Regency,  Writing

Too little, too much, or just right?

Balloonists Close Up

Since I had a long break from writing due to the combination of holidays and the flu, I’ve gone back to line edit the completed parts of my balloonist story. Editing helps me to get back into the flow of the story; I’m looking forward to getting to new material next week.

Around the same time Megan posted Anachronism vs Anomaly, I was editing a section of the story with a lot of sex scenes. I mean lots. It took until almost the middle of the book for my characters’ attraction to overcome all the reasons they shouldn’t be together. But once they got going, I’m not sure I could have stopped them, even if I wanted to.

The discussion in Megan’s post was about all the activities right up to the actual deed, but it brought up a more general issue of what is believable in Regency-set romance. I’ve had these discussions before with other authors and with thoughtful readers. We’ve talked about what we know based on our research (but people didn’t generally write about sex) and what might have been (we’re writing fiction, after all). We’ve talked about keeping the awareness of the social consequences given the time period.

I have to say a lot of input I’ve specifically gotten from readers is more about their personal preferences. Some have complained about too much sex in my traditional Regencies. Although they complained about accuracy, I’m not sure that was really the issue, since most of the sex scenes were in the context of marriage. I think it was more a matter of comfort level. I’ve also had readers advise me to “sex it up” some more.

The problem is that once I’ve started a story, how soon, how often, how far the sex will go is driven by my characters, their experiences, and the story setup. A widow who thinks she’s infertile will act differently than an inexperienced heroine hoping to make a respectable marriage. The only way to really sex it up or down would be to write a new story.

I know some readers prefer to connect the dots between a fade out and smiles over breakfast the next morning. But I personally feel that it’s more powerful to show the sex as long as the scene is also revealing things about the characters and their relationship.

So I’m just forging on with the story, trying not to worry 1) that there’s not enough, 2) that there’s too much, 3) that it happens too late in the story, 4) that there’s too much in this one part, 5) that there’s not enough in the rest. (As you see I haven’t thought about it much.) I’m just hoping some readers will “get” my characters and enjoy the ride.


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9 years ago

It truly is the most difficult thing to decide how much sex is too much and how much is too little. The perfect mix is as diverse and individual as every single reader of any given romance novel. Sigh. It is the eternal problem!! I think so long as love scenes grow out of a normal progression in the relationship of each individual couple it can’t be wrong.

9 years ago
Reply to  LouisaCornell

That’s my theory too, Louisa. But there will always be someone to disagree–in either direction! We write on.

9 years ago

I am one who often prefers the fade out. I agree with you that whatever the scene, it should contribute to the story or the character development. I have read too many books where the sex seems to be thrown in just because a) it is chapter 5, b) they are near a bedroom(or library, or field, or summerhouse, or hayloft, etc), c) the author can’t think of anything else to do with them.

I remember reading one book by a well known author of contemporary romance that seemed to be one sex scene after another. There didn’t seem to be much, if any plot, and the characters were just there. You never got to know them, just wonder (dread?) where they would “do it” next time. I kept reading because she is a good author and I hoped at some point the book would redeem itself. Didn’t happen.

If I am uncomfortable with the scene, I can always skip over it.

9 years ago
Reply to  librarypat

Pat, you have every right to your preferences.

I think with regard to reading lovemaking scenes, it can depend on how you like to read. If you’re reading as if you were watching the characters in a play, then love scenes would feel like voyeurism and not be comfortable. When I read romance, I want to closely identify with the heroine. If it’s working, it doesn’t feel like voyeurism. On the other hand, if I can’t relate to the heroine, then I’m uncomfortable with the sex, too.

It is all very individual. It’s a good thing there are a lot of authors and styles of books out there.

Lesley A.
Lesley A.
9 years ago

Elena, (caveat – I’ve already confessed to being a big fan) I think you should just trust your instincts! I felt the Three Disgraces and Lady Dearing were completely on point with what I wanted to read – lovely, steamy, love scenes that stayed true to character and story! I love having a good build up of sexual tension and then an equally enjoyable pay-off (or two, or three) -and I think you succeed in that. I think what matters most, is not the quantity, but whether it’s well written and works in the context of the story.

9 years ago
Reply to  Lesley A.

Thanks so much for the vote of confidence. 🙂

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