Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Torrid love scenes

Kathleen E. Woodiwiss has for a long time been one of the foreunners of sensual writing. What I remember being called, "bodice rippers" if memory serves(and it is poor these days, I admit.) Still, a distant friend and I got into this discussion the other day and I would like to present it as food for thought--do torrid love scenes portray romance realistically?

Or are the more genteel forms of love-making scenes (perhaps even so far as closing the bedroom door) a more "realistic" picture of what romance is?

To each his/her own, I say. But to categorize either as more "realistic" is a disservice I feel to writers and readers. Still, I suspect for some, the prejudices go back to a time when women were not supposed to think of or enjoy sex, perhaps even think of themselves as sensual creatures, capable of emotionally and physically embracing that sensuality.

Can we attribute this change to the womens movement? Or at least to parts of it that we are most comfortable with?

It is an interesting question for writers who face the reality of what is selling and what publishers/editors are looking for. But greater is the challenge to look deeper than the surface and see that we are all human beings--sensual , emotional creatures at heart--and embrace that wonderous gift.

So what do you think? Do torrid love scenes do it for you? Are you just as happy to give the characters their privacy and shut the door?

Post your answers and this month, we'll pick the best answer from the bunch and offer a special prize from the Lust in Time ladies!!


Kristina Cook said...

Well, I'm 'easy' as a reader. I enjoy a well-written book with torrid love scenes, and I also enjoy a well-written book where the door shuts on the love scene. The key, I guess, is 'well written.'

I've read romances where all the love scenes take place 'off screen' that were full of excellent sexual chemistry and smoking hot sexual tension (Pamela Britton's NASCAR romances come to mind!) and then I've read erotic romances with no sexual tension whatsoever, and love scenes that basically seemed recycled, over and over again, as the book wore on.

So....for me, I guess, it's all about the quality of the writing!

Nicola O. said...

I like a torrid love scene as much as the next romance reader, and I don't think there's anything at all anachronistic about having one in an historical setting. I'm pretty sure people have been having torrid sex since before Betty Friedan! I do think the language is a little trickier, though.

Kristina Cook said...

Somehow I feel like I forgot to make my point in my last comment--LOL!-- which was supposed to be that I DO enjoy a good torrid love scene--but that if there's no good sexual tension leading up to it and the writing of the love scene itself is clunky and uninspired, then...well, why bother?! Sometimes torrid/explicit doesn't equal sexy.

I can also enjoy a 'behind closed doors' type romance, as long as there is sufficient sexual tension!

Amanda McIntyre said...

Agreed Kristi on the quality of the writing...I think no matter if the love scene is open or closed door, or perhaps with no doors at all-- That the build-up emotionally of the characters and the storyline is key to the satisfaction of the reader.

And Nicole, you are SO right-achieving that historically is a challenge, but one that I have discovered in the last year or so, is quite delightful!! I am a rule breaker to be sure!

It brings to mind another question...because we all love alpha heroes, and yet we see a lot of flawed heroes, bad boys, wounded heroes as well now and the heroine who comes along with perhaps an experienced backstory that sort of meets the hero halfway and together they heal/complete each other/whatever....

so the question...do you like seeing stories where both the hero and the heroine have 'experinced pasts" as opposed to a heroine who has little to no experience?


Kristina Cook said...

Excellent question, Amanda--and I think you've identified the big problem that some readers have with the old-school, "torrid" romances a la Woodiwiss (I grew up on Woodiwiss romances, by the way--they're among my old favorites!).

I think it's the imbalance of power/experience that many modern readers object to. As in, the thirty-something, experienced alpha hero paired with the 18 year old virgin.

Unfortunately, that's kind of hard to get around and remain historically accurate, at least in mainstream romance (as in, not erotic). Because I do believe that, while I'm sure there were exceptions, your average Regency or Victorian or even medieval lass wasn't particularly sleeping around before marriage--because how could they?! They almost never had an opportunity to be ALONE with a man, much less intimate (and I'm talking about the upper class women--who are usually the ones cast as romance heroines). They were generally married quite young, anyway, and if they DID manage to get intimate before marriage, they were usually then rushed into marriage, and usually to the guy they'd been messing around with.

On the flip side, the men, unlike the women, went to university. Then they might have taken a grand tour of the Continent, and generally didn't get married as young as their female counterparts. Add to that the freedoms they had, and, well...it's likely that they DID have sexual experience by the time they got married.

So....modern romance authors are faced with a dilemma--either stay true to their historical era and pair up a late-teens/early twenties virgin with a more experienced man in his late twenties/early thirties, or get creative!

Personally, I like the recent trend of more experienced heroines--widows, divorcees, courtesans, or what have you. As a reader, I do like it when the 'power' is more balanced, as well as the sexual experience.

Some authors I can think of who do this well are Caroline Linden, Kalen Hughes, and Victoria Dahl. I think Anna Campbell has tapped into this, too (though I haven't read her books).

Anonymous said...

i a little of both, as longg as fits the story.

Charlotte Featherstone said...

I like torrid love scenes! I like the passion, the angst, and the escapism they provide.

As to realism and romance, well, I think that there are moments in everyone's lives when they have torrid feelings, and times when they are softer, more romantic. To always think in absolutes is a dangerous thing because it's not life, nor is it romance novels.
And I'm with Kristina, I write erotic romance, and I do love reading it, but I require plot and feelings, emotions other than lust to sustain the book and add punch to the erotic scenes.
And your question as given me an idea for another post, Amanda....

Genella deGrey said...

One could ski down my TBR mountain. I get the gals on different BB's telling me that I would LOVE this historical/paranormal book or that series of related single-title historicals ... And I'm such a sucker for good historicals, that I head over to my favorite USB and grab every recommended book they have, and if they are newer, I roll my shopping cart on over to Boarders. :) Then there are the freebees we get at convention, and the single mountain turns into the Great Divide.

As I may have said before, reading in the same time period in which I am writing really keeps me in that zone. So I have a huge stack of Scottish historicals I'm waiting to read when I write that Scottish story that has been shoved to the bottom of my "To Write" list. :)

Love Scenes: One of my favorite subjects. ;)

Because in RL we have both torrid and tender moments in the bedroom, I assume that within every story, that sort of variety will happen as well.

If I am reading an erotic romance, I will expect every scene to be "laid" out in front of me. lol
If I'm reading an historical, and the H & H are really into each other, I would expect a few good love scenes, (but not so explicit) and some to have the door shut on the scene, because - obviously - it's NOT an erotic romance.

After all that rambling, it boils down to this for me: If the love scene, no matter how hot or not, works for the book and the characters, it'll work for me.

Amanda McIntyre said...

Hey Genella

I hope you'll pick up one of my historicals that is erotic! LOL

Rebel that I am , that is one reason I love writing for Spice. They let me break the rules and ask "what if?"

"What if" there was a Victorian "street-smart orphan whose turbulent growing years leads her to the potential path of wealth and social acceptance? Would she accept it gracefully? Would she rebel against it? Hum...

In Tortured, what if there was a young Celti-Brit woman whose mother is murdered, her brother left for dead and because of her anger against one of his guards,she is sentenced by a vicious Saxon warlord/king to be his executioners apprenctice! How in the name of heaven could this possibly be erotic or in the least bit-romantic??

But it is, IMHO. I don't know if Kathleen W. would be pleased with my work--it is researched to the 'nth' degree, I can give you that *grin

But regardless of the heat level,I think for it to be TRULY satisfying we have to see the emotion leading up to that point.

TBR piles....ahem, one of these days I hope to be able to do that.
When I find a book I have to read though, I am just stupid because I will stay up all night until I finish the dern thing! LOL

I am impressed though Genella that you have yours separated into categories! I've not heard of that before in TBR piles! Impressive!


Genella deGrey said...

Amanda - I totally want to read your books! I'll have to visit your website soon. I've learned a lot from reading love scenes in romance novels, and I'll bet that romance readers in general are well schooled in the bedroom arts. HOORAY for us for sharing our knowledge with each other!

The Great Divide that is my TBR pile is sort of spread over a shelf/tote/corner-of-the-room-thing that refuses to recede or die.

My Secrets books from Red Sage are in numerical order, there are my stories set in Scotland, and after that my books are sorted by the year in which they take place.

It doesn't take as long to choose one that way.


Kristina Cook said...

Oh, man, Genella....you're WAY too organized, LOL!! Wanna come put my shelves in order?!

Rebekah E. said...

I think it depends on the book. I have read some that it is more of the privacy shut the door type and others that are more of your torrid love scenes. I think if it flows with the book you can go wrong. I am happy reading either. I have learned what authors tend to write the different types, so when I'm in the mood for one or the other I now pretty much know what to grab. Which is very nice because sometimes you want something different. It is nice to have choices.

kimmyl said...

I like the torrid love scenes if the book is a good one. It's like you're anticipating the love scene to happen when the characters keep you so into the book you just can't put it down. I think the love scenes depend on the characters and the story.

Kristina Cook said...

Rebekah, you pointed out something important--readers need choices! Very, very true. And author 'brand' is very important to that, just like you said. I know if I pick up a Julia Quinn book, that it'll have great sexual tension and some love scenes that are just warm on the sensuality scale (as in, not too torrid!). But if I pick up a Virginia Henley or Bertrice Small book, the love scenes will be far hotter.

This was one reason that I decided to use a second pen name for my upcoming Edwardian-set historicals--I didn't want people to pick up one of my books, expecting a Regency-set book that was less explicit, and find themselves shocked to find a steamier, more explicit Edwardian-set story. Thus, Kristi Astor was born!

And Kimmyl, I also find myself anticipating the love scene if I'm really into the characters and enjoying their story! I remember reading Chase's LORD OF SCOUNDRELS the first time, and just *dying* to get to the first love scene--because I knew it was going to be GREAT!

amanda mcintyre said...

Good point to any great love scene, Kristi--torrid or tame--ANTICIPATION!!
When you just cannot wait for these two people to collide and give into their emotions! Wow, what a rush!
But what about after? Now there's an array of emotional complexities!!

and no one has yet to answer my question....heehee

come on folks...
are you okay with the heroine bringing her own sexual experiences to the table in a budding realtionship?
or would you rather it be the guy only that has the "experience?"

I think that the thrill of anticipation can be created either way, but I am just curious if there are truly prefernces out there to still see a heroine that is less experienced and therefore "teachable" by the hero?



who thinks that our Lord of the Lust Manor MUST be chuckling at our discussion!!

Kristina Cook said...

Yeah, where the heck is our Lord Craven-Moore?! He's been in hiding or something....

Charlotte Featherstone said...

I've been hording, Lord Craven Moore, for research purposes....lol!
and a what a research trip its been.

I might be persuaded to let him go if the demand is there for him......

Genella deGrey said...

Kristina - Yes, I will organize your shelves! :)

Amanda - to answer your question, I've written it both ways -

The well-traveled (wink-wink) gambler and the widow whose dead husband, while alive, was just as dead in bed.

The womanizing Roman citizen-turned missionary who falls for a Druid priestess whose virginity is long gone.

The well-moneyed bachelor who falls for his sister's best friend - and she the curious virgin. (OK, these were secondary characters, but you get my meaning.)

As long as I care about the characters I’m reading about, anything goes.


kimmyl said...

Amanda, I love to read a story where a heroine uses her sexual prowess to get her man or what she wants. So my answer is yep.