Guest blogger: Nicole Murphy
This week, I got a great review for my latest release, The Lies We Tell.
I say this not because I want to promote it—in fact, part of the review was uncomplimentary of the story—but because it’s the first review I’ve gotten that shows I’m achieving what I want to with my writing.
The review is here and you can read it if you want. Believe me, it’s not a total rave fest. But I loved the review because of this line:
“…this wasn’t erotica or BDSM themed. This was an NA novel about a normal couple with a normal sex life. It was so refreshing to read about a couple that’s frisky and a bit kinky and feels no shame in enjoying their sexuality within the context of a healthy relationship. I don’t know why that doesn’t happen more often.”
I punched the air. I was so happy. Because this has long been a bugbear of mine in fiction in general, but romance in particular—that the heroine’s sexuality is so the same, and the only time it can be different or kinky or whatever is when you’re writing erotica.
Back when I started writing romance more than ten years ago, the virgin heroine was still very much the prevailing stereotype and I hated it. The unspoken lesson was that you could only understand real love, find your perfect man, if you were pure and untouched. Well, stuff that, I thought. Surely you’re more likely to recognise that what you’ve got is real, that you’re with a man who you can spend the rest of your life with, if you’re experienced. So in the Dream of Asarlai trilogy, all three of my heroines were NOT virgins.
The other thing I wanted to do, however, was portray different types of sexuality. When you read romance, and look at the way sexuality is portrayed and the sex act is written, it’s often very much the same. Okay, they’ll get into some different positions, and go down on each other, but still it’s all about raging lust and seriousness and searing passion and multiple orgasms and, in the end, they all kinda start to feel the same.
That’s not how sexuality works in real life. Some people like to turn sex into theatre, and dress up, and play act. Some make a point of discovering and making each other’s fantasies come true. Perfectly normal people—the woman in the line behind you in the supermarket, perhaps—like to tie their partner up, maybe smack them a bit or be smacked as part of sex. The woman in the cubicle next to you at work may well enjoy having anal sex with her partner.
I think that’s why writers such as Jennifer Crusie and Anna Campbell appeal to me so much—the sex is real and honest and doesn’t always follow the norm.
My favourite romance book is Welcome to Temptation and there’s some great, real but not the romance norm sex in there. When they have full sex the first time, it doesn’t go well at first, and they have to work to find out how to make it explosive for both of them. They play with each other, acting out fantasies. It’s absolutely awesome!
It’s absolutely real, and it’s absolutely sexy too.
So over the course of various stories and books, I’m playing with different expressions of sexuality. In The Lies We Tell they are about living out each other’s fantasy. In Claudine’s New Adventure, we’ve very openly got two overweight people have hot, raunchy sex. In The Festival (the novella sequel to Dream of Asarlai), there’s bondage. In one of my as-yet-unpublished novels, I’ve got two relationships—one is very sweet and innocent and beautiful and just happens to be a lesbian relationship and in the other, they actually don’t want to be together, aren’t interested in being in love and actually fight a lot, but then at night have steamy hot sex.
And I’m going to continue to explore differing portrayals of women’s sexuality because I think it’s important that we show all the colour and diversity in our world.
To win a copy of The Lies We Tell, tell me what YOU’D like to see in a romance novel. (The giveaway is now closed. The winner was Aimee.)
Nicole Murphy writes science fiction, fantasy and horror (often with a big splash of romance) and Elizabeth Dunk writes contemporary romance and paranormal erotica. Nicole helps support and teach other writers and is currently organising the inaugural Conflux Writers Day, to be held in Canberra in April next year. You can find out more about Nicole/Elizabeth at her website. Nicole’s latest release is The Lies We Tell by Elizabeth Dunk, published by Escape Publishing.