WHAT’S WITH ROMANCE THESE DAYS?

My blog may be a bit controversial this week, but I will be interested to hear what you have to say.

I don’t read much romance. Yes, I know! There are two main reasons: (a) Reading romance is too much like what I do for a living each day. I prefer to relax with a mystery or mainstream read. (b) I don’t want to be influenced by what I read into following any trends or–worse–unconsciously plagiarizing. I prefer to follow my own vision. I have nothing against romance as a genre (obviously!) and I do actually read some. If an author is tried and true, I will read her books. If I read a review that catches my attention, I may try the book. And if I am asked to read a book with a view to recommending it, I will do it. And let me stress that I am more often than not happy with what I read and eager to come back for more from that particular author. BUT…

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Oh, there is a but, and it has little to do with the picture above, which I actually love and find very romantic. All too often these days I am finding that romances are filled cover-to-cover with sexual tension and sexual innuendo and sex, sex, sex. It is as if too many writers have been to too many workshops where they have heard how important these elements are to a romance and how to achieve the desired effect. I am finding characters who are literally panting for each other every time they set eyes upon each other–and even sometimes when they don’t. I find heroes getting erections all over the place and heroines  having the feminine equivalent. I find authors who use every excuse they can think of to get their characters in bed with each other, and even when this can’t be done, then said characters are imagining having sex–in excruciating, graphic detail. And this applies even to historicals, even to Regency heroes and heroines. These characters are totally sex-mad. They are addicted to sex. They need to be in rehabilitation! And I am not even exaggerating too, too much. Is it just me? Have I just happened to hit upon the few books like this that are out there? Or is this the trend now in romance? And I won’t even get into cover art, for which the authors are not always or even often responsible.

Is this what readers want? Is this what authors are being urged to write? What is it with authors of romance these days? (Not all, I repeat!). Romance novels, very generally speaking, should have the three components of sex, romance, and love. Sex is very much a part of a romantic relationship and certainly has its place in a love story. But what about the sheer romance that can make a novel utterly magical? And incidentally it is the romance of a relationship that has given its name to the whole genre. What is romantic about two characters who have the unrelenting hots for each other, even when they scarcely know each other or are caught in a dangerous, potentially life-threatening situation? And what about love? Is the assumption being made that when two characters have had a certain amount of sex with each other and perfected the art of giving and receiving orgasms ad infinitum they therefore love each other and will live happily ever after? What about the gradual building of a real love relationship, moving through romance and sex to something steady and wonderful and likely to last for an eternity?

Give me a wondrously romantic love story any day of the week, even if the most daring foray it makes into sex is a kiss the hero feathers over the heroine’s fingertips (Georgette Heyer’s Frederika) rather than the endless sex romps that sometimes (or maybe often?) intrude into the genre. Right, your turn. What do you have to say? And do feel free to really disagree with me!

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THE ARRANGEMENT (yes, with one of those covers) was chosen this week by Library Journal as one of the best romances of 2013. To celebrate, I will send signed copies of both THE PROPOSAL and THE ARRANGEMENT to two people who leave a comment below before the end of next Friday, November 29. Last week’s winner was LuAnn Wherry. Congratulations to her.

186 thoughts on “WHAT’S WITH ROMANCE THESE DAYS?

  1. I have to agree. I think we can all remember the wonder of 1st love, and while there was definitely sexual tension, I feel like many books cheapen the overall experience or have hero’s/heroine’s acting out of character in order to bring sex to the page too quickly. It’s not just about the bedroom, but the interaction and the character growth in-between. I hate when I can’t connect the dots and they are having sex just for the sake of having sex. There has to be meaning and true emotional connection before this can happen on the page. Those are the books I find myself rolling my eyes and overall feeling unsatisfied at the end. (Pun?) 🙂

    • How right you are, thank you. I can enjoy the sex, even when described in exquisite detail. But not in the first chapter for heaven’s sake. I recently read two books by the same author, back to back, and from the very first meeting they became all hot and bothered. Now really, it is one thing to see or meet someone and know they are attractive or that you could be attracted to them. But all too often what we are talking about is lust, and in those cases there was nothing romantic about it. Reading is my very favorite thing to do and I enjoy several genres. In fact, it’s much more interesting to go from one to another. But in all cases it is THE STORY that makes it fun to read. A relationship that builds slowly is more realistic. If they finally make it into bed it is more real half-way or three-quarters-of-the-way through the book. And surprise!, even waiting until after marriage is nice.

      The bodice-ripper covers don’t bother me because I spend my time INSIDE the book. But what does bother me is when the illustrator and/or the publisher make no attempt to have the person pictured on the cover anything like the character in the book – that’s just stupid.

      I read “The Proposal”, just finished “The Arrangement” and very much look forward to “The Affair” and the rest of the books in The Survivor series. Thank you for providing me with so many hours of relaxation and enjoyment over the years. Don’t ever stop with your lovely books.

    • There is too much sex in books these days and sometimes it even ruins a good story.
      I quite often skip through the “graphic sex scenes” and still find a great romantic book. What does that say about the scenes? Are they really necessary or are the “feeding” this modern idea from movies into our books and then accepting it as “normal” life of romance?

    • What is wrong with romance in today world is there is not enough. People only think about what they can get out of a relationship and not what they can give. I have read many of your books and love the romantic side of them. I can’t wait to read more of tvhem

    • I agree with you completely. I avoid romance novels unless I know the author and style. Romance has become less about romance and more about porn – I started to say “soft porn” but, nope, can’t say that anymore. It has gotten much too graphic for my tastes. I like sex as much as anyone, but in private, please.

    • I just wish to comment on the fact of sex part of romance books. If a book turns to sex -the get down, get at it kind – before the first 100 pages, I am more likely to not go back to that author for another book. I enjoy the sex parts but there should be a build up. Mind you there are, as in most thing exceptions .
      But this is a general rule for me. I truly enjoy a book with lots & lots of humour- not slap stick but unexpected remarks or the arguments between the hero & heroine.
      But many thanks for providing many memorable reading hours.

    • I agree with you, too many historical writers of all genres write with modern morality. The use of sex outside marriage is silly. The way that women were chaperoned it was hard to be alone with a man and these who did were damned for it. In one book Vicar’s daughter to viscount’s wife a young woman turns up at a mans house pregnant with his dead older brother’s baby, he marries and falls in love with her accepting the daughter as his. When in fact if anything like that had happened she would have been more likely turned over to a lunatic asylam and her daughter would have been fated for a foundling hospital. Modern romance books are even worse with women being blackmailed and forced into sex. In Sarah Craven’s book The Innocent’s Surrender the “hero” tells his “heroine” strip and have sex or be stripped a clear case of rape, something he appologise for because she was a virgin. Rape is often in modern romance which is why I don’t read it.

  2. I agree with you. I like reading about the hero and heroine getting to know each other. One thing that I keep seeing lately that I don’t like is supernatural romances where the hero and heroine meet, the hero “knows” that she is his mate, and immediately lusts after her and must have her. All without knowing a thing about her.

  3. I enjoy books that keep me wanting to turn page to see what happens next.I like to use my imagination with sex scenes but like the lead in
    I also like to fall in love with characters and root for their happy ending

    • I agree completely,what about the trepidation,the story building up,until the reader cannot wait anymore for their passion to explode.
      I buy a lot of books with promising stories and when I start reading the first pages boom,let’s make babies,a instantly loose interest and somehow I rarely finish the story.
      I used to love a romance book,but now I prefer other genre,adventure is good too,there is romance sometimes and is written in the right measure.
      By the way Patricia Potter,for instance, is a very good romance writer,I love her books,the right escalation for the characters and good developing of their interaction makes you know about them until the last page.

  4. I completely agree. Even in other genres, there is an unnecessary amount of sex. I like a well-written sex scene now and then, but I like it to be essential to the plot. I also agree that, in many books, lots of sexual attraction seems to equal love, when we all know that is not true 95% of the time.

    With that being said, please publish your book recommendations for other genres!!! I’m desperate for a good new mystery series after reading all of Julia Spencer-Fleming’s books in one week.

    • Good idea for next week, Amy! I’ll give my recommendations and hope to get a ton in return in the comments section. I’ll look forward to it.

      • How right you are! Sex for sex sake is boring!

        Watching the relationship grow especially when the romantic spark wasn’t there at first meeting can be entertaining and filled with humor, which is often hard to find in many romance novels. Seeing the couple fight against their attraction with all the attending mishaps, misunderstandings and mayhem can bring the sexual attraction to the story…He kisses her to avoid another argument and finds the kiss leading to thoughts and feelings of her he’d never before imagined, all leading up to page 324 when he/she finally seduces her/him…It’s their growing relationship that involves me not just the sex scenes. Thank you for the chance to express my opinion. Books that start out with sex scenes on page 3 should be labeled erotica and not romance.

  5. I believe that over time characters have been created that exhibit the qualities you are speaking about. For example, vampire characters are extremely sexual creatures in their books. On the flip side though, when we read your Regency-era books we don’t expect your characters to exhibit those same sexual characteristics. Authors definitely evolve over time, but with new genres and sub-genres, the characters are evolving as well. While I agree that more sex is present in today’s books, perhaps there are other reasons than just the author’s writing.

  6. Congratulations on your award for The Arrangement. I loved that book, and think it is a perfect example of what you are talking about. The sex was secondary to the character development and feelings of the couple for each other. When it happened, it was right. I agree wholeheartedly with what you said. The books that are the most interesting to me are not filled with sex. Don’t know if you read Letters From Skye released this year, but that relationship developed way before the characters ever met.

    On another topic – cover art, my copy of The Proposal has Gwen on the front. When the new cover came out, I found that I was disappointed, because I certainly didn’t picture Hugo that way. I guess the big bear image had my mind running in a different direction. Is the cover picture Hugo to you? Just wondering.

    Thanks again for your wonderful books!

    • Is the male model on the cover of THE PROPOSAL my image of Hugo? Not even close!!!!! I was and am VERY upset with that cover.

      • I like the old fashioned covers with the hero and the heroine dressed in the Regency style…
        Wasn’t my Hugo image either…

        • No, Mary, I do not want sex, sex, sex! I read and keep your books because I love the interactions between the characters and the stories. I’ve just been reading the Mistress, Slightly, and Simply series trying to wait for your next book. So long . . . .

          • Oh my gosh Mary, if I have to read one more book about some guy who meets a woman and immediately upon meeting her he begins to undress her in his head and I have to read his thoughts!!. Why on earth can’t writers write what human beings really feel and think about each other when they first meet? A man does not I’m sure keep thinking ‘I just can’t stand being around this woman because I am just going to have to have her sexually here and now” and he feels himself getting hard… I’m sorry, but I laugh all through the ‘sexually romantic?’ parts of the books. I am so tired of them, there are only so many ways of writing ‘wet coupling’, ‘hot union’, ‘wet opening’ , slick loving’… holy crow Mary… I am always looking for romantic books, good books, with a good plot that keeps me on the edge of my seat, and your books do that and you are a good writer who knows how to keep someone reading the main body of a story, but I’m afraid I skip over the six or so pages of the ‘hot union’ and keep reading about the relationship developing. This is what people, women, are interested in reading, honestly. I just read Longing, one of your books and that was the last Mary Balogh straw. sorry, I have tried several of your novels. I am interested in your characters, but they just evolve into sexual beings and nothing else by a third of the book.
            While reading ‘Longing’ at just over half way through the book I was wishing for the agony to end. Here’s an example of why: ‘she touched a part of him that she would have thought herself incapable of touching… (Oh my goodness, I thought, can it be, yes it is, it’s his penis… how exciting… and it’s here I start to chuckle, I couldn’t help it) ‘holding it in her two hands, closing them about it, feeling its hardness and length ( ha ha), touching its tip (really?) with her thumb and pulsing lightly there until it grew slightly sticky and he groaned.’ End scene. These words take your books from serious romance novelist to trashy book writer.
            Honestly, this is the last thing I want to read about, this is sex, not love and I don’t want to read something so intimate between a woman and man. I feel that romance writers today are so concerned with getting the sex scenes right they go overboard trying to remember what sex feels like themselves, when what they need to remember is how to get there in the first place. If you can’t remember that, then you can’t write that. And please Stop confusing ‘was already widowed’ ‘had already been married’ with a woman who doesn’t want romance or is past all that to just seeking her sexual needs in looking for a relationship. Your writing and others, assume it is the advanced and todays woman that knows her needs, satisfies them and intend to move on… when this is garbage. No matter how many times a woman has been married, or widowed or used, she is still always always always looking for love and romance in a partner, always. We tend today to try to place women in a male category, that we are as good as them, therefore we have the capability just like men, to have sex and throw away the person afterward, that sex can be just as emotionless for us as a one night stand. Well, it isn’t true, it just not true and what a woman brings to a relationship is that connection, that yearning for a lasting connection. I don’t want a one night stand feeling book Mary, I want a happily ever after marriage, wedding, connection love, romance story. There is enough garbage writing out there. Stop trying to make women men, we aren’t, it is our differences that bring us together and keep us together. I find a lot of women writers are afraid to let women be women, and I don’t mean weak, I mean women. And in a relationship it should be equal, We teach each other. Sex is great, but You see, between my husband and I, this is the conclusion to our romantic loving, not the beginning or even the middle, there is a lot of romance that comes first, however, after having this wonderful experience with him, I would be reluctant to describe it word for word, moment for sexual moment, to a neighbour friend of mine! This is an intimate, private part of our lives and taken out of that context, it no longer is warm and loving, written out on a page,for all the world to see, it becomes a calculated thing and rather like porn. My sex life shouldn’t be arousing the young Mom down the block, The more intimate and private sex is, hopefully in a state of committed marriage, the sexier and warmer and more loving it is. I could see several areas of the book ‘Longing’ where the story should have gone and where it could have ended leaving me a satisfied reader. But they kept having ‘Goodbye sex’ according to the female lead in the story, which wasn’t goodbye sex to the male lead in the story and it was rather ridiculous how the writing made them ‘misunderstand’ each other for so long that it was just frustrating and annoying at by the end of the book. It took way too long. And wow, what a bad example this woman was to women everywhere… Even though the first fiance Owen, had threatened her with physical punishment, with violence, even though she grew to know him as a violent man, more than once, had threatened to take her over his knee if she didn’t ‘obey’ him, had threatened her with the stupid ‘cattle’ people, had helped to bring her beloved cousin? up the mountain and have him whipped thoroughly, though he’s just a boy, had told her she will have to listen to him only and no longer have her own thoughts, (she goes along with all this for the longest stupidest time and we are supposed to believe she is someone the other women look up to in the village, Ha!), and lastly knows it is him there with the cattle people when she is dragged up the mountain, had her shirt ripped from her back so she’s naked in front of a bunch of weirdos, helps to throw her on her face in the mud, tie her down to stakes, shoves a dirty rag in her mouth and tells her to bite down on it so she won’t swallow her tongue, and helps to whip her with wet whips fifteen times and ,oh my gosh, leaves her there to die in the forest, on freezing cold mountain, while supposedly loving her and getting ready to marry her the next week, while he slinks off with the crazy cattle people, then we are supposed to believe that at the end, she admires and loves this Owen still and cries over his dead body, cries at his funeral and tells her real love alexander that she truly loved Owen, and that there are all kinds of love and realizes that he just comes from a hard put down society and there violence is normal there and that she was willing participant in this… Wow! is all I have to say. . Yes, what a healthy woman that is Mary. Can you not see what kind of role model you are putting out there for not just older women but younger women to read about. So they can accept that it’s okay to love their abuser, torturer, tormentor, the husband that believes beating a woman is okay!!!. That is sick, and is just not right in so many ways. You really need to re think your heroines and what they think, because this women just comes off as really stupid and ignorant for these kinds of thoughts. He beat and had her whipped, for gosh sakes, he was in charge of it, for gosh sakes, need I say more. You do NOT have a man like this dying in the arms of the woman he has thought to more than once and helped to abuse at the end of the story,and is just torn between his love for her and wanting to control her through a good beating, lol his last words to her were ‘Cariad’ (my love)… what a joke, as if a person like that knows what love is. I have experienced abuse in my life in several ways and it was truly horrifying and I was very insulted and confused to read this in one of your books. And that the heroine believes it and just believes this was just the way Owen was and did not take it too seriously, was astounding, really astoundind! What a bad example for all women, seriously Mary! Also, not as bad, but the lead female was the most beautiful woman in town, all the men wanted her, but only the best looking guy in town got her. Ya, sure, cause that’s the girl all of us want to read about. That’s the girl we all look up to and want to be… NOT! That’s the woman most women don’t want to be, and that assumption is nuts. We all of us enjoy being ourselves and would like to read a novel about a normal woman, who acts in a normal way in an actual romantic setting. Women and men meet and there’s an excitement about it. Leading it down the garden path and up again in no time just takes the breath out of a novel. It takes the tension and interest out of a novel. We don’t want to read about the end result, we want to read about getting there… that’s the romantic part Mary, that’s the part that leads to sexy thoughts for a woman etc. The male lead in Longing, hires the woman as his six year old child’s teacher and he is having sexual thoughts about her, JUST AS SHE IS ENTERING HIS SIX YEAR OLD DAUGHTERS ROOMS TO TEACH HER??? Oh, yuck, stop right there… holy crow…! really, seriously? Wow, that was so not romantic and really grim to have her walking right after that into the room to teach his child. I am exhausted with the overt sex sex sex in all new novels. As far as I’m concerned a beautiful kiss and a flower have me feeling more romantic and lovely than describing my husbands hot loins, ha ha, and my wet longing… good grief, really… it’s the romance that leads us up the path… And as much as I like sex, I don’t want to read about a man being hard, lol… it does nothing for me, and neither do I wish to read about the bad guy in the novel ‘thrusting himself’ between the ‘ignorant’ girl in the novel’s thighs… and having their ‘just sex’ sex described to me (a.k.a. ‘Longing’ by Mary Balogh)… No thank you, don’t want to read about the bad guys sex’ good guys sex is too much as it is. And normal people have sensual feelings for each other to begin with, touching, holding hands, gazing into each other’s eyes, watching the stars together, strolling, arms around each other’s shoulders, a little back massage, please let it start somewhere else and not end up in the bedroom (I realize you did try this with Longing, but it just fell back on how he wanted to have there and now on the ground, with his six year old inthe distance, and he how he just had to stop thinking in this way, but couldn’t help it…) run, run, far away from this Dad… We want to read about fingers intertwined, not legs twined around someone. There is a delicious part in the book ‘Persuasion’ by Jane Austen at the end when a letter was written to the female lead in the story. I cried over the beautiful letter he wrote her telling her of his love for her and how it had never died, how he had consistently loved her; it was beautiful. In one movie version, after being kept apart for so long, throughout the story, he touches her fingers and slips his hand into hers and it is the most romantic and sexy scene ever, beautifully done and very romantic. this is romance Mary. Good gracious, but where have the romance mystery novelists gone… Mary Stewart (a star novelist), Phyllis A. Whitney… not as good but interesting ‘Victoria Holt’. I used to love Agatha Christie’s books, while not romantic, but very interesting &Mary Roberts Rhinehart… they always kept me on the edge of my seat… and worked a little romance into it… “The Chuckling Fingers”, very tension filled, and a little romance murder mystery… To end, there is entirely too much sex period in todays historical novels, in any romance novels and my search for the next Jane Austen goes on for a really good mystery filled, subtly funny, edge of my seat, burn the dinner, romantic read… Jane Austen where are you when we need you? I seem to go back to the same old books time and again to find satisfying romance. Well, it may not fit here, but it does for me, ‘curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back’, time and time again.

      • I enjoy your writing above all. It fulfills me to overflowing satisfaction. Every yearning emotion gets hugged and cozied thru your writing skills. I soooooo appreciate you. just as in Simply Unforgettable, Frances is gifted in an “over the top voice” so you have in writing.

  7. I completely agree with you, in fact Maya Rodale had a blog entry not long ago about the same subject. One of the reasons I avoid most contemporary romances is because they are fill with sex scenes from beginning to end, the problem lies in the fact that the sex is just that sex, there is no actual reason for it in the story, I doesn’t move the story forward it is not use for character development, nothing. I have no problem with sex in a story as long as it is use to tell me something about the character or the story, no just for the sake of having sex. Another thing is like you said the constant panting of the hero and heroine as if they were hormonal sex craze teenagers who can’t seem to help themselves which sometimes for me makes me lose respect for the characters. And as you mention it is something that has been making it’s way into historical too.

    • The small-town contemporary romances (by which I mean the recurring series that are set in a small town) are usually much more about the relationship, and tend to have fewer explicit scenes (certainly fewer gratuitous ones.) Give Robyn Carr, Sherryl Woods, and Emily March a try.

  8. I definitely agree. Sex has a definite place. I think romance is the best. The romance in life is what keeps you going. I actually skip some of the sex scenes.
    Please keep on writing your fantastic stories.

    Thanks
    Debby

  9. I also agree, Mary. Many of the newer books are filled with too much sex and too little story. I am a frequent poster over on the Amazon romance forum and I find that many readers have lower standards than I do. If I want to read hard core sex I will read Erotica and I do on occasion but even those I like a decent story. I have also noted a disturbing trend, very abusive Heroes. I find it disturbing that people even consider these types of books romantic. It belittles women. I read a book about 6 months ago that made me so angry that I wanted to hurt my kindle. I returned the book for a refund. I do like a very dark hero on occasion and Anne Stuart is one of my favorites for these types of books. I find so many errors in many of the new books as well. I read one book not to long ago that was talking about a famous pool player named Fats Domino….umm what did he jump up on the pool table belting out “Blueberry Hill”, I think she meant Minnesota Fats. No research was done whatsoever. It is a challenge anymore finding a well written romance novel and I find it such a shame.

  10. I don’t even read the sex scenes in romance novels……I fast forward…..to me it’s just trashy…I read for the plot…and how the characters grow and a change..the characters become like friends to me…and I so do NOT want to hear about anyone’s sex life….that’s a private and a personal thing..I did read 50 shades….but mostly to see how the main character grew and changed from book 1 to book 3… ROMANCE is NOT about SEX!!! I’ve been married almost twenty years to MY Prince Charming..and to ME romance is….cleaning the house just because….so I don’t have to…praying with me when I am upset…bringing me flowers because he knows it makes me happy…opening the car door…holding my hand….telling me that I am beautiful….ROMANCE is after twenty years of marriage and two children…that even though I am no longer a size four…now a size eight…he still sees me as the beautiful girl he Married…twenty years ago…ROMANCE is the little things that keeps the SIZZLE in a marriage…the things that make your heart beat faster..when you see your honey after a long day at work…romance takes work….marriage is a work in progress….

  11. I am in agreement with you as well. I’ve tried to explore some of the more overtly sexual “romances.” After reading such books (even during), I am left feeling anxious & dare I say unfullfilled;-). I want the romance, the relationship, the true connection of people I believe are meant to be together. The kind of romances that leave me with that Jane Austen “happily ever after no matter the odds” feeling mean so much more to me than that (now) all too common jump in the sack before they even like each other book. Sure, I do love a good love scene don’t get me wrong! However, after a while it is enough already. I want to care about the characters and not their “throbbing member” or “quivering loins.”. Mary, keep writing your romances, and I’ll keep buying them;-)

  12. I think many books written /published now are plot driven instead of character driven. One reason I enjoy your books is that the stories are about what has happened to your characters to make them who they are when they meet, and what happens to them as a couple for them to get their HEA. I think many of the books being published don’t have the fully developed history of the characters to make the reader understand why they do something. Instead, there is just a lot of activity for the characters to engage in together so they have the time needed to fall in love and have their HEA. One of the activities is sex.

    Do you have any plans to write another comedy?

    • I love writing comedy, Ann, but I rarely plan to write one–it just happens sometimes. I doubt it will happen with any of the remaining Survivors’ books–the war experiences with which they are still grappling are too serious. However, after that who knows?

  13. I am not sure what it is with romances… I do not consider myself a prude, but I cannot abide by a story that is not a story, merely lots of sex. I read book one of a recent popular series. I kept reading until the end, hoping it would get better. The writing was HORRIBLE. If I ever hear the phrase inner goddess again, it will be too soon. I was ANGRY at the female character (I cannot call her a heroine). I would hate to think that young women would feel that this depicted a healthy relationship. I have read recent regencies that are also pretty hot. I would not mind this if there was a decent –believable– plot, and if the writing was decent.
    For me sex is not something to be swept under the rug. Men and women are attracted to each other. However sex is not romance and it is not enough to make a relationship. A good romance shows how two people are attracted to each other, but also how their relationship grows and how they fall in love with each other. A good romance understands that sex is not enough, that love and a partnership is truly sexy.

  14. I love a good sex scene in my romance novels, but when they are doing it every other page it just disgusts me to no end. I don’t want a lust novel I want a romance novel. I have thrown several books down in disappointment here lately from just that. I want everlasting love and the sweetness of the build up…not a romp every page.

    • I agree with you. Yes, sex has a place in romance, but it seems many authors don’t realize that love and lust are not synonymous. Perhaps there needs to be a new genre, ‘lust novels’. Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer and Mary Stewart wrote some of the most romantic novels ever, and they left the sex to the reader’s imagination. Sometimes, nowadays, the sex scenes are so graphic I feel as though I’m peeking in the window, which isn’t a comfortable feeling. When I read a romance, that’s what I want, ROMANCE. If I just want to read graphic sex, then I’ll choose erotica. Please, romance authors, make the sex in your books a natural part of the relationship, not gratuitous, as authors like Mary Balogh, Julia Quinn and Jennifer Crusie do. And, thanks, Mary, for this great blog. This is a subject that has been bothering me.

  15. I love a book with a great deal of mystery, history, or, better yet.both. I love when a character’s true self, motives, etc are revealed slowly, bit by bit. That’s what makes any book a page turner for me. Sure, a few steamy scenes are great, too. But there has to be a fantastic story line. I recently stopped in the middle of a series because things had gotten a little too hot for me. Give me excitement, action, and intrigue and I am a happy camper. I loved The Proposal and can’t wait to read The Arrangement!

  16. I completely agree with you. I love the build up, the love story. My husband will tell me that I am reading dirty books but I have to tell him that I love the stories. I could do without the sex scenes. (They just make it better!) There is just something about the couples falling in love that I just cannot live without. If I wanted to see a bunch of people doing it, I’d watch porn.

  17. I agree with you. I’ve been skipping most of the sex scenes and about to give up on an author that I use to enjoy. I’ve been reading more romantic suspense, historical, mystery. I read Karen Rose, Raeanne Thayne’s single titles, Robyn Carr, Catherine Coulter’s FBI series, Joanne Flukes. These are must buys for me. I read other authors, too. I learned to fast forward through the scenes I don’t like.

  18. I aggree wholeheartedly with you Mary. I usually skip over the sex scenes because they get in the way of a good story to my way of thinking. To me a good romance is the gradual building of a relationship between the hero and heroine, including love and trust, which culminates in a lifetime of sharing. Some modern novels, the sex starts on page one and never seems to progress to anything more.

  19. Thank you Mary for a great chuckle. I agree totally about the appearance of the “romance” novel being taken over by endless organisms . I also can not understand how a relationship can grow to depths of true love without many levels of interest, respect and a growing friendship involved. I have to share that I read a romance by Sheila Roberts “What She Wants” that has a group of men trying to solve their problems with relationships with women by reading romance novels. They do not appear to be the novels that focus on the constant search for shared orgasms but rather a shared and developing love.

  20. I have been wondering lately how romance authors feel about this subject, and am encouraged by your thoughts on the subject. I am of the opinion that a slow build up in a relationship is more realistic. I read a romance to put myself in a story… I mean, who doesn’t read a story for that reason. It feels so real when the characters actually developed a relationship. The wonder, the curiosity, the exploration of feelings and the learning about ones self are all so important in any relationship and in finding love. All of the leaping immediately into bed, and other places, is soft porn and honestly I can’t connect with that. I love real relationships… and to make a connection with a character. I have only recently come across your writing and have enjoyed what I have read. Thank you, I love when I can relate to feelings and be taken into the story… it’s a cheap vacation, and my husband likes that!

  21. I agree some books have too much sex and not enough story. I like a little of every thing romance, mystery, and a great story line. I first started reading James Patterson and I fell in love with Beatrice small. My sister always threw her books. I have enjoyed reading all of your books.
    Enjoy thanksgiving.

  22. For me, it depends on my mood. Sometimes I love a good, sweet, *gasp* sexless romance. Others I don’t mind a good bodice-ripping smutfest. The story is the most important thing to me. I have read some amazing romances where all the “action” is off the pages of the book and some where the H/h are always thinking about/having sex. If here isn’t a wonderful story to back it up, neither of those scenarios appeal to me.

  23. What I love most about good historical romance writing is the build-up, the, for lack of a better word, tension — and often humor — that works itself through the book. The first time I read a regency where there was a love scene between two unmarried people (after reading the traditional ones where even being alone in the same room was cause for a proposal), I was taken out of the story. Now it’s becoming par for the course. And so many times, all of these love scenes come at the cost of really good dialogue, witty repartee. I guess there’s a place out there for all kinds of books under the very loose category of romance….it’s up to us to choose and support those that rely on good character development, good dialogue, and just a good, strong story line.

  24. I love you books, I have read most about 10 times each. I think that romance is gone today, We think we have love but romance takes time and effort. Thanks to you we are able to fund our own little romance each day.

  25. I agree, even some of the authors I have enjoyed in the past have taken the short cut of filling the pages with sex and no story, I like character driven books, taking time to get to know them. To meet someone, jump into bed the same day, the men have 6 or 7 orgasms in the course of one night, (give me a break) the women are worn out but smiling and where do you go from the there all the tension has been used up in the first chapter. I wonder if the publisher think this is what the readers want. I think there is a place for erotica but not in a romance. I agree with one of the prior readers who asked for names of mystery writers, my favorite was Dick Francis and his son just doesn,t have the same rhythm to his books.

  26. I’m another who often skips the sex scenes. It’s not *just* that it’s a sex scene, it’s that many of them are just the mechanics, and I’m not learning anything more about these characters or the story except….hot sex. Somehow I’ll find that I’ve just moved a few pages on without even noticing.

  27. I agree with you. There should be more romance. It seems they fall into bed way too easily, without the leading up to it. Everything goes from zero to 60 in a few pages.

  28. I don’t have any problems with a steamy sex scene provided it moves the story forward and helps the characters advance their relationship. Sadly, it seems like a large portion of the books I’ve read over the past few years are nothing more than a big sexual escapade with a bit of a story thrown in between. If I want to read that, I’ll pick up an erotica title.

  29. I am of the same mind, Mary. I am erotica-fatigued, a term I read recently in Anne R. Allen’s blog. I’m finding myself skipping over entire paragraphs thinking, oh yeah, the shower scene – he does this and she does that . . . It wouldn’t be so boring if not for the six or sever other times in the previous chapters the couple already did it in graphic detail – or thought about doing it!
    I think this is a trend that is starting to fade – hopefully.

  30. Hello Mary,
    I have rolled this over and over in my mind and the truth of the matter is, having read both styles, some with teasingly short sex scenes and some requiring a potholder simply to read (–um, what was the plot in those, by the way?), I have determined, over time that I start to feel bombarded by the obsession of too much sex, ceases to be romantic for me.
    There comes a point where it seems as though the scenes are simply cut and paste. Considering the kamasutra, there are only so many ways to have sex. There is sex, there is lust, and there is love. True romance to me is when you follow the heroin and hero as they find and discover the passion they share and through whatever the author throws at them, they build on that passion and learn what true love entails.
    I’ve nothing against a well written love scene or two, but there is so much a reader misses if it’s only about the sex. Many of my favorite authors will lead me there with the couples sparks and passion, but allows my imagination to take flight on it’s own, and trust me, I have a very fine imagination!
    The distinction for me is, if it seems more erotica than romance, I call it as I see it. They are very different to me. REAL romance is emotional, tender, sad, happy, devastating and glorious all rolled into an intricate tale.
    Most Sincerely,
    Candy White

  31. Most of us seem to agree with your statement. I haven’t read many Regency Romances fro a long time. In the 90’s I devoured everything by you, Jo Beverley, Elizabeth Thornton, Stephanie Laurens and Anne Gracie. They are still my “go to” authors but I have been turned off by other’s use of the Snog and Shag (sorry – the Brit in me) plot line. No development, no courtship and no respect for the era. Women didn’t leap into bed with a man they hardly knew or they ended up like poor Lydia Bennett! The social mores were vitally important, but I can suspend my beliefs somewhat if the characters are compelling and the situation is right. Lauren and Kit are perfect examples of this, I saw how her thoughts evolved and everything seemed so right when it happened. the sexual tension in Georgette Heyer’s novels are much more exciting than the explicit sex in other books.
    I have been reading more mysteries too – the Donna Leon books, JD Robb’s Eve Dallas’ and all the Elizabeth Peters, Amelia Peabodies.
    Great topic.

  32. I honestly love romance and the gradual beginnings of love and then further on and so I agree with you to a certain point. Except I actually enjoy the sex part of a novel, I find it intriguing and real. Truthfully speaking when it comes to humans in my opinion all we really think about when first seeing the opposite sex or the same if one is into the same sex is about well… bedding them. We think of lust and not, “Oh! I’d love to get to know this person and fall in love with them.” Because of this attraction a person goes on to learn more about the one they are attracted to. That’s the part I’m thinking most romance novels are missing. Thankfully I have not had a run in with a novel like that. And yes, love and sex do go hand in hand when it comes to writing a magical romance novel. Besides I like to feel empathy for the characters in a book. Love helps create empathy. Lust is kind of like the icing on the cake. It creates real humanistic needs in a character.
    By the way congratulations! 🙂

  33. I am hoping that the current obsession with romance simply being a cover for a sex book will wain and allow the pendulum to swing the other direction. A good plot, a realistic relationship, an interesting story and setting plus some romantic tension make for a much better read than simply bed-hopping. Panting after each other after the first glance is just boring.

  34. Disclaimer: I’m 21 and never been so much as asked out, so I probably don’t fit the expected image of a romance reader. But, as someone who reads a lot of romance:

    I’ve read romances completely devoid of sexual tension, and loved them. I don’t like forced seductions, or when the fight/flight mode should be on, and they’re still managing to think of nothing else but sex.

    I always got the impression that some romance authors like writing sex and others just put it in there because it’s expected, as if the sex HAS to be there.

    I thought romance was just that: romance. Fanciful, focused on a relationship, and all that entails. Okay, so sex is part of a relationship, but shouldn’t there be more to it than that?

    If it’s there, okay. If not, I’m still good. I skew toward historical romances, especially the funny ones–there’s not a lot of sex in them. I’m partial to battle of the sexes type stuff. I’d take the hero and heroine arguing over something than them panting over each other every other page. It’s still passion, isn’t it?

  35. It’s the story line, the descriptions, the conversations, the humor, and the good writing that bring one back to a particular author. If writers are sticking sex scenes on every other page, their writing has to be weak, and they’re hoping no one notices. And I agree about the repellent hairless child-men the book publishers are putting on the covers of books. I make wrapping paper covers for these paperbacks so I don’t have to explain them. Last but not least? My favorite Heyers are Cotillion and Arabella!

  36. I think I left my reply on the wrong page. so to answer the question again I agree with you. I love to read and I love all kinds of romance, from historical romance to paranormal romance, and 90% of the authors do make the sex scenes their focal point and the adventure that leads them there as secondary to the sex! I have read books that allude to but never quite reach the sex scenes. but I like the once that the story lead up to the love scenes and then goes on to falling in love, but more times than not they make it love at first sight. don’t get me wrong I believe in love at first sight, but I also believe that you must first get to know a person before you can get that true deep down in the soul love that everyone is looking for. I understand what I as a reader am looking for and I won’t lye and say it isn’t the love scenes that have me going back again and again for more, But it is also the story that leads them there, because the story of how they get where they are going is just as important to me as what happens when the get there if not more so!!!

  37. Thanks for the post and I agree. I truly enjoy your books and after discovering one, I read the Bedwin and Huxtable series’ all in one massive month of catching up! I agree that there seems to be an increase in erotica-laden romance novels. I also agree with Erin above that there seem to be a lot more really “bad” bad boys among the male “heroes” in recent years. To me, rape and physical abuse aren’t a basis for healthy relationships, even fictional ones. Thank you for your stories.

  38. For some reason some of the most popular romance authors today are
    not good writers and to hide that fact they put sex scenes in every other chapter.But their books sell like crazy. Every book they write is the same with only the names of the characters changing! I find it very hard to find good writers who know how to write wonderful love stories with the occasional sex scene which moves the story along. I do think sex is often too explicitly described. Less is more. But I find that if there is no sex at all it often disappoints me. To me in a good love story, sex is a necessary part of the story. But a good author( like you Mary) doesn’t eliminate it but doesn’t overdue it either…..!

  39. I agree with you, Mary. I don’t mind sex in a romance story but when it’s every other chapter and in explicit detail that’s too much. I just finished reading a novella by a favorite author. I skipped much of it because the couple spent at least 60% of the story having sex(not making love). I was very disappointed. I would rather get to know the couple as they get to know each other. See them fall in love. I’ll continue to read romance books but more selectively.

  40. I think there is room in the genre for both types of romantic novel. Personally, I adore Georgette Heyer! One of my favorite Regency romance authors! She made romance intriguing, funny, and, well, romantic. And the Regency Romance is one of my favorite forms of romantic literature. Mostly because they’re such fun and don’t overwhelm with sex and people seem to have a bit more control of their urges, so to speak.

    On the other hand, and, of course, there IS an other hand… When done right, sex is romantic, fun, and perhaps a taste of pleasure some of us may not have enough of in our personal lives. I enjoy a good romance with some great sex! However, sometimes it can get a bit ridiculous. I haven’t read, say, 50 Shades of Gray, and from what I’ve heard, I doubt I will ever read it (I’ve heard the writing is atrocious). If the characters aren’t engaging or interesting and the relationship at least believable, the book itself will edge toward trite erotica, which I find boring.

    So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that one form of romance book doesn’t have to supersede the other. However, both MUST be well written or else they become uncomfortable and even a bit embarrassing to read. A good romance novel should give you butterflies in places, make you laugh with and at the characters and situations, and believe that real caring exists and grows into love. Too realistic a book can be dull but too overblown a book can be unbelievable and slightly ridiculous. Regardless of which form, a good romance MUST be well written. That’s what I believe most readers enjoy most: Great writing!

  41. I prefer ROMANCE, love, then sex in the books I read!!! Thanks for the great contest!!
    I love the chance to win from one of my very very favorite authors.

  42. I agree mostly. I love to read romances for the build up of the H/h love story and their happily ever after
    …but sometimes reading the more steamy, unrealistic, sex filled erotica books are just plain fun! 😉

  43. I totally agree with you. My favourite romances are Regencies and after that Historicals. I’ve been reading romances for over 20 years and have found that the graphic sex scenes have very little appeal to me. The reason I was drawn to Regencies to begin with was that they were not as sexually graphic as the more contemporary romances. I’ve often found myself skipping over great sections of some books simply because the sex scenes are overdone and frankly I get bored with them. I prefer to read a romance where the characters bring more to the table than just passion and sexual frustration. I like romances that cause me to become part of what I’m reading. I can laugh at the antics of the characters and situations in which they find themselves. I can also cry or become upset with (or at them) as well. I like books that have well developed plots and twists that I didn’t see coming. Not books that basically I can tell what will happen and start counting down to when the hero and heroine will end up in bed. In fact, when it happens so much in Regencies I sometimes feel disappointed because I read Regencies to feel like I’m in a different time.

  44. Dear Mary, I just want to say how much I enjoy your books. I agree with you on the sex in books now days. I just skipp over it for the most part. I am 65 and I was married over 35 years and in a bad marriage. I have never been disapointed with any of your books. I look forward to reading more of them for years to come.
    Linda

  45. I am heartened by the comments. I was feeling I was just old except my daughter who is 31 skips the sex scenes too. Dare I say I am tired of ex marines, tired of super hot guys who the heroine just can’t resist. In thinking about romance I am remembering one of the sexiest movie moments was Robert Redford in the Horse whisperer dancing to “looking for a soft place to fall. I like romance, not erotica and I frequently toss a book with the comment this is just soft core porn. I prefer a woman who falls for a man’s character or sense of humor, or kindness not just because he is good in bed. It plays like a different version of what used to be a dominant alpha male who just overwhelmed the young woman(re Barbara Cartland) I want partners not a dominance relationship. another reason why I did not read 50 shades.

  46. I agree! The best part about the romance genre (with some specific authors) is the character and relationship building. Not to be vulgar, but who wants to just jump in with lots of sex and inuendo? I would feel a bit whore-ish that way. Why not enjoy the development of a relationship that eventually has some of that build up and tension, but isn’t the only part of it? Aren’t the best relationships built on a relationship more than just sex? My friends like to tease me for reading romance novels, accusing me (jokingly) that I’m only in it for the sex. I struggle sometimes to get them to understand that I feel like I’m getting to know friends through my “granny porn” (as they call it) – I especially enjoy the series that build upon groups of families and friends.

  47. I agree with you, too. I’m much more interested in the story of the relationship than the physical. And honestly, often times, the physical descriptions seem, um, improbable LOL.

  48. I totally agree with you. I held this view from the beginning, when reading early Harlequins – the ones with secretaries and sheiks, etc. The most shocking romance I read then was The Wolf and the Dove, and I suppose it would be tame by today’s standards. I grew up reading Gwen Bristow and Anya Seton and regencies – the early Fawcett Crest, and of couse the perfect queen, Georgette Heyer. I found my sexiness in the emotions, rather than descriptions of actions and imaginings of sex. I had to find sexines in the smallest of passages, mere mentions or allusions. I loved the sweetness of Patricia Veryan. And yourself. I read regencies until my late ’30s when they started adding sex in, which to me, in the strict traditions of the genre, didn’t belong, at all, and a proper young miss wouldn’t be doing it. I didn’t mind the Fabio covers on historicals – the earlier ones were not so obvious, although they did earn the genre the distinction of “bodice ripppers.” To me, the beauty of romance at the heart of it, and not sex, was best shown by Flowers From the Storm by Laura Kinsale – her Quaker heroine was as proper as can be, yet romance flowed through that book, and it was, at the time, on every reader’s list. I should know – I belonged to a number of early on-line reader’s groups, from the list-serv days. No www back then, just emails being passed around, which is probably why I stayed verbose and don’t do Twitter. Lose the sex and bring back breathless romance, and I’ll come back to the fold. Now I read more SF, action/adventure, dystopian, YA, etc. I still read you and Jo Beverley and a few others, and still have my huge regency collection from the 70s, 80s and 90s, which will sustain me until the tide turns, or even if not.

  49. I agree. Yes, sex is an important part of a love story and romance, but it is not the most important part. There is another author I read (not you!) who is putting too much sex in her stories. But, I do love the romance as well, so I find myself skipping several of the love scenes. Sometimes, I just skim through them. If I’m getting bored….then it’s an issue!

    I feel like you do such a nice job of balancing the three components you spoke of. I also like that the sex in your stories always feels classy (never trashy), and always is full of love.

  50. Yes! Yes! Yes! ohhh Yes! and ……………. No I’m not in the throes of the big O. I’m just agreeing with you. Having moved away from the genre of Historical Romance for a couple of years (reading crime/mystery instead) I was a bit taken aback with the large number of detailed sex scenes appearing in every book. Apart from a short stint in my teens (a girl’s got get her info from somewhere), I’ve never been a fan of the “bodice ripper”. I would prefer more was made of the chemistry and attraction between characters where their souls connected rather than their lust. There’s nothing more sexy and sets imagination spinning more than reading about a feather soft kiss that teases and is a promise of what’s to come.

    Sometimes plot is replaced by sex in every chapter – with all the various positions described in great detail and everything is “hard” with not much sensuality. Heroines and hero’s suffer from a severe lack of sleep I’m sure. Night times are for hot and heavy sex (every night). How romantic if the heroine said – lets forgo sex tonight because you’re fighting those 20 swordsman who want to kill you tomorrow and I’d really rather you were on top of your game so you don’t mmm like DIE. I’d rather just sit hear and watch you sleep – imprint your face in my memory in case you don’t come back.

    One recent book I read was very disappointing. The couple were already married; she got pregnant; they traveled around so we had descriptions of the places they visited; they had descriptive sex in the last two pages of every chapter (so the reader could be sure they loved each other- otherwise how would we know) and absolutely nothing happened. She didn’t even give birth before the end of the book. So reading through I was “oh another sex scene” flick, flick flick next chapter.

    Don’t get me wrong – maybe one or two long descriptions of a sex scene in a book is ok but every chapter?

    Loved discovering your books where characters were more complex because of their past experiences and love was a slow burn based on emotions rather than just physical attraction. Especially where the couple can see something in each other that no-one else can see.

  51. Hi Mary!

    Being an “old-timer”, in fact I turned 66 today, I’m often disappointed when some of the authors today concentrate on the sexual encounters more than the core of the story between the characters and this same theme isn’t just in romance but rather across the board of genres.

    My favorite stories are still historical romance but even during the 1960’s when I was a teenager and then starting college and “free love” was the rage the time was still tempered and they might talk about it in different publication but didn’t promote it as a way to influence writing as much as today.

    What it comes down to is if there is no specific reason to have these scenes and they are just used to “meet a criteria” that got placed in the authors head by others instead of writing from the heart and having a real reason to include it in the story.

    When you think about it sexuality has been part of society for a long time! Think about how the Romans reveled in sexuality and how it led to their demise so long ago. I sometimes wonder how far our civilization will go before sanity is returned.

    Don’t get me wrong – I do think that depending on the story some of these sceanarios are relative and should be included but now it seems they can often be used for just including something that an author “thinks” the reader wants and not to improve the story or to show the feeling of the characters involved.
    While I still read these books to be honest I’ve often thought about what the author was thinking and if it was their idea or rather something a publisher told them was “necessary” to get the public to buy the book!

  52. Let me start off by saying, you are my absolute favorite romance author. I’ve read every one of your books I’ve been able to get my hands on, and am always on the lookout for more. As for my thoughts on what makes a good romance, for me, it has more to do with character development and a hint of mystery (and of course a good plot) than just hot steamy sex. I’m not saying that hot steamy sex isn’t fun, but the building up to it can be far more satisfying.

    Regarding your recent honor, it is definitely something to celebrate; and truly well deserved. Congratulations!!!

  53. Wow, didn’t realize you felt so strongly about the topic of love, romance & sex–lol. I really agree with you as sometimes there is too much sex (& often way too soon). It is the romance that comes first & develops into liking & loving the tender ways of each other & if all the key elements are there, the sex will be good, too (when it comes at the right time). I just finished “The Rosie Project” by Graeme Simsion from Australia & it is such a wonderfully delightful book with lots of romance between a genetic scientist & a PHD student–think “Beauty & the Geek”. I won’t spoil it by discussing whether or not there is sex but it is a book of people changing to accommodate one another & the emotional parts of a relationship. I highly recommend it for a new perspective on “dating & selecting a life partner). Life isn’t all warm & fuzzy but this book really touched my heart. Ev Bedard

  54. I am probably in the minority on this issue. I love the sex scenes – IF the romance is contemporary and IF the characters are very well developed and IF it isn’t every other page and IF it is not vulgar and IF there is actually some romance and plot to go with it. OK, so maybe I don’t always love them. I don’t care for blatant sex scenes in historicals – it just seems out of place. I also think that it takes more talent to write an intense love story without sex. An author has to set the tension with other things if they can’t fall back on sex. It also seems more intimate if the characters shut the bedroom door on you, as someone once said. So, I like them either way as long as they are well written and have great characters with a good plot.

  55. I totally agree. The romance shelves in the local bookstores are now filled with embarrassing “50 Shades of Grey”- type books, which I might add that I borrowed from the library and returned it unfinished. There is no romance or love in that one and is very poorly written. I want the book to entertain and make me feel for the characters and their romantic angst and conflict. You do a great job of balancing the stories out.
    But I LOVE your recent book covers. Very intriguing and eye catching in the book stands. 🙂

    • I must disagree about the new book cover art with the male models looking like male strippers instead of like heroes with integrity. In fact, my dislike of the cover art is what prompted me to sit down and do something I’ve never done before–air my opinion on a blog. I read romance, in part, to escape the vulgarity and baseness of contemporary life and popular culture–to be reminded of a time in which values and civility were more important than market share. If I wanted to see a male stripping down, then I’d go to a male stripper bar. Mary Balogh is my favorite romance author, but the last time I carried one of her books with me to read while waiting on appointments, I found myself actually taking the time beforehand to make a book cover out of a grocery sack in order to hide the model taking his shirt off on the book cover. I thought the cover cheapened Mary’s beautiful, sensitive writing and made it look like soft porn. If I wanted to see a naked man, I’d buy a copy of “Playgirl” magazine (if it’s still around). Besides, in this day and time, all one has to do to see a practically naked man is watch out for joggers. I don’t read romance for the sex. In fact, I often skip those parts if they’re too graphic. We all know how to do it. We don’t need to read a graphic description of the act in a book that’s supposed to be about the emotional journey of love. Shame on today’s publishers who have lowered their standards to match the current marketing trend for ever-increasing visual sensationalism.

  56. I agree that there is too much sex in romantic fiction and in too many novels sex comes first and love follows. Which can happen but more often than not in real life we only think we are in love with a person we have had sex with. It rarely lasts.

    I think some of it is lazy writing. It is much harder to write a character driven novel, like The Proposal, of a gradually developing love.

    Many of my favorite romances have no sex scenes at all. They include the novels by Georgette Heyer, Carla Kelly and some authors of inspirational romantic fiction.

    I am fine with a sex scene in a novel if there is a reason for it being there and it is a short scene. One valid purpose of a sex scene is to show the progression of the feelings of the hero and heroine. (E.g. most of Mary’s books.) These scenes generally come later in the book. Some times a sex scene sets up the conflict between the hero and heroine. (E.g. The Secret Pearl.) There are other good reasons to include a sex scene.

    In any case, the scene should be short. Usually two or three pages will do.

    Longer sex scenes begin to look like pornography, which is designed to arouse the reader. Men know that when they want to read something to arouse themselves they go to pornography, which is sold under the counter and is somewhat shameful. (As it should be – grinning.) But scenes written to arouse women are all mixed up in Romantic literature. It is all confusing. I read a romance by a well known author that had a 20 plus page sex scene. There is only one reason for such a long descriptive scene and it doesn’t have anything to do with romance. I have never gone back to that author again. It is too bad because without the sex the story was pretty good.

    BTW Mary, you read mysteries. Have you discovered the Lady Emily mysteries by Tasha Alexander? Lady Emily is a smart clever noblewoman living in England in the 1890s and is the sleuth in a series of nine books. I am reading Alexander’s latest book now.

    • I’ve been collecting the Lady Emily books and have them on my TBR list – maybe after Christmas. You might also like Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia Grey and Nicholas Brisbane books.

      • I have one of Deanna Raybourn’s books on my Kindle and one of these days, probably sooner than later, I will sit down and read it.

        Another author I like is Susan Elia MacNeal, who writes about Maggie Hope in novels set during World War II. Ms. Hope starts out working as a secretary but she is too smart to stay in that position for very long, even if she is working for Mr. Churchill. She soon becomes a secret agent and a code breaker.

        There are three novels in the series. The first was Mr. Churchill’s Secretary. It was followed by Princess Elizabeth’s Spy and His Majesty’s Hope.

        These are mysteries and suspense novels. There is a little romance, but not much. Maggie’s love life is complicated. She loves an aviator who was reported killed over France and she has started to get interested in another man. But the aviator is not dead and he has escaped from France is making his way back to England.

        Maggie’s backstory is also complicated. Her mother died mysteriously and she thought her father was also dead, but he is not. He is working with the code-breakers at Bletchley Park. Maggie was raised by an aunt in America who wasn’t completely honest about her parents history. Maggie is still trying to sort our her personal history while battling enemy agents and British attitudes toward women.

        • Thanks, Bill. I actually just bought these books last week as they were recommended on another website. I’m a bad one for buying books that seem interesting and then have trouble finding the time to read them, but your in depth review has encouraged me. There are several authors that I follow, and when their books are part of a series, I jump to the new release to catch up – right now I’m about to finish the latest in Patrick Talyor’s Irish Country Doctor series, and then I have books set aside for Christmas reading, including a double novel of Mary’s.

          If you do decide to read Deanna, start with Silent in the Grave – the novels build from there and are quite interesting in the detective aspect and also the fact that Nicholas has Roma blood – lots of background about that culture. Also, one of their adventures takes them to India – Dark Road to Darjeeling – but you will want to read them in order because of the personal storyline.

          I’ve enjoyed books set in both WWI and WWII, so the Maggie Hope series sounds intriguing – a good way to learn about history that I missed in school. A book out last summer that crosses both wars is Letters From Skye – really great! Thanks again for your input.

  57. I have to agree with you about the amount of sex scenes in a book. I will be honest and admit I do enjoy the build up to that first sex scene but I enjoy a romance that has a story to it and doesn’t center that story around how many times the hero and heroine jump into bed together. I read romance because of the romance, because I want to come away remembering the love the couple experienced, not for how many times they had sex throughout the book. There is excitement to the first time the couple come together but I think it has more impact if the reasons for it have more to do with the couples growing love and attachment they are feeling for each other rather then just for the sake of lust.

  58. I personally think the best romance happens before the sex – anyone can have sex, but not everyone is good at “romance”. The ability to love and respect someone so much that you actually wait to have sex, even though every single hormone and cell in your body is singing with desire – that takes self control, and is most likely the real deal. The ability to make someone happy through the “small” touches that signify you’ve been thinking about them, simple touching, kissing, embracing – that’s the stuff that really gets me all a fluster! I have made the huge mistake of sleeping with someone too quickly in a relationship, and once it’s done, it can’t be redone, I’ve come to realize that. I love romance, and I am a hopeless romantic – but to me sex is not necessarily romance, and as you’ve said Mary – what is touted as romance these days does not resemble what I think romance is at all. To me romance is so much the anticipation, the “theatre of the mind” in trying to please, delight and entice without anything overt. It takes someone to really know what the other’s likes, loves and desires are for the romance to work effectively. Romance takes detective work, interest and commitment – much more than multiple “rolls in the hay” could ever achieve.

  59. I have all your books, in paperback. I am now purchasing them on my nook. My house is overflowing with books and I must downsize. e-books has been the storage solution for me. I have a re-read many of your books and find the e-book format the most convenient. I like your writing because of the less explicit sex. I find I just skip over the graphic descriptions because of: just so many ways to do something, too much emphasis on sex and less on a good story line and too much erotica. If I wanted this type of writing there are books specializing in those areas. I really like Georgette Heyer’s style of writing and your writing is similar. I really enjoy the historical settings, clothing, housing, class differences and descriptions of living conditions and social customs of people in their time frames. Your emphasis is on love and the building of a lasting relationship and an enduring marriage and family. Your publishers are wrong if they think the emphasis on explicit sex will sell your books. I started buying your books in 2001 when I retired from teaching. You were one of the very first authors I chose and look forward to reading and rereading all of your books. I hope you will remain writing as you have in the past.

  60. I love reading romance books, i just love reading. I read from the entire spectrum of the genre in romance. It’s true that now days you can find some erotic romance for adult only. To each is own . For me, the importance is a good storyline where the two protagonists will get to know one another, fall in love and live happily ever after. I always liked my romance book with some hot factor in it. I remember looking a the cover art, if the male had no shirt this would be a good one 😉 But this method of choosing a book is no longer true… You now have to rely on the back cover synopsis, the reviews, the publishing house, etc… It has become a little bit more difficult to find a middle of the road romance. And I find that sad

  61. Bravo Mary for putting into words what I have been feeling lately with some of the “romances” I have been reading lately. I want the the romance and the story. Don’t get me wrong I am not against the sex but wow some of it has really gotten to the point of tmi. (too much information)

  62. The thing is… I love sex scenes. They can be caramel-sweet and step-by-step slow. They can be rash decisions. They can be funny. They can be heart-reading. They can be roses and soft beds or the calm in the storm (and the storm in the calm, sometimes).

    But of course there are BAD sex scenes.

    The kind that leave you muttering… ‘nooooo… you cannot take off your shirt, pants, shoes, socks, and underwear in under ten seconds. And she’s leaving on the big earrings she just mentioned? …ouch.’

    And the kind that has you staring at the couple and yelling… ‘you hated/ignored/rejected each other five minutes ago. STOP! Your hormones are ruining your characterization!!!!’ (Which seems to me is the one people complain the most about.)

    And my ever favorite WORST… The one that describes every single movement people do, and yet manages to make me jab a finger at the page and say… ‘That’s anatomically impossible! No. Really. Pretzels cannot do that. No way.’

    Good for the giggles, but absolute hell when one is trying to suspend belief from cover to cover. I’ve been known to skip some of these scenes… and usually leave the book unfinished while I’m at it. I am sorry, but really, if the plot could not ‘grab’ me for long enough to follow through one of the most important scenes in a book (and let’s admit it, the sex scene is often Most Important – right next to First Meeting and First Fight and sometimes First Goodbye) then why should I believe it’ll get any better?

    And yet, despite all that, I do love them.

    The build-up. The back-and-forth. The promises, both said and unsaid.

    *dreamy sigh*

    Plot may not need sex. But sex with plot makes my day a bit happier!

  63. I write sweet/inspirational and gave a workshop on ways to express attraction, awareness, and physical tension without naming any body parts that have to be covered to go out in public.
    Several people came up to me after the presentation and thanked me for showing the romance of attraction and the magical way it binds two people’s souls.
    Sex is a physical act that any two people can perform. Making love
    And if your characters hook up early in the book you have just killed a key tool for upping the tension between your characters.
    But, with what I write, the act/melding happens in the netherland after the epilogue. 🙂

  64. It is not just you! I am no prude but I prefer sex scenes to be organic coming from the logical progression of the story. Many a story doesn’t even need them IMHO. I also have issues with historicals where characters are behaving in a way only acceptable in our modern times! To have a heroine even THINK of sex in most of those long ago days requires me to suspend disbelief and disrupts the story. If there is a LOGICAL reason for the engagement of non-marital sex in a historical I can go with it but it takes a stretch.
    In any fiction that I read I require a good solid plot and three dimensional characters. If sex becomes part of that equation I am fine with it but too many seem to rely only on the sex scenes. Frankly I get bored and skip reading them.

  65. I love books with good Historical Romances or any Romances with good story lines and some sex scenes. I very much enjoy your books. My husband lost his job 2 1/2 years ago and at our age could not find another job so I had to find something for him to do. He started reading Real Ghost Stories and Books on Trains until he read a book I downloaded by Kat Martin. He thought it was a ghost story because of the title. I was at our daughter’s babysitting on a Monday and Tuesday and he read (he is a slow reader) the book in those 2 days and started on another since it was from a trilogy. He asked me if all my books had such explicit sex scenes. He has read all the books I have by Kat Martin, LJ Martin, Bev Petersen and now he is reading the books I have by you. He told me he can see now how I could get lost in my books and not want to put them down until I was finished.

    Thank you for writing wonderful books.

  66. Are you correct that this is the new trend..absolutely…do I enjoy it…sometimes, yes. I like to read all different styles of writing and switch up from book or series to the next. Do I want this to be the overall trend..ABSOLUTELY NOT…I want the ability to read what ever type of mood I am in at that moment I am deciding which book to read next…I love your books, Wulfric being an all time fav, but then I also love Slyvia Day’s Gideon Cross, or JD Robb’s Eve and Roarke…I like to go from Contemporary to Fantasy to Historical to Mystrey and all with varying degrees of sexual content. So hopefully each author will stay true to their own style of writing so that we readers can continue to get lost in whatever mood strikes are fancy.

  67. I think the perfect example of this trend is Laurell K. Hamilton’s vampire hunter series. By like book 4 in the series, there was no sex and I was just dying for the heroine to sleep with someone, anyone! I actually researched the author to see if she had a thing against writing about sex in her books. By book 5 I think Hamilton caved to all the pressure, and the heroine finally has sex, and it was OMG. But then…it was like a flood gate opened or something. By book 20 in the series the heroine was having sex with literally anyone AND everyone (at the same time, no less).

    I see authors like Hamilton getting pressured by readers and publishers to “sex up” their stories, and it becomes very easy to just write about sex. Crafting a good story has to be a lot harder than coming up with a bunch of different sex scenes. Ultimately What I’m trying to say is that I think the reason sex has become so prevalent is because that’s what’s selling. If mainstream audiences weren’t going crazy over books like 50 Shades, I don’t think we would be seeing this trend in literature.

  68. I read romance books for the romance. If there are intimate scenes that further the story or the development between the characters I am quite okay with it, but don’t care to read a sex story only. (That said I don’t think people should feel ashamed as someone said if that is what they want to read – sex is a natural part of life and certainly shouldn’t be looked on as the opposite. I find it curious that people feel sex should be hidden on TV and film, but not gratuitous violence.)

    I have almost given up on the recent authors of romance, not only because of the lack of romance, but because of the lack of good writing skills. I absolutely refuse to read a book where I have to skip sections of the book – what is the point? Is the book really worth reading if you have to pick and choose which sections are readable or not to your liking because of too much sex? I would much rather re-read a book I know I will like and as Mary has so many books for me to fall back in this is most often what I do. I also re-read Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters. Besides Mary, there are other more recent authors that I have kept on my shelves though I don’t re-read them very often. These are all well written (IMO) books that may or may not have sex scenes in them.

    I would also like to congratulate Mary on her awards and look forward to the next Survivor book – The Escape.

  69. If I can’t figure out why the characters are attracted to each other,the sex in the book is boring. I don’t want a sex manual. I want a romantic story. I have never read any better than all of Mary’s. I look forward to each and every one.

  70. I think the line has blurred between the erotic and romance… And I think that since 50 Shades…. more authors are inclined to expand into the erotic explicitness. I’m pretty particular about what I read… so I’m quiting those types and sticking with the authors that I know write romance.

  71. The problem with romance these days is that people aren’t truly romantic. It seems like it’s all about sex and not what the heart feels. It needs to be about caring and loving from the heart, not just a physical thing.

  72. Since this is my favourite pet peeve, I thought I would leave a comment. Mary, I started reading historical romances again only because of your books and have loved almost all of them. The last few years have been spent reading the backlists of my favourite authors. I think I can count on my fingers the number of newer authors who I enjoy reading as romances as most of the others are sexually explicit and graphic novels which are masquerading as historical romances. I stopped reading those a few years ago and unless someone recommends a good book I will not pick up a new author. I am sure there is a market for these books otherwise they wouldn’t be published but I feel it is demeaning to call them regencies or historical romances.

  73. Omg yes! All too often i catch myself skipping over the sex scenes to get back to the story! I often wonder if the new writers today fill the book up with sex because they cant write the story? One of my favorite writersis Stephanie Laurens, she,like you has mystery, intrigue, and laughter! We need the story! Ok, im off my soapbox now.

  74. Sorry for may disagreement.
    As everybody knows the words “everything is not what it seems.” And so do books. There outlook is not the only thing that we look at. Most important is its content. The purpose of the writter- their wishes, dreams and thinking are performed deeply through every page you are reading. Romance nowadays is not only about love or engaging look in the eyes, but also the sex and feelings. Young writters do have their own stories to tell us, they have shown theirs in their own ways and make it both strange and unique by their styles.
    I love to reading book in same type from many countries, only to know how they turn their ideas into pages of wood.
    As a reader, please be objective to yourself and the book you read.
    Finally, many thanks to Ms.Balough, I do appriciate your hard work on your brriliant books. 🙂
    Good day.

  75. I think sex is like dessert. It’s good, yummy and most people enjoy it……but, it’s not “meat and potatoes.” The “meat and potatoes” in a romance novel (or any novel) should be a strong story and characters that are well developed. Sex can enhance a story, but it cannot “be” the story … at least not for me.

    Thanks to my kindle I am rediscovering books that I read 30 or 35 years. You won’t find a bit of sex in those books but they are every bit as entertaining as most stuff that is written today.

    I think you handle sex well in your books. Even when the characters have sex before they realize that they love each other (i.e. Christine and Wulfric, Gwen and Hugo) their attraction to each other is understandable and never feels exploited.

    Also, contratulations on your recent honor. Well deserved!

  76. I AGREE, THAT’S WHY I FIND MYSELF READING A MYSTERY OR WESTERN AND EVEN HISTORICAL INSPIRATIONAL…I ENJOY THE INTRUGUE OF A STORYLINE AND AT TIMES FIND MYSELF DISAPPOINTED READING THE DESIRES IN THE FIRST CHAPTERS, PONDERING WHY THE AUTHOR LACKS IMAGINATION TO PUT INTO WORDS…BUT, 1 CAN NOT JUST BLAME THE AUTHOR…THERE ARE OTHERS THAT PARTICIPATE IN THE COMPLETION OF SAID NOVEL.

  77. Over all I agree with you. No matter how good the story is, in some books I skip some pages of the sex. Romance is the tension building up to bloom. Besides several current romance authors I enjoy, I find my self falling back into reading older romance. Some of G. Heyer, J. Wolf, Barbara Metzer, Betty Neels, etc. Funny at sales I find older books by yourself, M. J Putney etc. Can’t list all authors, but I find “clean romance” as enticing as currant romance. The build up of longing looks and the moment they relize they are in love, not lust.

  78. I think there is a place for erotic romance—I’m published by Ellora’s Cave and that’s what they’re known for, after all—but frankly, sometimes I have a hard time with Regencies where the hero and young, unmarried heroine are having sex all over the place. Where are the parents? The chaperones? The nosy neighbors? The servants? IMO, this is a serious credibility problem for those who are familiar with the time period.

    HOWEVER, there are lots of readers who don’t seem to care about the historical aspect and really, really enjoy these books. [Shrugging] I myself read all sorts of heat levels, including erotic, but I prefer sweeter Regencies that are historically accurate.

    I write sweet Regencies myself (yes, Ellora’s Cave does have a line for traditional Regencies with only kisses involved) where the romance and historical setting are of primary importance. And I hope my readers enjoy them that way!

  79. I totally agree, as with most of the replys, Romance is my key word, that is why I stick to Historical, these authors do not need constant sex to have a story. I want to be drawn into the character, the time, etc, not necessarily the bedroom. I like the story that is believable, that could possibly have happened, I just love Mary’s books. Thanks.

  80. I just finished reading The Arrangement and then went back and reread The Proposal. With the topic of sex in Regency fiction in mind I would like to compare the two. The sex in The Arrangement was more about Sophie learning to have more self esteem and believing that Vincent truly wanted her. It was after marriage and showed them falling in love. It fit with the story line. In The Proposal I wasn’t a fan of the first sex scene. It didn’t seem realistic to me that she would have agreed to sex at that time. She didn’t know him and wasn’t even sure if she liked him. I thought it happened too fast. Of the two I liked The Arrangement the best and am anxious to read more in The Survivor’s Club series.
    I am a big fan of Georgette Heyer and am always on the lookout for good clean historical romance. I have read most of your books and think that they have a little too much sex in them to suit me. I keep reading them because you are a very good writer and I love your characters. I tend to try to skip the sex scenes for the most part because (you may laugh) they make me feel guilty. You and Julia Quinn are my favorite romance writers. I’m glad that you keep the scenes to a minimum and for the most part it is more implied than described.

    • Just wanted to stick up for Gwen feeling the attraction to Hugo, even though she wasn’t sure there would be a relationship. Don’t know if you’ve read about her character in other novels, but that made it more believable and acceptable to me.

  81. Congratulations, Mary, on a well deserved award. I do have to agree you about the cover for The Proposal. The model is much too 21st century.

    I have noticed a cycle in my romance reading over the years. Romances begin as sweet, build up to steamy, become very hot, then there is some kind of implosion and I return to reading the sweet again. I don’t know if it is that way with all readers, but there is only so much sex any story can handle, and this reader can take. When there you throw in too many sex scenes, you lose the story.

    If all I cared about in a book was the sex, I would read erotica. I don’t need it in my romance novels, I want a good love story, the sex should be a part of that.

    Although, in my observations of life, very few women can enter a sexual relationship and think it is just sex, somewhere along the line they convince themselves that it is love, and because it is love for them it must also be love for the men. (Which equals a clear path to heartbreak.)

    In order to cut down, and in fact eliminate the urge, to add any sex scenes, real or imagined in my newest book I placed the newly met couple in a snowbound cabin with a small child. The hero and heroine shared their first kiss at the end of the book. (No one has even mentioned the lack of sex, while they enthuse about the story.)

  82. Hello Mary,

    I remember reading Harold Robbins novels as a teen. They were shockingly open about the whole sex subject. I think I read them for just that reason. On the other hand I adored Barbara Cartland’s innocent romances as much. I think it is a question of mood. I can read an erotic novel one day and move on to one of yours or Annette Blair’s et al. My Kindle library is bursting with both types of romances and I think I love them all equally. But you are right, there is a certain tendency in the books published in the genre to be more and more erotic in tone. Perhaps this has to do with the general fixation on sex buoyed by books like Fifty Shades of Grey and the Crossfire series, or they are an expression of the more openly expressed sexuality of the time. I have read both and enjoyed them for the fiction they are. But they definitely are not romances, but more contemporary erotic novels to my mind.

    I think it is important that we all read what appeals to us. My surroundings are very diversified in what they read. Not many are as bitten by romance as I am. But having none in my own life I enjoy it vicariously through my books.

  83. I agree that there is too much sex in romances lately, and I admit I skip a lot of the scenes. I sort of get sidetracked thinking, “Do men really think like that”? I recenly read a contemporary for my book club and woman had sex with 2 men ( not at the same time!) in which the men were rough, ripping her clothes, etc. and we decided, that the male author had some interesting ideas about women and sex. So I wonder how difficult it is for female authors to write about male thoughts on sex. However, I do love the scenes in Regencies where the men must stay behind the desk, or pick up a pillow to hide behind. Pretty difficult to wear thos tight pants!!

  84. I am so glad you brought this subject up! I have noticed this trend as well, and have been very unhappy with it in general. I pick up a romance book, particularly Regency set novels, because I want to be entertained, to lose myself in the period, to be able to put real life on hold for a while, and enjoy new friends that I come to care for and love. What is important to me is a good story, with great, well defined characters and believable dialog that moves the story along. I really enjoy witty dialog that makes me laugh out loud, and well written emotional content that can bring one to tears.
    I confess to being old fashioned in this regard, but as for sex scenes themselves, I really don’t want graphic details. It is embarrassing to me, and I find myself turning past those pages because I really don’t want to know about it. I also don’t want someone coming into my bedroom and observing my intimate moments either! A good kissing scene, with all the feelings involved is romantic, and I like that, and the rest can simply be implied and left up to the reader’s imagination.
    With all that being said, I choose a historical novel because I really, really like the morals of those times, where there was marriage before sex, and there was a real sense of what was considered proper. We have none of that left anymore in our society and I just feel so sad about that. A whole book could be written about the moral decay of our times, I am sure. It takes courage to live one’s life with moral integrity these days, and you are pretty much on your own if you choose this path. I really do not appreciate the idea that, “If it feels good, do it!” What happened to restraint and propriety? I think those things lend excitement to finally get to the wedding night, when you can finally belong to one another both legally and morally, in front of God and everyone without apology.

  85. Our culture appears to be evolving towards a greater amount of explicit descriptive prose instead of nuanced subtlety…not just in literature, but in every communication medium I can think of. We’re blasted at all of the time! It seems to me that a greater amount of sex in recent novels is part & parcel of this phenomenon. There is always room in the publishing house for The New, The Dangerous, and The Barrier-Breaker. I just hope there is always room for the tried & true & good. Thanks, Mary, for your good work and thoughtful stories.

  86. Another “ME TOO” response, but I would like a chance to win the two SIGNED books. One wonderful example of the sex scenes fitting perfectly into the story is SLIGHTLY DANGEROUS. I am also a Georgette Heyer fan. Other older (with less sex) Regency authors I read are Dorothy Mack, Marian Devon, Laura Matthews, Sheila Walsh, Evelyn Richardson, Edith Layton, Marjorie Farrell, and Joan Wolf.

  87. I used to have a number of romance authors on my favourite list but now there are only 3 left. Most of those that I have dropped had moved on from writing historical to contemporary, and boy…! did they let loose their “sex writing talent” in those contemporary books. They’d written wonderful historical / regency romances with all the rules and etiquette nicely in place but did they really believe that sex was all what romance is about in contemporary setting? And why did they choose to move from a classy historical romance writing to trashy contemporary? I don’t understand..

  88. I do find that sex is becoming a bit too commonplace in romance these days, with the heroes and heroines always thinking about it and finding any excuse to do it. I have nothing against sex in romances on principle, having read several and started writing a romance of my own, but the problem is that you can’t equate sex with love. There should be something deeper there for the hero and heroine to come together over, even before they make love. They might lust for each other and think about sex before then, but it shouldn’t dominate the story and give the reader the idea that they are reading “literary porn”.

  89. I totally agree. Although I don’t mind if a book contains sex, what I really love is the story and the romance. Getting to know people that you will love for the rest of your life.

  90. I hesitate to comment on the issue of the over abundance of sex in books in today’s market as I have become an editor currently editing erotic romance/erotic romantic suspense for an author and would die if she were to find out my dislike for so much sex in romance novels (I have to remain objective about the job of editing no matter if it is an erotic romance/erotic romance suspense novel because that is what she has chosen to write and has hired me to do editing for her). However, I have to agree that there does seem to be a trend to there being sex, sex, and nothing but sex in today’s romance market. I am an avid reader of romance or romantic suspense novels whether it be contemporary or historic, along with regular mysteries and thrillers. No matter what genre it seems that sex occupies a good portion of the novels in today’s market. I don’t mind sex in stories as long as it is done so that it is a natural part of the romance of the story. All too often main characters of the story just jump right to the sex from the get go, with the absence of any build up of romance in the relationship. Too many times it’s as if there are sex scenes just for the sake of having sex scenes. I just prefer to have a good romance story between two characters who meet, grow to care about each other and in the natural progression of the relationship enter into deepening that relationship and if the sex seems to fit where the characters are in the relationship it enhances the storyline.

    And, oh, I decided to comment because I am a huge Mary Balogh fan and have read all her books and would love to get two signed copies of her work.

  91. Nope. I agree. I’ve read a couple of books, or maybe just portions of them, where the hero and heroine are “going all they way” so to speak, in what seems like the very first moments of just meeting. How does that even happen? Nope, I prefer the love story that builds and leaves me with the feeling that its real and will last a lifetime.

  92. I think it is a fine line between a romantic sex scene and smut. A great many of the books on the market right now are SMUT. I’m ok with graphic sex, explicit even, but I dont want to read the “F” word. I dont want to read pornographic dirty talk. I dont want to read about sex just for the sake of sex, that belongs in its own category for those who want it. I’m afraid though that given how well fifty shades did, we are going to get more of that crap instead of less.

  93. “Sex sells.” I think the first time I heard this was in a movie. However, everyone trying to sell anything, these days, has taken this idea to the extreme. Maybe there is where the younger generation gets the idea that sex equals love. Maybe this is why there is so much divorce, people just never get beyond the sex to learn about this other person, until they have married and found out they can’t stand this person they married in haste. Is the world’s pace so fast these days that slowing down to build a firm foundation for a relationship is no longer possible? What is wrong with a bit of foreplay on the sofa, and then taking the rest of it behind closed doors? Or a loving kind of tease over the length of a party the couple is enjoying and waiting, anticipating the outcome at home? Don’t get me wrong, I like a steamy romance. However, when the story is just a string of sexual encounters with no plot, no real story, this just isn’t something that I enjoy reading. So, to end, has sex been taken too far in order to sell? Yes, in this case, publishers have stopped thinking about what is good about romance and zeroed in on sex only.

  94. Ok, when I was in my 20’s I really enjoyed the sex scenes. When I was (still single and sexless) I REALLY loved the sex scenes. Once I has sex scenes of my own they were not as fascinating to me. I get bored with them. I love some stories but glance over page after page after page because there is so much sex and it bores me. Some– nice, too much ughh. I can’t stand when characters start panting after each other once they LOOK at each other, but have no idea of the truth of each other. They are only in lust with looks not even in lust with each other. True love/romance does not depend on the looks of the other person but the character of the other person. Sex is nice and wonderful, etc etc. But it doesn’t define a relationship. If it does than any couple that for whatever reason can’t have sex wouldn’t have a relationship. Young people want sex for the excitement of it, but true adults know there is far more to life than sex. I do wish that more authors would keep that in mind. I read one book by an author, it was a rather huge book close to a thousand pages and I would say more than 1/3 of the book was devoted to the couple having sex. Maybe it was closer to half. So… I do agree. I love to see relationships develop that to me is what makes a good book. Maybe in a novella you don’t have time for that but in a book, you should. I know in my real life I met my husband and I didn’t even kiss him until I had known him for several months. I was 36 and dating to find out if I wanted a partner. Before he kissed me I knew I would prefer to be his platonic friend rather than have any type of relationship with any other man. Once he kissed me he was doomed, I wanted him for my self for all time. We seem to start out with the kiss and fast forward to the other without realizing all the in between stuff. To me the in between is what will last when the libido runs out or you have health issues or you get sick with a common cold. When arthritis attacks and it hurts to do all the extra fun stuff and you just hold each other you have to have that connection or it is just sad. When I read a book and all it is is sex, I know that couple won’t have the cuddle time to make it last.

  95. I agree. Sex, just for the sake of sex becomes tedious and in fact bogs down a story. I find romances where characters are compatible in intellect and wit much sexier than those that fall into bed over and over. “Let me to the marriage of true minds…” that is interesting, that is stimulating, and THAT is sexy.

  96. I do love reading your books, although I now mainly use my Kindle, the arthritis in my hands makes it painful to pick up a regular paperback book and read it. I do have some (quite a few actually) to read yet but rely mainly on my Kindle. Not to mention I can take a LOT of books with me on a trip without filling my bag literally with books.
    I love love stories and westerns. I do like a plot to evolve around the people involved the sex comes naturally – eventually but doesn’t need to happen in the first 5 pages… they just met! I can see them drawn to each other and wondering but as in real life, it should build.
    I have read a description of the guy or gal and then looked at the cover and thought… who are these people supposed to be, their hair color isn’t even the same or the length of hair is different. It should all match what’s inside the book – it’s rather off putting to have them clash, at least it is to me.
    Thank you for the books you write and the pleasure you give so many people.

  97. I often just skip the excruciatingly detailed sex scenes. Seriously if I wanted porn, I would buy porn. Or erotica. The romance genre should be more about the developing relationships and while sexual tension has a place, the stories don’t need such explicit descriptions of the “consummation.” Often over. And over. And over. 🙂

  98. I concur, Mary. Too much sex, too soon in a story makes for a very dull reading.
    Oftentimes, I had to skip pages and pages of graphic sex just so I can get to the heart of the story. Oftentimes though, and I just hate it when it happens, there is just no story, just formulaic sex sequences that drag on and on. What happened to character development? To witty dialogues, nuance and subtlety?
    If one is looking “to be lost in a story”, to “escape reality and enter a new realm”, one would be vastly disappointed at the quality of some romance writings. I guess they assume that what all readers want is very detailed description of the sexual act, any where and everywhere in the story.
    What does this say about our world now and how “instant” everything has been, how “convenient” it is to disregard a good plot in favor of nauseatingly long sex scenes? Are they assuming all what readers want is instant gratification? What happened to the building up of the story? Where you live through the character’s anxiety, longing, desperation; which then leads up to the climax where the character gets to face a dilemma more significant than to have sex or not/ lose one’s virginity or not. Because as the character grows and faces up to his problems, you feel that you too, have surmounted something great, and afterwards, you too, will be and feel like a changed person, because you have also journeyed with the character. After all, that is what great writing is all about, right?
    As a harried working mom, I turn to books as my very affordable respite from the daily grind. And oftentimes, I like to make sure that I choose a book which will allow me to leave my reality for a while. Stories that will let me experience the grandeur of a bygone era, where the characters live in gentility, act cordially, and adhere to strictures of propriety, and yet are still fully human with their foibles and faults. Stories like those allow me that escape. They offer a very tantalizing alternative to the third world reality I face everyday, with typhoons flattening entire provinces, leaving scores dead and countless homeless and hungry. In Reading a good, old fashioned romance, I can at least pretend, that all’s right with the world and that every Filipino had a full stomach and a home and hearth to come home to.

    Thanks Mary, for you are one of those authors.
    Thank you for your gift of stories.

  99. You are not alone. I just finished a novella. A short story, right? Why did the characters have sex three times before the end of the story??? Crazy quick, right? I am by no means a prude, but that was a bit excessive. Reading some of the other posts I see that I am not the only one that will flip through the sex scenes and get on with the story. I have only found a few authors like this, and I will finish the book (or series). Then I am done. Mary, your books are always my tried and true!!!!

  100. I thought I was the only one who thought about it that way! I love historical romance; it is my favorite thing to read. I have journeyed into contemporary for a slight few of my favorite authors. I have always glossed over the ultra graphic, descriptive sex scenes. It is not because I don’t like sex… far from it. But, I feel like the graphic imagery and the sexual scenes have taken away from the romance and story of the characters. People don’t just meet, fall into bed and grunt around several times, and then magically find they are so lost in love for one another they cannot live without them.

    To me, a historical romance should be that elusive love; there should be sexual tension between the characters, otherwise, they would never want to be around each other. Sex is great; but it shouldn’t be every other page. Give me the story! Thanks for airing an opinion that I can whole- hardheartedly stand behind.

  101. I’m so pleased to discover that I’m not alone! I definitely think that there has been a change over the years. Regency set historicals written in the 1970s (when I started reading them), 1980s and 1990s, may have had sex scenes towards the end of the book, but very rarely earlier unless the couple was married. Books written more recently seem to have sex scenes included at intervals as though the author has been told that some number of them is required. I often enjoy reading the first one especially if it occurs somewhat naturally in the development of the relationship, but thereafter I most often skip them, looking for more of what I think of as the “real story”.
    Mary, I have always admired how the sex scenes you include fit so naturally into the relationship you are developing. I’ve loved your books for years – thank you for so many hours of enjoyment.

  102. I have to agree. I am so tired of flipping pages just to get past the long drawn out sex in detail. I love the romance, but things have gotten out of hand with the
    larger groups of writers. Savor the romance, the build up – leave the details with a little mystery…..Gadzooks, sometimes we are on the far end of what is “not” considered
    Porn… Everything has a place and lots of different folks want this stuff, but I get mighty disappointed that the majority are now on the “show and tell” wagon..

  103. I want to add to my comments above. Even a well placed and appropriate sex scene will irritate me if it is longer than two or three pages. In this case, less is more. Two pages is better than three. I get bored after two pages. I am much much more interested in the thoughts and reactions of the hero and heroine to the fact that they are being intimate than any description of who did what to who.

    I also want to defend the first sex scene in The Proposal. Gwen and Hugo were already in love by the time that scene took place, although I am not sure that either one could admit to themselves how deep their love was. Neither was a virgin and both had been celibate for some time. They were strongly physically attracted to each other. I think it was inevitable that they made love at that point in their relationship. The description of how that came about, Gwen’s reaction to it, and maybe to a lesser extent, Hugo’s reaction were important to the story. In fact, this scene is a good example of how a sex scene can add value to a story.

  104. I agree. My husband and I have been married almost 49 years and still enjoy a great sex life. But, we fell in love first, a love that has lasted all these years. Maybe that’s why we still find each other sexy at our ages.

  105. I like romance but I can do without graphic sex scenes that go on and on. Too many books now seem to have little story but a lot of sex. I’m another one who flips thru those scenes with hope that there is something else in the novel. I’m all for sexual tension but my reason for reading is not for sex scenes.

  106. I appreciate sexual tension and think it’s an important part of the development of a relationship, but that doesn’t require anyone to be overcome with desire every time they meet! I don’t mind a well-written sex scene, but it’s also not necessary – I want whatever feels natural and right for that situation and that character. Mary, one of the things I’ve always appreciated about you is your willingness to write sex scenes that are less than pleasurable. Sometimes that bad sexual experience is essential to the story! I also appreciate Julia Quinn, who almost always writes sex scenes that occur only after the couple is engaged. Call me old fashioned, but I appreciate romance and sex that are tied to commitment. Great topic, Mary. Thanks for your thoughts!

    • Yes, I like it that Mary writes about the bad sexual experience. But even better, she writes about the everyday non cataclysmic sex. Sometimes it is just about the closeness between two people. Which makes the great sex she writes about even more believable.

  107. I read romance for just that…romance. I love it when characters have a deep, meaningful connection to each other. While yes, this does lead to sex, I don’t read romances for the sex. I read it for the romance between the characters.

  108. These ladies do protest too much, methinks.
    In this internet age ignorance is an option, and if you who can buy a book online, you can also do a little research about the book/author.
    I like romance, I like to read about it, and I know where to look to find authors who write of this genre.
    I also like sex, I like to read about it, and I also know where to find these authors.
    Having said that, I do agree that a lot of books are sexploitation marketed as romance, a disgrace to author and publisher alike.
    Can you imagine how wonderful it would be to have a rating system? (pornography/romance)
    (Ok, ‘sexually explicit’ or ‘graphic’ might sound friendlier and/or more marketable)

    • I have occasionally noticed on amazon books listed as sweet (no sex) or sensual, or graphic sex. I agree that it would be nice if there was a rating system just for information. I try to check the reviews and they sometimes give a hint.

  109. I think people have given too much credit to Fifty Shades of Grey and have limited their characters to being very one dimensional, which is very unfortunate.

  110. Hi Mary:

    I think you point out an issue that is part of a larger problem with many recently published historical romances, which is that characters (particularly the heroine) act like a 21st century character rather than act like a character of a particular era or not providing a convincing reason why a character would act so contrary to the many social and moral constraints of a particular era era.

  111. I never read romance novels until after my husband died. My reading habit was all more “Instructive” type. With loneliness and depression a big part of my life, my sister suggested Romances or Mystery/ Romances. Reading has made a big difference in my life; however, a novel by a well-known author was so graphic sexually it could be used for an instruction manual . I was upset and disappointed since the book was part of a series I had been enjoying.

    I just finished reading “The Arrangement” and I have to applaud you for the very tasteful way the story was handled in reference to attraction/sex/romance— I definetly go for more downplaying of the bold descriptions of the actual ACT and the implications thro more subtle touches. I am still glowing from the ROMANCE I feel from Vince and Sophia’s love and romantic moments (WOW!!! Who would want more than the swimming scene in the pond????!!!)

    Will there be any follow-up of the lives of these two? I hope so.

    With gratitude,
    Clare

  112. THE ARRANGEMENT is Book 2 of a seven-part series about the members of the Survivors’ Club, Clare. THE PROPOSAL was Book 1. So yes, you will meet Vincent and Sophia again. THE ESCAPE will be next. It is Sir Benedict Harper’s story, due out next July.

  113. I agree with you. Sex from cover to cover of the book is overkill. I want to see the relationship develop. I want the characters’ histories. I want to get to know them and sympathise with them and come to care about them. Sex definitely has it’s place. Even if it is suggested and not described. It is, after all, a natural progression of a relationship. For some of these authors, I would say less is more. Then again, a lot of them are creating autocratic, sexist ,power hungry heroes. And that is in contemporary novels. I’m not crazy about them, either.

  114. I agree with you Mary, but what I find really irritating are the sex scene that go on and on, it takes them ten pages or more to get to the final act and then that takes another five or more pages, ver boring after awhile. I am more interested in a good love story and the interaction between the characters not necessarily their interaction between the sheets. I must say that I don’t really like either cover of the Arrangement or the Proposal, neither of those models were how I imagined Vincent or Hugo to be. Congratulation on your recent award for the Arrangement, I throughly enjoyed reading the story of two such likeable characters. Can not wait for the Escape.

  115. Here are some possible reasons for the current trend.

    On one end we have the oversexed. ‘Hook-ups’ and friends with benefits are less taboo. Who has the time to learn about another person’s personality or interests? Let’s have sex and keep it moving. So many new, almost physically impossible sexual feats to try in less than ideal circumstances! So many people to do! So little time! We need to roll in the hay while the sun is shining. (Err… I may have butchered this cliché here.) Is it possible that it may just be a case of art imitating life with authors providing work that they think these readers can relate to?

    At the other end of the spectrum we have the undersexed. These readers want to escape the humdrum of their lives. They need to read about all the bizarre sex they aren’t having. Perhaps pick up a pointer or two? Who has time to read a novel with well-developed characters and a protracted romantic plot that’s not sex focused when there is more salacious reading material out there? Mommy porn is popular; what is an author to do? A gal/ guy has to make a living. Could it be that authors are ‘compromising’ their work to improve their readership base?

    Everyone has their preferences and I’ve been told that in matters of taste no one is right. I am satisfied with the number of authors out there who provide me with the kind of novels that I prefer. I support their work, encourage my reading friends to do the same, and I try not worry about the rest.

  116. I laughed as I read your comments; especially “They need to be in rehabilitation!”. I agree wholeheartedly that there is too much sex, especially in historical romance novels, and too much of it is needlessly explicit. Sex is no substitute for good plotting and a romantic developing relationship. I have been moved to tears and, sometimes, laughter, by your characters’ struggles in finding their soul mates. Those real emotions are what truly satisfies in a good romance novel. Sex scenes can be moving too, but when sexual calisthenics inhabit every other page and are the only things holding two characters together it makes for a very unsatisfying read.

  117. I agree with you. I am fairly new to the Regency Romance genre. I love the build up of the first meeting, getting to know each other, courtship, sexual tension, marriage, and then an over-the-top marriage night sex scene. There might also be pre-marital sex scenes, but well on into the relationship. This is believable for the Regency era. The Erotica genre is booming, so maybe we’re seeing a trend towards adding more sex details into romance novels since Erotica is so popular and seems to be what readers want. There might be more grey area between traditional romance and erotica? I read about this happening with the SciFi, Fantasy, and Steampunk genres, where an author was having trouble with how her books would be promoted and where they would be located in the bookstore. There are no definitive lines anymore with those genres.

  118. I enjoy historical romance particularly regency romance. I particularly enjoy your stories because I feel the “love scenes” enhance the story rather than take over. I have found several authors I feel write this way and make sure to read the books written by these authors.

  119. I completely agree with you. It is one of the many reasons I LOVE your books. It’s not all about the sex and the extreme detailed sex. In other books that are too detailed I tend to skip over half of the scene (or skim through it) just because it gets to be 5-10 pages long in a sex scene. I love how you keep it short and sweet and build on their growing love for each other instead.

  120. I would totally have to agree with you. I have been noticing that almost all stories that came out are like that. With that sometimes I lose the energy to buy romance novels because from what you pointed out it’s always about SEX. It gives a lot of people the misconception that it equals to love. HOW ABOUT ABSTAINING AND WAITING AND SIMPLY FOCUSING ON LOVE? Does writers consider that it’d be more romantic that way… (or so I think). Why add too much sexual tension when it’s obvious that, that it’s only desire then connecting to love,which is irritating. I always have that moment when reading a romance novel where I question the fact that … oh do they love each other or it’s only desire right???? (or so they said..romance is not good because people just horndog each other).But still I read romance novels because I believe in love and sure do hope that when I read romance novels I really feel the essence of it.That is why I prefer sweet romances more because I actually see the love and progression. I sure do hope this type of writing that adding more sex will change because really it’s tiring and it’s a waste of time sitting down and reading books all about it. When I thought i lost all hope I happen to find your book in a book sale and mindlessly bought it, turns out all hope is not lost.:) thank you miss Balogh for your books, because of it I continue to believe in romance novels. 🙂

  121. I so agree! I love romance stories but I find while reading the more recently published books that I am skipping over the paragraphs that describe the same things over and over again and it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth – so much so that I am not sure I want to buy the newer books.

  122. Amen! I read romance almost exclusively for many years, but I now am much more selective, for almost exactly the reasons given above. In addition to Mary Balogh, I buy Carla Kelly, Julianne Donaldson and Julia Quinn and that’s just about it. I want to read about the hero and heroine falling in love and I want to believe they’ll stay in love forever. If an author can’t do that, I’m not really interested.
    I now read lots more non-fiction, religious fiction, and mysteries than I did before. Still love a good romance better than anything, though!

  123. I couldn’t agree with you. It’s as if writers think that if I fill the pages with enough sex I won’t have to other telling a good story. Nothing could be further from the truth for me.

  124. Lately I have struggled with reading romance novels and considered giving up on them entirely. I love a good romance novel, but you are right when you say so many novels are only about the sex. Most romance novels have turned too silly for me, also. The characters are shallow and vain and act on their emotions and they have the emotions of a spoiled child. I don’t want to read porn. I want a good romance.

    I want a novel with real romance – where the characters have to build a relationship – maybe overcoming real flaws and working through real problems. I want my characters to laugh with each other and see the inner strengths of each other and see the flaws, but come to love one another anyway. The sex scenes are not important to me.

    Since I have read most all your books and eagerly await new ones, sometimes I search for authors who write similar to you. They are few and far between.

  125. You are right…most books these days have eithr skipping the sex scenes or not finishing. I prefr a story to have a plot that holds my attention. You are also one of the rew writers who handles a rape victim properly, too. Thank you for that!

  126. I think the characters need to be developed with a hint of interest between the chosen characters. A gradual increase in sexual tension adds to the spice. The conflict intensifies the heat between the main characters and together the mystery is solved. As you can tell, I enjoy a good mystery along with great sex.

  127. I have found over the years that the romances I reread time after time have one thing in common – they’re *romantic*. They’re about characters who love and value each other, people I can trust. Some have explicit sex in them, many do not. They are comfort reads because they are about people I can understand and like, The story is the growth of the bond between them. I don’t need to know what they do in bed — I have access to sex manuals if I want to brush up — unless, as in your best books, it adds to my understanding of the characters and where they are in their relationship at that particular time.

    I recently wallbanged a novel by a very popular Sourcebooks Casablance author after about thirty pages for the exact reason you stated — it seemed more a catalog of hormonal responses than a story about people. It was all spelled out, nanosecond by nanosecond, page after page, leaving me nothing to imagine or infer. It was BORING. And it was a shame, because that author had a nice prose style (which is getting rarer in these days of unedited ebooks).

  128. I started out many years ago reading Georgette Heyer as well of course, Jane Austen.Have you read” Longbourn” by Jo Baker? It’s downstairs daily life spun off from “Pride and Prejudice”and beautifully researched and written.

    I’ve read most of your series now and some of them over again.I just reread
    Wulfric’s story which is one of my favorites. You’re a wonderful storyteller with interesting characters.Keep writing!

  129. I’m a bit late to this party, but thank you for voicing something I have thought myself. I am always disappointed by authors who feel that they must serve sex with every other chapter. I know that a sex scene or two can fuel our fantasy lives, but an endless parade of sex scenes cheats the reader. I want some heft to my romances: some character development and depth. It’s something that has always attracted me about your novels, and I thank you. I am already counting the weeks until your next book arrives!

    Happy Holidays to you and your family from a Canadian fan!

  130. I am very new to blogging. Hopefully I won’t sound to ‘nerdy’. I have a question about the title of one of Mary’s past books. The story is about a young woman who is repeated molested by her cousin, who threatens her and tells her what he is doing to her is her fault for tempting him and is totally okay. It prevents her from responding to the advances of someone who is very interested in her. I hope I have given enough info.

  131. Oh, goodness, it doesn’t sound like one of my books–unless it is SECRETS OF THE HEART, which I wrote in the 1980s (I think) and haven’t read since.

  132. Thanks for positing your question of too much sex. I heartily agree! I hadn’t read romances in years (Georgette Heyer, a favorite) and picked out a few. The new romances were willed with so much sex and no character development or plot lines that I simply threw them out when I got bored. It was really unbelievable to begin with and more like I was reading Hustler magazine!

    I found you through The Proposal. I loved the story line and the characters! Well, I have read nearly all and came looking here to see if there were more. Your books are really wonderful to read.

  133. Do I agree with you? YES YES YES!
    Like many others who have written, I pretty much skip the sex scenes. I read about a book a day and the sex in the books has gotten to irritating. I read for the characters, the plot and the developing LOVE.
    Thank you Mary, I simply LOVE your books!

  134. A fun and apt post! I loved reading your thoughts about the current sexed up romance novels and the great comments from your readers. I do think that editors/publishers want more sex in current historical romances and want it to happen early in the story. Maybe, its the Fifty Shades influence. Love your reference to Frederica, possibly the most romantic of the Heyer novels. I’ve read it many times but never tire of watching the cynical Alverstoke fall hard for Frederica. I had a similar feeling of inevitable romance when I read how Hugo fell hard for Gwen in The Proposal, and she for him.

  135. Seems like a lot people here are so uncomfortable sex. I like explicit details, if you are going to write books of erotica aim for adult audience, the book needs to follow through. I hate books they give too little details, where it ends with a kiss and that’s it.

    If you are person that doesn’t like the fact a book has sex and uses explicit language. Read a god damn book for kids. I like novels, with a good story and hot steamy sex. Let’s face it there is NOTHING G rated about sex. Sex is normal. People forget we humans are animals and sex expresses are carnal animals desire. I like to say this, we women are just as sexual as men

  136. As a writer, adding sex into romance stories is inevitable, even moreso when the attraction levels rise and the mood calls for it.
    As an asexual, there are times (a lot of them) when I am just outright disgusted with the amount of sex there is in a story. Once, twice? Fine. I’ll deal, but when the whole book is centered around it, I feel it’s waisted time reading and find myself rushing over the words just to get on with it.
    Trying to find a good romance story that doesn’t turn erotic is hard! what happened to the days of leaving things to the imagination?

  137. How right you are! Romance should not translate to erotic. One should find and erotic book if one wants erotic. Romance should be tender and sweet and touching – really makes you feel (and not just gets you…pardon the word…wet).

    I have skipped a few authors who, while their story is great, the sex is too much. Perhaps have 2 versions of a book (if you really really really need to write about so much sex)…. 1 version for the romance loving prude (hand in the air please….me)…and another for the ‘sizzling-loving’ others.

    Perhaps a tagging of sorts – whether its hot, warm, sizzling, or volcanic , should help us find the books that suits our comfort zone.

  138. Hi Mary – Love your books! Came across this post because I am currently writing a “sweet” romance and have never done so. My usual books are either contemporary, paranormal, or paranormal lite and have sex scenes in them (integral, I hope, to the plot). This new novella is a challenge I have set for myself, where the hero is old-fashioned enough to want to wait for marriage. I wanted to see how much reference to sex was too much, since my heroine is NOT a virgin.

    Your post is right on. I think writers are being pushed toward more and more sex scenes, not just because many publishers are seeking that, but because they have been told “That’s what sells.” (Clearly not always true, LOL.) What I am seeing is a flood of books with lots of sex, but not enough EMOTIONAL grip. I was told, myself, once, “Why don’t you write one of those ’50 Shades’ books?” Even as a writer of spicy romance, I felt a little insulted, as if someone had told me to “sell out” and write something I was neither comfortable with nor believed in, just so it would make money.

    There are books that have loads of emotion and tension WITHOUT having explicit sex scenes. I think that writers of sweet romance have to work harder, sometimes, because they don’t have that “crutch” of sex to fall back on as a “shorthand” for emotional intimacy. I hope that this novella will be one of them, with enough work. Thanks for the very thought-provoking post!

  139. Thank you so much for this article. I am just getting ready to publish my first romance novel I wrote ten years ago, and I was saying to my husband, they don’t have sex until later on in the book, I tend to write more story line and character building than just sex. Not all my novels, some require the sexual tension, but in all honesty my books aren’t about panting for one another once they first meet. They are about building strong relationships. If readers don’t like my book oh well. I get it. I’m not all sex sex sex, which is fine for many authors, and I even like those reads once in a while. But i recently read a book where the two mains met one another, an hour later she’s at his house because of a storm, while she’s supposedly headed to meet her finance, he’s using butter as a lube and doing her all the house, quite graphic I might add, and she’s saying “It’s like this is my very first time.” and he’s “I hope it to be your last, with me” really???? after meeting two hours ago? Plus you have a fiance, she was even keeping score in the book in the bedroom, hot cowboy 3 fiance nothing. I couldn’t red it all. I was left wanting a story, characters I could love, and a romance I could wrap my heart around. So thank you for making me feel better, building my confidence and moving me forward.

  140. I know this is an old post, but I have to put my two cents in.

    I’ve turned away from so many authors that I used to like because their books have turned into very little plot, almost no romance, and nothing but sex scene after sex scene with nothing to link them together but the characters thinking about having sex. Stephanie Laurens in particular is guilty of this; her books used to be romantic and fun, but now they’re nothing but one long, excruciatingly boring sex scene after another, and utterly impossible to read.

    Personally, I think it’s the advent of Fifty Shades of Shit (oops, I mean Grey — no, I don’t) into the literary world that has really ratcheted up this disturbing trend. Because a very small (tasteless) amount of people read those horribly written, vapid, trashy “books” (I hate to call that kind of crap literature, but as they have covers, pages and words, I suppose that I have to) think the (again, badly-written) sex, which borders and sometimes cross the line into abuse, is great, it seems that many writers seem to have come to the conclusion that it’s what people want. (And yes, I read the first Fifty Shades book, wincing all the way. I had to wear one of those little caps with the ear flaps on it while I was reading, because I could feel my brain cells dribbling out and running away screeching at the top of their tiny little lungs.)

    It just saddens me that so many writers these days seem to think that sex is what will sell their books. No, what will sell to romance readers is a ROMANCE, not interminable sex scenes (I mean, come on, there are only so many ways you can write sex — and I swear, if I have to read ONE MORE description saying that a woman “shattered,” I’ll throw the book into the nearest trash compactor). Romance writers need to nix all the sex and get back to PLOT.

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for giving us books that have actual romance, buildups to the sex, and when it does happen, sex scenes that are intimate, tender, and far more romantic than the “wham bam” that seems to be so sadly popular these days.

  141. I stumbled upon this from looking for a romance book that doesn’t have the two main characters engaging in sex every other page. I completely agree with everything you said (while laughing a bit). It’s ridiculous. It’s so hard to find a book with the right balance. It’s honestly frustrating to read a romance novel that is basically all about sex. I don’t mind the sex, I prefer it; however, sometimes it is just too much and not tasteful. I found my self skipping the sex parts after the 1,000,000,000th time.

  142. Pingback: WHAT’S WITH ROMANCE THESE DAYS? – Never Too Late

  143. I totally agree… I just find myself skipping these sex scenes, because if I wanted to watch porn or read porn I would go to a porn website!
    Alas, only few authors like Mariana Zapata have made a conscious effort to not make the book 70% sex. I feel a profound loss for true romance sometimes..!

  144. I agree totally with you. My favourite authors are clean writers. I’ve read all Jane Austin’s books and almost all Georgette Heyer books and many, many others that are similar to their styles. I feel sex is so much portrayed as a selfish act of personal gratification and not as it truly should be, as a giving act of love. I am uncomfortable when an author is graphic and will not finish it if I feel it is inappropriate. Although many might not agree, I still believe that sex only holds place in marriage. (Yes, i was one of those rare people that was a virgin until my wedding night). I think true love is not indecent and has self-control and is patient and so it can wait until within the proper bounds. To me, that’s what makes it sweet and beautiful. That’s the kind of books I like to read.

    V

  145. Hi, Mary! I’m a recent reader of your stories (the last year or so), and I’m obsessed! As Samuel Butler said, “The oldest books are only just out to those who have not read them.”

    I think there is MORE sexual tension and delight and riveted reading the LESS actual sex that happens. The more imagining, worrying, the more depth to the relationship, the more explosive when “it” happens. Whether “it” is “good” or “bad.” One of the many features I love about your stories is the initial imperfect, troubled, flat sex. And the relationship development that leads to better. (For example, I just finished Simply Love, and whoa, Sydham and Anne have spades of sexual awkwardness that endeared them to me; I can see a little of myself in Anne’s fear of intimacy, her reliance on self.)

    Love to you, my dear author. And thank you for helping me understand myself better, deeper, through your stories. Sex scene after sex scenes in stories just makes my connection deaden.

    P.S. I’m (second-generation emigrated) Canadian too! I grew up in Cambridge, Ontario.

  146. I’ve just spent the past hour looking for romances without the sex. They are hard to find, especially in ebooks. Even when I have become comfortable with an author and a particular series of books, if I’m not careful, I get surprised when I’m out of the series. I love the Georgette Heyer romances and could read most of the a hundred times over and enjoy them just as much. I have just recently discovered your name. I haven’t been reading romances for a while as I was determined to bypass them due to the explicit sex found in so many. I’m looking forward to reading your books and will look for summaries/reviews to make sure I don’t get surprised. I have appreciated a couple of lists that have labeled some romances as gentle or sensitive reads and hope the lists will continue to grow.

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