To the Editor:
I was dismayed to see that of the 15 authors asked to discuss writing about sex in the “Naughty Bits” roundup, none write romance novels — the genre best known for its naughty bits.
Romance holds a huge share of the consumer market, with more than $1.4 billion in sales in 2012, so the omission is surprising. The lack of romance authors is especially glaring when one considers that each week, the mass-market, e-book and combined best-seller lists compiled by The New York Times include dozens of books from this far-reaching genre: historical, contemporary, paranormal, erotic and new adult.
A romance novelist would have added a special perspective on the questions “Why is writing about sex so difficult?” and “What makes a good sex scene?” because writing about sex is a large part of what we do. And our readers — all 75 million of them — expect us to do it well.
Writing about sex is a challenge for the same reason sex is a challenge. Because it’s complicated. Because it doesn’t always make sense and it isn’t always perfect and it’s sometimes awful and it’s sometimes hilarious. But underneath all the clever wordplay, it’s about hope. Hope that someone will see us, and accept us, and perhaps — after all that — choose us. It’s the barest we will ever be. The barest a character will ever be. That’s why it’s difficult.
As for what makes a good sex scene, a romance novelist would have told you that when done well and with a skilled hand, the best sex scenes can at once arouse and empower. Sex on the page gives readers the freedom to explore their own sexuality, their own pleasures, their own identities. With hope. And without judgment.
I hope you will consider including the romance genre in your next “Sex Issue.”
The writer is the author of historical romance novels. Her next book, “No Good Duke Goes Unpunished,” will be published in November.
Read all of the letters to the editor here.
I also want to give Sarah Maclean a round of applause for succinctly expressing what romance is to readers and publishers, from a commercial and a writing perspective. This is what I try to say to people when I tell them I read romance or want to publish romance or -shock!horror!- write romance and they raise their collective eyebrows and say “What, like 50 Shades of Grey?”. Obviously there is (a lot) more to romance novels and her letter focuses on the sexy parts, but I think it’s a great start to a greater discussion (and acceptance) of romance in the literary community.
Asked by Anonymous
Oh, where do we start?!
First of all, good for you for saying stigma schtigma and still reading! We adore that you have a circle of friends to share recs with. And there’s totally no shame! Romance readers are some of the smartest and well-educated women/men we know :D
As for recs, we’d all give you different answers but here are a few faves we have in common:
Those are the main ones but if you need more recs that aren’t historical, then shoot us another ask and we’ll let you know!
I just added a new page to our tumblr - Let’s Get Critical!
As a group of - let’s face it - Romance Nerds, we love reading books and articles that critically engage with the genre we love. We’ll update the list when we read something and want to share it with our fellow romance nerds/romance scholars.
If you have any suggestions for something we should read (as in critical essay or book on romance) then let us know!
As many of you may have heard, last Friday night, we at Orchid & Peach Cocktails gathered to host the event of the season. We threw a trivia night that put all other trivia nights to shame! It was glorious!!
But we digress, Friday was a night of fun, laughter, and penis euphemisms. The three teams that fought for the title of Grand Trivia Masters gathered at UTS to prove their mettle. Competing in four rounds, each team was challenged to answer questions based on the All About Romance Top 100 romances OF ALL TIME (with a few extras thrown in). Amongst our illustrious guests were representatives from Harlequin Australia who played under the name The Last Kiss. We also had paranormal experts from Galaxy Bookstor’s regular Thursday night book club, Misspent Youth. And finally, the night’s champions – Virgin Meatlovers with a Side of Hornypants, which consisted of librarians, PHD students, bloggers, and authors.
With a lot of social lubrication in the form of wine, the teams battled it out for book prizes and the honour of the win.
We’d like to put out a HUGE thank you to the people who supported us and came along, as well as our generous sponsors (thanks Harlequin and HarperCollins!). A special thanks to Book Thingo for letting us crash their site for promo reasons, as well as Galaxy Books who let us attack their mailing list for similar reasons, and Vertigo for the use of their fridge!
Keep an eye out for news of our next trivia event later this year!
Julia is such a lovely, funny lady. She also recognised Rudi’s famous romance shoes! The high tea was amazing - I think more romance author-reader events should involve high tea. Can that be a thing? Can we make that a thing?
Or know anyone going?
I’m currently making my way through her backlist, trying to read as much as possible before the event. Less than a week to go!
Here at OaPC we love that quintessential element of romance novels - the purple prose. Reading the over the top language is like seeing a rose among a desert of emotionally restrained literary fiction (I think my metaphor fell apart but you get what I mean!). Purple prose can be beautiful, it can be funny and it can be full of what-the-fuckery, but we love it all. So I want to know - what is your favourite piece of purple prose? It can be your all-time fave, or from the book you’re reading now.
Use the ask box to submit your favourite purple prose, and include the name of the book and author. We’ll publish them on our tumblr so everyone can enjoy!
OMG you guys I’m so excited! It’s only a month until the awesome Throbbing Hearts trivia night! I just moved four (really heavy) boxes of books into my spare room, which are going to be organised into amazing prize packs for our trivia winners.
Smart Bitch Sarah Wendell and Kat from BookThingo have also tweeted that they will be coming to the event! (I am fangirling so hard right now.)
So get your thinking caps on and start studying up! Only it’s the best kind of study, because our questions are based on the All About Romance Top 100 novels.