I'm genuinely curious about what you think? 

Above image: Romance Bridge  ID: 37481 © | Dreamstime Stock Photos


  1. You're not a prude at all, and I've heard that "sweet" romance is on the rise again because others are starting to become disgusted with all the sex in romance books. Less is more :)

    Christi Corbett

    1. You're absolutely correct. The cleaner romances are on the rise for that very reason. It's nice to see that happening. That's one of the things I liked about your book--clean, but still romantic.

  2. Girl, I'm with you...and I know I'M not a prude. There are certain authors I don't read anymore because it seems like their books are all sex and very little plot. You're right, there is a big difference between sex & romance. Nothing bores me quicker than a book who's characters are hopping around like rabbits, having sex just for the sake of having sex. I mean really, after 3 kids, I highly doubt their gonna teach me something I haven't figured out for myself. lol I miss the times when the scene use to just slowly fade away & you had to use your imagination. That was romance. Let me tell you, my imagination is a lot better than a scene written by any writer! lol

    1. I love when a reader's comment makes me chuckle - thank you! I feel the same way about authors who I used to really enjoy. I agree that the imagination is so much stronger (and better) than anything a writer can put together. :)

  3. Your statement " For me, passion written well doesn't detract from either the romance or the story" is exactly how I feel. Without any passion it sort of becomes porn. I feel like I'm watching through someone's keyhole. :0 Sex with lots of passion is beautiful because it's natural. Some of the sex scenes I've come across have actually had me closing the book. So I do agree with you. Our imaginations are uch better. :)
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

    1. :) Laughing right now because that's so true. Sometimes I get the feeling that I've walked in on someone or I'm "spying" through their window. It leaves me feeling like I need a shower. I admire the few authors out there who can incorporate passionate scenes without it the reader thinking it's just sex.

  4. I used to read a particular Paranormal Romance series, apart from being about Werewolves, for the, at times involuntary funny, sex scenes.
    But mostly I've grown to avoid romance novels that are advertised as "sexy" or "steamy" or... - well, you probably know the drill better than me - because the story almost invariably ends up being overwhelmed by probably passionate, but most usually not overly romantic, descriptions of sex.
    Well, I am a prude, I guess.

    None the less I do love "Deserts Hearts", the movie, which is rather risqué, but manages something formidable in its sex scene, something that most writers in their writing unfortunately fail to capture, and that is a quality which makes you really feel the emotional connection.

    1. That's exactly how I feel. A few movies I like are risque (like Dangerous Beauty), but the actors portray something that most authors can't put into words without it become tawdry. I'm fine with short scenes one or twice in a book, but I prefer when writers lead into the scene, leave the act to the imagination, and then show the connection afterward. Good thoughts--thanks!

  5. I agree with you 100%. I like for the characters in my book to have sex, as long as they are in love (even if they don't know it at the time!!). But pages of sex, give me a break nobody can have that much sex, without some kind of break! Does that make sense to y'all?

  6. Ha! You're so right. When do they take a breather? :) Thanks for the laugh, Martha!