One of the reasons millions read romance novels is to enjoy the journey of two people falling in love. It's also the reason so many of us write them. Love is that elusive emotion scientists argue over, psychologists try to define, and about which philosophers write. Skeptics say it doesn't exist, and poets claim it conquers all. It can run the gamut from affection toward a stray dog, lost and wandering at the side of the road, all the way to crazed obsession with another human being.
The ways in which we write about the many faces of love in romance novels are as varied as species of flowers on the planet. Sweet, bedroom-door-closed inspirationals to menage a-as-many-as-you-can-fit-on-the-floor-with-the-heroine erotic novels. Ah, but Carolyn, you say, sex isn't love and love isn't sex. True, but in a romance novel, the two are intertwined. Unless you're writing straight erotica, a romance novel has a happily-ever-after or happily-for-now ending. After all, isn't sex the most intimate act you can perform with another human being?
Some of the sexiest scenes are the ones in which the author has written hot kissing and implied sex. Kristan Higgins, I'm talking to you. Her heros are yummy with awesome names like Callahan O'Shea or Ian McFarland, and even though you never see it between the pages, they always leave their lady loves satisfied.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, I finished reading my first menage-a-cinq romance last night. It's the most risque romance I've read to date. Well, okay, it was risque for me. I realize it's pretty mainstream for some. But what struck me in this book was the emotion. It surprised me. I admit I expected all sex, sex, sex. Oh, there's plenty of that, but the affection between the shifter heroine and her four shifter lovers/mates drew me in and kept me there. I have profound respect for authors who can sustain one relationship in a book let alone four.
For me, it's all about the characters and their emotion. Hey, I love reading a steamy sex scene as much as the next girl, but if there's no passion, or at least genuine affection, underneath those sheets, the sex falls flat. You think it's not a challenge to write more than one sex scene in a novel and make each unique, with passion and love in the mix? Try it. You'll see what I mean.
Where do you hide your heart? How do you prefer your romance? Talk to me.