I remember finding my mother’s paperback copy of Colleen McCullough’s, The Thorn Birds, and reading every single teensy word of its six-hundred-and-ninety-two pages. It was quite an undertaking for a fourteen-year-old girl. Partly because it was a family drama far above my level of understanding, and also because this was a complicated adult book with complicated adult characters having complicated adult sex.
(Fourteen-year-old-mind) *Gulp! *Re-reads sex scene. French letter? *Hears mom coming up the stairs. *Shoves paperback under pile of teen magazines. *Adores TEEN BOP’s centerfold of Wil Wheaton in his Star Trek: The Next Generation uniform.
The Thorn Birds was riveting because of its depth, because of its characters, because of its complications. Sure, it was too steamy for my fourteen-year-old-virgin-eyes, but the book wasn’t all about the sex.
On the other hand, I’ve read a few historical romance novels that I will never admit to finishing, because they were absolutely dreadful, and here’s why.
- Female protagonist is inexperienced and her bosom is always heaving.
- Male protagonist has been sowing his oats for years, has rippling abs and bulging—things.
- Speaking of bulging… Isn’t that the worst? That, and the other cartoon-ish words these authors use every few pages to describe the anatomy of quivering characters.
- Characters argue for days, get stuck in some far-off place together, usually along a river bank. It’s cold, so of course they must sleep close together to keep warm as a matter of survival. They resist their urges for the longest night before—wait for it—
- Impossible week-long sexual encounters with intermittent milk-baths. Milk? For real? You really think that curdling odor is gonna add to your intimate moments?
Maybe I don’t have a clue what a milk bath is, but I am certain readers can judge this kind of book by its cover. I know you’ve all hidden them from your mothers too. This kind of book is all about the sex.
I’ve had a difficult time admitting I write romantic speculative fiction because I don’t want to be lumped into this kind of romance. It’s not for me, and I wouldn’t recommend a single book like this to anyone. But, my stories aren’t the family saga type of romance either.
The romance genre is vast. Everything from sweet to spicy, epic to eye-roll. Younger readers won’t have to hide my books from their mothers, but the stories are certainly riveting and appealing for those who read romance for the pure, addicting bliss that leaps from the pages and into our hearts when two souls find the one thing we all desire. A soul connection.
I believe a well written romance grows within the protection of a committed relationship, and becomes more intimate as the relationship strengthens, usually through a shared conflict which could break the couple but which we hope with all hopes, doesn’t break them. We hope they fight the odds to hold fast to their commitment to one another and find the everlasting, soul-satisfying, unbreakable bond of true love.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. What types of romance novels do you prefer? Have you read any great romances lately?