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Guest blogger: Alyssa J Montgomery

18 September 2016

alyssa-montgomeryThe contemporary romance novel virgin: still in vogue?

It’s almost forty years since I started reading my grandmother’s Barbara Cartland novels, and my sisters’ Mills & Boon. So, I grew up on romance novels where the heroine was most definitely a virgin. She wasn’t a virgin for any particular reason other than it was a given she would be. Even if she’d been married, there would always be some reason why she hadn’t consummated her marriage.

All these decades on and romance novels have evolved in many ways, including women exploring and enjoying their sexuality in a variety of situations or combinations. Yet, stories centred around the virgin heroine still fly off the shelves. Why?

Maybe it’s because for most people, first sex is a huge milestone. But, even if it isn’t seen as a major life event, it’s certainly something we can all relate to. We’re either virgins or we’ve been virgins, so when the heroine makes love with the hero for the first time, we can either relate to it or, if inexperienced, we may want to relate to it.

Perhaps the reason the virgin heroine is popular stems back to childhood fairy tales. We’ve lived through the happy-ever-after romances of Cinderella and Snow White. Don’t we automatically assume that Prince Charming is Cinderella’s first lover? And who, for a second, would think that Snow White had made the most of living in close quarters with seven males and suspect she’d been deflowered by one of the dwarfs? (Although I suppose in Snow White’s case, sex wouldn’t have been particularly satisfying with a partner who kept sneezing, fell asleep in the middle of it, was too shy to take his clothes off, had a hissy-fit and stormed off during the act, or one couldn’t indulge because he’d taken the Hippocratic oath and was her doctor. And … quite possibly … Happy was happy because he’d already looked after himself!!)

What of the hero’s reaction to our heroine’s virginity? Sometimes he sees it as a turn-off because he doesn’t want to become involved with an inexperienced woman who might romanticise sex. Typically, however, he’s feeling incredibly honoured and macho that he’s been ‘the first’, (even though he’s often believed up to the point of breaking through the hymen, that our heroine has been promiscuous). Most modern men don’t seem to care they’re not the woman’s first lover—or at least they don’t admit to it. So, how do you feel as a reader about the hero’s caveman like satisfaction in having deflowered the heroine?

A common gripe from readers is the well-worn scenario where the experienced hero ‘claims’ the heroine’s virginity, she suffers fleeting pain, then proceeds to have multiple orgasms until dawn breaks. Oops! I confess to having been guilty of writing said scene. Why have I fallen into the trap of writing it? Seriously … do I want to read that the heroine was unsatisfied by our hero? A resounding no. I’d rather live the fantasy than have such a pivotal scene end with disappointment. Imagine if the heroine looked into the hero’s eyes and asked, ‘Is that it?’ So, I suspend disbelief—ignore the fact that our hero obviously runs on Eveready batteries and our heroine must have a Teflon-coated vagina to have enjoyed a night of non-stop orgasms—and I read on.

Readers on other blog sites have basically said they don’t really care whether a heroine is a virgin or not, but that if she is a virgin (especially if she’s in her twenties) they want a compelling reason as to why she’s a virgin. Without a compelling reason, it just isn’t believable given the general lifestyle in modern society. (Historical romance is a different scenario as it was more important in regency society for a well-bred young heroine to be a virgin—however in historical novels a non-virgin heroine can be an unexpected plot twist.)

A much rarer creature in romantic fiction is the male virgin. Why is that? Is it that if our hero is inexperienced in the bedroom we doubt his virility or his ability to satisfy our heroine’s sexual needs? He definitely makes fewer appearances in romance novels than the virgin heroine, but I can think instantly of two virgin heroes who’ve been written extremely well. Our own Anna Campbell wrote the fabulous Lord Sheene in Untouched, and of course there’s Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, Jamie. Neither of these heroes is lacking in virility and both novels have been supremely popular.

Is the virgin heroine outdated in today’s contemporary romance novels? What do you think? Feel free to share your pet peeves, or if you’re a fan of the virgin heroine, can you identify why those novels hold appeal?

Alyssa J Montgomery

You can find Alyssa here: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

10 Comments
  1. Malvina permalink
    19 September 2016 8:27 am

    I guess the curiosity factor helps if the heroine or hero is a virgin. What is it going to be like for them? And is this going to be their one and only partner for life as a result? If so, it better be good! P.S. Now I’m going to be thinking about Snow White all day… 😳

    • Alyssa permalink
      19 September 2016 3:55 pm

      Great to hear from you Malvina!
      Love the blush!
      You’re right, we really want it to be fabulous for them even if that might not always be realistic.

  2. Sue Gerhardt Griffiths permalink
    19 September 2016 8:21 am

    Hmm, when we think of those fairy tales from long ago and to romances written these days – the comparison is so wide, it’s only natural there’s growth in the bedroom scenes. The bedroom scenes in fairy tales are tame or pretty much nonexistent and a lot of romance novels especially historical romances are awfully wild and explicit and make you blush redder than a beetroot and feel the heat right down to your toes!
    When I think of the virgin heroine and her first time with the hero it makes me a little uncomfortable I think I’d prefer to read a romance where the heroine has been round the block…, so to speak!

    Great blog post, Alyssa! I’ve never read one of your books and now I’m curious of your writing and will hunt one down.

    • alyssa permalink
      19 September 2016 2:27 pm

      Hi Sue,
      Thanks for dropping bt the blog and sharing your thoughts. I write contemporary romance as Alyssa J. Montgomery and medieval romance as Alyssa James. I’d liketo think I’m developing as a writer and that my more recently written books show that development! My contemporary romances arethrough Escape Publishing and my medieval romances self-published through Amazon. I hope you enjoy them!
      Have a lovely day!
      Alyssa.

  3. Janelle P permalink
    18 September 2016 7:15 pm

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha! Will never think of Snow White the same again without laughing. Thank you. Laughter is the best medicine. Wonder how we’ve never considered this before. You didn’t mention poor Dopey. Really enjoyed this blog thankyou and will now ponder on the virginity aspect. Keep writing. You have a great sense of humour and a wonderful writing style.

    • alyssa permalink
      18 September 2016 7:50 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed the blog, Janelle. Oops I didn’t mention Dopey, but I don’t think he would’ve been a starter as he probably wouldn’t have figured out what to do! Enjoy your evening.

  4. 18 September 2016 5:22 pm

    You got my attention with the ‘teflon-coated vagina’, now that’s something I’d pay to see written in a romance novel!

    • alyssa permalink
      18 September 2016 5:49 pm

      I can’t claim it as an original, I’m afraid. I know I’ve heard someone, somewhere refer to the teflon-coated vagina…not sure who or when but it was in reference to an all day/night session!

  5. Helen permalink
    18 September 2016 3:43 pm

    Hi Alyssa

    WOW What a fabulous post I loved it Snow White and those pescky 7 Dwarfs will never be the same LOL . You know I am happy to read a romance no matter whether the heroine is a virgin or not and I have read a lot of both but for the life of me my memory is not good with titles of ones that I have but as for reasons for it tried and true for me she has not found the one and only🙂 till now

    Have Fun
    Helen

    You made me smile

    • 18 September 2016 3:59 pm

      Glad I made you smile, Helen! My mother told me she’ll never be able to read Snow White to her great grandchildren!

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