The right time for S-E-X

    Today I stayed home from work to rest and try to get well. I seem to feel a bit better every day. Not being at work helps, just in terms of stress relief. But I probably should have slept more.

    In the meantime, my writer insecurity has welled up about my WIP. I always feel like whatever I'm working on SUCKS and that it sucks more than anything I've ever written. Felt that way with every single book I've ever written except Ride the Fire, which was more my story than any book I've written and so was deeply personal. (I had other issues writing it.)

    Here's the core of my concern:

    It's the age-old dilemma for romance novelists: When should the hero and heroine finally get past the obstacles that separate them and get it on? A lot of readers seem to want it to happen as soon as possible in the story. They want sex from a close to the front cover to the very end of the book, if possible. And authors, eager to oblige and romance reader ourselves, often search for ways to make the Big Bang happen early in the story.

    But I find myself once again — is it like this in all of my books? — FAR into the story and Marc and Sophie haven't done the wild thing. (OK, so they did it in the prologue, but that was when they were teenagers, some 12 years ago.) I think the only book in which my hero and heroine got it on fairly quickly was Extreme Exposure with Reece and Kara. And the sex fiend in me liked that. Tess and Julian, on the other hand, didn't do it until after page 200 for what I thought were good reasons. With the historicals, my character have tended to have sex about 2/3 of the way through the story. In Ride the Fire, it was probably later than that, but they did everything BUT have sex by that point.

    I'm on P. 250 (?) of Unlawful Contact and I'm only now about to lead up to the Big Sex Scene. And here's why: The rule I have for my stories is that the hero and heroine have to reach a point of caring and mutual trust and respect before they have sex. The issues between them don't have to be resolved and they don't know they're in love, but they have to at least trust the other person and realize that they care about them.

    Sophie and Marc obivously have some serious blocks to that. Marc holds Sophie at gunpoint and uses her as a human shield to break out of prison — not very heroic and not very nice, from her point of view. (She later learns why.) At first, she believes he's a dangerous criminal, no matter how she might have felt about him in high school. For her to be overwhelmed by lust and ignore what he's done isn't really credible.

    OK, so here's the question: What has to happen for for the sex to "feel right"? Is it possible for an author to hook her characters up too soon?

    I personally find it frustrating if there's not a fair amount of good sex in a book. But I can't put Marc and Sophie together before Sophie truly wants to be with him beyond just the physical impulse. Does that make sense?

    What do you all think about the timing of sex in romance novels?

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