BRINGING YOU THE BEST IN ROMANCE FICTION
There is no right or wrong answer. Each reader has his or her own expectation about what they want to read in a romance and, as writers, we can only guess. One particular Facebook group I belong to sees a lot of chatter, and though I don’t comment often, I do read what the readers have to say. This question came up and I noted that the answers were all over the board. And though the ‘yes’ category far outweighed the ‘no’ category (most likely due to a large number of contemporary readers), what seemed most important to the reader was ‘did it fit that particular story and/or time period’.
My observation was that early-on sex was deemed more acceptable in contemporary romance. Realistically, how many virgins are there today over the age of sixteen? Historicals were another matter. Back in medieval and regency times, which are the two most historical romance periods written, heroines were expected to be virgins and unsoiled. Exceptions would be a widowed heroine who lost her husband to war or disease.
So, based on that, where historicals are concerned, is sex important to a good love story? The answer to that lies with Jane Austen whose no-sex books are still revered to this day. Her wonderful stories focused more on character traits and flaws, showed us that romance is not upheld by sex. In reality it’s the other way around. Sex in a romance book (unless it’s pure erotica) is a natural progression of the romance between hero and heroine, and romance is supported by strong thoughts, deep feelings, and heartfelt emotions. This is what draws the characters together. This is what makes you root for them and want them to beat whatever conflict comes against them to be together.
In addition to sex fitting that particular story or time period, it must also fit the characters, the tone of the story and the action. I’ve written four romances with two in the works, and each set of characters is different. In two of them, there is only one sex scene due to the nature of the story, the nature of the characters, and the natural evolution of where and when that would take place. In the other two stories, there are two or more sex scenes. Character dictates when and where sex takes place, if it takes place at all. So the final determination is . . . it all depends.
As each reader has his or her own preference, labeling romances with “steamy” or “sweet” is one way to forewarn the reader what to expect. As for me, I can read either as long as there is a strong emotional connection between the hero and heroine, because in the end, they’re going to have sex whether I witness it or not.