Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Sex in novels - more! No, less!

After the inexplicable success of 50 Shades of Grey, some writers are making their romances more sexually explicit, or penning erotica to cater to what they perceive the market wants. (I stoutly maintain that erotica is in its own category, quite separate from other fiction, and different rules apply. For one thing, it's much easier to sell, so perhaps these authors are making a canny move.) As a reader, it's not for me, for much the same reason I don't like musicals; the actors keep stopping to sing instead of getting on with the story.

But while some categories are getting steamier, new chaste ones are popping up. I only heard of Amish Romance recently via Passive Guy's post Why Amish Novels Are Hot, but there's a lot of it about. You can recognize the genre as the covers generally show a young woman in one of those white bonnets with strings looking wistful. Author Sarah Stegall commented on its appeal: 

"It's an under-served market. My mother-in-law is not Amish, but grew up in that country and is an avid reader of Amish romances. She says the appeal of such stories, for her and her friends, is the lack of sex and profanity. These ladies are very uncomfortable with currently published romance novels, which qualify (to her) as pornography. She likes courtship stories, sweet adolescent romance stories, and such. Her friends also like the emphasis on religion, rather than worldly values. And yes, all of these ladies read their Amish romances on Kindles."

So there we go. I'm guilty myself of 'profanity' in my novels; I'm pleased that these days characters don't have to say 'mucking' as a makeshift alternative like Reg does in Mary Renault's excellent novel, The Charioteer.  (On a side note, I cannot believe her dozy publishers have not released her books as ebooks. Or that the paperback has such a terrible cover.)

Just to confuse, there is also a steamy sub-genre of Amish romances, Gay Amish Romance. Something for every reader's taste.

While I was trawling the internet for illustrations for this post (the trouble I go to) I came across an ace site, Bad Romance Covers. Though not strictly relevant, I could not resist the cover on the right, When Dachshunds Ruled the Serengeti

Now that's a title you wouldn't need to check to see if it had been used before...


  1. Had to check out Dachshunds - a fab title, though from the blurb it didn't have anything to do with the book!

    And all that sex - so much more fun to do it than read or write about it ...

  2. I'd say sex wasn't a spectator sport, but a huge porn industry would disagree with me :o)

    I also think everyone's a bit weird about sex and money...

  3. I'm presuming Christian Romances (there's a whole section in the US Amazon site) would be akin to the Amish ones? I think they've been around for yonks?

    As for the Dachschund book - what can I say except "Wow - have you read the freebie chapter?" LOL!

    Take care

  4. Kitty, I imagine that Christian fiction promotes a Christian viewpoint, whereas Amish romance is more innocent romance set in Amish country. Not that I know what I'm talking about, since I've read neither genre.

    I read the Dachshunds sample, and it seems to me the author does rather believe in hammering things home in case you weren't paying attention the first time he said it...

  5. Gee, you really *can* get it all these days :)

    And I agree with you re: musicals. Unfortunately, my husband loves them....

  6. Indeed, every taste catered for!

    When I think properly about it, Maia, I don't mind the old, old musicals with brilliant songs. Opera doesn't work for me largely because of bad acting and improbable plots - plus the fact that I'm not very musical.

  7. Another good post, Lexi.

    I loved "steamy sub-genre of Amish romances". Much laughter here.

    I wonder how true to the Amish way of life the books are. The Amish were thought to be dying out not so long ago. Perhaps this is good PR and many will join them.

  8. I have read that Amish women buy these romances to hoot over the inaccuracies within.

  9. I think that outstanding romance authors, e.g. Lisa Kleypas or Catherine Anderson, were including 'hot' sex scenes well before 'Shades of Grey' appeared. In this day and age it seems prudish to object when the scenes are a natural part of the story. Love after all, is one of the most powerful and complex emotions affecting lives in unpredictable and therefore fascinating ways. In the hands of a great writer it can lead to fantastic material for all genres.

    I recently read Lisa Kleypas's 'Then Came You' where Lily Lawton was stunningly improbable wifely material. She lured her future husband to London so that his fiancée at the time (her sister) could elope with her true love. This involved bashing him on the head and tying him to a bed for the night.

    He of course seeks revenge and the sexual tension builds to fever pitch as the plot thickens. A superb read that would have been much impoverished by deleting the sex scenes!

    IMO the best of these books are written by women authors who are especially good at describing emotions and building tension. As spin-off from reading them, I think I may have learned a great deal about how to please a lady! LOL

  10. I know there is a whole little subset of apocalyptic (realistic, not vampire or Second Coming)romances out there.

    They could call it "Love in the Ruins", but Walker Percy already took that title.

  11. Q, I think it depends how it's done. Jane Eyre, after all, is seething with passion. I can't imagine added fanfic physical details making it more intense - though I do wonder how Charlotte Bronte might have written it today. She'd be unlikely to be seething herself in an isolated parsonage, and maybe that's what gives the book its power.

    Where was I? Um...bashing a man on the head and tying him to a bed for the night? Very ill-advised. I looked up blows to the head for Trav Zander and there is a multitude of nasty ill effects you can suffer, from eye problems to brain damage.

    I've often wondered why men don't read women's fiction to get an idea of what women want. You are obviously more canny than most...

    Russell, I've written a post-apocalyptic romance myself, and can see the appeal. I think Day of the Triffids is an early example of the genre.

  12. I can't imagine added fanfic physical details making it more intense - though I do wonder how Charlotte Bronte might have written it today.

    Agreed. Such fanfic additions would amount to sacrilege!

    If writing today I believe that Bronte would have included more physical aspects, but not as simple add-ons. I think that the very best writers create a synergy of emotion, tension, beauty and physical love such that the whole becomes much more than the sum of the parts. A work of art, a poetry of the mind or a homage to the power of love.

    Where are all the other romantics on this blog? LOL

  13. You've frightened them all away, Q :o)

  14. We've gone to see if we measure up, Q.