Friday, April 14, 2006

Love Scenes

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?


Emma Sinclair said...

OK, I admit, it's been a really long time since I've read a romance without a love scene.

I think for a romance to be truly great, it has to be off the scales in terms of sensual tension. And I think most readers (and writers) want the pay off of all that tension, just like the characters! I feel like I was tricked when a book ends with nothing more than a simple kiss.

That said, I love Jane Austin, who does end with a simple kiss (if that even) and I HATED the "extra" ending of the new version of Pride and Prejudice.

Double standard? You betcha!!

But I bet if Jane Austin were alive today she'd write some pretty kick ass love scenes!

Nalini Singh said...

I love how at home you are with your double standards Emma *G*

Imagine P & P with love scenes?!!

JLB said...

It's funny, but I've heard people tell me that they just “flip through the love scenes,” but I never really believe them. :)

Not being a reader of romance fiction myself, I’d have to say that I’m on the fence… I think that any scene, so long as it’s well written and pertinent to the progression of the story, is worth including.

But personally, I get bored with long sexual tangents in stories and I yawn at sweetness-overkills. When it comes to love scenes and sexual tensions, I personally prefer subtlety, innuendo, symbolism, and suggestion... but that doesn’t mean I’d flip through a nice juicy scene if I came upon it!

Milady Insanity said...

Actually, I believe Morgan Hawke has a list on her website of euphemisms, amongst other useful stuff for people who write sex scenes in their books.

I have absolutely no idea what works and what doesn't work in a sex scene for me. Won't find out until I write one (well, I sorta did awhile back) because that's just the way it works for me.

Cynthia E. Bagley said...

If there are too many sex scenes... I yawn through them... or even flip through them. It is true. BUT J.D. Robbs... scenes umm ummm... I actually read those.

Before I married I would read every sex scene.. find them first and read them over and over... Now that I have it on a regular basis.. yawn


Barbara said...

As a romance reader, I have to say that the sex‘s scenes play a significant role in the culmination of the story when I'm reading a book.
I don't know but is hard for me to imagine that the couple has click when there is no sex involved. Hey I’m not a sex maniac, but I do believe that it does play an important part on romance novels. If there is no strong romance and sensuality, so what’s the point of reading romance novels? I read them for the fantasy that motivates me to be a better wife and bring new experiences into my own relationship.
However is really important to keep the balance between sex and romance and that is the reason of why I love your books so much.

Nalini Singh said...

Lol JLB!!

Milady - I'm going to have to check that out. Might send it to those who were quizzing me.

Cynthia - ROTFLM!! And I have to agree about JD Robb. I devour those books.

Barbara - First, thanks for the compliment re my books! I agree with you about the importance of the click and the impact of strong sensuality in books. I guess in the past, writers got past writing love scenes by showing the courting period ie. Pride and Prejudice, rather than the progression after people were together? Or maybe I'm comparing apples and oranges. Different social attitudes equals different kinds of books!

Olga said...

I like to see sensual tension and emotional tension, and that's what I'm looking for in the book. Love scenes should be intergral part of the book. Otherwise I might as well skip them (but that's just me).

Nalini Singh said...

I agree with you Olga - I can always tell when it's just a filler scene. But I did read on another blog (can't recall where) that you shouldn't put anything really important in a love scene because some readers will always miss it.