When I picked up my first romance in March 2007, I had no idea what it was. I didn’t even notice the two people kissing on the cover. I just knew it was about vampires, and that sounded good. The book was J.R. Ward’s Lover Revealed, and I was shocked (shocked!) at the straightforward way in which sex was depicted — no “steel on velvet” or “warm moist depths”. Since then, I have read a lot of romances, and even without considering the huge growth of erotica, I think the level of heat has been turned way up across the genre. As “Smart Bitch” Sarah said on the Today Show, “It’s like really good sex.” I thought it would be fun to list my favorite romantic sex scenes.
Please feel free to comment with your suggestion for a 10th!
Here they are, not ranked:
Zsadist and Bella, Lover Awakened. This title is the fan favorite in J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series for good reason. Vampire Zsadist, (at least until Acheron was published), is the most tortured hero evah. He’s scarred, inside and out, by his century as a sex/blood slave. He’s never experienced climax, and has never known love or affection from a woman. Bella, a beautiful high born vampire, is strongly attracted to Zsadist, but he resists, thinking himself unworthy. They end up exchanging bodily fluids a number of times before the end of the book, but the scene in which she kisses him — his first one — is probably my favorite. Bella has to work get get Zsadist to associate lovemaking with good things, and to do that she has to get him to view his own body as unspoiled. She begins in the simplest of ways, by kissing him, just his lips and shoulders, and chest, but it’s a wonderful, tender, amusing romantic encounter, in a book of much angst.
Jamie and Claire, Outlander. Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander is beloved, not just by romance readers, but fiction lovers of all stripes. It happens to be one of my favorite romances (although I confess I lost steam by the 3rd installment of this loooooooong series). Jamie is younger than Claire (in more ways than one, as she has traveled back to his time from the 20th century), and he is a virgin when he and Claire consummate their marriage of convenience. But my favorite love scene occurs midpoint in the book. It’s probably the most important scene in terms of their relationship. After some time bonding on the road, they return home a married couple, and Claire is suddenly not sure: is this still a forced marriage or is it more? After what they have shared, can she really return to her husband in the 20th century? And does Jamie even want her to stay? After an intense argument, Jamie presents Claire with a wedding ring. Her donning it represents her commitment to him and her new life, and the emotional intensity of that decision spills over into the violent lovemaking they then share. Jamie is principled, reserved, kind, thoughtful, and gentle, but in this scene he is roused beyond all sanity by his love for Claire. He tells her: “You’re mine, mo duinne, mine alone, now and forever. Mine, whether you will it or no.”
Roarke and Eve, Naked In Death, JD Robb. These two — the tough cop and the wealthy suspect — finally give in to their lust for each other at Roarke’s mansion. One minute they’re examining his gun collection, arguing over evidence, and the next he is kissing her, hauling her into the elevator and up to his bedroom, and she is ripping his clothes off. Eve is no virgin, but she only knows one kind of sex: quick and emotionless, with a fast getaway afterwards. When she tries to force Roarke to play by her rules, he turns the tables on her: “You want the kick without the intimacy? You don’t need a partner for that. And you have one tonight. I intend to give as much pleasure as I get.” And boy does he. But Roarke finds that Eve demands something from him, too: a loss of control, of a piece of himself, that, at least as of the latest installment, he never wants or gets back.
Christian and Maddie, Flowers From the Storm. In Laura Kinsale’s classic, Maddie and Christian share a marriage of convenience. His speech has been severely hampered by a near fatal stroke, and Maddie, a devout and prudish Quaker, agrees to marry him to help keep his dukedom out of the hands of his greedy family, on the condition that they not share a bed. But these two do share an intense bond and have been attracted to one another from the get go. When a fear of ghosts in his huge mansion sends the sensible Maddie fleeing to Christian’s room in the night, Christian, once a renowned rake and determined bachelor, finds himself in the strange position of being in bed with his wife, whom he desires, but not being allowed to touch her. It is impossible to describe how beautifully this scene is written — even excerpting it won’t do justice to the way Kinsale portrays the slow eroding of both of their defenses as they give in to their passion and love, ending with Maddie’s mournful recognition that intensifies her inner conflict for the rest of the book: “God forgive me, I love thee more than mine own life.”
Colin and Savi, Demon Moon, Meljean Brook. Brook is typical of today’s paranormal writers in her tendency to write very explicit sex scenes, and Colin, a beautiful vampire and Savi, an Indian-American human computer geek, certainly have their share. To my mind, the scene that best captures their relationship is the one after Colin comes racing across town – waking from his deep daysleep, in his bare feet, through the daylight — to rescue her from a wyrmwolf. As is typical of Brook’s heroines, and a reason why I love her books, Savi actually mostly took care of things before Colin arrived. But his coming to her signals that he is much more than the vain, broken, and cursed vampire he appears to be. Bloody and exhausted, Colin falls back to sleep in Savi’s bed. When he awakens, he’s too tired to do much seducing, but they share a very hot sexual encounter in which she is able to articulate her needs very clearly. Colin tells her “I’ll give you everything you need”, but Savi knows that his bloodlust and her physical inability to give him enough blood will make it impossible for him to be monogamous. She tells him: “Even with the others, even if it was of short duration, I was faithful. Could you be?”. After a long silence, Colin answers, “If I could Savi, it would be with you.”
Sebastian Dain and Jessica, Lord of Scoundrels, Loretta Chase. This is another celebrated romance, for good reason. It features the classic tortured titular hero, abused in childhood, whose poor self-image is a self-fulfilling prophesy. My favorite scene in this book occurs when Jessica, beautiful, smart, and strong, storms into Dain’s house to rescue her innocent brother from Dain’s corrupting influence. She excoriates the big lout in front of a roomful of drunk hangers on and prostitutes, then storms out. Dain follows her, and they argue up and down the streets of Paris. He’s half dressed, she’s whacking him with her bonnet, and then it starts to rain. Somehow, they end up kissing, and what a kiss! It’s told all from his point of view, and we get to see the earthshaking effect it has on the hero for once: his knees wobble, his chest tightens, and he wants to weep, as loving words flow through his mind, in his native Italian (!) (“I’ve dreamed of you. I’ve wanted you in my arms since the moment we met. I need you.”) It awakens feelings in these two that they will never be able to quash, and while the road to marital bliss is long, it all started with this unexpected wet smooch.
Phin and Sophie, Welcome to Temptation, Jennifer Crusie. I debated a long time about whether to include this one. While Crusie is a gifted writer in many ways, I have never found her sex scenes particularly well written, and this scene occurs at a point in the novel when neither wants more than a fling. But the consummation of Phin and Sophie’s attraction has so many things going for it, that I just had to put it in. (Oh god. why does every word I type in this post have to seem like a double entrendre). Crusie writes romantic comedy like nobody’s business, and this scene had me in pain from laughing so hard. From its beginning, when Sophie insists on calling her boyfriend to break up with him after lovemaking with Phin has begun, to the end, when Phin realizes that Sophie is turned on by the thought that her sister is about to walk in on them, and uses his free hand to start smashing things against the wall to encourage her to do so, it’s one in a million. But what makes this scene really romantic for me is the moment when Sophie, who, despite making a porn video, is sexually uptight and insecure, loses interest and starts going through the motions.
Crusie writes, “she could let him figure it out on his own, except that guys never did. They just —
‘You’re not even close, are you?’ Phin said, breathless below her, and she refocused back on him.
‘Hi, I’m Phin Tucker, and I’m inside you. I know how these things slip your mind.'”
He proceeds to ask her if she’s worried about her ex, and then gets her back in the game by figuring out what makes her tick. Their honest, humorous, and caring communication in this scene — when they’re lovers, or trying to be, but not yet in love, gives the reader a glimpse into who these two people are, and the kind of deep love they will eventually share
Joe and Sadie, Broken, by Megan Hart. This is a very unusual book, in which the hero spends most interactions with the heroine recounting his one night stands with other women. Usually, I hate romance novels in which the hero and heroine have as little time together as did Sadie and Joe (for most of the novel she is faithfully married to another man). But their first and only sexual encounter, when Joe shows up, drunk and wet in the rainy night on Sadie’s doorstep and they fall into each other wordlessly, like two starving people, is priceless. Hart is billed as an author of “erotica” and this book certainly has its share of explicit, detailed and nontraditional sex, most of it between Joe and a host of nameless faceless women. None of these encounters mean anything to him, and they become more crass and desperate as the book proceeds. It’s clear Joe is missing something, missing the chance to be known and loved for who he is, but even he can’t articulate this need, saying only “Please don’t make me leave”. As their coupling proceeds from the doorway, to the stairs, to her bedroom, Joe pauses, and Sadie gives him what he needs. She doesn’t say, “I really want you” or “You’re so hot”, but tells him: “Your favorite color is blue. You hate tomatoes and love cucumbers. You drink whiskey but hardly ever get drunk. You smell like soap and water. I know you. Joe. It’s all right. Come to bed with me.'” It’s just a wonderfully romantic scene.
Gabe and Rachel, Dream a Little Dream, Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I have a very conflicted relationship with SEP’s books (You know that Joan Jett song, “I hate myself for loving you”? That about sums it up.), and this one in particular isn’t my favorite of hers, but the scene in which Gabe and Rachel give in to the desire for each other is a winner. Gabe is the surly widower, bereft after losing his wife and son years ago. He only wants to be left alone with a heart frozen in time. Rachel Bonner, the disgraced ex-wife of a charlatan minister, is now an impoverished single mom, reviled by the whole community and barely trusted by Gabe. But the sparks flew from the moment they met, and their love scene in the rain, in the back yard, after a heated argument, is a keeper. Rachel has only had one lover, her husband, who viewed her as “pure and fragile” and refused to allow her to enjoy sex. Gabe has been saving himself for his wife’s memory. She wants to experience sex as a mature lusty woman, and he wants to be able to have sex without feeling like he is cheating on his wife. This a very serious book overall, but they manage to find humor as they fumble towards each other. At one point Rachel jokes, “Bonner, don’t disappoint me.”, to which Gabe replies, “It’s a good thing I’m a man who does his best work under pressure.” The most romantic moment is when Gabe begins to think of his late wife. Rachel can see the change in his face, and know she has to make him see her instead. She goes for humor, saying “Don’t go squirrelly on me now, dude, or I’ll have to throw you out and find another model.” They try to play it down, of course, but these two are not the casual sex types, and eventually their hearts get around to acknowledging what their bodies have been telling them.