Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hunka Hunka Burnin' Love

A reviewer recently said of Tempting Tess that it had too much sex. What...you say??? Are you kiddin' me...you say??? As someone who writes erotic romance this was a shocking pronouncement of my work. Most people know, right off the bat, when they buy an Ellora's Cave title, they will be getting a lot of sex. Baffling.

Now, granted, I was just a teensy miffed about what she had to say but I'm all over that now. This brings me to a question though. How much is too much? Should a book contain so much sex it leaves little room for plot? Should characterization be sacrificed on the altar of SEX, SEX and MORE SEX???

I don't think so. The book in question...the one with too much sex also had a plot and deep characterization because after all, sex without that is porn, in my view. Sex for the sake of sex, is meaningless physical manueverings that have no place in what women want. Let's face it, we want it all. We want emotion, caring, sensitivity, love and yes...a whole lotta sex. Nothing wrong with that. We're modern women who grab hold of what we want and make it work. Right?

Okay. Here's my big question. A LOT of the erotic romances out there are novella's or even shorter. They are quick reads, ultra hot, and though there is plot and characterization they are often THIN on those elements. So what should it be? Should we be writing longer books with less sex...albeit hotter than hell when it occurs and devote more time to our worldbuilding, plots and character development? Mmm. Maybe this is a dumb question. Maybe we prefer it short, fast and hot. I don't know. That's why I'm asking. What do you look for in your erotica, ladies? Is the heat level more important than the story so give it to you QUICK? Or do we want even more than that?

Give it to me straight!


Anne Rainey said...

Speaking as a reader here.

When I think of an Ellora's Cave book, I think very graphic scenes with some romantic elements, and usually a HEA. That said, it's all about mood. I"m not going to pick up a Stephen King book if I'm in the mood for a sweet Nora Roberts. If I do, then I'm going to think King is way too morbid and violent, correct? But that would be unfair to King! His writing shouldn't have gotten slammed simply because I picked up the wrong genre that day.

The same goes for erotic romance, whether short or long. If I'm in the mood for a lot of heat, I'm going to check out authors like Lora Leigh, Shannon McKenna, S. L. Carpenter and Regina Carlysle because I know they'll deliver.

As to the question of length. I read short stories, novellas and novels alike. I enjoy them all. It all depends on how deep I want to go. If I'm in the mood for something a little romantic and a lot hot, then a short erotic romance is perfect. If I'm in the mood for a roller coaster ride of emotions with some steamy scenes here and there, then Leigh or McKenna is where I'm going to head.

As a reader, I'd never blame the author simply because I picked up the wrong book for my mood.

Great topic, Regina!

Regina Carlysle said...

Thanks, Anne. I know what you mean. Sometimes we have less time...which is usual these days, and "short" fits the bill. Now, Shannon McKenna (sigh)you get to really dig in with something of hers. Lots of romantic suspense coupled with hot,steamy love scenes.

Unknown said...


Your books are fabulous any way you cut them. Period.

As far as sex is concerned. I'm having a bit of a problem with that these days myself.

I write sex where I think it needs to be, where I believe it appropriate and then I'm told I need more. Why? I think we need to ask ourselves that question and the person telling us we need more?

Sales. For some reason everyone believes that if you have more sex it sells better. And I'm not inclined to agree. I'm all for giving readers sex in all its glory. But as a reader do you really want to open up a book and BAM, three pages into it someone is having sex?

I want that storyline a bit more first. I think some publishers and editors too have forgotten that fine line between erotica and erotic romance. Erotic romance needs more story and more sexual tension. Love needs to develop.

In erotica of course, push the envelope. Get everyone in bed and often. I just have a hard time putting characters into bed right away unless it is erotica. Then of course characters and storyline fall second to sex.

Does that mean you should not have a story and great characters in erotica? Of course not, but there is a difference as we all know. More sex.

Erotic romance, in my opinion, should give us a very sexy story filled with lots of sexual tension, focus on the romance between the characters, let it develop and put them to bed. Sure, the sex scenes can be numerous, but it's hard to get a couple into bed who just met. lol There are only so many ways to do that.

I think I'm going to throw up a poll on the Midnight Seductions Yahoo Group this morning and ask how our readers want their sex. Now and often, or weaved in and where appropriate.

Great topic, Regina. And I talked too much. lol

Jesse Fox said...

I'm a recently published writer of m/m erotica-romance, my first book was a novel, the second a novella. To me length has nothing to do with the quality of plot. If done appropriately a short or novella can just have as well done of a plot as a novel. I've read a great deal of erotica in my time and honestly believe that the question of too much sex can have numerous answers.

For me erotica is a mix of romance and sex, a balance of both the emotional and physical aspects of human relationships. I prefer plot with my porn as some of my friends explain it. Quality over quantity is my creed when it comes to what I write and prefer to read.

Of course there's nothing wrong with lots of sex as long as its excellent and not used simply as a plot device. Again this is just my humble opinion. Sex for the sake of sex has never been my thing whether Het or Gay.

Of course with reviewers you have as many personalities as you have possible sex positions. *grins* If this is the first time that you've been told this by a reviewer I wouldn't give it much thought.

To each their own.

Laura J. said...

I think as long as it is appropriate and it is part of the plot or moves the plot along, then it doesn't matter where or how much sex there is in the story. I do prefer if the story is a novella or short story there be one good sex scene and the rest of the story be for plot and character development.

Like Tess I would prefer some plot leading up to the part where the couple falls into bed. I don't think I would mind a plot where the hero or heroine has a good sex scene in the first chapter if the plot was they are having a one night stand and then in the second chapter it turns out that he/she is the new boss/client or some other connection like that. I've read similar stories like that, but it seems most don't do the full sex scene. It comes out during some backstory with the hero/heroine later usually after he/she realizes who the other was.

I hope that makes sense. I'm currently trying to paint my front door and I think the fumes are eating a few brain cells.

Anny Cook said...

My characters have sex when they're ready. Sometimes they're "ready" all the time. Mostly they're ready in a more leisurely paced fashion. I think if it truly fits the story, then that's what is correct--for that story.

Laura J. said...

Anne and Jesse make good points about reviewers. I try not to let my mood effect my reviews about a book and fortunately I'm pretty much able to read what books I want at my pace, so if I'm not in the mood for something more erotic I can read something more light and fluffy if I want or vice versa.

It could be that person was a new reviewer and/or has never read an EC before and really didn't know what to expect. I know that when I first read an EC (and even though I knew they were "hotter" than most books) I was still a thrown for a small loop at how much hotter. Of course it didn't turn me away from ever reading them again, but someimes I want to read edgier and hotter stuff.

Even though I write reviews I try to keep in mind that when I read them that this is just someone else's opinion and I try to write them that way. And if I don't like an authors book, it doesn't mean I won't try another book by that author.

What bothers me is when reviewers have some kind of vendetta against a particular author and will trash their books just for the purpose of being mean (or as my daughter would call them big meanies).

okay--now back to painting.

Laura J. said...

oh and I would be remiss if I didn't mention the beautiful picture you have in your post Regina. Let's just say if he is the hero of a book--then he needs to have sex. Lots and lots of sex!!!


Kelley Nyrae said...

I'm with Anne, for me it all depends on my mood. Most of the time I'm going to want a book with a stronger plot and characterization and when they do have sex its hot and heavy. But there are times when I want to read more about the sex. I want hot and heavy, no holding back erotic romance. I think even if there is tons of sex you can still have strong characters. You did that in Tempting Tess. I had no problem believing they fell for one another, I felt their emotional connection which is key for me. Plus I had the bonus of some hot lovin' :)

I think if a reader/review picks up a short, quickie, or novella thats erotic they should know the sex will likely happen pretty quickly and there will be a lot of sex in it giving readers...more bang for their buck!

I so agree that is isn't the writers fault if we as readers pick up the wrong kind of book. That's why they give warnings, heat levels etc, right?

Kelley Nyrae said...

Exactly, Anny! I meant to say that too. It all depends on the book too. Some characters are ready sooner and more often and some aren't. That's the beauty of books and characters. They're all different.

Amy Ruttan said...

For Quickies, at EC, it is mandatory to have lots of hot sex. That's the point of it. You should hear my editor talk about what makes a Quickie good, I think she writes Quickies better than some, LOL!

A Novella or novel length you can play with more plot, secondary characters, but if there isn't a lot of hot sex then your book should fall under Cerridwen Press line.

My historical went there because it was a traditional romance, although the sex was EC style it wasn't enough to constiute an EC book.

EC readers want the sex, and you know it's NOT pornography. In EC there's the HEA or the promise of one. There's a deep connection between hero and heroine, that's what seperates EC's books from porn.

If I get an EC book, a Quickie a novella or Novel that doesn't have that many sex scenes I feel a bit ripped off.

Phyllis Campbell said...

Hey Rita! How are you? Great question today. I've always been one who thought sex scenes needs to flow with the story line. If your characters are horn-dogs on every page...well then, build up the sexual tension and give them (and the reader) what they want!

Just recently I took a chance and submitted my hottest story to Harlequin's Spice Briefs ebook line. Yes, little ole me wrote a very hot story. This story was written, but I hadn't done anything with it. The word count for this particular line was 15,000. My story was almost 30,000. OMG! What a challenge that was, let me tell you, but I chopped it enough and submitted it at 15,000 words...exactly. Afterwards, I started thinking...I'd cut out most of the non-sex scenes, which means that this story had a sex scene - or heavy sexual tension scene - throughout the whole story. (shrugs) We'll see if that was too much sex for Spice Briefs, won't we? heeheee


jean hart stewart said...

Great topic, and one I feel strongly about. There's got to be a plotline and great characters, not just one body part fitting another. If the characters are well-developed and their passion for each other makes some kind of sense (any kind), then you can't have too much sex. The ones where they see each other and he backs her up against the wall seem a little too much to me. Although if it's humorous I love anything......Jean

Jambrea said...

I agree with Anne, you have to be in the right mood to read the book!

I also agree with Anny and think if the characters are ready for sex then the more sex the better. I read an author who had one story the characters couldn't keep their hands off of each other and the same author wrote one with no sex. It was all about the couple. Of course there is going to be a sequel to the no sex book and he assured me his character will be ready. lol

Cindy Spencer Pape said...

I think any way we do it is fine for those readers who want it that way. As long as both author and publisher are honest, then the reviewer or reader has no right to grumble. EC QUICKIES are short and while they have an HEA, they're primarily about sex. That's fine. But don't read it expecting the same character development you'd get in a novel. You want more story? By a longer book or one with a lower heat rating.

Deb said...

Rita, Hon your books rock no doubt about it.

As for the "Sex part" in books I think thre is to much hype about it. I love a hot love scene as much as the next person but I need somethig that keeps me wanting to read on.
I have reviewed books that open with a paragraph then boom sex, I was asking myself how did these two come together? {I always ask myself questions when reading}
So from my point of veiw you don't need sex through out a book to make it good.

Regina Carlysle said...

I have a real problem with STRANGER SEX. Hot guy sees hot woman, they exchange a look and BAM..they're screwing like bunnies. In my view, this makes the heroine look like a slut and the hero looks like...well, a man. LOL.

If a magical/paranormal element is involved, I think you can get away with it but you sure as hell need to get some tension, plot, etc in there pretty quickly. If a publisher wants it Fast or Faster then I try to solve the problem by having the h/h know each other prior. Something like that.

I believe readers are sophisticated. They KNOW what to expect from certain authors or publishers. We KNOW when we buy Ellora's Cave, we're going to get sex and often. That's what they expect.

Regina Carlysle said...

Hey Tess! Thanks for putting the poll up at Midnight Seduction Authors. It'll be really interesting to see what people think, want, expect. Non-scientific, I know, but every little bit of information helps.

Does anyone know if there are any sales figures out there regarding what sells better? I wonder.

Regina Carlysle said...

Hi Phyllis! Best of luck with the HQ submission. It's funny how, when we're doing something really hot, how HOT we can actually get. Ooops. Didn't mean it THAT way!!! SNICKER. Seriously, we can put in more than we ever imagined when we get going.

Regina Carlysle said...

Jean and Anny, I agree. Some characters can get by with quick sex but most of the time, they need some build up to the action. Once they make the CONNECTION, I want to see MORE.

Fedora said...

As a reader, in general, I want a story with the sex--so that's too bad that one reviewer thought otherwise :(

Regina Carlysle said...

Well, not agonizing about it too much because everyone is entitled to an opinion. MOST of us love a hot story though. THink I'll keep writing them LOL.

Jambrea said...

You had better keep writing them. Ringo...*sigh* lol

Regina Carlysle said...

Ahhh Jambrea! Love ya, girl! Yeah, he'll be coming up soon.

Tessa Rae said...

Hunny, I don't think Tempting Tess has too much sex, but you KNOW me.

Anyway, it really depends on my mood. Sometimes, I feel like reading a long romance with sexual tension for the first 300 pages building up to that glorious moment. Other times I just want to get that instant gratification.

Maybe your reviewer needs to get some 'gratification' more often and she'd appreciate your story.

Nice Girls Play Naughty!

Regina Carlysle said...

SNICKER. Thanks, Tessa, I know I can always count on your support. It's all a matter of personal preference and what you might be in the mood for. When someone buys erotica, they want it hot.

AlteredAddict said...

I always thought the point of buying erotica was for the sex -- granted love the plots, but if that is all you want go buy a Danielle Steele Novel (which by the way I do read hers so no stoning)But my opinion is if you can't take the heat get out of the kitchen -- some of these books have no were near the amount of sex Laurell K. Hamilton's books have.... and wow just fanning myslef waiting of the next one to come out:-) lol

Pay no attention to one reader out of hundreds plus.....

M.A Gonzales said...

I think there are two things we have to look at in this subject. For one, there have been times when I have heard readers complaining that the story did not have enough sex in it when in fact there were like 3 graphic sex scenes and even more sexual tension. Then there are those who complain that there is too much sex. I don't really think of it as erotica but because of the content that is how it is referred to. Anyhoo, I think it is a personal choice but I on the one had completely agree that without plot, and character development then it is nothing more then just porn. We try to write stories that are true to reality and guess what? Sex is a part of reality and for those who don't think so, Grow up.

M.A gonzales

Regina Carlysle said...

Yep. Sex is a big part of life and we erotic romance writers are into providing fantasy, too. If they want tame, there is plenty out there. There is room for everything. I DO like some plot. I want to like my characters but I also want them to have wild monkey sex. LOL

Mona Risk said...

Great post Regina. I'm glad you are over the nasty comments. I can't comment on too much or too litle sex in erotica since I don't write them, but I will quote a famous erotica author who said: "an erotica novel has the plot driven by sex. If you remove sex from a good erotica novel it should fall apart, otherwise it's not an erotica." So obviously it should have a good dose of sex.

Unknown said...

Connie's 2 cents worth here. I love the sext scenes.

I love romance, sci-fi, paranormal and suspense. I really love it if they have great sex. Early or later depends on the story.

The only way there is too much sex is if there is no plot. Obviously quick hot reads will have less character development, because it is too short for more.

Any reviewer who reads an EC book and doesn't expect a lot of sex needs to find something else to do. If it's just a mood thing then they shouldn't read until their mood is better.

Keep the sex in your stories ladies!

Regina Carlysle said...

A very valid observation, Mona! If you write erotica, it must CONTAIN erotica.

Yes, Connie. I'm with you. MOre sex coming right up and served with a cherry on top.

BrennaLyons said...

Okay...here's my two cents, for whatever that's worth, and it may not be worth two cents.

Can there be too much sex in a book? Yes, but let me explain...

1. If you're repeating yourself and/or boring the reader, you need to change up or to delete sex. Simply put, anything that the reader WANTS to gloss over isn't good for repeat readers and reader satisfaction.

2. If the sex doesn't advance characterization and/or plot, like any other scene in the book, it's sex thrown in for the sake of sex, and like any other extraneous scene, it shouldn't be there. In short, scenes that serve a purpose make the book stronger. Scenes that don't, are weakening the book. Save the scene for another book OR use it as an extra outtake for the readers.

3. You can have too much sex for the genre you're calling the book or story. If you're calling it sensual but have erotic levels of sex, call it erotic.


Regina Carlysle said...

Hmmm, you may be right about that Brenna. It makes perfect sense.

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