As a reader of romance for the last 25 years (I started young, what can I say) – one of the trends that I’ve found particularly interesting is the evolution of sex in romance.
When I first started reading romance at the age of 12 I started with teen books. You remember those historical novels where a teen girl would go from Boston across the Wild West to San Francisco and find love along the way? Obviously, since they were targeted at the pre-teen/teen market there was no sex and even very little kissing. Then I moved on to Harlequin romance. But I started with stuff from the 60s/70s – Betty Neels, Kerry Allyne, Dorothy Cork – all of which were relatively tame – still mostly limited to kissing and sex was something saved for marriage.
These days, it’s almost a surprise if sex isn’t involved in the book somehow for anything New Adult and up. And even the teen stuff has gotten more complicated – reflecting a less-tame world perhaps. In contemporary romance it ranges from sweet romances with just the kissing, to fully explicit scenes. Paranormal romance almost always includes it and frequently makes it central to the romance. And erotic romance seems to be more and more mainstream. It’s the same with TV. In the 50s, married couples couldn’t even share a bed on screen. Now we have shows where very little is off limits.
As a reader, I’ll admit that I read that entire range and enjoy most if not all of it. It can really add to the couple’s relationship, especially when sex isn’t the only component of their developing connection, but a physical extension of it. It drives me nuts when the sex is the ONLY focus of the story. *Cough* 50 Shades of Grey *Cough*. Sorry if you’re a fan of that series!
As an author, I have to wonder what other readers want in this space. Popularly of the previously mentioned 50 Shades seems to indicate that the insta-lust, sex-focused genre has a very large market out there. Blogs from publishers indicate a desire for more of the old-fashioned stuff. I’m quite happy to write my stories either way. But I’m just curious. What do you prefer?