Monday, July 2, 2012

How Far Can Love Scenes Go in Clean Romance?

Remember how I was having such a hard day on Saturday?  (I was sick).  Well, today has been such a wonderful day.  I just saw the cover for my book that's coming out in the fall.  It is GORGEOUS!  I can't wait to show you the finished product.

So, I was having a conversation with some friends of mine over the weekend about what is acceptable to be shown as love scenes in clean romantic suspense books.  As you all know, I had someone object to a kiss in one of my books because they thought it lingered too long.  I was so surprised by the feedback because to me, it was an (almost) innocent kiss before my hero thinks he's going to die. (I guess in a way he does linger. But he thinks he's going to die, people!  DIE!)  But I am sensitive to the fact that people expect any romance in my books to be clean.  And I really thought I had done that, but now I wonder if my definition of clean is sort of not, if you know what I mean.

Of course when you pick up a thriller, romantic suspense, whatever, that is billed as clean, you have certain expectations---maybe your standard is no explicit love scenes.  Or maybe it's just a close the door and no explicit descriptions.  But we're all so different.  It's obvious that what is clean to me might not be clean to you.  So I'm curious, where do you draw the line?

During the discussion with my friends it came down to this---when we watch a movie, all of the information is fed to us.  We see what the director wants us to see.  With a book, we are using our imagination.  We bring all our experiences and background to that reading experience, so every time someone reads the book, their experience is different from anyone else who read that book.  For the woman who wrote about my characters' kiss being too long, in her experience and imagination it was.  For someone else it wouldn't even cross their minds.  So how clean does clean have to be?

What do you think?  How do you decide what is acceptable for love scenes in "clean" books and what isn't?


KaseyQ said...

I say as long as it's not something the character would need to go through a repentance process for, it's all good! It's always up to the reader how they interpret it- readers need to be careful not to let their minds wander places the author didn't intend them to go... ;-)

Debra Erfert said...

Hmmm, when you start describing what the tongue does, then I think the scene has gone too far for it to be considered clean--in my opinion. I don't care to know those kinds of things even though I know what makes a good kiss good.

And the hands better not stray where they shouldn't! You know what I mean!

Jon Spell said...

I hear there are differences between what Covenant will accept and maybe generally clean.

I'm not sure where I'd draw the line exactly, but any descriptions or depictions of things that are covered by a bikini are right out.

How about a kiss between a single guy and a separated-but-not-divorced woman? Back rubs?

Of course, I think of Friends, and Rachel's typo-ridden romance novel, with its "heaving beasts" and "huge throbbing pens" (Don't want to be around when he starts writing with those!)

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Kasey, I agree!

Debra, I do know what you mean.

Jon, seriously, I laughed for five minutes after reading your Friends quote. I don't want to be around either. Ha!

Lori Folkman said...

Great topic, Julie. I've wondered the same thing. Since each reader has different experiences in their own romances, what might be too vivid for one reader might not make another reader blink an eye. I think the best thing is to stay true to character--like you said, your character thought he was dying and won't be satisfied with a small peck. If you offend a few people--oh well! It means you are making your story so realistic that it gets under people's skin and that is a job well done!

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

I received a comment via email by someone who wished to remain anonymous but still wanted their voice heard.

"It sends a bad message to have unmarried couples kissing at all in a book. Our youth need to embrace purity now more than ever. Personally, I don't think couples should touch at all before marriage."

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Thanks, Lori! I hate offending people, but you're right, as an author I want to stay true to myself and my characters. Hopefully my readers can appreciate that.

Jon Spell said...

Was your anonymous commenter Rob Wells? ;)

Jordan McCollum said...

Hahaha, Jon!

I want it to be known that I never kissed my husband before the altar.

(long pause for effect)

Before that, he wasn't my husband!

Julie, I want to send you a private comment, too, but mostly because it's a long scene from a book of mine you haven't read. It might just be the "steamiest" scene I've ever written, and there's no kissing. In fact, the characters are trying *not* to touch one another.

Whether you're writing a kiss or a heck of a lot more of a love scene, it ISN'T the body parts that matter (publisher standards aside). It's the emotion that goes into it—and like you said, Julie, so much of that comes from the reader and his/her perspective.

Anonymous said...

Julie--I love your new cover. And I hope your anonymous commenter never reads any of my books.

Jordan--you made me laugh, out loud.