Saturday, March 1, 2008

Sex... or Romance?

What's the difference, you say? For the lucky few, there is no difference. But for most of the coulples out there, sex might make the world go round, but romance doesn't. Sex is inserting tab A into slot B for the purpose of cementing a relationship. It might be that children are the desired end product. Or a merging of family fortunes. Or the stability of merging two families. Or even still in this day and age it might be the final steps in a political marriage. Ultimately, whatever feelings are involved, they are not the primary focus. That focus is still on the technical aspects of making sure that tab A does indeed fit into slot B.

It seems to me that we in the erotic romance line are slithering periously close to having more "sex" in our stories than "romance". Actually, this is true of most romance lines. In the last two or three weeks, I've probably read twenty self-proclaimed romances. The genres had stretched from vampire to shifter to woman-in-jeopardy to high fantasy. Historical periods have ranged from futuristic to medieval and everything in between.

In a disheartening number of them, the stories centered around a series of sexual gymnastic encounters, some of them frankly improbable, that had absolutely nothing to do with the stories. Um, I suppose that a case could be made that my own stories fit this category so in the sake of fairness I'll be the first to toss my own into the pot.

The other disturbing trend is the mechanical list of actions that read like someone reporting on a porno film. "And then he did..." "She reached up and ..." "He kissed and licked..." Yeah? So what? Where's the feeling? I want the whole package.

Conversation--even if he is braindead because all the blood in is brain has traveled south. He can grunt and groan and mutter "Yeah, baby." I read numerous scenes that were curiously silent. Now I remember raising children and the necessity of being quiet sometimes, but that was not the case in any of these stories. So what are these people doing--sign language maybe?

Scents--an integral component to sex. There a potpourri of scents associated with sex. His scent. Hers. Body lotions. Candles. Depending on locations, there might be the scent of flowers or grass or trees or a fire in the fireplace.

Settings--where are they? I hesitate to bring this up, but... many of the more interesting gymnastics are nearly impossible in a standard bed. It's too soft. I hate to point out that much of the, uh, leaping about would lead to someone--maybe more than one ending up on the floor. And that's neither sexy nor romantic. So maybe they're on the floor (rugburn) or a blanket on the lawn (ants and mosquitos) or the floor of a steamy shower (BIG hotwater tank, right?)

Lighting--are they in the dark? I swear that I read a scene this last week where the couple were in the dark (didn't dare turn on the light for some strange reason) but he could SEE her pink pearly parts! In the dark! Ah, the tricky x-ray vision. If the lights are on, how much light is there? Are they in the sun, the shade, next to a fire in the great outdoors. Is the moon full?

Then there is the tall-to-short ratio. He's really tall (aren't all men six foot four?) and she's really petite (oh somewhere around five foot one) and yet, according to the author, they fit together perfectly--so perfectly that they can perform hanky panky standing up...with all four feet on the ground. Huh. That I would like to see. Just for research purposes.

Getting naked is one of the most interesting parts--or not. It can be incredibly erotic or another list of instructions. "He took off his shirt, shucked his pants and stood naked before her." When did he take off those cowboy boots he was wearing? That scene bothered me so much that I went back and searched four pages. Nope. He never removed his cowboy boots. Or his hat. And you guys think I'm kinky. I'm pretty sure the house hunk usually takes off his shoes.

Finally, while I prefer a tad more than a wham, bam, thank you ma'am (unless they're hiding from the bad guys in a closet and trying to be really, really fast and quiet), I also don't want a love scene so long that I fall asleep in the middle of it 'cause there's only so much you can do, so many ways before you start repeating yourself... and (yawn) you just lost me four pages back. In one book I just skipped the "good" parts and read the rest of the story and the author should have too because it didn't have a thing to do with her pretty interesting story.

So what's the difference between a romance and an erotic romance? In my mind the sex in the erotic romance is an integral part of the story. If there isn't an important reason for the sex, then what is it doing in the story? And if it's an integral part of the story, then it deserves the same time and care and craft that the rest of the story receives. And that's why some books are strings of sexual encounters and some books are romances.

I like writing romances.


Well, the February Scavenger Hunt is over on my webpage. Later today I'll post the final winner. I want to thank everyone who participated. I hope all of you enjoyed the books you won.

Drop by Amarinda's Place at and Kelly's Blog at for some of the good stuff. Blessings on your day.


  1. Well? What can I say? I am sure that I am guilty of all that you mention. I guess, there has been a swing to writing more sex in romance because that's what the public wants. I also think that people are different and what is 'romance' to one is not to another. All your points are completely valid and there is no right answer but it's a good topic to have brought up.

  2. However, your characters are always totally involved with each other emotionally from the first word. That is what makes the difference.

  3. I always try to have the sex scenes the result of romantic feeling not horndoggedness and there is usually something occuring either emotionally or insightfully during the act which moves the plot forward. Otherwise, why is it there? My CP standard. EC is a whole different ball game.

  4. Landing on the floor is definitely not romantic but it can be hilarious if neither is hurt. If we're being at all realistic when writing we should include some humor with the sex too.

    You "think" the house hunk removes his shoes? You're not sure? Hmm, interesting.

  5. I think sometimes sex between two people can be born out of a romantic feeling, lust that comes from the fires of romance or out of pure lust . Honestly, I don't want to read the last kind. I'm not into scenes of pure lust. Even if my H/h are sexual quickly, there has to be some sort of an attraction between them that is more than "ooh look at her..[insert body part]" "I'll bet he's got a great..[insert bodypart]".

    That's why I can't write Quickies. I have a hard time showing that kind of connection quickly.

  6. Me too, Jae. It takes a couple of chapters until my characters get to that point.