Regency Rakes and Their All Too Often Naughtiest Traits

by Sandra Scholes, guest blogger

Rakes are numerous in Regency romance novels, as a peek through a Mills and Boon or Jane Austen paperback will tell enough about a supposed gentleman’s personality, but what are the man’s traits that separate men in fiction from the rakish rogues in popular historical novels today?

What makes a Regency rake?

Normally a titled gentleman would be enough, though many are just about to be titled, and too many need an eligible woman; read into that – any eligible woman who might tolerate his nightly romps with women of the night while she is looking after their children.

Rake Traits:

  • A rake is a man who knows every seduction technique under the sun, and knows how to deceive a girl into thinking he cares about them.
  • He has charm by the bucket load.
  • He leaves a string of ladies sobbing at his infidelity.
  • They invite scandal at every turn, laughing at other people for being prudish about the thrills they get.
  • They prefer a girl with spunk who is not afraid to explore her sensual side.
  • He takes risks of being exposed by someone they don’t like or someone they do.
  • A rake knows instantly when a lady is most certainly not a lady (i.e. not a virgin.)
  • Most of the time rakes have a nice side to them the women exploit to the fullest.
  • They can be found at balls, and other respectable places, but it isn’t their normal scandalous haunt.
  • The rake is allowed to bed as many girls as he wants as long as he marries well.
  • They are adventurers of a sort who live to enjoy traveling the world, seeing sights and other native girls.
  • Rakes can be called such, or worse rakehell, depending on how bad they are.
  • Rakes have a great sense of humour that seems built in.
  • The rake has a mistress who is cold in bed, but meets a girl of high standing in society who turns out to be better in bed than her.
  • Rakes enjoy a night out at the theatre in a private box with a girl to entertain.

Erotic Romance, Not Just Erotica and Romance

guestblog

by Cecilia Tan, guest blogger

Our tale begins in 1970, which is the year some point to as the beginning of the modern romance genre, with the arrival of the manuscript The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss on the desk of editor Nancy Coffey at Avon. The book would be a huge bestseller, kicking off a new era of romance publishing, and Woodiwiss was the first of the “Avon Ladies.” In that year, the average age at which American women married was 20.6 years old.

But 1987 that average was up to 23.3 years old, and according to the US Census Bureau, by 2003 it was 25.1 years, where it remains today.

Meanwhile, the percentage of female teenagers becoming sexually active rose from 30% to 40% between 1982 and 1988, and now, 20 years later, the rate of high school students who have had intercourse is close to 50%. (They don’t count it as “sex” unless you have intercourse, you know.) In short, that means a lot of young American women, who used to go into their marriages with no sexual experience, now tend to have a significant amount of time as sexually active people before they marry–most as much as a decade.

Not only that, but as the generations have progressed from the swingin’ seventies to today, the kinds of sex that women are having has proliferated. The likelihood that they have experience with spanking, bondage, multiple partners, bisexuality, and other things that would have once been considered outre is now quite high as well, with 48% of people currently in their 20s reporting they have at least “experimented” with these activities.

bondage

Is it any wonder, then, that romance novels have changed, too?

This doesn’t mean that every romance reader wants in her life–or in her fiction–non-stop sex, kinky sex, or partner swapping. But the “bodice rippers” that were a staple of past generations are now often seen as either laughable or even anti-woman by modern readers, and the breathless euphemisms that used to be standard in the genre come off as quaint or unintentionally funny. The back cover copy on Woodiwiss’s “Flame…” speaks of “…the Carolina plantation where Brandon finally probes the depths of Heather’s full womanhood!”

We might make fun of the old style of marketing, but there is no denying that whatever language is used, romances have always been about passion as well as love. And just as fewer and fewer women would find a chaste kiss to be satisfying after a romantic dinner out, and now they want the same desires reflected in their favorite fiction.

But what distinguishes erotic romance from “erotica”(a broad term in itself)? Is erotic romance just a hybrid between romance and erotic fiction? In actuality, it’s the strength of the romance genre that allows so much flexibility in what we can call “romance” these days. The two unchanging aspects are the focus on love and the core relationship, and the happy/emotionally satisfying ending. That leaves a lot of room to have different historical settings, mystery subplots, fantastical aspects. As Beatrice Small wrote in a 2007 essay on the history of the genre, “[In the 1970s] romance [grew into] a billion dollar baby for publishing. It was a two-headed baby to begin with: Historicals and Category. But then as women’s palates grew more sophisticated, baby grew more heads. Historical and Category were joined by Western, Thriller, Paranormal, Glitz, Chick-Lit, Christian, Contemporary, and OHMYSTARS! Erotic, just to name a few. And the Historical sub-genre had sub-sub-genres. Regency. Georgian. Medieval. [and so on.]”

In other words, romance is a great-looking model on which you can put any kind of outfit, whether a medieval ball gown or six-inch spike heels and a leather corset.

For me, it isn’t the amount of sex in a book, nor how graphic it is, that makes a book “erotica” and not romance. I am one of those women for whom love and sex go hand in hand in my real life. I wouldn’t dream of spending my life with someone if I didn’t know we were compatible in bed. In a love story, especially a contemporary one, I feel like I need to see some erotic interaction between the characters in order to believe that their love is real and can work. In historicals I find Unresolved Sexual Tension more believable than in stories set in the modern day, but what I am still seeking is the ultimate release of that tension. I love writers who can wind the ratchet tighter and tighter, but just like someone who is great at teasing in bed, I want them to eventually deliver me that mind-shattering release.

legs

More sex scenes do not necessarily make a “hotter” book, the way more salt and pepper doesn’t automatically make a meal taste better. What is most arousing is when the sex is convincing, when it makes sense with the characters and when it follows a logical progression through their emotional lives.

There are plenty of books of erotica out there. I know, because I’ve written them. Many of them are collections of short stories, because erotica can so often be about the fling, the one-night stand, the exploration of a character’s sexual growth, but doesn’t necessarily have to be about love. Short stories are flings, but novels are relationships. And just as I found I need to see some sexual interaction between characters for me to believe they are falling in love, I also have to see them falling in love in order to believe that they are going to keep having sex for the space of an entire novel! If they aren’t, if the plot is not a love story but just an vehicle to get us from one sex scene to another, inventive and arousing as the scenes may be, I’d classify a book as erotica, and not erotic romance.

When I sat down to write my book MIND GAMES, which I’d classify as an erotic paranormal suspense romance, I had already come up with the characters many years before. I’d originally envisioned Wren and Derek as an established couple, and I was trying to write them in a kind of detective/spy scenario where their partnership and relationship were already long since established. But that idea never really firmed up. I kept asking myself how they had come to be a couple, and how did they find out that sex enhanced her psychic abilities? Ultimately I realized I couldn’t write what happens in their future until I wrote their love story and answered those questions.

It was an incredible experience writing them falling in love. After over a decade of writing and publishing dozens of erotic short stories, in places like Ms. Magazine, Best American Erotica, and Nerve, having the room to follow the characters from their initial meeting and spark of attraction, right through to their eventual emotional break-throughs, felt like a decadent luxury to me. I really was able to focus on the emotions, not just on Wren’s attraction and feelings of arousal, but also her conflicted feelings, her fears, her past wounds, and her determination to make this time different from the failed relationships of the past.

Now that I think about it, I did the exact same thing in my second romance novel, THE HOT STREAK. If anything, THE HOT STREAK concentrates even more on the relationship because there is no mystery sub-plot. All the “action” revolves around our heroine falling in love with a baseball player and learning to negotiate the ups and downs of being a “major league girlfriend.” It’s a much more light-hearted book than MIND GAMES, but again there’s that theme of her not yet having found Mr. Right, and then all the doors it opens in her heart and her life when she finally meets him.

Ultimately, this is why erotic romance is still romance, because although we want him in bed, we still want Mr. Right. It’s just romance created to satisfy the women like me who aren’t satisfied by a story that doesn’t meet their own sexual reality, and those are the women I set out to please, too. And I’m sure as the needs and lives of women continue to change in the 21st century, the heroines and stories we find in romances will change to meet them.

Cecilia Tan is the author of the erotic romances MIND GAMES, THE HOT STREAK, and the forthcoming MAGIC UNIVERSITY series, as well as numerous books of erotica and baseball nonfiction. Read sample chapters more at http://www.ceciliatan.com/.

References:
“More Girls Are Sexually Active, Study Finds,” by Felicity Barrington, New York Times, November 10, 1990 (http://www.nytimes.com/1990/11/10/us/more-girls-are-sexually-active-study-finds.html)

“Facts on American Teens’ Sexual and Reproductive Health,” Alan Guttmacher Institute, September 2006 (http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_ATSRH.html)

“Most Americans Have Had Premarital Sex,” By Sharon Jayson, USA TODAY, December 19, 2006, (http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2006-12-19-premarital-sex_x.htm)

America transformed: sixty years of revolutionary change, 1941-2001, by Richard M. Abrams, Cambridge University Press, 2001

“A Brief History of the Romance Genre,” by Beatrice Small, Shorelines newsletter, August 19, 2007 (http://www.authorscene.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=60)

Photo Credits: Wiros, Oneras [what about peace?]

The Romance Novel – Women’s Porn?

This question has been asked in one form or another since romance novels went mainstream. Authors have been dismissed because they write romance instead of science fiction or crime books or other normal genres.  If the cover has bulging pectorals and swooning women then it must be girl porn. Shame on you, haven’t you heard the advice never judge a book by its cover?

Romance has been dismissed and labeled by many derogatory terms such as trashy romance novel, bodice-rippers, girl porn, chick porn, chick-lit, virgin bibles, horny hystericals, etc. Some of these terms like trashy romance novel have become a badge of honor to declare with pride by readers. i.e. “I love trashy romance novels!” Similarly there are people out there who will tell you they are proud that they don’t read them. Did you know that the romance industry sells over 50% of all paperback books? Looking at figures like those, it’s hard to mock romance.

Writing a romance novel takes a lot of work. What happens if you start off with characters and can’t make them come together romantically in a believable way? You’ll wind up with the square pegs in round holes syndrome and a book you can’t possibly sell. Just look at JKR’s Harry Potter Saga – the best romance in the book is the only one she didn’t attempt to show or explain and that was James and Lily Potter. Clearly writing romance is not Rowling’s forte. So if a world renowned author can’t write romance believably wouldn’t that prove it’s a tough quota to fill?

To be able to repeatedly produce quality heroes and heroines that fall in love, have sexual tension, and resolve all their issues is phenomenal and should be awarded not punished.

But the sex and the sin!

A lot of people are under the misapprehension that sex, marital or otherwise in a romance is sinful and shouldn’t be read. Romance novels are only okay if you can read them to your grandmother. But what if you’re grandmother is particularly savvy and cool? Wouldn’t this test be disqualified?

On an interesting note the romance industry not too long ago, think 80s and earlier, thought premarital sex would turn readers away. This is where the term bodice-ripper is derived, specifically in conjunction with Desert and Sheik love.

Erotica writers take sex in romance to a new level – is this a bad thing? No, I say, it’s not. Sex has its place, so does plot, dialogue, and deux ex machina. It’s hard to write – just read the author interviews here on this website and you’ll see what I mean.

So I say to the unenlightened, this is the new millennia. Get over it or please tell me you only watch Bollywood movies where even kissing is taboo in most cases. (Though Bollywood movies can easily pour on the heat – it’s all that unrequited tension! Yum!)

Does that mean that all sex is good sex in a romance or in other words when is sex gratuitous like a bathroom scene in a movie? The answer again is no. I think sex is gratuitous when it serves to just be there as page filler just like the bathroom scene in a movie.

Conclusion:

Clearly, I think the issue lies with personal phobias. The idea of being caught with a romance novel is embarrassing to some. These are the people I feel should most definitely be introduced to romance novels. It’s okay, we’re here to hold your hand and if absolutely needed, you have our permission to read it under the covers with a flashlight.

In the end I must ask, who’s out there demeaning men for watching dare I say it – man porn?

Photo Credits: 1