Love and Sex

I started writing Regency romances because I didn’t have to put in all the “nasty” details of what happens after the first kiss. But suddenly most romances have gotten hotter. Fine, I stepped up to the challenge and learned to write romantic smut. It’s not that difficult.

The difference between your regular, Penthouse Letters smut and romantic smut is that the reader should care about the two (or more) characters involved, and want to see what happens to them when they aren’t thrashing around trying to be discreet but needing to explore their sexuality. And it’s rather easier in the Regency period to write suppressed, inhibited characters who suddenly find an outlet for all that sexual tension. Then there’s the guilt, pain, etc. afterward. Oh, what fun.

I received excellent advice from a great teacher of romance writing with regard to writing these no-holds-barred scenes. Find what you like to read, and copy it out. Type it on your computer, then find another. You aren’t going to use these scenes, you are just learning the pacing, the style, the nuts and bolts, as it were, of depicting sex.

I’m comfortable with writing this now, between a man and a woman, but I am reading much more same sex romance these days, and it would be a challenge to try that genre. I would certainly have to attempt to copy others for practice.

At a recent meeting of the Romance Writers of America local chapter, I learned that almost all publishers are looking for hotter writing, original characters, untried story lines. Of course they are. I had also heard, years ago, that romance novels were the only porn allowed in prisons. Seemed to fit right in with the Romancing the Stone story line where the drug lord was a fan.

Back to history, where no one automatically associated love with sex. You married for duty or safety and security, and you had sex to procreate and insure the succession or have help around the farm or business. Romantic love existed in songs and legends, but in real life it was rare. Lucky the married couple who realized one day that they had grown to love each other. Especially since divorce took an act of God and the government.

This explains, I think, the custom of a man keeping a mistress, and of women having affairs. Satisfaction had to be found outside of marriage. For men, usually satisfaction was just about the act of sex, not so much the emotional attachment. For women, satisfaction could only be found if love appeared to be involved. I say appeared because women were not often educated well, and could be fooled easily by any man who said the right words.

Uncle Wiki says: Historically, the term “romance” originates with the medieval ideal of chivalry as set out in its Romance literature. Think Lancelot and Guinevere, Tristan and Isolde, but without the betrayal aspect of those two closely-related stories. Then along came Jane Austen, and while keeping herself unmarried, she created six incredible heroines and the men they loved or thought they loved, or changed their minds about and then loved again. That really started the Romance genre, and established a formula and style that I, and many others, cherish.

But these days, we cannot go on at length about the style of one’s household, the carriage, the clothes, or we will bore those who are kind enough to read the story.

I just listened to Emma, on audio books, and enjoyed the 56 chapters on 13 CDs very much. I even loved that we heard the whole of Frank Churchill’s letter to Emma, and then went over it one more time when Mr. Knightley read it in her presence. But an author just could not get away with that with today’s readers.

How much do movies influence the Romance novels you see today? If a man and a woman can meet, overcome huge issues standing between them, save the world, and fall in love in two and a half to three hours, do we have a chance with a 30,000 word book? And maybe that’s the reason publishers want more sex, hotter story lines, from authors.

All the same, there are those of us as readers who are in it for the story value. The emotions, the characters who feel real to us, and the twists that we never saw coming. And the books we’ve read that don’t live up to those goals are what drive us to be writers.

My very first Regency romance is titled Emily’s Heart, and it won a local RWA chapter contest called The First Seven. The first seven pages of the manuscript were awesome! The rest of it, not so much. It was rejected and put in a box to rest in peace. I used the time-honored Regency formula, no blatant sex, just longing and falling in love. The plot was pretty good, but based too much on my own life, so I was not open to enough criticism and not willing to rewrite with diligence. Maybe someday I can take it out again and look at it. And figure out where to put the sex.


Fun with Critiques

I joined Scibophile ( in order to get feedback on my Regency Romance manuscript. The problem is that few people actually know the language and history of the Regency period. Even if they know tons of details about any one area of history, there may be some tidbit they missed.

In my story, I describe the hero as wearing a coat of “superfine.” This one phrase created more negative input than almost anything else. Superfine was a general term for wool cloth that was made to be thin and fine. One critique said it sounded like something from a rap song. Most just said they had no idea what that referred to.

My favorite is a person who is an expert in historical fabrics. Lucky woman, she works in a historical house built around 1820, and has to wear fashions of that time. Mind you, the Regency period ended about 1820. The expert had never heard the term “superfine”, and came just short of saying I made it up. I gave her links to my resources, and she replied that much of what is available on-line is apocryphal. I switched to private messages with her because I didn’t like all her negativity on my scratchpad. I pointed out that my links had primary sources. She said that Georgette Heyer had made things up. No idea why she said that as I did not link to any of Ms. Heyer’s novels. Well, the expert planned to discuss this with her boss, on Monday. I never heard from her again on this issue.

It’s not that I wanted to gloat. Okay, it’s not only that I wanted to gloat. This expert made statements demeaning my writing in a public forum, but didn’t have the backbone to admit if she was wrong.

Overall, Scribophile is a great place for input, but you have to find like-minded people who know the subject.
Other Regency words that critiquers had issues with were: curricle, wrapper, incomparable, posting inn, Quality, and fustian*. I have MCs of a rake and a plain woman on her way to her first post as a governess. Too cliché, was said over and over. As bad as a sparkly vampire?

But going back over the critiques and ignoring what just wasn’t understood, I find the good input outweighs the bad or stupid. I rewrote the first chapter and came away with something much better. And I am looking at the second chapter wishing for an easy fix for it as well, But it’s not happening yet.

If I can get the first couple chapters to where I really like them, there’s a contest through Romance Writers of America (THE best thing any writer can do is join RWA. Honestly, contests that get the attention of editors, agents attending meetings, and super-supportive fellow members renew my drive every day.) for a historical romance that I can enter for some very important polish. I just have to stop participating in writing prompts at Scribophile and stick to the stuff that will sell.

I have to admit, writing and reading erotica at Scribophile has helped me relax and be more at home with the terms and sequences. While most of my Romances will have rare sexual encounters, due to the mode of the day and the extreme penalties for women who were caught having sex before marriage or with someone not their husband, I think I could have a career writing erotica as well as Regencies. But then, I would have to come up with a pseudonym because let’s face it. If my 88 year old sincerely Christian father ever read some of what I write and recognized my name, I would be in a world of hurt. Even more embarrassing would be if my 20 year old son read it!

So which name should I use? Trixie Turner? Rosie Palmer? Nomi DePlumme? Just kidding, I will probably use the pen name I came up with back when I first joined RWA. That was before I learned that copyrights are different depending on use of real name or pseudonym. My serious writing will be under my own name.

Well, there you have it. The beginning of the adventure of being a writer again. Once a week I’ll be sharing my writing history, my progress, and my concerns. I hope you are interested enough to stick around.

* curricle, A fashionable open-air owner-driven two-wheeled sporting vehicle designed for a pair of horses and seating for no more than two (ie the Regency equivalent of a two-seater convertible sports car).
wrapper, a thin gown or robe worn for modesty
incomparable, an incredibly beautiful woman. Also known as a “diamond of the first water” which makes NO sense at all. (I disagree, and will see if I can find the source of this phrase next time.)
posting inn, The English posting system began about 1500 as a royal message service. By Austen’s time it had evolved into a network of posting stations, post-horses, and post-chaises spread all over England. Posting stations and posting inns were located from six to fifteen miles apart, depending on terrain and road conditions.
Quality, High society; the fashionable elite. Also known as the Beau Monde, the Bon Ton, the Haut Monde, High Society, and the Ton.
fustian, rubbish
, Usually black woollen coat fabric much fulled and sheared for a soft finish; may also refer to kerseymere with silk or mohair included.