With my body I thee worship…

Last Sunday at church the sermon topic was “Sex and Attraction: An Embodied Spirituality.” (I go to a really cool church.) The minister made the point that religion has sometimes, though not always, created this duality of “spirit=divine and therefore good/body=beastly and therefore evil”. A lot of our culture has embraced this duality, along with the implication that what is good must be boring and what is fun must be evil. It ignores the intimate connection between the spiritual and the physical. Love as an abstract concept doesn’t mean much; it needs to be expressed through the physical: smiles, words, loving acts, including sex.
I think most romance authors understand this body-and-soul thing. But I have heard some authors of so-called “sweet” romance imply that their books are about the relationship and that the so-called “hot” books are “only” about sex. I don’t think so. The hottest erotic romances I’ve read are the ones with strong emotions driving the characters. The most moving “sweet” romances I’ve read are those where the author used the power of simple things like a smoldering gaze, the touch of a hand.
An erotic romance I read a few years ago bombed for me. The characters were so generic and the situation so contrived that it felt as silly as Benny Hill. On the other extreme, I’ve read several inspirational romances which were so careful to avoid not only the act of sex, but any hint of sexuality, that it felt unnatural. I don’t need to always read about sex and stories shouldn’t go further than makes sense for the characters and their situation. But if it’s a romance, I want to feel the sexual attraction, even if it’s expressed in subtle ways. If they kiss, let them enjoy it!
The other thing I’ve been ambivalent about is the fade-out, where the h/h start making love and the next thing we know they are smiling at each other over breakfast. I don’t think authors have to make a scene of it every time the hero and heroine make love. But if it’s the first time or at a turning point in their relationship, it feels like I missed something.
Anyway, what do you think? Does the dichotomy of “sweet” vs “hot” ever bother you? How do you feel about fade-outs? Who does “body and soul” best?
Elena

About Elena Greene

Elena Greene grew up reading anything she could lay her hands on, including her mother's Georgette Heyer novels. She also enjoyed writing but decided to pursue a more practical career in software engineering. Fate intervened when she was sent on a three year international assignment to England, where she was inspired to start writing romances set in the Regency. Her books have won the National Readers' Choice Award, the Desert Rose Golden Quill and the Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence. Her Super Regency, LADY DEARING'S MASQUERADE, won RT Book Club's award for Best Regency Romance of 2005 and made the Kindle Top 100 list in 2011. When not writing, Elena enjoys swimming, cooking, meditation, playing the piano, volunteer work and craft projects. She lives in upstate New York with her two daughters and more yarn, wire and beads than she would like to admit.
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7 Responses to With my body I thee worship…

  1. Jane Charles says:

    I can go with either type if it makes sense to the story. If there is no attraction, sexual tension and a romance, then it won’t matter whether the couples moment is a fade to black moment or a hot erotica because I won’t enjoy the book. It has to work for that couple to work for me.

  2. Diane Gaston says:

    What I love most about romance is the recreation of that heady experience of falling in love. To me, that experience is a physical one, whether it shows the bedroom scene or not. It is also a spiritual/emotional one. Love changes a person, especially in those early, giddy days.

    If it shows the bedroom scene, I want that scene to convey both the spiritual and physical. If it just shows the physical, I skip the pages, not because I’m a prude, but because I’m in a hurry to get back to the story.

    We’ve all read romances where the hero and heroine fall in love merely because they are in the same book. Those don’t work for me at all.

  3. Isobel Carr says:

    I think when an author is uncomfortable writing “hot”, that it really shows. I’d rather have a fade out than a scene that just doesn’t work. While I love “hot” books, I’m just as happy with a sweet book so long as I can still feel the attraction between the characters.

  4. I think Isobel has the right of it. First and foremost I love to read a romance by a great storyteller. Someone who makes me invest in the characters, their journey – spiritual, physical, emotional and intellectual, and makes me have to continue reading because I want to see the end of the journey. If this storyteller is uncomfortable writing love scenes I will know it and I’d rather them not bother and just tell the story. I LOVE hot books where the characters immerse themselves in the physical only to discover the spiritual gives them so much more.

  5. Elena Greene says:

    I hear what you’re saying about writers who aren’t comfortable writing sex scenes. I guess in that case I’d still like to see enough of the buildup to know that it’s going to end up in smiles over the breakfast table.

    I’ve read some books in which the authors wrote first-time scenes that didn’t go perfectly. Scenes like that are risky but to me they can feel very real and very funny. It’s touching to see how the the h/h recover and get it right the next time.

  6. librarypat says:

    I am not against sex in a romance, but some authors have gotten a bit carried away. The relationship is important and a good one will lead to the couple being intimate at some point.I have read a few books that could be classified as erotica and really didn’t enjoy them. I have read christian fiction and it has run the gamut of sweet to ridiculous. The good authors manage to give relationships that are strong and emotional attraction that does set up sexual tension, that even if we don’t see it, we know where it leads.

    As for “regular” romance, there has to be sexual tension and a real relationship between the characters. I am tired of books that have strangers hopping into bed all hot and bothered by page 25. That isn’t romantic nor is it love. When there is a relationship, it is fair to expect it to run its natural course. Too many sex scenes interrupt the story. Fine they are intimate, but don’t take 5 or 10 pages to describe what they are doing. That is way past the point of “Get a room and SHUT the door. I don’t need to watch. As you said, Elena, it is the build up leading to the scene that is important. That build up is the relationship, and that is what is most important.

  7. Elena Greene says:

    Pat, I’ve heard what you said about not needing “to watch” before and I think it points out that not everyone reads romance the same way.

    When I read a romance, I want to identify with the heroine, so when it comes to a sex scene, I am imagining myself in her place, not watching. If the author writes it well, I’m fine wiht a long sex scene. On the other hand, I don’t particularly enjoy too much explicit sex in films. Then I do feel like a voyeur because it is obvious that I’m not one of the characters. It’s a difference in how I engage with a book versus a film.

    I respect that others may read in a different style, and feel the same way reading an extended sex scene as I do when watching a film that goes beyond what I prefer.

    I think we all just have to find the authors who handle it the way we enjoy reading it.

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