Reader’s Corner: Sexy or Sweet? How Do You Like Your Love Scenes?

One of my groups on Goodreads is having a great discussion about love scenes.  How far do you want your love scenes to go?  Are you satisfied with a sweet scene that shows where the couple is headed, but discretely closes the door before anything more than a kiss happens?  Or do you want every steamy moment in all their graphic details? 

Until about three years ago I hadn’t read a romance for probably twenty years.  I cut my teeth on Kathleen Woodiwiss, whose love scenes by today’s standards are pretty mild.  When I picked up Lisa Kleypas’ Mine ‘Til Midnight I was astonished–and more than a little heated–by the sensually graphic nature of her love scenes.  But the fantasy/reality factor (it’s the way sex should be, with all the unsavory bits taken out) really appealed to me, so now Kleypas pretty much sets the standard for me.  And it’s that heat level and sensuality that I attempt to capture in my own writing.

So how graphic is too graphic?  Where should the romance writer draw the line? 

And while we’re thinking about it, what is the line between romance and erotic romance as far as how you describe these scenes?  We all know that erotic romance has more sex than a regular romance, or is it rather in the way that sex is described?  Can erotic romance have only one sex scene and still be judged to be erotic?

As a writer of both erotic and non-erotic romance I find the line blurs sometimes.  I’m finishing an historical that has a lot of sex scenes described in a very graphic way.  However, I would not classify it as erotic romance.  I also have an erotic romance with only one (rather lengthy) sex scene.  Yet I’ve been told it is should be listed as erotic.  How and who judges these categories?  Publishers?  Readers?

I have lots of questions, but I’d really like your opinions on this.  Feedback from both readers and writers is vital to making our work the very best it can be.  So share your thoughts on these and other questions you may have regarding how you like your sex scenes!

This entry was posted in On Writing, On Writing Erotic Romance, On Writing Historical Romance, On Writing Romance, Reader's Corner and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Reader’s Corner: Sexy or Sweet? How Do You Like Your Love Scenes?

  1. Lisa Kumar says:

    Like Penny and Brenda, I think it all comes down to the tone and voice of a book. As long as the scenes stay true to that vision, I can read any heat level.


  2. Penelope Barber says:

    I agree with Brenda. The heat level and wording should fit the tone and style of the rest of the story.
    What throws me out of the story is the mechanical description of every move made and every part touched without any primal reaction, emotion, thought, or intense dialog involved. I’d rather the door close on the scene and let my imagination do the work if the author can’t connect the act to the characters and story any better than that.
    In romance, erotic or otherwise, people make that connection for more than just the orgasm, and all those hopes, fears, joys, realizations and impressions are what really make the scene sparkle. Without them, it’s porn.


  3. caseamajor says:

    Well, Jenna. I like you write both erotic and sensual. I like both and even at times read sweet so I say there is a place for everyone at the sexual smorgasbord.


  4. Leia Shaw says:

    I don’t think the graphic quality of the sex scene classifies the book as erotic or romance…I think it’s the amount of sex. Although honestly, I expect more taboo themes (BDSM, menage, etc) in an erotica vs romance but that isn’t always the case. As far as just the right amount of sex…well, it’s subjective isn’t it? What I find risque and too much is probably different than you. That’s why I think there’s an audience for every heat level and a book for every reader in that regard. I’m a little like you, when I started reading romance I eased into it. When I read my first…well, I won’t mention it but let’s just say it was a scene on the very spicy side…I was shocked. But since then I’ve gotten used to the language and the graphic nature of the business so not much phases me anymore. I can get through just about anything, but what I enjoy falls somewhere in the middle. Which is where I aim to write. What is the middle you say? For me, I stay away from the terms D’Ann mentioned above. I do describe the entire sexual encounter, including foreplay which sometimes includes oral. But the characters are emotionally connected and if there’s pillow talk it’s classy and sweet (or maybe funny). No name calling or anything degrading. The closest thing I’ve gone with taboo topic is handcuffs in my first book, and a very mild D/S scene in my 2nd book. Does that help?


  5. I read all romances. I prefer realistic graphic sex but I would much rather have a good story line than lots of sex if the author is uncomfortable writing sex. As a reader I can tell when someone is not comfortable with what she/he is writing. I like it all.


  6. This is a Pandora’s box. For me, I both read and write erotic romance. I don’t like literary erotica (too politically correct and occasionally gross), and I find sweet romance to be too tepid. If I pick up a book that’s described as a “spicy” or “hot” romance, I expect graphic content of some sort. If I pick up an “erotic” romance, there had better be some graphic sex or I’ll feel mislead. The labels count.

    This brings up the debate between “erotica” and “porn.” My opinion is that erotica has the emphasis on some other element of the story with lots of sex sprinkled in at appropriate places. Porn is sex as the main story line. I find porn boring.

    You asked who decides on these labels. In my experience, the labels come from 2 places: the writer and the publisher. The writer sells her work to the publisher as _label_. The publisher, if she decides to take it, will determine if that label fits, and will adjust it to fit in what she thinks will sell best with the least reader dissatisfaction.

    Good topic, Jenna. I hope you get the answers you are seeking.


  7. D'Ann says:

    I think the line between romance and erotica is often blurred. I like very steamy love scenes, but I don’t like nasty words like pussy or the C one. I don’t use them. However, I do use cock. Go figure.


    • Marion says:

      I’m with D’Ann on this one. Give me romantic sex with out the gross words. I used cock only once. Usually it’s hard shaft, but I write Regencies.


  8. Dee Dawning says:

    Hi Jenna, You know my answer, but I’ll say it again for the record. I’ve written mostly Erotic and Erotic Romance, But I have written one sweet story and a couple borderline. My erotic leaning ones haven’t all sold well. (just having a steamy rating isn’t going to get someone to buy it) but most have sold decent to good. My sweet and borderline stories on the other wouldn’t make good coasters if they were print books..


  9. Lindsay says:

    I tend to prefer the scenes to be a little more on the milder side.


  10. Brenda says:

    This is a great topic. One I don’t know the answers for, LOL.
    For me, the sex scene and how graphic it is or isn’t depends on the story I’m reading. What I mean is, if it I’m reading a story with a pretty tame voice, then if I hit the sex scene and it all of a sudden is riddled with graphic words and is very detailed, that will toss me out of the story only because it doesn’t fit. Same goes for if I’m reading a novel with a more wild voice and I hit the sex scene and it is mild, then that will toss me out because it doesn’t fit with the story and the voice of the story.
    For me it all depends on the VOICE.


  11. Karen Wilson says:

    Okay Jenna, I will jump in here and stir the pot. By most of the polls I’ve seen it appears that hot and steamy is on the top of the list for the 20-30 crowd and mild for the retired crowd. But my vote is for the more mild side, which I think is in the minority.


  12. Jennifer Lowery~Writer says:

    Good questions, Jenna! I’m not really sure either. I read mostly RS and have found that some of them have very erotic scenes that surprise me and others have almost none at all. I’m curious as to others opinions too 🙂


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