Remember a few blogs ago when I wrote about how much I liked Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall? Well, something must have rubbed off on me. In that blog I also talked about reading outside of my comfort zone. I took my own advice and guess what?
I read a historical romance and now I’m suddenly craving historical romances/gothics, which I’ve never really read before. I’ll admit that a lot of these books sort of follow a formula. Some chick is trying to marry a Duke, or some Duke is trying to marry a chick. Or some chick is trying to run away from a bad Duke. But there are enough twists to that formula, some very clever twists I might add, to keep my interest.
Something that has surprised me is the submissive chick from my Grandma’s historical romances back in the day, is gone. These heroines are feisty and stand up for their beliefs. And it used to be all about dark and brooding heroes, but now they also have a wicked sense of humor.
But I don’t think that’s what my new passion is about. For me it’s the inspiration of sexual tension in these books that keeps me reading. I have a lot of sex and sexual tension in my books, but I feel like I could use some improvement in that regard. I like the idea of something more subtle. This is a time period when a glance or a simple touch could mean so much, and is an excellent source for information about how to use sexual tension without ever touching. Showing this tension, I’ve discovered is what defines a great book from simply a good one.
Some of the authors I’ve been reading are Christina Dodd, Julia Quinn, Lorraine Heath, Victoria Alexander and Lisa Kleypas. These women have written some of my favorites, and they all have one thing in common: they are masters of sexual tension. They are able to make the reader hold his/her breath during those furtive glances. It’s a gift. The tension builds until that moment when the characters first kiss, or later on do the dirty. It’s art to keep the reader entranced like that.
An art I’ve been analyzing the last few days. Showing instead of telling is a big component of this. In Victoria Alexander’s What A Lady Wants the first time the hero and heroine meet she’s just seen him crawling out of the window of a married woman, who’s husband tried to shoot him. The second time they meet at a ball. Felicity, who enjoyed the quick-witted repartee during her first meeting with Nigel Cavendish, sees him again at the event.
Nigel is fascinated by Felicity and coerces one of his friends to formally introduce him to her. He’d initially thought her a young teen, who had helped him out, but now he realizes she’s so much more. I don’t have the book in front of me so I can’t do an excerpt, but at the ball he kisses her hand, and she’s surprised when her body doesn’t turn into a puddle. He on the other hand can’t figure out why he’s so fascinated with her, especially since she’s not his type. He’s slightly allergic to virgins.
Alexander makes the most of this unlikely couple’s unusual way of dealing with one another. When they finally do kiss — it’s a whopper of a scene.
The characters internal thoughts play a big part in what is going on. They seldom say how they really feel, which keeps things interesting. There is also that Twilight sense of these people shouldn’t be together but will go against the odds to do exactly that. It’s hardly a new theme, but it is important with romantic relationships. If there’s too much nice/nice your characters and their scenes will be boring. You need to throw rocks at them.
When I first began writing, it took me awhile to figure out the difference between sex and sexual tension, but the distinction is a big one. The first lesson I learned, and the most important, is your hero and heroine should have no reason for wanting to be together. There should be huge obstacles thrown at them. The twist is that they cannot resist the pull, even though they know they should.
So tell me, what are some of the books you’ve read where the sexual tension was awesome?