Monday, August 20, 2012

A Kiss is Just a Kiss

Back in the dark ages when I first started reading "grown up" books, a kiss was the climax of the hero/heroine relationship. It often was the last scene in the book. Everything else in the book--plot, description, bad guy, good guy--led to that one climatic moment. The kiss.

This was true for lot of books that weren't even classified as romances. Quite a few of Louis L'Amour's books end with that kiss. Mary Stewart's romantic suspense books often end with that kiss. Helen MacInnes' suspense books usually had the climatic kiss.

Now, a book with only one kiss is considered a YA--Young Adult book. A kiss isn't exciting. It's more like a get-acquainted handshake.

I think we've lost something along the way.

Does anyone remember the anticipation, the belly flutters, the breathless will-he-or-won't-he finally kiss the girl? Heck, the hero/heroine didn't even hold hands for weeks. Accidental touches were exciting. Then maybe he would take her hand in his, signaling his interest. Weeks later he might kiss her goodnight when he took her home. Maybe.

I miss the leisurely build up, the tip-toeing anticipation, the delayed gratification in those old stories. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that won't fly anymore in the grown-up world. Frankly, I don't want to go quite that far back. It's unrealistic and not very satisfying. There's some expression about putting the genie back in the bottle...

In the clamor created by that book--you know the Gray book--women are coming out of the closet, admitting they're curious and interested. And just a little scandalized, maybe.

There's always been a certain segment of the female readers that were willing, nay, enthusiastic about reading erotic romance with all that implies. That's what I write. And yep, I have fans who write to me demanding more. The difference now, is what I call the fence perchers. They feel a tad guilty about reading books with *sex* in them.

Surprisingly, this group is not the baby boomers. They know about sex. They know there's frequently a huge difference between fictional romance and real life. They're the original bra burners.

No, as far as I can tell from my observations, the most scandalized group is firmly in the thirty/forties. They're too young to remember the "old" days when there were no women's rights. They think they've always had the right to own property or have sex before marriage or buy birth control. And kissing? Phft.

They're stuck buying books about secret babies, gazillionaire CEOs, and SEALS. Their children are almost young adults and the middle-agers have suddenly been confronted with the sex lives and unplanned pregnancies of their children. I think they're also suffering a bit of guilt at their own secret, naughty desires. They're women, dammit, often caught between the wild, no holds barred lives of the young and what they perceive as the hopeless, dreary lives of the old. Too many are coping with the difficulties of single parenthood, careers they no longer want, but are stuck with, and a crashing economy. Where is that man who's going to sweep them away in a Calgon moment?

Is it any surprise they gravitate toward the romance of the climatic kiss? Or the implied promise of a strong, well-to-do man who will shoulder their burdens without presenting his own demands?

The publishing revolution is about more than just a new way to share the written word. I think it's about the clash of needs and desires. Women (and maybe even men) may want romantic fantasy in their books, but they want realistic fantasy. They want portrayals of real, caring men. Sexy men who can cook. Or braid their daughter's hair. Or, heck, even do a load of laundry. Plus, he finds them desirable and sexy.

I have one of those at my house. I call him the house hunk. And he even knows how to kiss...