After all, this is the month of lacy hearts, cupids, flowers, chocolates, etc. etc. Now, I’m as romantic as the next woman, which is to say, lots more romantic than any guy. I suspect that is the basis for much of what irritates me about most romance novels. The typical scenario involves (usually) two people who are attracted to each other but suffer untold complications and misunderstandings based on one party wrongly perceiving the other party’s intentions, or personal insecurities, untold secrets, ridiculous upholding of honor, and so forth.
The scenario that REALLY annoys me is the one where the heroine keeps rejecting the hero because she thinks she’s not good enough for him—not pretty enough, too poor, class differences, whatever. GRRRR.
A lot of today’s romance novels seem determined to prove that women are just as horny as men, and include descriptions of sexual scenes that rival the “Esquire Letters.” (Do they still publish those letters, by the way? I haven’t read “Esquire” in quite a while.) “She groaned as he thrust his turgid, throbbing member into her sweet recesses,” and the like is a turn-off—for me, at any rate. If the principals are going to tango, I prefer a decorous fade to black on the proceedings. If I want graphic descriptions of sex, I’ll read the “Esquire Letters.”
On the other hand, I enjoy a romantic subplot, as long as it neither takes over the story nor involves turgid members. When I began writing “The Obsidian Mirror,” I was thinking that the Avatar Coyote (“Chaco” to his friends) would be the source of the sexual tension. After all, he was gorgeous, considerate, brave and a good cook. As long as my protagonist, Sierra, could deal with him morphing into a small wolf from time to time, he seemed like a perfect love interest.
But then I reconsidered. Coyote was supposed to be The Trickster, not entirely reliable, and based on Native American stories, quite the lad with the ladies. Sierra isn’t a prude or a stick-in-the-mud, but she wants a stable relationship with a future. (I didn’t decide this. Sierra just came out that way. I couldn’t have made her into a bed-hopping free spirit if I had tried.) So I created sexual tension by having Chaco come on to Sierra in a nice sort of way. Sierra is tempted (he IS good-looking and a nice guy), but passes. Chaco moves on to Sierra’s friend Kaylee—and gets way more than he expects. Sierra finds a more solid-citizen-type in Clancy Forrester. Okay, they do have one or two misunderstandings, but when you’re trying to get a practical, down-to-earth chief of security to believe that the guy he thinks is your boyfriend is actually a sort of shape-shifting minor deity—well, there are bound to be some difficulties, right?
So in this month of hearts and flowers, let’s celebrate romance—the heightened awareness, the exchange of tender mementos, the thrill of loving and being loved. Does all this have to lead to sex? Well, sure, why not? But the ecstasy of good sex is only enhanced by the dance of courtship.