One of the less talked about problems of writing Regency Romances is many of the traditional readership of the genre disapprove of anything more than a chaste kiss between your exquisite heroine and gorgeous hero. Many older readers feel nothing more should happen until they have visited the altar together and even after the ceremony and they have benefit of clergy, that any rumpy-bumpy action should be conducted behind a closed bedroom door.
This readership hope new Regency and other Historical Romances will be written to the same formula as Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer and are disappointed when modern writers include bedroom scenes. Georgette Heyer refused to write sex scenes even though she overlapped her writing time-span with Ian Fleming who included some fairly tame sex scenes by today’s standards. Her middle class up-bringing and respectability made the idea of writing sensual scenes anathema to her.
However many younger readers feel short-changed when there are no sex scenes in their Regency romances. They also expect a lot more emotional input than either Georgette Heyer or I include about my characters. I argue my British aristocratic heroes and heroines will keep their feelings to themselves and not create embarrassing scenes. I find over emoting a bit wet.
I also think the sex should be right for the characters involved. Books where virgin heroines behave like well-trained courtesans seem unbelievable to me. If the heroine was a widow or former courtesan, then that would be immodest but just about acceptable. But a well brought up girl would not behave so.
Regency women did not get much of a sex education before their wedding nights and then they were frequently told to submit to their husband’s desires and basically grit their teeth and endure. I have read a number of modern Historical Romances where the sex scenes dominated to such an extent; there was virtually no space for a story for them to cling to. Most of those so-called historical romances miss out almost all facts and details from their stories. When they do include “period details” they are often wrong and anachronistic!
So how should an author unite the two groups of readers with their different hopes and expectations? I cannot state categorically that either side is right or wrong. The readers are our customers and it is up to writers to provide them with books they want to read. However as writers we must decide what we wish to include or exclude in our stories. If writers are not comfortable writing bed scenes then they should not be pressured into including them in their books. I suspect many writers discover their raunchier books get more sales which will encourage more writers to add them.
I am definitely a traditionalist about getting the details right historically in my Romances, so you might expect me to feel strongly that raunchy scenes should be excluded from Regency romances. I adore Georgette Heyer and have no complaints about the absence of sex scenes in her books, because she was writing from a more innocent point of view. However I feel the world has moved on a little and if she was writing today, I believe she might well have included slightly sexier scenes. But I have used that argument with serious Heyer fans before and I got shouted down as my views failed totally to convince them.
Yet in modern Regency Romances I have no objection to such scenes, if the storyline requires sex scenes and they are well written; then they need to be there. The behaviour of the hero and heroine during those scenes should be in character with their established personalities. They should be tender and romantic if at all possible and should emotionally affect both hero and heroine. But if you are going to get your hero and heroine to do a strip tease, then the author had better get the details of the costumes they are removing accurate. And if she is wearing a corset and has back buttons, then he’ll need to help her redress!
My first Regency romance “The Fencing Master’s Daughter” has no direct sex scenes and the most my lovers get up to is cuddle and kiss before marriage. So if you do not like sex scenes in your Regencies it is a book that should please you. My reasons for not writing sex scenes in the book were not because they destroy books’ integrity but I felt in the specific case of “The Fencing Master’s Daughter” any sex scene would be inappropriate. My heroine Madelaine fell in love with Edward’s loyalty and determination rather than his handsome looks or sexual prowess. She took some time coming to terms with the idea of physical intimacy and her erstwhile groom understood her fears and was prepared to be patient.
“The Marquis’s Mistake” is slightly more explicit but the heroine still reaches St. George’s, Hanover Square less innocent than most Regency brides but definitely a virgin. My reason for the different level of sexual cont
ent between the books is not because I am gradually building myself up to writing erotic scenes. When my Fantasy series “The Zeninan Saga” emerges later this year, you might realise I am not prissy about writing sex scenes and that I have written a large number of them. However, I did not consider a full on sex scene right for the plot of either story. I am writing more Regency Romances and some will have sex scenes and others may not, and how raunchy they are will depend on the characters and plot. Regency romances ought to be given a rating according to their sensual content so those who do not want to read such scenes can avoid them.
If you read Regency Romances then you should reach your own conclusions as to whether you want erotic scenes included in the stories you buy. If what you are looking for is straight erotica then there are many historical erotica books available for you to select from. If you are seeking romance, perhaps you might consider reading well written stories that tell a love story with accurate historical details and allow yourself to use your imagination for how they consummated their romance?
Draft cover for Princess of Zenina by Sarah J. Waldock
“The Marquis’s Mistake” and “The Fencing Master’s Daughter were published by Front Porch Romance which has just closed
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