People, I have a lot to say on this topic and will try not to slip into deep ranting mode, although it's going to be hard (ha!). I truly believe that the only thing romance novels have to have, what they have to adhere to, is the happy-ever-after. Our romantic couple needs to ride off into the sunset at the end. This leaves a lot of shading in between for the author to write the story that they wanna tell.
This is paraphrased: There's a moment in the documentary, Love Between the Covers, where author Eloisa James asks an aspiring writer, "Are you selling this to the inspirational market? Because if not, it has to have sex."
I'm beginning to think I'm the only one who was heavily annoyed by this "advice," because nobody else called it out (that I've seen anyway). If anything, trolling through GoodReads only seems to enforce James' advice. How many of us have seen the reviews: "This was a terrible book - it had NO sex scenes!" So the book was "bad" because you didn't get to read a sex scene? Really?! Because this makes me question why you're reading romance. If you're just "in it" for the sex - there's alternatives outside of the romance genre. Just sayin'.
Now before anyone makes the erroneous assumption that I'm a prude who doesn't like the dirty words and smexy times - ha ha ha ha ha! It is to laugh. I'm one of what I'm beginning to think is a dying breed in romance readership. The reader who will, literally, read across the entire sensuality spectrum. Skanky hot sex scenes that would horrify my father? Yep. Sweet, just kisses that I'd be OK with my niece discovering on my bookshelf? Yep. I'll read it all. I've loved it all - and Auntie Wendy is here to tell you why.
At the end of the day, it's about the story. One thing romance readers and writers have been chaffing against since the dawn of time is this idea that romance is cookie-cutter. It's one thing and one thing only. Yes, it's the happy ending - but we're literally serving all sorts of cocktails (ha!) and I guarantee there's something on the menu for darn near every taste and preference.
Sex, like anything else in fiction writing, needs to be organic to the story. Some stories need the hot and steamy sexy times - while in other stories such shenanigans would feel out of place. There is nothing worse, in my opinion, than reading a very good story to only get to a love scene that feels shoe-horned in and "out of place" - like the author had to fill a quota. Or the other side of the coin: a very good story that desperately needs a love scene that doesn't have one. Yes, it can happen folks - I know this because I've read examples of both.
If you take nothing else away from Day 13, I hope it's this: Just because a book doesn't have sex scenes in it doesn't make it "bad." Just because a book has wall-to-wall sexy shenanigans doesn't make it "bad." At the end of the day, it's about the story. What best serves the story?
Now, to get this party started, I'm going to mention a few of my favorite "Closed Door" romances. I hope you'll have time to stop by Twitter today to follow along with all the discussion - which you can do without an account. Just check out the #RomBkLove hashtag.
Some of Wendy's Favorite Closed Door Romances:
- Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist - set at the Biltmore mansion, a "downstairs" romance.
- Janice Kay Johnson - check out any of her SuperRomances. When she does write sex, it tends to be G-rated and she writes some of the best darn conflict in the genre. She's criminally under-appreciated.
- Someone more well-versed than I will have to pick up this mantle on Twitter - but seriously, SO MANY TRAD REGENCIES!
- The Harlequin Romance line is my comfort food. When there's sex it's either behind closed doors or very PG-rated. Favorite authors include Jessica Hart, Shirley Jump, Donna Alward, Liz Fielding, and Barbara Wallace. There's also a whole crop of up-and-comers that I haven't gotten around to reading much of yet - like Jessica Gilmore, Jennifer Faye, Therese Beharrie and Bella Bucannon. Seriously, trying to keep up with category romance is basically another full-time job for me.