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Saturday, 17 November 2012

How do you like your love fix?

Jan Ruth

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? Probably.

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

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