Mills and Boon or hard-core erotica? Realistic and
gritty, or pure fantasy and escapism? Maybe with a blend of humour, or a touch
of the paranormal?
Contemporary romance is all about modern love, sex
and relationships; but the diversity is as vast as the open sea. It’s just
about the biggest umbrella term in fiction and probably the most subjective;
although the sub-genre list is growing so the chances of not finding something
to your taste, is pretty slim!
I love the scope of writing in this genre and the
reading of it has led me to pastures new in terms of variety. To be honest,
there are few books outside this genre that don’t benefit from a romantic
interest running alongside the main theme. And yet . . . I struggle with the
word, ‘romantic’. It still invites those old images of perfect young couples
silhouetted against a sunset, gazing into each other’s eyes. The woman was
always rescued by the man, usually a doctor, the ‘happy ever after’ was always
guaranteed, and usually well in sight by the beginning of the last chapter.
For a good while, romantic fiction has been all
about the beautiful, thirty-something-year-old woman being let down by a man;
but what about the forty-something-year-old man, being let down by a woman?
Romance in novels has evolved and changed along with
the role of women in society. What used to be deemed almost as porn, is now
acceptable in fiction . . . or is it? What does get me slightly hot under the
collar is the idea that erotica is romantic; it tends not to be in my opinion.
We know the basic facts, don’t we? That, as women, we need more emotional
connection for a piece to feel sexy, or romantic.
Can I get away with not mentioning 50 Shades? No?
Okay, I guess not. Well, I didn’t feel the love with this book and I’m taking a
gamble that the current fascination with being tied up will fade, along with
the vampires and the gargoyles. So, is erotica another name for soft porn?
On the other side of the coin, romance with no love
scene or hint of sex in any shape or form, is slightly unrealistic for these
times. If an author has built sexual tension into a novel then I tend to feel a
bit cheated when the characters, poised at the scene of the act, skip forwards
to the following day or the chapter suddenly ends. I feel like the door has
firmly closed, with me, the reader, on the wrong side of it.
Personally, I feel sex in fiction works best when
the sexual passages fit within the tone of the book. It’s a very fine line to
write good sexual scenes and, for me, it always works best when it just
triggers the imagination, but without taking its place entirely. I find romance
much more enjoyable to read (and write about) when it is blended within real
relationships. After all, the actual chemistry of love is still something of an
enigma and one of the most powerful feelings we can experience. Although
research can fill in a lot of gaps, there is no substitute for drawing on real
life experiences and most readers can easily tell the difference, especially if
you are aiming at ‘realistic and contemporary’.
And lastly, what about the men? We have some
terrific male romance writers, which just prove that the old images of this
genre are becoming less and less contrived. So, in answer to the original
question, I like my love fix with some feeling; sometimes funny, sometimes
poignant, but above all it has to be real.
|Author Jan Ruth
Jan Ruth has written three, full length, novels: Wild Water, Midnight Sky and White Horizon. Find Jan Ruth here:
Jan Ruth on Amazon