Contrary to my normal hermitlike behavior, I actually attended a cherry-blossom viewing party last weekend. It really was very pretty having a picnic under the cherry trees, especially after night fell and the trees were lit up. While I was there, some people I hadn't previously met found out I wrote romance novels. I got the usual questions and that was fine - I can talk about writing forever.
But then I got one that left me somewhat lost for words. I was asked to come up with twenty euphemisms for various body parts, because that's apparently all we romance novelists do - we write endless purple-prosey love scenes. I wasn't offended, mostly because these were young guys of a certain age and seriously, we all know they have only one thing on their brains. Yet it got me thinking about how important love scenes have become in romantic fiction.
During yesterday's post and comments, we were speaking about Jane Austen, the Brontes etc. These writers wrote what are considered some of the most powerful love stories in the English language. And they were popular writers of their time, so we're not talking about literary fiction (though the passage of time alone may have made some of it so, but that's a post for another day). Obviously, they were restricted in what they wrote because of when they lived, but no one would ever argue that there's no sexual tension in those books.
And yet there are no love scenes.
Even sweet romances these days sometimes go beyond the bedroom door, or hint at things going on behind that door. It seems that our expectations have shifted to make love scenes an integral part of romance novels. For example, I loved Sharon Shinn's Archangel, but one of the complaints others had about that book was the lack of a proper love scene.
Perhaps it's because our society has shifted so that the manners and restraints of past times no longer apply, which is reflected in our books. But at the same time, there are many people who say that they skip the love scenes in a book. Given that it puzzles me why they've become one of the cornerstones of romance novels. People might skip the scenes, but they'll complain if they're not there and the book isn't marketed as a sweet romance. What gives? Do you feel cheated by a non-sweet romance that doesn't have love scenes? Why have love scenes become so important?