Tag Archives: Kele Moon

Writing Good Sex: Thinking About Steamy Sex Scenes from the Standpoint of a Reader and a Writer

1 Jun

Be a Sex-Writing Strumpet by Stacia Kane (CreateSpace, January 13, 2011)

A writer who can pen hot, steamy, and emotional sex scenes – interactions that are a lot more than tab A going into slot B – always win my loyalty.

I know there are people who love sweet romance and don’t need to to see what happens in the bedroom, but for me, those bedroom scenes often say more about a relationship than the dialogue or character descriptions. Sex also strips people down (no pun intended) to their essential self with the result being that it’s often obvious that a couple is in love with one another before they get around to actually revealing that fact in words. As Stacia Kane puts it “… the fact is, the deepest truths of our characters can be found when they are naked, when they are at their most vulnerable both physically and emotionally, when they let their guards down and just interact.” (Kane, p. 125)

A sex scene – a good one – is the epitome of showing and not telling. “I’m so hot for you” is not as strong as “His hand trembled as he touched his thumb to the thudding pulse in her neck, a beat he had to taste under his tongue while he reminded himself, go slow, don’t rush this…” Just like any other writing skill, some writers are better at this than others and no matter how much of a natural you are, understanding the elements of a good sex scene that take it from “okay, they are having sex” to “my book just burst into flames and not from an ereader malfunction” is vital to success.

Why We Need Great Sex Scenes

Stacia Kane’s fantastic primer for writers is infinitely valuable to readers as well. We know that we love a certain author or a certain scene but can’t always put our finger on why. In her book, Be a Sex Writing Strumpet, Kane took a series of blog posts and organized them into densely packed book focused on understanding why sex scenes can be so vital to plot and character development, how to write them well, and exercises to help each writer understand his or her sex writing voice and comfort level. It’s pure gold for $2.99.

But your crotchety uncle and that nun who taught you in the second grade definitely don’t feel sex should be in books, which begs the question, do we really need sex scenes? Hell, yes! I think I’m going to let Stacia Kane answer:

If you can find another way to illuminate the most private acts of your characters, to demonstrate their connection, their trust, the depth of their feelings…, their desire for each other, the moment their relationship deepens and changes beyond anything they’ve been through before, while also strengthening the story, increasing tension, and adding complications, and also—let’s be honest here—giving the reader what they’ve been waiting for, and you can do all of that in one scene, then no, you don’t need the sex scene. (Kane, p. 6)

firework-79374_640That’s a lot of points in favor of the sex scene. Note she didn’t say titillation? One of the major criticisms of romance novels (and clearly plenty of books outside the genre have sex scenes but they are expected in romance) has always been the “pornographic” nature of the sex. This criticism has always seemed like total bull to me; I’ve never seen a crime or horror writer criticized for too gory a murder. Instead the critic just grimly mentions the level of violence to the reader, as if it’s a point in their favor about their writing style and that they don’t shy away from reality. But romance writers – and let’s face it, it’s because they are usually women writing for mainly other women – get the “mommy porn” thing because god forbid we should show anyone what two people engaged in a mutually satisfying, sexually healthy relationship looks like. Those soccer moms might get ideas or *gasp* expectations.

Some key points Kane touches upon for writers (and which are visible to readers) are vital for emotionally tying us to the characters. Her warning to make everyone wait (for example, the suggestion to write an amazing kissing scene that’s clearly headed you-know-where and interrupt it) builds anticipation. For writers blocked about writing sex scenes, she has the brilliant idea of writing a dialogue between your characters where they talk about their feelings – and then you turn it into a sex scene where they are showing all those emotions through their actions.

Because that’s the point, isn’t it? That our characters show their true selves via their actions (and okay, sometimes their words, when they are actually coherent having sex) and that everything – from first glance to foreplay to actual sex to the aftermath – is built around revealing their soul and their emotion for one another. Let’s take a look at my top love scenes that fit this bill.

Memorable Sex Scenes: The Mrrrrooowwww Worth Reading and Re-reading

If you’re a romance reader, there are memorable sex scenes that are so hot you can’t help but think of them as I’m writing about this topic. Naturally, the writers showcased are women who also happen to be incredibly talented at strong characterization and airtight plotting, but since I’ve seen those qualities in other writers who are terrible at writing sex scenes, I consider these ladies to be the total package. Here are my favorites and why, in no particular order.

Author: Jeaniene Frost
Book: This Side of the Grave (Night Huntress series #5)
Genre: Paranormal/Urban Fantasy
Couple: Cat & Bones
Why: I adore this series (Jeaniene Frost seems incapable of writing anything that’s not absolutely stellar) and I’m sure people familiar with it are surprised that I didn’t list the famous/infamous chapter from the second book in the series, One Foot in the Grave. I absolutely agree that half-vampire Cat Crawfield and her vampire lover/husband/former professional whore Bones is an unbearably hot combination, but that truly astonishing sex scene is brought about the presence of Bones’ former lover Annette and his need to prove to her that she’s truly the love of his heart after she lays down a challenge to him to make her blush the next morning (and she does).

But the sex scene in This Side of the Grave is one between two people who have weathered ups and downs in their relationship and are secure as a result, and it gets listed here because of one very specific reason. It’s not just the unbelieveably inventive combination of candle wax and fangs, but the fact that Cat consciously lets down her final barrier in her relationship with Bones – the fear of how devastated he would be if she lost him. That realization makes this sex scene one in which she demonstrates how she’s decided to hold nothing back by consciously constructing a night of total pleasure for him. It’s so hot and moving that I find myself alternately fanning my face and choking up whenever I reread it.

Author: Stephanie Laurens
Book: A Rogue’s Proposal (Cynster series #4)
Genre: Historical Romance
Couple: Demon & Flick
Why: I am the first to admit that Stephanie Laurens drives me insane with her tendency for purple prose. But the earlier Cynster books, while peppered with the occasional “flotsam” reference (ocean debris = not sexy, Stephanie!), possess fewer of these references with the sex scenes  stronger as a result, none more so than Flick’s deflowering scene. It happens on a dresser in an inn. Harry, aka Demon, is the most sensual beast of all the Cynsters and – as frustrating as his inability to express his love for her is – the one place he can show her how he feels is when they are intimate with each other. It’s not surprising she feels smug looking at his ass in the mirror as he makes love to her. Who wouldn’t?

Author: Lisa Kleypas
Book: Devil in Winter (Wallflowers series #3)
Genre: Historical Romance
Couple: Sebastian & Evie
Why: Another deflowering scene that’s a favorite and honestly one that probably didn’t stop the clock in terms of how long it took. Sexy Viscount Sebastian needs a fortune and heiress Evie is happy to give him hers in trade for letting her escape her abusive relatives but they both agree the marriage has to be legal. Not a problem for Sebastian who’s seemingly bedded all of London’s females over age 17. Exhausted from their trek to Gretna Green and quickie marriage, Evie awakes from a very sexy dream to Sebastian kissing his way all over her naked body. What makes this so unbelievably sexy? The fact that he talks to her – playful, sexy, Sebastian talk that is the essence of his charming, roguish self – until you’re a puddle listening to him bring her to ecstasy  That he has an orgasm so mind-blowing and long that he feels that he might have been the virgin? Icing on the cake.

Author: Jennifer Ashley
Book: The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie (Highland Pleasures #1)
Genre: Historical Romance
Couple: Ian & Beth
Why: If you have to ask, you haven’t read this book yet! Lord Ian Mackenzie is one of the more memorable and unique heroes I’ve ever read. Landing on the autism spectrum in the 19th century meant you were thought mad no matter how brilliant you are, and it’s not like the era was renowned for the tender care of people with psychological differences. When Lord Ian meets the young and beautiful widow Beth, brought up in poverty and the recent heir to a fortune, he immediately wants her while his honest candor and devastating sexuality proves more than she can resist. While I like all their sex scenes, the one that stands out is the one where Beth visits him at his brother’s art studio in Paris to apologize for being nosy (she really didn’t need to). Ian worried he would never see her again and talks her into baring herself to him. Feeling her freedom, she takes off her clothes and dances a little around the studio in happiness with a sheer scarf, which Ian uses to reel her in and proceeds to bring her to orgasm, while never removing a stitch of his clothing. That in itself is damn erotic, but it’s his utter focus on her pleasure, the sensual enjoyment he takes of every little detail of helping her reach ecstasy, that makes this scene one of my favorites.

Author: Laura Kaye
Book: Hearts in Darkness
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Couple: Makenna & Caden
Why: Laura Kaye can throw down the hot emotional sex scenes with veterans in the business and always land at the top of the pack. In this book, our two protagonists are trapped in an elevator together, in the dark, and they didn’t get a good look at each other when they got in. Getting to know one another when it’s hot and stuffy in an enclosed space doesn’t sound awesome, but it is when the two people in question have a lot to reveal and the dark makes for perfect cover. That they get hot and heavy in the elevator (and then take it to her apartment) has been done before, but not like this. The unbridled sensuality and emotion inherent in Makenna, in the pitch black, feeling the piercings and scars on Caden face and connecting them with what he’s revealed to her makes your heart beat faster.

Author: Shelly Laurenston
Book: The Mane Event (Pride #1)
Genre: Contemporary Paranormal Romance
Couple: Dez & Mace
Why: I adore Laurenston’s ability to bring her brand of earthy humor to this incredibly sexy paranormal series. Mace Llewellyn has left his elite military unit (one made up of shifters like himself) and has gone into the security business with his best friend. They’ve based themselves in New York, not just because Mace’s pride is located there, but because this lion has been head over heels in love with the husky-voiced, half-Irish, half-Puerto Rican (extremely busty) Desiree MacDermott since they began high school. He knows that she’s the one for him, and class issues and the pesky fact that he’s a shifter (and she has no idea about their existence) isn’t going to get in the way. This book makes the short list based on one particularly AMAZING scene – and let me tell you, there are plenty of sexy love scenes in this series! – where Dez handcuffs Mace to her bed and has her wicked way with him. The neighbors calling the police is a given since lions are extremely noisy while being tortured with sexual ecstasy. It’s off the hotness meter not just because of what Dez feels comfortable doing with herself in front of Mace but because he wants to prove himself to her so much that he lets her take control.

Author: Kele Moon
Book: Defying the Odds (Battered Hearts #1)
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Couple: Melody & Clay
Why: If you haven’t jumped on the Kele Moon bandwagon, I honestly don’t know what you are waiting for. This astonishingly good writer won my heart with her unlikely tale of a working class victim of domestic abuse slaving long hours as a diner waitress who finds love with a UFC fighter. I knew absolutely nothing about this kind of fighting but Kele Moon’s plotting and characterization moved her into my “must-buy the pre-order” category and she’s never let me down. Clay Powers is a disciplined athlete with a tough beginning but good friends and the way he sees through Melody Dylan’s stress and exhaustion to the beautiful woman underneath will have you sniffling. That Melody discovers she is a highly sensual being at Clay’s hands is wonderful, and the make-up sex which occurs when she travels to Las Vegas to cheer on Clay in his big bout will have you never looking at a picture window over Sin City the same way again. Yowza.

The Future of Sex Scenes in Romance

While many people are crediting the Fifty Shades phenomena or the decline of civilization, the fact remains that romance novels, unless of a specific genre (like inspirational or Amish) are becoming more explicit in their sensuality levels. What RT Book Reviews lists as a “Scorcher” now would very likely have been erotica over a decade ago and there are classic romances that were considered hair curling in their time that I flip the page back with a “that’s it?” comment, thinking I’ve missed something.

My hope is twofold. One, that the trend toward explicit sex between characters means that readers and writers are more comfortable with sex as a natural expression between people. Clearly we see more sex on television and in movies, but a lot of it is objectification, not a loving expression between individuals, so romance fits a vital need to remind us of what sex can be. Second, I believe that there are a lot of truly great authors (see my shortlist above) and publishers who want women to demand their due both as consumers of the romance genre (hell, we deserve hot sex scenes between those fictional people we’ve fallen for!) and as healthy sexual beings in the bedroom. In the end, writers who write hot, emotional sex scenes have not only demonstrated their facility as people who have mastered a craft, but as pioneers showing us all what really love can look like in its most elemental form. And I would like to say to all of them – Thank You.

What favorite sex scenes of yours fits the criteria here? I’d love to hear about them. Happy Reading! 🙂

References

Kane, Stacia (2010-07-19). Be A Sex-Writing Strumpet. Kindle Edition.

Star Crossed by Kele Moon Sends You Into the Stratosphere

6 Aug

Star-Crossed (Book 2 Battered Hearts Series – Romeo and Jules story) by Kele Moon (Loose ID, July 3, 2012)

Kele Moon won my trust months ago after I read her first book in the Battered Hearts series, Defying the Odds. This is actually unusual for me since one book does not a trusted author make, but there was something about her deft characterization and perfect plot pacing that made me feel I was in the hands of a romance novel master.

It’s because I was.

This point has only been proven again, with Star Crossedthe fabulous follow-up to Defying the Odds, and when I tell you that I was waiting with bated breath for this romance, I’m not exaggerating.

I love being immersed in the small southern town of Garnet, which specializes in producing UFC fighters and people who are in each other’s business in a big way. In the first book, Defying the Odds, we met Clay, a UFC champion who was becoming less enamored of his sport and more interested in the lovely new waitress of the local diner, Melody. In the course of their incredibly hot relationship (“watch that plate or you’ll burn yourself” should be the warning on that book), Clay trains with the help of his two best friends, Wyatt and Jules Conner, for a championship match against contender Romeo Wellings. In the aftermath of the fight, Melody’s psycho abusive ex-husband finds her and attempts to kill her, with Romeo and Clay saving the day.

In gratitude, Clay offers to help Romeo train since he plans on retiring after a final promotional tour, and it is this construct which sets the foundation for our newest book in the series. Romeo Wellings is one of three illegitmate sons of a loving Italian mother. Growing up on the tough streets of New York and with ties to the mafia, he learned how to fight the practical way before training with a local martial arts school. He’s used his immense skill at fighting to support his two younger brothers but there is a lot missing from his life. One look at the tall blond drink of water which is Jules Conner, Clay and Melody’s grateful friend, and Romeo finds he has a powerful thirst only she can quench.

A view of the Las Vegas skyline with all the luxurious hotels. I pictured Romeo and Jules’ room having a view like this (not that they were looking out the window all that often!).

Jules realizes that while she’s thought of Romeo as the enemy forever, his designer clad form and good heart has her recognizing that her sex dry spell has lasted wayyyyyy too long. Taking him out to a thank you dinner has them both viewing each other through a shimmering heat wave and getting a hotel room. And let me tell you, it’s a wonder that the hotel fire alarm doesn’t go off, the chemistry is that combustible between them.

But Jules has to go home to Garnet to her legal practice and Romeo needs to head home and then go on the promotional tour with Clay. Saying that it was a one time thing is all well and good, but the reality is that their connection goes deeper than just a one-night stand, and they find themselves texting and calling each other all the time. While the sexual attraction is there in spades (phone sex and webcams are beautifully utilized here, something I didn’t think I’d write ever), without either Romeo or Jules paying attention, the two of them are in a relationship with each other, one built on common interests and actual friendship.

This is where Kele Moon continued her maestro-esque writing. While I am usually a content reader, happy to indulge a love at first sight trope (even outside of paranormal romance), it’s rare I like a book that has a normal timeframe for two people getting to know each other. This is probably because it either goes wayyyyy too slow for me, with little emotional intimacy taking place and I get the physical aspect of the relationship either delayed (which frustrates me) or an initial encounter is not given the emotional importance I think it deserves. Kele has managed to give me the sensual heat early on, and actually (miraculously) continues it in the exchanges between Romeo and Jules, showing their continued attraction while simultaneously demonstrating their mental and emotional closeness. Oh. My. God. It makes for one incredibly sweet, hot romance.

There is plenty of conflict here, much of it seeming insurmountable. Jules’ twin brother and best friend, Wyatt, hates Romeo with a passion and is not thrilled that Clay is training him. He becomes less enthusiastic when he discovers that Romeo has a record – as a sheriff, Wyatt doesn’t have a lot of patience for people operating outside the law. As a result, Jules’ feels she has to keep her relationship with Romeo under wraps, which makes Romeo feel like her dirty secret and allows them both to delude themselves that this is more about hooking up and less about an actual relationship. Romeo feels that his ties to the mafia and need to free his brothers from its influence has painted a target on his back and he doesn’t want Jules caught in the crossfire.

Defying the Odds (Book 1 in Battered Hearts series – Clay and Melody’s story) by Kele Moon (Loose Id, December 20, 2011)

Let’s talk about the male character’s for a minute. I really appreciate that the men are not man whores. I’m getting tired in this day and age of historical romances and contemporary ones featuring playboys who have cut through a chunk of the female population and the heroine must deal with ex-lovers right and left. While Romeo (and Clay before him) admit to occasionally having slept with the groupies who follow them on the circuit, you don’t get the impression that these two disciplined fighters have succumbed to utter debauchery and it’s confirmed that they haven’t had sex in a while when they meet up with their destined heroine. It’s downright refreshing.

Another feature of this series from Kele Moon is that, in her couples, one member of the pair comes from an extremely tough background and has risen above their circumstances. In Defying the Odds, Clay has a terrible childhood and was actually taken in by the Conner family and raised alongside them, and we discover in Star Crossed that Romeo not only has had a rough time when he was young, but things aren’t that great for him now either as he deals with mafia pressures. Both these heroes must use the love they’ve found as fuel for the final push to break from their past and find a new future.

Perhaps most impressive with Kele Moon’s writing is that every character feels fleshed out. This could backfire on her – I think I’m going to be heartbroken if she doesn’t devote books to Romeo’s brothers Nova and Tino and continue the storyline of the hot, young UFC fighter who lives above Jules’ law office. Obviously, Jules’ often frustrating but always loving brother, Wyatt, is next in line for his own book, with the arrival of Tabitha, the girlfriend he has never gotten over, back in town.

I’m chomping at the bit for Wyatt and Tabitha’s story, not only to explore them as characters, but to see further evidence of the couples I already love and admire. I’m going to have to content myself with the fact that I now I have two novels in the series to reread periodically while I patiently wait for her next masterpiece. Thanks, Kele!!!

In Defying the Odds, Author Kele Moon Lives Up to Her Tagline, Love Has No Rules

4 Jun

In the world of contemporary romance, it’s easy to run out of fresh ideas. Which isn’t to say that talented authors don’t give an idea their own fresh perspective, but the conflict/setting/occupations etc. of the hero or heroine often ring with familiarity. After reading literally thousands of romance novels in the course of my life, I feel like I can definitely say, I’ve seen it all.

At least, I could have said that before I took a chance in reading the startlingly fresh and romantic erotic novel, Defying the Odds, by Kele Moon.

At first glance of the synopsis, this novel can engender a “Whaa?!” response. A formerly abused small-town waitress being matched up with a UFC Champion renowned for the relentless fighting he employs to channel the rage of his past does not seem like a match made in heaven. But it is.

Clay Powers has lived in the small town of Garnet all his life, the last twenty or so years devoted to becoming a Hall of Fame champion UFC fighter. He had a crappy childhood filled with foster homes and if it weren’t for his best friend since middle school, Sheriff Wyatt Conner, and Wyatt’s sister Jules, he’d be even more of a cranky bastard than he already is.

When the new waitress of Hal’s Diner, a sweet, blond beauty who looks like an angel, treats him to a piece of pie during a lonely Thanksgiving dinner, something cracks open inside. Clay has never had anyone do something nice for him expecting nothing in return (Wyatt and Jules are as hard-nosed as Clay) and the more he finds out about the waitress, Melody Dylan, the more he wants to know her better. Much better.

But Wyatt warns him that Clay is the last person who should pursue Melody. She escaped an abusive husband by the skin of her teeth and is still hiding from him, working herself to exhaustion and learning to not live in fear all the time. What the sheriff doesn’t know is that Clay Powers is the best part of Melody’s day when he comes to the diner. In her gut, she knows that, despite his six and a half foot frame and plethora of muscles, she can trust Clay not to hurt her. The burn of desire she feels for him is a welcome change from her past and she wonders if she can take a gamble in getting to know him better.

An example of the mixed martial arts fighting style of the UFC.

Kele Moon gives us a strong sense of place with the small town of Garnet and the people who inhabit it. Garnet grows Marines and UFC fighters and while I feel comfortable with Marines, I’ll confess to not knowing the first thing about UFC. A little research revealed that this sport, begun in the 1990s, involves two fighters employing Mixed Martial Arts fighting, a style that consists of traditional boxing, a variety of martial arts and wrestling techniques. It is a full-throttle sport with a devoted fan base who appreciates the barely leashed violence of the men who make this fighting their career. Through Clay and Wyatt, the reader gets a strong sense of what draws people to love UFC.

While this is termed an erotic novel and Moon does an amazing job of building the sexual tension between our characters, I think that this is a book which would be a wonderful introduction to the erotic novel subgenre for someone a little tenuous about escalating the sensuality in their romance reading. There’s isn’t anything kinky or beyond what you would read in a traditional romance novel in terms of sexual content, just language that is a little franker than your average euphemisms, and the author keeps the emotional connection ratcheted so high, you’ll be doing a lot of sighing while drinking a cold drink and fanning yourself vociferously.

It’s been a long time since I fell for two protagonists with whom I had less in common, but Clay and Melody crawled right into my mind and took up permanent residence. I had to re-read the book a couple days after the first read just to prove to myself it was as good as I remembered (and it was!). Through both action and strong internal monologues, Kele Moon draws three-dimensional characters who walk off the page and into your heart as you root for them to find their much-deserved happily ever after. She is one hell of a writer! You can bet your boots that I’ll be buying her other books, which I’ve already added to my Goodreads “to-read” list.

And can we talk about the beautiful cover for a minute? Erotic novels often get the low budget book covers, sometimes demeaning their high quality contents (can someone PLEASE reissue better covers for Lisa Marie Rice’s Midnight series?), but I’ve been elated recently with publishers like Entangled and, in the case of Defying the Odds, Loose Id. Finally, here are smaller presses who realize that well-produced book cover can not only inspire confidence in the author’s writing, but look so good as to not constantly remind the reader that the book is not from a big six publisher. Smaller presses who really “get” cover art are bound to find a strong readership, particularly when the people making the purchase realize that the writing quality and editing back up that beautiful first impression.

This book is first in Moon’s new Battered Hearts series, and I am looking forward to the next installment in the series (due out in 2012 according to her Goodreads page) which will star fiesty lawyer, Jules Conner and the UFC contender we met in Clay’s championship match, New Yorker Romeo Wellington. Wyatt Conner’s book was hinted at in the epilogue of Defying the Odds when he referred to a woman he cared about, Tabitha, who had experienced as a hard a life as Clay but left their small town due to feeling judged. I assume we’ll get the pleasure of her coming back at some point soon.

I would encourage anyone who loves great characters and an unusual pairing to put themselves in the capable hands of contemporary erotic romance author Kele Moon. This is one gamble where everyone is a winner.

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