For anyone who has read the romance genre, the trilogy of love, sex and romance is a given. While you can have the love and romance without the sex, the sex isn’t going to happen unless the love and romance are included. How sex is handled is as varied as the types of romance novels on the market and runs a gamut from relatively tame to explicit. Regardless of whether one is reading a Harlequin Romance or something a bit more intense, the hero and heroine are not hopping in and out of bed with multiple partners, and while he may have a significant amount of expertise in lovemaking, she typically has none or only minimal experience. Some romance novels follow a formulaic progression of how the couple’s encounters will unfold, but I find this approach – unless the author is really, really skilled – to be boring. I much prefer novels that track a more realistic progression of a relationship, regardless of how the author chooses to describe the events.
The old school romance writers are masters of the euphemism. Body parts are given terminology that doesn’t offend (or, in some cases, make any sense when taken out of context), oral sex never happens, and forget any of the more interesting positions contained in the Karma Sutra. At the other end of the spectrum are more edgy novels that could make a porn star blush.
As a romance writer, there is going to be a certain amount of sex in my novels. What I sometimes struggle with is how much is too much and whether am I treading too close to the line of erotica or worse. When I write, I let the context of the story dictate how the sexual side of the story evolves and how explicit the scenes should be. The other issue I have is how far to depart from the traditional role of the female as having limited sexual knowledge or experience. The archetype of the innocent heroine doesn’t always play true in novels set during the present time, especially when more modern heroines are in their later 20s, 30s, and even 40s. It is not at all unusual in today’s society for the female to be as experienced, if not more, than her partner. So, how does this fit into the traditional parameters of a romance novel?
In my first novel, “A Love Out of Time,” I tried to stay close to the elements of a mainstream romance with respect to the relationship between Alden and Olivia. Given the different time periods these characters come from, 1877 for Alden and 2006 for Olivia, I gave her a bit more experience than the traditional unmarried single female of the Victorian era. That said; she could still count the number of sexual partners on one hand and the way I described the scenes was tame enough that I have no issue with friends and family reading the book. The second novel in this series has gone in a decidedly more edgy direction. Several of the scenes my husband has read over my shoulder have had him giving me a speculative look, but thus far he hasn’t asked me any questions he doesn’t want to hear the answer to. Edgy or not, the one element I plan to keep in my writing is, if my hero and heroine aren’t already in a committed relationship, they will be shortly after they get horizontal.
Some friends of mine from high school were teasing me the other day about how it was inevitable that I would end up writing romance. They reminded me of an incident from high school that landed me in detention for the better part of two weeks and resulted in some highly uncomfortable parental conferences with the school administration. Two other highly imaginative friends and I had decided around Valentine’s Day to write racy love letters for our classmates to give to their boyfriends. (To give the context, we were attending a Catholic girl’s school run by nuns. The boy’s school was a block away and run by Benedictine priests.) Needless to say, the letters were a hit and we were making a fair amount of lunch money off of them. Then the letters came to the attention of the headmistress, a nun with no sense of humor who would have been quite at home in the court of Queen Victoria. It was only a matter of time before someone gave us up to the “inquisition,” but fate served me up as the sole author when a partially written letter slipped out of the pile of papers in my locker as the headmistress walked past. Sometimes I have the world’s worst luck and this was one of those times.
In any event, I guess you could say I learned early that sex, love, and romance is a winning combination for a writer.
Mairead Walpole is the pen name for a somewhat introverted project and contract manager who has 20+ years of business and technical writing under her belt. In her spare time, Mairead reviews books for Crystal Reviews (www.crystalreviews.com) and writes paranormal romance. Her first novel, “A Love Out of Time” is available through Second Wind Publishing (www.secondwindpublishing.com) or Amazon.com.