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Sunday, 2 October 2016

Sex. Yep, you read that right. I talk about sex...

I recently had a review for one of my books which went along the lines of  'there wasn't any hot sex in it. I read books for hot sex, so I didn't like this story'.  And this made me a little bit sad, not because the reader didn't like the book - he or she is entirely entitled not to like what I write, but because he (or she) was reading a book sold as 'romance', and therefore obviously equates 'romance' with 'hot sex'.
Hot cocoa. Because I am not putting a picture of hot sex on my blog...
And then I was reading a well known review site, which was trailing some 'forthcoming book offers'.  You know what?  EVERY SINGLE BLURB went along the lines of 'they met, he (or sometimes she) didn't want a relationship (usually for some spurious reason such as a previous ex cheating), but the heat between them was undeniable. Can the way they set fire to the sheets indicate something more serious than a one night stand?'

This made me shake my head a little bit.  You see, when you get to my advanced age, you realise that the ability to have hot sex is absolutely no indicator of a good relationship. Okay, these books are dealing with the beginnings of relationships, where two people are just getting together. It is reassuring to know that the hotness of the sex shows that they are compatible in bed.  But, let's face it, we've all had someone we fancy something terrible, with whom the sex is great, but after a few months, when the hotness of the sex begins to wane, when being groped at every available second has lost its power to enthrall and charm and has become a complete nuisance.  When you want to talk about that leak in the kitchen ceiling or whose turn it is to cook dinner without attempts to fondle your bosom it makes you want to shout THIS IS NOT REAL LIFE!
Very nice dear, but who's doing the washing up?

Many people don't want to read about real life, I suppose.  They want their romantic fiction to be swoony, gorgeous men sweeping women off their feet and into bed.  And this is fine and perfectly normal.  But it's not the kind of fiction that I write. Because I don't find sex very romantic, to be honest. It's nice as part of a romance, but building a whole life on how hot the sex is between a couple just seems a bit...short sighted. Okay, so he can make you swoon in ecstatic ecstacy every night, well that's lovely dear. But does it mean he will stand beside you and hold your hand when you get bad news?  Will he cuddle you on a cold night, and keep you company during your insomnia?  Will he cook dinner and keep the house tidy and look after the animals when you are confined to bed with a vomiting bug that is not the least picturesque?

And often I read books where I think the answer to any of these questions is 'nah'. And that's not romance, that's hormones.

12 comments:

Terri Nixon said...

What a perfect post, Jane. I cannot be arsed, frankly, with all the clothes-ripping and frantic panting and desperation that some of these books offer. I hardly ever write sex into my books, but I write quite a lot of that boring old thing, tenderness. *yawn* right? But I prefer it. When my books get marketed as 'historical romance' you can bet someone's looking for a bodice-ripper. Nuh-uh, sorry! My couples are always connected on a much deeper level WAY before the first button goes!
Nor do I enjoy reading it, and I (here I'm going to get controversial, sorry) I actually find it quite cringey to see women of a 'certain age,' banging on about 'hot heroes' and 'wild sex,' and sharing picts of shirtless himbos on book covers. We all fancy blokes off the telly, (and even in real life, occasionally!) but when I do see someone that makes the old chest cavity flutter, I don't automatically want to rip their clothes off. Not anymore! I'd much rather imagine what it'd be like to have that face smiling just for me.

Terri Nixon said...

Okay, I've just re-read that and it's not strictly true: all but one of my books have sex in them, but usually only once. Maid of Oaklands Manor has no sex at all, but some VERY sensual moments. That's all it needed - any more would have been artificial and out of place. Despite that, I managed to have a reviewer claim the hero was so sexy she didn't trust him one bit, but still wanted to "do naughties with him in the outhouse!"

Anne Harvey said...

Oh, how true, Jane! With you all the way on this one. I did include a short sex scene in my novel Bittersweet Flight but, on reflection, realised that it would have worked just as well without it.

I started a novel a short while ago but discarded it after a few pages as it was sex almost from the very beginning. Shame, cos it sounded quite a good story.

Jane Lovering said...

Thank you both for your comments...I know what you mean, Terri, and sensuality isn't the same thing as overt hot sex on the page. Sensual scenes show a growing closeness between a couple, whereas sex can just as easily be between two people who don't even LIKE each other - they just fancy one another.

And Anne, I've nothing against sex scenes per se, it's when sex is used to show how 'good' a couple are together. I've read too many books where the romance is basically 'we have great sex - let's get married', as though sex is synonymous with having a relationship. Let's face it, if you're always snogging, you aren't going to have chance to argue much, are you?

juliaibbotson said...

So agree with you there, Jane. My books do have some sex in them (well, not my children's books, of course!), but only as a part of a relationship that's already started and always "for a reason" (if you see what I mean!)Maybe it's my age but I don't find hot sex for its own sake appealing in a story; I need the relationship bit for it to grow out of, otherwise to me it's simply a passing titillation and it doesn't hold my attention. The (sexual) tension between two people is much more of a turn-on than the graphic detail of who put what where! Great post, Jane!

Phillipa said...

It's perfectly possible to have books with hot sex, tenderness and characters who are you believe are going to be married for a long time. I don't see why it's. Badge of honour to write books with no sex in, or very little or masses of sex. I like tender books with no sex and books ith hot and kinky sexy, both reading and writing them. Sorry to slightly disagree, guys - what does make my blood boil is (US) readers who complain that a book isn't clean. The appropriation of the word clean in relation to fiction by some sections of US romance readers makes we weep. I'm off to have a hot chocolate and hopefully at some point, some hot sex too(well, it will be hot at my interesting' stage of life, whether I want it to be or not.)

Jane Lovering said...

I quite agree, Phillipa - I have no problem with books with hot sex in at all - it's when the hot sex is the only connection between the characters that I start to give a book side-eye... Characters that rarely (if ever) have a conversation, and never do anything other than fall into bed, mentally lust after one another, or tear one another's clothes off rather than talk over an issue. Almost as if fabulous and non stop sex is all you need to make a relationship stable and far reaching.

Although I wish you much hot sex of your own...obviously!

Rhoda Baxter said...

Brilliant post. I agree with you. There has to be more than JUST lust for a convincing HEA.

Sue Barnard said...

Great post, Jane. I was always taught that every scene should move the story along. Sex scenes are fine so long as they do that, but unfortunately all too often they don't.

Phillipa said...

I think there are genres and sub genres where the sex is the point of the book -but I don't understand why the cover of Jane's British romantic fiction novel didn't give them a clue it wasn't a long hot sex fest!

Jane Lovering said...

i think in the US sex is more 'front and centre' of a romance (if you forgive the expression), so US readers have kind of grown to expect more sex in their romances. I (and most of the people I know and read) write romances where CHARACTER is front and centre. Sex is a natural part of two people growing together and falling in love, but I find I can't care about the sex in a book when the two characters having it are cypherss and the sex is just used to show he's a big manly man and she is reduced to a heap of jelly by his...err...manly manliness.

Why should I care that they have dynamite sex, if I can't relate to them as people?

Chris Stovell said...

My English teacher used to tell us that someone who could talk to you at breakfast time (and to just in a 'pass the cornflakes' sort of way) was a much better long-term prospect than someone who only wanted to take you to bed. We all thought she was tragic at the time but it was great advice!