Friday, March 5, 2010


By Santa Byrnes

I’m coming to you today, not so much as a writer, but as a reader. I love romance. More specifically, I love the idea (or is it an ideal?) of romance. The way a hero tucks an errant lock of hair behind the heroine’s ear. The catch in the heroine’s breath the moment her fingers brush against his.

The crackling fire as it casts a glow to the book lined library, the authors on their spines lean forward anticipating the next reader’s touch. Irving. Poe. Both James(es). Browning. Shakespeare. Kleypas. Shelly. Eco. Brockway. The brown leather ottoman in front of the fire holds a banquet of treats created to arouse the senses. Lush zambaglione. Brilliant berries. Satiny chocolate mousse. And there draped sardonically (what else would he be – right?) on the armchair next to that fire, the hero awaits his heroine’s return from a grueling day at work ready to fulfill her every wish.

Sigh. How romantic.

And, no, they haven’t had sex yet. It’s also well into the novel and, believe it or not, they’ve just met. Really. A good fifty or so pages in and they’ve just met, after ten years apart, at the local diner. She’s back in town trying to evade her ex and he’s never gone beyond the next town over.

The romance of their story – the meeting, instantly attracted to one another and neither willing to cross that line. They have to be true to themselves. They are on a journey of self rediscovery. Love has no place in that quest. A romance – whether for the long run or just to scratch that itch – is not on their personal itineraries. But they are pushing against what is clearly fated as their destiny. The discovery that what they’ve been searching for is the very thing they keep riling against is what drives their story.

But they’re not going to act on it….at least for another thirty pages or so. At least.

Is this kind of romance novel welcomed by readers? Can one be written where the hero and heroine don’t meet until the third or fourth chapter and don’t have sex until a few more chapters in? Can the sexual tension alone carry a book?

I have to admit, I am on the fence about this. A book that engages all my senses and keeps me at the edge of my seat is a rare find. Does that mean it has to be full of sex, as the one element used to engage my senses? Or can it be woven into the story, as one of its stronger points?

What have you come to expect and accept as a reader? Or as a writer?♥

My name is Santa Byrnes and I am a contemporary romance writer with one completed manuscript under my belt and one that I am working on at the present. When I am not wearing my writer’s tiara, you can find me at the wheel of my car chauffeuring my children heather and yon to their various activities. I write there. I don my deli diva tiara as co-owner and manager of my family’s gourmet food store. I also write there. As an ardent foodie, I get much of my inspiration for the current series I am working on. My heroines are chefs whose passions for the culinary arts rivals the passions they share with the heroes in their lives.


  1. Santa,

    I personally dislike when sex comes too early. I love sexually tension, the build up. It makes that moment that much sweeter. And as far as a book that engages your senses and keeping you on edge being a rare find, I disagree. I read a lot of tension filled novels. I particularly enjoy any books by Tess Gerritsen or J.D. Robb. Both weave romance into their plots. But then again I am a suspense/thriller fan.

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  3. I don't like sex too soon. The characters don't even need to meet until 50 pages in.

    I must, however, have good writing right off the bat, and some pretty scorching sexual tension once things get rolling.

    Or else make me laugh. I'll forgive anything if I'm laughing. :)

  4. Okay, this is bizarre. I responded to Tanya's post earlier today but - for some reason - it never made it here. Sigh.

    Thanks Tanya for posting here. I agree that are great books out there with great tension. What I'm finding difficult to find are books that don't toss sex in immediately without providing a story that really engages the reader.

    Thanks for posting, J. It is all about the writing for me and characters that I want to see find their happily ever after.

  5. Santa - I agree with some of the other posters that if the story is great, and the characters are compelling, I'm "easy". I'll hang in there regardless of when they meet, when they hit the sack, and whether the author chooses to leave the bedroom door closed - or film the action blow by blow for me (pun intended). I once read an historical romance and did not realize until the end that the couple NEVER had sex. Lots of tension, lots of foreplay, but no actual sex. So it all depends on the writer's talent as a storyteller. And this from someone who can pick up a BDSM erotic romance where the sex happens in paragraph 2!

  6. I also don't like when the characters have sex right away. I like to feel the emotion. This doesn't happen until the characters get to know one another better, forming a bond. I try to keep my characters out of bed for as long as I can, building up the sexual tension. A good romance can stand alone without pages of sex.