Sex is everywhere, and I don’t even mean explicit, society ruining raunchy porn. Casual references, innuendos, even the M&S lingerie adverts are pretty hot stuff, and appear on TV and the sides of buses without so much as raising an eyebrow. Serious novels contain sex, though often not as a large part of the plot, so surely any romance readers would be expecting to become more than slightly hot under the colour. Let’s be honest, a lot of best selling contemporary romances are based on sex – from Fifty Shades, to Bared to You, to almost every Danielle Steele ever written – without the sex, there would be very little going on, and even less connecting to characters. Good old fashioned bodice rippers generally pivot around sex, the ‘ruination’ of a girl, or the scandal of lust being common plot features. I’m not one of those ‘nowadays the world is terrible’ people – look at Baudelaire‘s Fleurs du Mal, Lady Chatterly’s Lover, even Tess of the d’Urbervilles has that barnyard scene where she licks cream off the fingers of Angel Clare. Saucy and suggestive, oioi.
So, I do believe it can be forgiven to expect a little sex from a modern romance. Obviously, some are better than others, some are cringey, and some are almost non existent. I recently read two of the books from the Brides of Bath series, where there was little plot, and very little sex to go with it. There was literally no saving grace to the novels. I mean, yes I’m sick of contemporary romances involving rich men, young girls, and damaged pasts. I’m sick of contemporary romances that rely on tired old tactics of ‘being caught in a compromising position’ and ‘accidentally falling in love with one’s own husband.’ But, with a little spice, these books can sometimes be at least a little enjoyable. I’m not some sex crazed loon – if a book has a great plot, I absolutely would not recommend adding sex just for the sake of it. But, when seeking escapism, a flighty bippity bop romance, there’s a requirement to get the blood pounding just a bit. If I want less, I’d read Austen, or my all time favourite, Elizabeth Gaskell. Less is great in a novel that has an awesome plot, contextual restraints, and sparring characters actually conversing. But in the whirl of romantic novels that have plots that are little more than fluff…..it’s necessary up turn up the heat!