Monday, August 17, 2009

Harlequin Historical Undone and the writer of the Romantic Query Letter

Harlequin has forced me to look, once more, at that most pressing question: How much sex is too much sex? Especially in a Regency historical romance particularly now that the requirement is for a more sensual story?

The story is meant to be ten to fifteen thousand words. But, now I ask you, after plot, back-story, initial attraction and open lustful desire, how much actual sex could the editors be expecting?

They don’t want vulgar or gratuitous but then again both are so very subjective, which makes it sort of like that quote about pornography that says ‘you’ll know it when you see it.’ And this raises yet another question: will I know it when I see it? Or rather, when I write it.

Decisions had to be made.

Do I write a virgin heroine?

According to my research, the readers prefer virgin heroine in a Regency romance, but I must remember not to write a widowed virgin, which do exist by the way. And she is always a most contentious character, I assure you.

It’s that or the unhappily married wanton Lady seeking her pleasure. Or the lovely miss who lost her virginity by some happenstance. Or the widow who never experienced true pleasure but is now ready to do so. Or the bluestocking, spinster miss that knows far too much about sexuality for the time period. And trust me, the list or heroines and subtle variations on the stereotypes, does go on… So many heroines, but so few words.

In the end, I decided that my girl would be a conscientious virginal miss with an eager body and an unsure heart.

She meets her hero while engaged to the friend she settled for after years on the marriage mart and now she too had to make some decisions.

Should she choose the possibility of love with this stranger and, in the process, abandon the friend that offered her companionship in return for the financial security her fortune would offer?

Both she and I struggled with our decisions in an attempt to see to it that all ended well and all the while, this sex question stood as though haunting over the proceedings. The struggle was good for us and it helped us to bond so that we were able to make some decisions.

I made her hero constant and true so that it was easy for her to love him. Then I found that once she loved him, the sensual matters easily followed the emotional from enflamed first kiss, to impassioned lovemaking in a carriage in the middle of the afternoon.

Very hot… Or so I thought until my sister, the writer of erotica that she is, read it and essentially called it vanilla.


Now, what?
Here's hoping you have a good week,

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