Over the last couple of months, I’ve managed to read several books that all had the same plot point: the couples headed more or less straight for bed as soon as they met. Sometimes even before they met, as in “Gee that’s a cool guy standing in the alley there, I think I’ll jump him.”
Now as we all know, constant randyness seems to be pretty standard in romance. I mean, geez, you want the h/h to be panting over each other fairly quickly. But do you really want them acting on their hormones within the first twenty pages? I should also say I’m not talking about erotica here, where the rules are obviously different, but about regular old plain-vanilla romance.
Sometimes I think this motif works. Urban fantasy uses it a lot, and it becomes a way to not only work in some really hot scenes, as in Eve Silver’s Sins of the Flesh, but also as a kind of metaphor for the characters’ desperation. In Silver’s case, the heroine is deliberately avoiding any kind of real contact with another human being, so anonymous sex is pretty much part of the package.
But what about characters who aren’t either sporting a few extra supernatural genes or part of an erotic sequence? What does it do to the story if your hero or heroine jumps into the sack with the first attractive person he/she comes across? For me, I guess it depends on the way things work themselves out. One standard formula, for example, is best described as “Oh my god, I can’t believe I did that, how can I look at him from now on?” A certain portion of the rest of the book is devoted to the heroine’s angst over having been so reckless, usually as the result of having been a) drunk or b) under the influence of some extreme emotional state. I can accept this (although it often means the heroine is something of a ditz) if that’s not the only thing that’s happening in the plot. But if the book now centers around the heroine’s mortification, it’s going to be a long, long slog.
I guess I really prefer to watch the sexual tension grow between characters, to see them gradually move closer and closer to that sex scene so that you can build up some anticipation for what will happen between them. I like heroes and heroines who are a little, shall we say, selective. Who spend some time scoping out a potential partner rather than rushing right into the clinch.
So which do you prefer—the heroine who gets it on with the stranger in the alley or the heroine who waits at least a week or so before she and the hero do the double-backed boogie? Yes, I’m overstating it, but it’s my party and I’ll cheat if I want to! –Meg Benjamin