Monday, June 11, 2012
#guest "How Much Is Too Much?" with Jenna Jaxon
Everyone always says, “Sex sells.” Well, as far as I’ve been able to tell, they’re right. Just look at Fifty Shades of Gray. And I’ve done my share of sexy, erotic, you-can-hear-the-panting-coming-out-of-the-pages scenes, where you hope your computer screen or Kindle won’t melt.
But is that always the right decision? Does every book--contemporary, historical, paranormal--need to have a fair amount of sex in order to be marketable?
I sure hope not. Because the many of the historicals I’ve written so far (published and unpublished) have had one or two sex scenes at most. One, my short Victorian, has no sex, though it’s implied at one point. Does this mean my little short story won’t sell? Au contraire. It’s doing better than the two erotic novellas I’ve got out.
So how much is too much? And how do you know?
For me, it’s all in how the story is plotted out. If the internal issues between hero and heroine are the major conflict keeping them apart, then likely there isn’t going to be sex until near the end of the book. I’ve got a couple like that. If the heroine doesn’t like the hero very well, or she likes him but thinks he’s done something bad, or she’s physically unable to be with him, then to keep your plot going you will have to withhold sex from them until late in the novel.
Usually, I know how many love scenes are going to be needed in a book when I start. With my current WIP 7 Days of Seduction, that was easy to figure--seven days and at least once a day (some times multiple times in a day). With Hog Wild I had three “little pigs” or “hogs,” so again, pretty easy to figure out. An historical romance that’s actually out on submission now, As Long As You’re Mine, had more sex scenes than I’d ever put in a novel before. But making love to the heroine was how the hero was trying to make her fall in love with him. And even I thought there were too many of them in it, but then I found a place that needed another scene and lo and behold, another sex scene appeared. I wouldn’t have thought so, but the book is stronger for that new scene.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are the almost sexless books. Where the love scenes are delayed until the last third of the book. One such is my soon to be released novel Only Scandal Will Do. Due to the circumstances of their meeting, Katarina dislikes and distrusts Duncan, even after they are married. During the course of the book there are some great kissing scenes, but no steamy sex scenes until close to the end. I was concerned about this as I was writing it. I even considered putting a sex scene early in the book, to facilitate a later plot development, but I just couldn’t do that. It would have been wrong for this book. And I’m just hoping my readers will agree that delayed gratification and lots of sexual tension are almost as good as the spicy lay.
How have you coped with when to insert or delete a sex scene from a work? Do you agonize over it, or do you know instinctively what works and what will not?
Here’s the blurb and excerpt for Only Scandal Will Do, releasing July 23, 2012.
He has the woman of his dreams, but what price will he have to pay to win her heart?
Kidnapped and sold at auction in a London brothel, Lady Katarina Fitzwilliam squelches an undeniable attraction to the masked stranger who purchased her, pits her wits against him, and escapes him and the scandal that would ruin her life.
Unable to resist temptation in a London brothel, Duncan Ferrers, Marquess of Dalbury, purchases a fiery beauty. She claims she's a lady, but how can she be?
No lady of his acquaintance in polite society is anything like her. Then he discovers she is who she says, and that this latest romp has compromised her reputation. He knows how that is. One more scandal and he'll be cast out of London society, but he needs a wife who'll provide an heir to carry on his illustrious family's name. He seeks out Katarina, intending only to scotch the scandal, but instead finds his heart ensnared. He's betting their future he'll capture her heart, but does he have what it takes to win the wager?
WARNING: A blade-wielding heroine who crosses swords with a master of sensuality.
Excerpt for Only Scandal Will Do:
“I assure you, there was never a night like that before.” Lord Dalbury spoke quietly, and Katarina sensed a tension in him. “I had never done such a thing before. Never participated in such an auction. Never tried to take a woman unwillingly to my bed.” He stopped speaking. Just stopped. Then his breath hissed as though he’d slowly released it.
“I cannot find the words to tell you how deeply I regret I was not a better man that night.” He paused, and she held still and waited. “What I tried to do was madness, without thought, without honor. I do not even have an excuse other than my base desires, and that your abundant charms overwhelmed me.” His face was shadowy in the scarce light of the sickle moon, but he sounded contrite. “I have no right to ask for your forgiveness. I have no right to expect it. But I would ask you to allow me to attempt to remedy the situation.”
Kat shook her head slowly. “What on earth do you believe you could do, Lord Dalbury, that could even come close to a remedy for the terror and humiliation you put me through? Do you think now that I have met you, heard your feeble attempts at an apology, and rejected them, the memory of that night will magically disappear?” She fought to control her anger, though she yearned to blast him with it. “What magic potion would you have me take that would erase the memory of you pinning me to the bed? Because if you have such an elixir, then yes, I will gladly take it from you and obliterate you absolutely and irrevocably.”
He stood silent at her words, then said simply, “I have only myself to offer, my lady.”
“You would have me kill you, my lord? In that, too, I agree I would oblige you, but not at the cost of my own life. I understand the English law punishes those who do murder quite severely.” Kat was astonished when he lurched backward, as from a blow.
“No, my lady, I would not have you kill me,” he said, sounding grimly amused. “Though indeed that would probably give you most satisfaction. I meant I would have you marry me.”
His words surprised a laugh out of her. “Marry you?” The laughter grew. “I see, my lord, you think me both a whore and a fool.”
“I think you are neither, Lady Katarina.”
“Then you are the fool to believe I would put such a man as you in control of every aspect of my life.” That he thought she would even entertain the suggestion was insulting.
The pale moonlight shadowed his face, but she could read displeasure there just the same. “You judge me solely on one act that, I assure you, was grossly out of character for me. You cannot possibly know what kind of husband I would be.”
“And never will, Lord Dalbury. I can swear to you that I would not marry you if I were in Hell and you were my only hope of Heaven.”
He inclined his head toward her, a faint smile touching his lips. “I believe you made a similar claim about dancing with me, Lady Katarina. Yet we have indeed enjoyed a dance together despite your words.” His tone was soft, the sensuous, cajoling one he had used to seduce her that night in the House of Pleasure.
Kat trembled, recalling the incredible sensations of his hands, his mouth on her body. Damn. He could not do this to her again. Not just with his voice.
“Is there nothing that would entice you to leave your Hell for my Heaven?”
She struggled to answer, opened her lips to deny it, only to find her mouth completely sealed by his.