My January release from HQN Books, KNAVE'S HONOR, (which is really out at the end of December) just got its first review and four stars from Romantic Times. Faith V. Smith at RT says:
"Moore's medieval starts on an exciting note and maintains that sensation over the course of the whole book. She's created a great hero and heroine who take on a vile, well-written villain, and the love scenes, even though they're mild, add a great deal to the story."
Whoo hoo! That's nice, eh?
But let me talk about my "mild" love scenes. No, I don't write super-sexy books. And the level and amount of sexual activity will vary from book to book. There are two basic reasons why.
First, I came to romance via the stories of Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen and Errol Flynn movies, none of which has explicit scenes of sexual activity. So for me, romance doesn't necessarily include explicit sexual activity, and in fact, the real fun is to be found in the foreplay that isn't physical, but mental and verbal.
However, because I recognize that the physical component of a relationship is important, I will (usually) include a consummation scene. Note I don't call it a "love scene." I consider just about every scene of my hero and heroine together a love scene, whether there's a physical expression of passion, or not.
The other major factor that determines how much sexual activity takes place in my books stems from my particular background. I am old enough to remember when it was considered a great shame if a girl got pregnant without being married, and not just for the girl -- for her entire family. Was it fair? No, it takes two to make a baby and we're not talking a criminal act here, but that's the way it was. Why the shame? Because it meant the girl had been weak; she had lacked the self-respect and moral backbone to say no. So I simply cannot have my historical heroines blithely jump the hero's bones because hey, she wants him! without so much as a thought for what the serious, social consequences to her might be.
But wait! thinks those of you who've read my books. You have heroines who engage in premarital sex. What's up with that?
Well, they don't do it without considering the consequences. They are aware that they may suffer socially for making love with the hero if that's discovered, but what (hopefully) has happened during the course of the novel is that they have found the strength to overcome their fear of the possible fall-out. Their love and need to be with the hero, to express their love physically, is more important than the fear of being shamed or ostracized. They have found a different kind of strength.
So although sex sells, and especially now, I simply cannot shoehorn in sexual activity if I feel the story and characters don't warrant it. However, if the hero and heroine are married at the start of the story, there's no need for that angst, that journey to such a momentous, life-altering decision. Because there will be no social stigma if they make love, they are free to engage in sexual activity much sooner and more often during the course of the story (which is what will happen in my next medieval, THE WARLORD'S BRIDE).
I may hear from a few readers upset about the lack of sexual activity in KNAVE'S HONOR, because for them, romance novels require a certain amount, but my answer to them is what it is always is in such cases: I wrote the story about those particular people in that particular time the way I felt was true to both.