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Guest blogger: Valerie Parv AM

18 October 2020

Touching moments

Thank you for having me as your guest blogger. I feel as if I’m visiting friends, except we don’t have to socially distance, so please consider yourself virtually hugged.

I’ve been thinking about how touching has become off-limits and what that might mean for relationships, both in everyday life and in our stories. In my new book, 34 Million Books—part memoir and part writing guide—I confess I didn’t learn to hug until my teens. My late husband was a wonderful hugger, sweeping my sisters into brotherly hugs whenever we visited. Like our British-born parents, they were uncomfortable with such open displays of affection. One day he didn’t hug my older sister and she asked him, ‘Aren’t you going to attack me?’ Evidently she had learned to enjoy being hugged, as I had.

In my romance novels, touch is as essential to a relationship as it is in real life. There’s even a name for being deprived of touching—skin hunger. We now know that orphaned babies whose basic needs are met but who aren’t held, can go on to develop anxiety, depression and mental health problems. This is because gentle touching releases oxytocin, known as the love hormone, with benefits from reduced heart rate to lower blood pressure. By contrast, lack of being touched produces cortisol, the hormone making us feel stressed and anxious.

I like the love scenes in my romance novels to focus on sensations like touch as much as on sexual intimacy. As the song says, you can’t have one without the other.

She sat down beside him, careful to keep a safe distance. He unclipped a water bottle from his belt and handed it to her. She drank, aware that his lips would soon touch the same spot as hers, almost like a kiss.

And she knew exactly how that felt, an inner voice whispered. The hard contours of his mouth, the rasp of stubble against her cheek, the wine-rich taste of his breath were all burned into her memory.

With a Little Help, Valerie Parv

While nothing beats being touched and held by a person who matters to us, we can reduce skin hunger with activities like visiting the hairdresser, where a shampoo and head massage feel so blissful, or by relaxing in a long, hot bath. My agent swears by regular mani-pedis, another form of pleasurable touching.

What’s needed is the feel of deep-contact pressure; this is why weighted blankets have become so popular lately. Sleeping under one can feel a lot like being hugged. Cuddling a pet has a similar effect, perhaps explaining the surge in pet adoptions during the last few months.

You can also try crossing your arms over your chest and pressing a hand firmly to each shoulder. Stay like this for a short time, close your eyes and imagine being held by someone you love.

While being filmed by a television crew in my home, I mentioned how I sometimes test-drive scenes from my books in a similar way. Of course they wanted me to demonstrate for national TV, surprised when I politely declined.

Instantly Markaz was there, sweeping her into his arms, setting off a fresh explosion of need inside her. She wrapped her arms around his neck, sensations racing through her like wildfire … making her ache to tear away the robes and connect with him skin-to-skin, flesh joining with flesh.

Desert Justice, Valerie Parv

Is the sense of touch important to you in everyday life? In the romance novels you read? Please share your thoughts below.

34 Million Books

From the drama of Parvgate to being made a Member of the Order of Australia, Valerie shares how writing has shaped her life, with the Australian Women’s Weekly publishing her first article when she was fourteen.

Each chapter includes a ‘writing takeaway’ for those curious about how she works her story magic or would like to follow in her footsteps.

34 Million Books: Australia’s Queen of Romance shares her life and writing tips is available now in print and ebooks here.

You can find Valerie here: Website | Facebook | Twitter

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 19 October 2020 6:12 am

    Great post, Valerie. So needed at this time.

    • 19 October 2020 9:17 am

      Thank you, Sandy. It is a tough time and we need good self-care. Publishing my memoir/writing guide kept my brain in gear and I hope readers will benefit, too.

  2. 18 October 2020 1:51 pm

    Thank you, Kathi

  3. Kathi Harris permalink
    18 October 2020 11:51 am

    Every accolade that Valerie receives is well deserved. She is inspiring and uplifting. May all her dreams come true.

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