Thursday, January 10, 2008

Does more sex equal good romance?


I’ve been thinking a lot about my love for romance novels lately, mainly because I couldn’t find anything to remind why the hell I even read them in the first place.

I keep stumbling upon shoddy stories, bad writing even worse dialogue and repetitive plots. It gives me a headache to recall the amount of junk I read last year. I’d say 99% of the romance novels I got my hands on were pure rubbish.

It had been such a long time since I read something I loved—really loved—that I find myself wondering if I truly like Tara Janzen’s writing or if I’m just holding on to her books because they are the least crappy of the garbage I find. *sigh* I’m even looking forward to the sex—and I never look forward to sex in books. Hell, I don’t even read sex scenes; I usually skip them unless they add something to the story or the book is very good.

This train of thought made me wonder about romance novels and sex. Did publishers and writers start adding more sex into books because the writing and plots became so bad they had to find a way to lure in the readers?

What happened to paying more attention to your writing and character/plot development than to how many orifices you could fill in 300 pages? I for one would much rather a good book with no sex than one filled with bad writing and sexually acrobatic characters that swing from chandeliers hooked to electrical butt-plugs or some such ridiculous thing.

I remember when romance novels where just about a good heartwarming story. Judith McNaught couldn’t write an interesting sex scene to save her life, yet, she didn’t need to. Her books were so engaging, her plots and characters so well developed, her stories so captivating the few sex scenes she did have—even if copy-pasted from one book to the next—just added a simple beauty to her novels.

I wonder if this why erotica (not erotic romance) found such a big niche in the market. I read all the sex in my new found love for erotica. Some of it is bad, but a lot of it is pretty creative; and even when a good amount of the writing SUCKS the sex holds up the book and it delivers. Something romance novels have forgotten to do. But sex is pretty much the only reason I read erotica, and most definitely not the reason I read romance.

With straight romance, if the writing is bad and the sex is boring, then what do they have going for them? A big fat load of nothing in my book.

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14 comment(s):

Blogger Petra said...

Always, a great sex scene is not a substitute for a great story line.

I enjoy a good erotic read but I need something beyond big body parts that throb. Even when the sex is very dirty, if the story is dull and mechanical I'll end up not liking the book.

I think the reason why mainstream romance novels are competing with erotica novels is just that, to give readers what they want: sex AND romance. But not every author can deliver both. Worse, when authors compromise the story because they forget that it isn't all about sex.

1/10/2008 05:23:00 PM  

Blogger Vicious Trollop said...

One author that I find delivers both good stories and great sex is Sarah McCarty.

You should give her a try Petra. She's a wonderful author, and one of the few I've found that can balance the right amount of hot sex and a good dose of romance well.

1/10/2008 05:30:00 PM  

Anonymous di said...

trollop I agree on Sarah McCarty but disagree about erotica being published to fill-in the lack of sex in romance.

Erotica would have happened anyway even if romance had kept the big appeal it had in the 80's and 90's.

1/10/2008 05:39:00 PM  

Blogger Petra said...

Trollop, I did thanks to your recommendation. :D I tried Promises Linger and loved it!

1/10/2008 05:40:00 PM  

Blogger Shoshana said...

I know sex scenes doesn't carry a book. I was reading Robin Schone and some Angela Knights and I put it down after a few pages or scanning.

Then I read JR Ward, the names makes me cringe...whats up with the extra 'h's?

Anyway, she has great story between hot sex, so I am totally fine with the book...and I still skip the sex...unless it's the only thing interesting in the book...

1/11/2008 01:13:00 AM  

Blogger Shoshana said...

should 'doesn't' be 'don't'?

Screw grammar...I wish I was better at it.

1/11/2008 01:13:00 AM  

Blogger Jolie said...

JR Ward's books are hot but (as Shoshana says) the stupid names are very annoying. Somehow I couldn't pass that little irritation that itched like a #$%* and it ruined the story for me.

Plus, compare to Sherrilyn Kenyon's story, I like the Dark Hunters more than the Brotherhood. You feel me?

1/11/2008 05:08:00 AM  

Blogger Jolie said...

"I was reading Robin Schone and some Angela Knights and I put it down after a few pages or scanning."

I haven't read Angela Knight but a friend recommended her. That bad huh?

1/11/2008 05:09:00 AM  

Anonymous Sheila said...

I say the sex thing in books is just a movement with the times...as it is in movies, tv shows, language and music.

I love a good book with no sex... as much as I love a good book with good sex. I started on romances with the old Harlequins in the 70's as a pre-teen, when the characters all kissed and faded to black. My first real romances were by K. Woodiwiss and moved on to Cassie Edwards' Native American romances, and they hooked me for life. Even being married for 12 years, I still read romances all the time. I have saved some mild ones for my daughters to start on when they are old enough. Maybe it's the perpetuation of the princess/prince charming fairytale syndrome drilled into us as young girls, maybe it is the belief in one true love, maybe it is being an eternal optimist....I read other fiction, and yet ALWAYS come back to a romance.

I have several degrees, was a journalism major back in the day- have done everything from hand paint pottery to private investigator to stay at home mom, and currently am a research assistant. Inspite of all this, I can read most any romance novel. In the past year, I have read close to 100 books with maybe 10 as dnf. If the writing is creative and the characters are believable, I really don't care if the plot has been done before-it's all a fairytale version anyway. I just don't like over embellishment of the scenery, and will skip over it if it is not pertinent to the mood...The biggest thing for me is to keep looking for fave authors, and read lots of reviews. I also find an author and then have to buy everything by them: such as Sarah McCarty as mentioned above, Lisa Marie Rice, Julie Cruise, Erin McCarthy, Rachel Gibson, Julia Quinn, Edith Layton, Christina Dodd (Historical only) and Suzanne Enoch to name just a few.

As for non-romance- I have much stricter guidelines: I really enjoy Isabel Allende, Lawrence Thornton, and my all time fave Jack Kerouac. During the day I voraciously read political blogs, yet cannot stand to read a political non-fiction book all the way through. I wonder why that is? Does that make me a non-romance snob? I really don't care, I read what I like and that's that.

I think this post will officailly remove me from the lurking arena....

1/11/2008 09:40:00 AM  

Blogger Lollie Rose said...

I agree with Sheila that the "sex thing in books is just a movement with the times". During 60s, you won't find sex in television. Now even cartoon characters kiss and do the horizontal tango!

Most romance readers today are looking for stories that are different, stories that push the boundaries. The reason why, in my opinion, many readers loved Lisa Valdez's Passion. If you think about it, Passion's story is the usual boy-meets-girl formula where the hero is unavailable. But because of the sex it's different. I dare say readers like that it pushes the edge a little bit.

1/11/2008 10:10:00 AM  

Blogger Jordis Juice said...

Isn't that what romance is popular for, the sex scenes?

If you ask a non-reader of romance what she thinks romance novels are about, she'll say a love story, and yes, a lot of sex.

Makes you wonder if romance novels should have a sensuality rating.

1/11/2008 01:28:00 PM  

Blogger Jordis Juice said...

Speaking of Lisa Valdez, any news about her or her book Patience?

1/11/2008 01:29:00 PM  

Blogger Lollie Rose said...

Yes. Any news from Lisa Valdez? Sadly, her website remains unchanged.

1/12/2008 05:50:00 AM  

Anonymous Sheila said...

Amazon.co.UK has Patience scheduled as a May 2008 release. But I'm sure that is subject to change. I loved Passion, and hope the next book will not dissapoint after all this wait.

1/12/2008 09:01:00 AM