Plausible Sex

Look, like a lot of you, I wrestle with the oxymoronic construct of wanting to read super-sexy scenes AND historically accurate stories.

It’s really hard (no pun i.) to put the characters into situations that are satisfying in a modern sexual context as well as maintaining the period’s standards.

So us authors end up justifying ourselves (and our characters) with bizarre situations to explain the action.

I’ve been working on a synopsis lately–my best one yet! (which isn’t saying much)–and I have to figure out a way to have the heroine want to have sex with the hero, even though she’s traveling to her fiance’s estate. All without making her a total, moral-less slut.

So I’ve come up with giving him nightmares, which she wants to comfort him from, and her feeling free of society’s strictures for the first time in her life, and plus he’s really hot, but I still think it’s going to be tough sell.

What books juggle this difficulty well? What situations could you see one of our heroines putting aside her societal rules and getting it on with Mr. Hottie? What explanations of such behavior bother you in our books?



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Linda Banche
14 years ago

I think it would work if the H&H knew each other when they were children.

You could make them old friends who last saw each other years ago. He always comforted her when they were children. He could be a little reluctant, and she has to break him down.

Elena Greene
14 years ago

Megan, this is something I wrestle with, too. Right now I’m editing a section of w-i-p in which the hero and heroine are holding back. Based on the current historical market, I wonder if I ought to move the boinking sooner (they do in another couple chapters) but it just doesn’t feel right. I’ve decided to just keep the tension sizzling until the next plot twist allows it to explode.

But I don’t think there are rules for when it’s right or how to make the sex historically plausible. IMHO it just has to be natural given the characters and the situation. Some romances I’ve read rush it for me (as if the characters didn’t have to worry about possible consequences) and it seems too casual or somehow dishonorable. And some of the old sweet trads went too far the other way, e.g. characters who are already in love and trapped somewhere together and don’t even think about consummating their relationship. Not a problem you see much now, though!

I’ve also read some good romances in which sex early in the book was integral to the plot, the hero or heroine trying to seduce the other for some other reason, or a heroine who has already lost her reputation, or is barren, etc…

I can also buy heat-of-the-moment if I feel the emotional intensity in the scene. IMHO if you as the author feel it, you can sell it to readers, too. Good luck!

Elena Greene
14 years ago

An afterthought, Megan. You know your story best so just ignore this if it doesn’t make sense for that plot. But what if in that scene they get started and then realize they have to break it off before finishing? I’ve read scenes like that that were very hot and they really ratchet up the tension for the next time.

Megan Frampton
14 years ago

Elena, that is a great idea, one that is hovering around my subconscious as well.

Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

And Linda, I think your context works also. Thanks for weighing in.

Janet Mullany
14 years ago

I can’t see why this is such a huge problem, except in romance. Sex is an immensely powerful force; it’s beyond rational thought, common sense, and social mores.

Megan, can you get them in a situation where instincts just take over–as a result, for instance, of a near escape from death? Something that tips them over the edge?

Megan Frampton
14 years ago

A near escape from death is also in the cards, Janet! I am pulling out all the sex stops, for sure!

(and thanks to Janet for not being crazy pissed that I stole her day; I thought it was Friday. Darn school holiday. Dunno why my brain is so mucked up right now).

14 years ago

I’m sorry, I was distracted by Sean Bean…

I think that sexual tension building up to the actual act itself does more for me than the hero and heroine just jumping into bed. And I have to say this can be a problem whether you are working on a historical or a contemporary.

I think the most delicious sex scenes I’ve read follow major battle scenes whether a broadsword is involved. E gads, no pun intended there. Battles, whether physical or emotional, provide some of the best venues for the sexual encounter.

I guess I’m going on and on about this because I am attempting to employ that in my WIP.

All that being said, I do like the premise you’ve sketched out. I think you’re on the right track.

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

I think this is a dilemma! I’m with Janet and Santa, I think a bunch of really hot near-sex scenes followed by sex after danger is very plausible. And I love to read stuff like that.

You’ll figure it out, I have no doubt.

La Belle Americaine
14 years ago

I’d have to ask–why is the h/h having sex in that particular scene important?

I personally think that sex in historicals can be used as “awakening” tools (not solely for going from virgin to nonvirgin), and when plotting my WIP, I tend to build the turning points around them regardless of the sexual or romantic history of the protagonists. Otherwise, I can do without them or the other stuff that tends to lead up to them.

14 years ago

Megan wrote:

All without making her a total, moral-less slut.

You say that as if it were a bad thing.


14 years ago

I’ve not visited this site for a few days, and I must say a belated “thank you” for the photos of Sean Bean. My word that man was (and still is) both handsome and mind-numbingly hot, which is not true for every handsome man. What is the source of the top photo, the one with the woman? I’m insanely jealous of her, no matter who she is.

I’m with Elena that the sex needs to come when it’s appropriate. I’ve read too many books where it happens too soon, and a number of books where it happens later and the payoff is so much greater because the tension has had time to build. OTOH, one of my favorite books is Mary Balogh’s “The Notorious Rake”, precisely because the sex comes right at the beginning and is so unexpected plus so out of character for the heroine. So go for what feels right for you and your hero and heroine.

Megan Frampton
14 years ago

Susan, the photo is from Lady Chatterley, which is a great version of the book, starring Bean and Joely Richardson.

14 years ago

Megan, thank you for identifying the picture. There is a more recent, French version of Lady Chatterley, but the poor man who plays Parkin (who might be wonderful for all I know) suffers in comparison to Sean Bean.

Another film he starred in early in his career is Derek Jarman’s “Caravaggio”. The movie is quite weird and I wasn’t sure I liked it when I first saw it, but it is visually striking and I can still conjure up many of its images years later. Sean Bean is the love object of both Caravaggio and a character played by Tilda Swinton, and he is so young and so handsome you immediately empathize with them.

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