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Graphic Sex Scenes in Romance Novels

25 Jun

Maybe I’m old-fashioned but I just don’t like gratuitous sex scenes in novels. I don’t see why they’re romantic or even sexy. If anything, they make me giggle. There’s something really over-the-top about these scenes. They just don’t seem realistic and especially in historical novels, feel really out-of-place.

Would a shy débutante really let a rake ravish her in the corner of a ball room? The thought makes me cringe. I remember skimming through my mum’s dirty novels as an adolescent. I’d enjoy the banter between the hero and the heroine but all the heaving bosoms? These scenes did nothing for me. I usually skipped them completely because romance can be expressed in other, more effective ways. I much prefer witty banter or a stolen kiss.

Historical novels are also filled with cliché characters, such as:

* The roguish, dashing Highlander
* The innocent, virginal English rose
* The witty, spunky heiress
* The conniving relative

I am sure there are many others. There are few original characters left anymore but unless written really well, these archetypes are tedious to read about. If you are going to flout historical accuracy by writing racy sex scenes, at least make the characters fun. What about a clergyman who falls for a courtesan? What about a woman accused of witchcraft finding love in her cell?

And then there’s the covers. What’s sexy about an unrealistic fellow rippling with Photoshop masculinity? And then they lean over the heroine, whose dress is half undone and spilling with cleavage. The word tacky comes to mind. I can’t help but think that this sort of soft-porn only appeals to middle-aged housewives with expanded waistlines. But looking at the steady sales of such novels, I must be mistaken. Give me the classy covers of Heyer any day. Modern authors like Amanda Grange or Abigail Reynolds, too, use historical covers. And I think they’re gorgeous.

The possibilities are endless. I always have a dozen potential stories in mind at any given time. Some are abandoned, others never reach the page. The point is: I write romance without sex scenes because I am more interested in the journey of falling in love. I grew up watching Jane Austen and being a re-enactor of the Regency period. Whether I like it or not, it has affected my writing.

So yes, I am old-fashioned. But is being a hopeless romantic really that bad? I would rather wait for the right one than end up with ten wrong ones.

Steampunk novel opening excerpt

12 Jun
London, 1888
Chapter 1
Usually, the only enjoyable aspect of the Season was the underground boxing matches. Men were never as agreeable as when they were bloody, sweaty and out of breath. But there was no boxing tonight. Instead, they had been invited to a ball. Everyone who was anyone was present. Unfortunately, every nobody in the radius of 50 miles had bribed a way in as well.  Many miscreants weaseled about the room, begging for a dancing partner. Siobhan MacKenzie beheld the spectacle from the safety of a secluded corner. A light tap on the shoulder made her turn. Her dearest friend and accomplice, Cecilia Stayn. They exchanged a curtsy and a knowing smile.

 “I just arrived. Please tell me I did not miss the compulsory debutante blunder,” Miss Stayn said.

Cecilia had an everlasting smile. Golden locks escaped her fashionable hat and she wore an exquisite red gown with plunging neckline. Siobhan often envied the looks of her friend, especially her fair complexion and light figure. In contrast, Siobhan was rather freckled and curvaceous – though many suitors admired her for it. Sadly, her lack of fortune had prevented them from showing a serious interest. The world could be a mercenary place and in the industrious London, the marriage market mostly consisted of snobs and factory workers. Siobhan was a respectable woman and her father was a devout clergyman. As such, she visited the poor for charitable purposes and had her reputation to think of. Now, as a 25-year old singleton, she was considered a spinster, though she had not lost her bloom; her fiery hair attracted attention wherever she went, though some Englishmen treated her unkindly due to her Irish ancestry. But, having been born and bred in Yorkshire, there were no traces of an Irish accent. She had been brought up a true English lady. Her governess had seen to that. She remembered the many hours of punishment she’d endured at the hands of that woman.

“I am very curious about this scientist we were promised to meet. If it weren’t for him, I would have stayed at home.”

“Gregory Striker? The inventor of the dirigible?” Cecilia asked.

“Yes, indeed. The most brilliant scientist of our time. Allegedly, he will show us his latest discovery. Can you imagine? An exclusive.” 

Siobhan glanced at the door. Sadly, it did not open. She rather hoped for an introduction; perhaps his genius would rub off on her. Siobhan’s genius was in designing her own wardrobe. Most dresses she wore were of her own making and she amused herself by adding brass trinkets to her hats, gloves and belts. She also favoured feathers, beads and unusual colour combinations. Her style was far more conspicuous than her friend’s.

“I wonder what sort of discovery it will be. Everyone expects such great things from him it’s bound to be disappointing,” Cecilia remarked.

But Siobhan had faith in his abilities. Secretly, she hoped it would aid their personal pursuits. A few months ago, a mermaid washed ashore and caused quite a stir. Politicians struggled to decide the best cause of action. Should she be treated as a human or as a fish? Being both, they sent her to the zoo – to be seen by all the world and make them rich. A tradesman invaded the chamber and brutally shot the mermaid; he later claimed that selling mermaid tails would be a lucrative business. The man was executed but that was not the end of it. Local fishermen started hunting for other mermaids. Siobhan and many others feared for the their safety and sympathized with her plight.

As such, they formed the Alliance for Protection of Mythical Creatures and campaigned for equal rights. But the government did not act and snatchers captured dozens of creatures. Their tails were said to be worth thousands a piece. With the black market overrun by their criminal activity, the Alliance started fighting back. The hunters had now become the hunted. Siobhan, Cecilia and her fellow-hunters were committed to their training. They had a club house underground for shooting practice, fencing spars and meetings. Siobhan her favoured weapon was a brass whip that slithered around its target like a snake. Her father did not know she was a Protector. Nor that she wore trousers, suspenders and boots. She did not feel the need to justify her actions to him. Men went boxing. She went hunting. Few encounters with snatchers had a violent conclusion. Protectors always brought their pistols and snatchers were but impoverished fishermen; most could be dissuaded from their present course with a beer.

Still, some were more reluctant to surrender their cargo. Protectors were fast, strong and well-equipped. Vanity caused the occasional hunter to retaliate against them; but without any weapons or wits about them, fights were brief and easily won. Siobhan was still caught in reverie when the doors swung open and a gentleman tall, dark and frowning entered the room. There was no mistaking his authority; he walked with confidence and a sort of intellectual greatness. His dress fashionable and sophisticated, he exuded strength. This was no man to be trifled with. A woman’s lapdog winced and crawled underneath the pillow.

“He does not look like a scientist. Who is he?” Siobhan whispered to her friend.

The stranger found himself the centre of attention but moved through the crowd with the grace of a panther, his dark eyes lively and calculating.

The host, a chubby fellow whose name Siobhan never remembered, hastened to his side to bid him welcome.

“How glad I am you are here, Prof. Striker. We’ve been expecting you.”

The stranger raised an eyebrow.

“I’m not Mr. Striker. Sorry to disappoint you.”

>Valentine’s Day: Romantic or Commercial?

14 Feb

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Today is a bad day to be single. All around us we see the delivery of flowers, valentine cards and sweets. Everything is covered in hearts and tints of red and pink lest we forget what time of year it is. But is any of it real? In a world when we no longer have time for intimacy and sleep with our Blackberry, has all our romance been stuffed into one day? Negligent husbands come out of the woodwork to buy their wives’ affection with a box of chocolates. I bet their mistress gets diamonds.

True romance is different. It doesn’t wait till February 14th rolls around each year. It’s always lurking in a corner somewhere – ready to strike when you least expect it. A couple that is truly devoted to each other doesn’t need mass hysteria to convince them to treat each other nicely for one day. Valentine’s Day is not about love. It’s all about cashing in on gullible minds and in the current economical hardships, the shops need the holiday desperately. Valentine’s Day has turned into a bottom line. It’s become a business and it’s a billion dollar industry.

If I were in charge, I’d cancell the whole damn thing. No, I don’t say that because I’m single. I say that because the holiday is a cop out. Every time a relationship is in a bad place, Valentine’s Day can temporarily make them forget their struggles. He buys her a gift and she decides to give him another chance. Only men dump their loved ones today. No woman on Earth enjoys being single on Valentine’s Day. It would mess up their plans to gloat and make their girlfriends jealous with romantic anecdotes.

But the sad truth is, tomorrow it will all fall apart. That’s what happens when your relationship is a charade. It can’t last. So why waste your time, energy and money on it? I dub today Liberty Day. All of us stuck in a bad marriage or destructive relationship should choose today to turn our life around. Take control of your life because sometimes, being single is a whole lot better than being married. What’s romantic about being a fake, anyway?

What do you think of Valentine’s Day? Let me know in the comment box.

>Can Men and Women Be Friends?

31 Jan

>We are often told that it is impossible for a man and a woman to be friends. Like in When Harry Met Sally for instance. But why do people think this? Because either individual will feel something more than friendship. Is this really true? Can a man and woman not simply be friends, enjoy each other’s company and support one another emotionally when needed? When people with common interests are found, we should be pleased at the prospect of being able to share our passions. But in a world where people settle for less, are we looking for a spark even where there is none? It seems that we do. Friendship is like a wingless bird. But what purpose does a bird serve if not to fly?


Women can be bad at reading signals, finding suitable boyfriends and it may explain why we desire the unattainable ones; gays, celebrities, superiors at work, husbands, etc. It makes them fascinating because they can never be ours and we can never know them as intimately as we would like. We are curious about these creatures; what secrets do they hide, what are their eccentricities and so on.

In a sense, a friend is unattainable. After all, despite the fact that you are close and discuss the most intimate aspects of your life, there is a distance between you. Yes, there can be sexual tension. But while watching soap operas together? While chatting about the uneventful Sunday you spent vacuuming your apartment? Friends will listen to us whether we say something newsworthy or not. It’s part of the deal. But a friendship that is rooted in humour and chit-chat is far removed from a romantic attachment. How do you even transition from cooking tips to bedroom trips? With strangers, the rules are clear. You ask each other out, go on a date and if all goes well, you get a kiss goodbye. Easy-peasy.

But it’s a different story all together when you’re attracted to a friend. How do you know if someone is romantically interested in you or just needs someone to talk to? He laughs at your jokes, touches you, keeps in touch. But all friends do that. It makes perfect sense that we fall for our friends. We get along famously, have the greatest laughs and make each other happy. So isn’t it a very small step then for admiration to turn into attraction? Yes. And yet, it doesn’t make it any easier to start a romantic relationship. If the relationship is not a success, you may your friend forever and be sorry. But if you never even take a gamble, you will be the sorrier.

So how do we know if it’s worth the risk? We don’t. We can only hope. So, considering our friendships seduce us with a comfort that cannot be easily matched by a stranger, it is no wonder we wish to date our friends. We are at ease around them, know their character and have been acquainted with their darkest secrets. We feel safe. And that is a feeling worth preserving. So we go on the prowl. But our friend might have hidden qualities you did not know he possessed. He could be a horrible lover, a terrible grouch in the morning or, worst of all, possessive. So perhaps it is not so safe to date a friend after all. Because you can never know someone perfectly. Now we have determined that many friends are attracted to each other, is it possible to feel only regard and no passion? Yes.


Even for attractive people. Even if someone makes you laugh, treats you with kindness and would never forsake you it is quite possible neither of you wishes to cross the boundaries of friendship. But does it happen often? Probably not. And then there’s friends with benefits. Where do they fit in? More often than not, you lust for them but love does not enter the equation. So what is that then? A human’s need to get physical to someone they like. Primal, sporatic and lost between friendship and romantic attachment. Relationships are never white or black. Usually, they have several shades of grey and that makes them so complicated. 

>The Joys of Being Single

23 Jan

>What’s so bad about being single? Nothing, really but we are constantly manipulated to think that something is wanting when we are without a partner. We but need to turn on the radio to be bombarded with the latest pop sensation crooning a love song. What’s all the fuss about? Is love really so indispensible? I don’t think it is. Yes, relationships have their perks – someone to share your life with, to discuss your hopes and dreams with. But apart from the occasional romantic gesture on Valentine’s Day, love is not all it’s cracked up to be. Do we hear a John Williams soundtrack when we lock lips with that special person? Do we overcome all obstacles and get back together at the very end? More often than not, we don’t. Not even close. Our princes would rather play a game of football with some mates, play poker or hang out at the local pub. Hardly romantic, is it? And then there’s some of them who just sit around the house all day playing computer games on their playstation because there’s this ”new, awesome game out!”. How many men actually buy us flowers or take us out to dinner? Not many. Besides, do you really want to sacrifice your spare time to babysit a 30-year old little boy? Probably not.

For one reason or another, relationships usually don’t work out. Whether it’s because we simply have different goals or don’t get along anymore, no man is worth crying over. After all, life as a single woman has many advantages. We can do whatever we like! If we want, we can belt out all our favourite pop songs without disturbance. We can hang out with our girlfriends every night or call them every hour. We don’t have to feign interest in his day-to-day sports conversations anymore or suffer through tedious chats about work, computers or cars. We can just sit back with a large tube of ice-cream and have a chick flick marathon without pesky boyfriends trying to feel us up or making us feel guilty for eating something with calories. We can flirt with whomever we like and it doesn’t come with any consequences. We can have brief, meaningless flirtations just for the fun of it and go shopping without a comment about how ”you plundered another store!” All those little habits of ours we try to hide to appeal to men can come to light again and even be celebrated. No more boys nights with rude friends we can’t stand.

Singletons live life from moment to moment. They don’t need anyone’s permission to move to Spain if they feel so inclined. When in a relationship, it limits you. When single, you are free. And it’s a great feeling. No responsibilities, no rules and regulations. You live life as you want and if anyone doesn’t like it, they can go to hell. Really, is a romantic stroll on the beach worth all the trouble? When romance is so hard to find, why do we keep looking or even worse, settle for less? Let us be free and let romance come to us. And if it doesn’t come, do we really need it?

>Dating and the Workplace

14 Jan

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Is it morally acceptable to date a colleague – or even worse – your boss? At work a certain standard of professionalism is to be maintained. Colleagues rarely turn into friends. It is a different kind of relationship. One that ends with your shift. Or does it? Once you allow a colleague to step into your private life, confusion ensues. That professional relationship between two colleagues or a boss and an employee is easily disrupted when business and pleasure amalgamate.

A drink, a dinner, a breakfast in a foreign house. The start of a new relationship is exciting enough without the complications of being involved with someone from work. Couples usually separate after their morning routine and are reunited after a busy day at the office. But for the work place love affair it is only the beginning. It is the ultimate test. To be around each other constantly, intensely.

Hour after hour. Breathing in his perfume as he leans over your desk to clarify an issue beyond your expertise or walking past him on the hall way as your eyes meet and you reminisce the magic of the previous night. Your conversation is light – casual. ”How are you? Are you busy today?” No sign of the passion you know is slithering underneath the surface. It is a convincing mask of good behaviour. It is tempting to glance at his desk every so often. Your favourite distraction. Just to catch a glimpse of that smile.

But you are different people here. Not lovers, holdings hands and an embrace of souls. But two people reaching for the brightest star of the career ladder. Working together, sleeping together. Yay or nay? One might argue that a tension arises after that first night. How are we to act at work? Will we reveal our romantic attachment to one another or will it be a clandestine love affair? Who are we to tell? Friends? Maybe. Family? Maybe. No one? Might be best. Who do we trust? Many opt for secrecy over honesty. Why? They might not understand. They might disapprove. They will talk.

The more important he is the more they will gossip as if you were characters from a soap opera or the next door neighbour known for her promiscuity. So a distance is created between the two lovers. For the sake of work. The truth is covered up with an indifference that can be confused with estrangement. At least one of the two will be unhappy with the neglect that follows. Whether it is worth it, is another question.

What is more important: your relationship or your job? And then there is the inevitable finding out. No secret can be kept forever. There is always that one chance encounter with a colleague one cannot avoid. And then it’s all over. ”You’ll never guess who I just saw at the cafe.”

And how will you deal with the fact that your relationship is the hottest topic of conversation amongst colleagues? The whispers, the looks. Your private life exposed. Do you even want to know what they think? Probably not. But a small part of you cannot help but be curious. And what if the boss is the man you love? Some might consider it inappropriate to date a superior. They might wonder if it is that promotion you seek rather than love. And it is somewhat unusual for your lover to correct your mistakes, not to mention awkard. But a necessary evil. The day ends and the embarrassment fades.

When the two lovers walk home after work, chatting about difficult customers or issues that had to be resolved, they switch roles upon entering the apartment. Work leaves the conversation and more often than not, the conversation makes way for passion. He unbuttons your coat and nuzzles your ear as you clumsily remove your boots and sit upon the bed, waiting for him to join you.

Gone is that common interest that dominates your discourse: Work. It’s dating by association. All that remains now is the will to be close to him. For his hands to explore your body and keep you warm. For the night to stay so morning will not transport you back to that workplace of indifference. But it will. Ready yourself.

>A Regency Scene – A Mischievous Scheme

10 Jan

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A continuation of: part 1 and part 2

The only person in the county to share her opinion was her best friend, Amelia Warren, whom she had known since childhood. Miss Warren, who was three years her senior, acted the part of her adviser in all matters of importance; it was mainly through her influence that the Hamilton family lived with economy and good taste. Amelia frequently with her brought the latest news from Paris in terms of fashion and the occasional gossip. Thanks to her great wealth and title, Miss Warren could do whatever she pleased and had taken a lover rather than a husband.

The only reason society still acknowledged her was because her promiscuity was a private affair only Audrey could confirm. The lover had to her even been introduced; Mr. Dawson, a gentleman’s second son and therefore heir to nothing except an allowance of a meagre 500 pounds per annum. This display of shocking indecorum initially repulsed Miss Hamilton. But once she saw the freedom the arrangement provided and the many pleasures her friend was privy to, she began to envy her situation rather than condemning it.

“You should take a lover, Audrey. Disinterested as you are in marriage, you should still allow yourself access to the pleasures of matrimony,” Amelia imparted as they were drinking tea in the drawing room.

Audrey’s eyes grew dilated and she shifted in her seat and fidgeted with her dress.

“That is impossible. I should fear being discovered. Besides, I have not completely despaired of men; after all, Catherine found herself an excellent husband so it can be done. We are to organise a ball next week at The Crown. Mr. Sharpe has engaged me for a dance and I am promised an introduction to the elusive Mr. Beckham.”

The man featured in their conversation with some regularity and both were anxious to make his acquaintance to find out his true nature. “Oh, I forgot to mention – my mother lately stumbled upon Mr. Beckham at her tailor; she told me he is excessively handsome and exceedingly obliging.”

Miss Hamilton could not but laugh at her theatrical language. “Which does not account for his treatment of us. I shall believe it when I experience his kindness myself; I do not trust another’s opinions. Our neighbours are too impressionable to be relied upon for any sort of valuable information.”



“And does my mother fall in that category?” Amelia teased.

“She’s certainly knowledgeable compared to mine.”

Amelia smiled. “Oh, high praise, indeed! But let us speak in earnest. Are you on the lookout for a husband?”

Even Audrey herself did not know her heart. “Only a very great man can tempt me to accept him. I have not seen a worthy suitor yet. But mama has set her sights on a visit to London so that might remedy my predicament.”

Miss Warren adored London and had long wished her friend to spend the season there; she knew Audrey to be a hopeless romantic and no romance could be found in the country at present – all eligible bachelors had gone away to Town to catch an heiress.

“I think it a very good development. You stayed away too long – such country grudges sully one’s reputation. Besides, I have a great acquaintance in Town and I shall endeavour to introduce you to every single one of them.”

Audrey sipped her tea and indulged in some quiet reflection; perhaps she had stayed away too long, indeed. “I am much obliged, Amelia. My only worry is that no one shall notice me when you stand next to me.”

Although the two friends were equal in beauty and wit, Amelia’s wealth and prospects were superior. Audrey, though respectable and rich, could offer no title or grand estate.

“Nonsense. I have made it perfectly clear I do not wish to marry. No gentleman would willingly subject himself to a rejection by making me an offer. No, I am quite resolved to promote you as the most beautiful, angelic and sweet-tempered girl in the country. You shall have all the attentions that you deserve. You may rely upon it.”

But Miss Hamilton, having endured only one proposal and one season in London, flushed at the notion of such relentless attentions to her person. She hoped that those vying for her notice would be well worth the effort. “They shall abandon me once an introduction to my mother has been made.”

Ever since returning to the country since her disastrous first season, her mother had scared away any potential suitors; her persistence was infamous, her methods questionable.

“Do not make yourself uneasy. The gentleman in Town are far too worldly to be so easily discouraged; but, perhaps I should include a warning in my promotion of fair Miss Hamilton. It might arouse their sympathy, rather than their abhorrence.”

But the idea sickened Miss Hamilton. “No, pray don’t speak of my mother. I will invent some scheme to keep her home. I might apply to the generosity of my aunt and uncle in escorting me to events. They are sociable creatures and very fond of me. They often write to beg me to come visit. I shall make my apologies to my mother and explain. To do so without injuring her shall be my only difficulty.”

“Can we not send you to Town under some pretext? Surely, your relatives have need of you. Otherwise I will take it upon myself to devise a reason. At any rate, I could accompany you so your arrival would cause the necessary alarm and curiosity.”

“Oh, yes. Mama dotes on you. She thinks you a very good influence (ahem). I am certain of her acquiescence if we were to travel together.”

Amelia’s eyes glistened with mischief. “Now all we have to do is tell her.”

At such times of emotional trial she turned to poetry: John Keats was her current favourite, after a brief time of Wordsworth. It was in poems a gleam of life with all its promise and potential revealed itself to her. “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever,” she recited to herself to give her courage. Taking in a sharp breath, she entered her mother’s room and thought to herself: what would Jane do? Jane, of course, being Jane Austen.