Recently I attended the Building Relationships Around Books (BRAB) Reading Warriors Retreat in San Antonio, TX. During one of the author/reader panel discussions this question came up a few times: How much sex is too much sex in a romance novel? The answers ranged from no sex I’m happy if they hold hands to I love sex and want it in the book.
Me, I’m a middle grounder. I like sex in my romance novels. Sex is a huge part of relationships no matter what some people may say. In a relationship sex will come up. You’re either thinking about sex, talking about when/if you’re going to have sex, or having sex that’s good, bad, or just okay. Therefore, I don’t believe you can ignore sex in a romance.
Having said that, you can still have a great story without sex on the page.
I get it. Some of you are scratching your head saying, “Hold up, Synithia. You just said you like sex in your novels.”
I do, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a story without sex on the page. If you’ve mastered the art of building sexual tension between the characters, then I’m going to cheer when they finally have that chaste kiss at the end.
Don’t believe me? No lie, I cheered at the very end of a three-book series (not romance) when two characters finally kissed. It was one of the most satisfying relationship culminations I’d read in a long time. And there was no sex in books 1 and 2 and only behind closed door sex at the end of book three. Like the veerrryyyy end.
But the author had built tension between these characters throughout the books. Which then made me anticipate them finally getting together. That’s what it all boils down to. What have you done to build the tension between the characters so that if they’re having sex the first time, or the tenth time, that makes me, the reader, grip the book tighter, hold my breath in anticipation, and cheer “Finally!” when they do it?
You have to start at the beginning. When they first see each other. Not love at first sight, or lust at first sight, but what does the character notice about the other character? Their look, attitude, smell, how much they hate the character is standing in their way. Give me something! Part of tension is getting a sense that the character feels something for their potential match even if they don’t want to acknowledge it.
Then there are the subtle ways they grow closer. Touches, conversations, and missed opportunities. I love they’re about to kiss, hug, dance and then BAM, something pulls them apart. Makes me want them together even more.
If you have that you’ll keep the reader on their toes, and if you do a great job with building that up between each sex scene, then your reader shouldn’t be rolling their eyes, flipping pages and groaning “They f*cking again!” You don’t want that.
Therefore, my answer to how much sex is too much sex is there is no perfect answer! Go ahead, give me the side eye for that politician’s answer. But it’s true. As long as you build the tension, make the reader want whatever you’re giving your character (hand hold, hot kiss, hand job, forty orgasms) then they’ll stick with you for the ride.
What say you? How much sex is too much sex?
Have you read A Malibu Kind of Romance? Dante and Julie had chemistry off the bat, but Julie wasn’t having any of that. I gave them a few missed opportunities before their passion finally bubbled over.