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I grew up in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, then lived in Denmark and traveled throughout Europe before coming back to Colorado. I have two adult sons, whom I cherish. I started my writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor of two different papers. Along the way, my team and I won numerous state and several national awards, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, I was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism. Now I write historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.


Seductive Musings

Thursday, February 26, 2009

When the hero has been around

I like talking about heroes. They're my favorite part of any romance I read. If I can't connect with the hero, I can't get into the story. I'm betting that's true of many, if not most, romance readers.

Typically, heroes have more sexual experience than heroines. There are a few famous virgin heroes out there — Jamie from Outlander comes to mind — but most have sexual experience and are known for being good lovers. That's as true in historicals, where the heroine is almost always a virgin, and contemporaries.

But how much sexual experience is too much? When does it turn you off rather than make the hero seem more exciting?

That's the topic of my new poll, but let's have some discussion.

Could you see a reformed male porn star as a hero? How about a rock star who made good use of groupies? Or a male prostitute who serviced both men and women?

One of my male friends says he thinks there's a kind of double standard in romance, one that requires the hero to be good in bed, while the heroine is a virgin. He thinks it reflects women's desire to have lovers who know what they're doing, which, in turn, puts pressure on guys. If it's "true love" we're writing about, then why aren't more heroes virgins, too?

So what about virgin heroes? A lot of readers obviously felt it worked in Outlander. Why don't we see more of that?

It seems to me that more erotic novels are moving toward sexual experience for both heroes and heroines. There are now heroines even in straight historical romance who are courtesans and such. Obviously, things are changing. How do you feel about that?

The results of my last poll show that the majority of you (57 percent) think a scene where the hero brings himself to orgasm can be very hot — depending on how it's written. The next largest group (40 percent) think it's HOT. Period. One reader, who by herself constituted 2 percent of the vote, answered that she doesn't find it hot at all. I had thought there'd be more votes in the latter category.

I found the results very interesting. I don't think I would have gotten the same answers a decade ago. I was glad to see that so many of you felt the heroine also has a right to self-satisfaction.

Sorry I've been AWOL. I had an article to write in Danish, which took up a bunch of spare time. Then last night, when I had planned to catch up, I was assailed by a migraine. I'm doing better at the moment.


Debbie H said...

Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I want a hero that is seasoned just enough to know what he's doing in bed and knows how to get the right response from the heroine. From there she can take over once in a while. I find that erotic, too, just not at first. LOL

Sorry you had a migraine. Nasty, evil things. Hope you get to feeling better soon.

Amanda said...

Ooooo nasty migraine! They are awful, hope you're feeling better.

I'm with Debbie, I don't want him too experienced but I do like for hime to take control and 'instruct' her a little. And I find it a lot of fun when a heroine takes matters into her own hands after a while and teases him senseless while not really knowing what she's doing there's an innocent endearing quality to that I find.

You're really bringing up some interesting topics at the minute Pamela its fun!

Barbara said...

You're so bad with these questions, Pamela ;) Let's see...I don't mind at all how many people either the hero or heroine have slept with so long as it is only each other that they ever "REALLY" loved. If the hero was in love before it kinda kills it for me. I need to know that the hero has never before felt the love and passion he feels when he makes love to the heroine.

Christine said...

I was going to leave a comment, but then Barbara got my discussion answer spot on.
So instead of repeating myself: I agree 100% with Barbara.

Ronlyn said...

*trying to put my thoughts into words, staring at this little box, feeling the pressure*

eh. I don't really care. H/H having sexual experience, sure, why not? The man whore thing? eh, doesn't really bother me. The heroine having experimented in college or, no biggy. As long as it's all in the rhelm of possible and not *too* outlandish (and, I repeat myself, doesn't detract from the story) it's all good.

Jo said...

Well said, Barbara...
Though my opinion differs a wee.
I tend to not want to read about prior heart history at all because ALL history is in the past. Sometimes it should be left there without reliving it.
I'd rather the focus on the current H/H's relationship and how it develops into love as if it were the the very first time for each...

But hey!
That's me for ya!

Linda A. said...

Where are you getting these hot pictures?! Oh, yes, the question... it really doesn't matter to me how much experience either the hero or the heroine has. I'm more interested in the consistency of the character and how their background fits into that. When it comes down to it, I look for the love story first. If it rings true I'm happy.

Hi, Debbie — I've never thought of you as old fashioned. Interested in history, yes, but old fashioned, no. Interesting explanation. I bet lots of readers agree with you. And thanks! Other than feeling like I lost about 50 IQ points from the migraine, I'm doing better today.

Hi, Amanda — Thanks! I am doing better. I just hope it stays away! So no man-sluts for you, either. And innocent teasing. I'm glad you like the topics.

Hi, Barbara — Blame the journalist in me. LOL! As I said in my e-mail to you, Gabe from Naked Edge has been in love before and even engaged before he meets Kat. His fiancee is dead under unfortunate circumstances that impact him deeply. But he was in love...

Hi, Christine — Interesting! Well, as I said, I guess I'm going to break that preference with Naked Edge. We'll have to see if it works for you.

Hi, Ronlyn — So as long as the story works and the h/h belong together in that story, you're good? I like your use of the term man-whore. ;-)

Hi, Jo — So... In a way what you're saying is the history is irrelevant. You don't want the story to focus on the past but the present with that one relationship, so that it's as if this love is the first, the only love. Do I have that right? Interesting! You've read my replies to Barbara and Christine? We'll see what you think of Gabe's past. LOL!

Hi, Linda A — I hear what you're saying. I guess that would kind of be my answer. Do the characters work? Does the story work? Do the emotions move me? Does it feel like overpowering love? Then I'm good. :-)

As for the bits of hot... I am surrounded by scrumptious men. ;-)

I have to say, honestly, that it would be tough for me to write a virgin hero. I don't think I could do it in a contemp. I find it challenging enough to write a virgin heroine in a contemp, as I'm doing with Kat in Naked Edge. But a hero?

It would be easier to write a virgin hero in a historical... I just have this unexciting image of the blind leading the blind. LOL!

"So, now, what do we do?"

Then again, I knew what to do even when I was a virgin. But I had Cosmo to help with that.

Jo said...

Yup, yup, Pam...
I know life's experiences mold what comes after no matter how we try to grow. I just don't think a book should contain baggage three-quarters into a new relationship.
The train wreck does eventually stop and we move on, grow, and IF we are lucky, we get to find the love of our lives for as long as life allows. So, move on...
But then again, I guess I am an optimist. LOL!

Jo said...

LOVE to see a historical where the blind leads the blind.
I can teach them braille! Hands on, ya know!

Linda A. said...

Glad you're migraine's feeling better, Pam. Awful things! I think a virgin hero would be doable in a historical. Think of a young man who's grown up on the frontier where there are far more men than women. If the heroine is also untouched, then it could be embarrassing or it could be very real. Lots of enthusiasm if not a lot of finesse, lol! After all heroes have to start somewhere.

Sue Z said...

Hey! Somebody needs to know what is going on! I think that it would be sweet for 2 young virgin lovers to both experience thier first time together. But that really is more like a Lifetime TV movie that what I like to read in books.

The Clare/Jamie thing was really interesting. He was a virgin and she was not. and they HAD to have sex to validate thier marriage. It worked well in that story but probably not in most.

Morgan was know to lie with the lassies a time or two but he knew just how gentle to be with Amilie. That was great...and even explained to her what it would take (physically) to get her with child. She had no clue. That was good hero material right there!

Barbara said...

I agree, Pamela. It's almost impossible to write a virginal hero or heroine in a contemporary. I said to you in my email...What I described above is the "ideal" romance for me. I would prefer the hero to have only really ever loved the heroine. That's just my POV.

But, until you read a book you don't really know how the characters or story will impact you. It all depends on circumstance and emotions. Of course, as in real life, our past molds us in to who we are. So, I'm certain that the loss of Gabe's wife has impacted him in a way that will effect the way he feels and approaches a relationship with Kat. It would be impossible for it not to.

You haven't disappointed me yet, Pamela! So believe me, I can't wait to read it!

And Jo...very well put. I can absolutely see your view on it as well ;)

Hi, Jo — LOL on teaching them braille! As for characters' baggage, it totally depends on how it's written for me. I've read books where it seemed to me the hero or heroine really needed to get over it already! And then I've read books where I felt events didn't seem to impact them enough. I guess it just depends.

Hi, Linda — Yes, in a historical I think it's much more likely. Today, one is unlikely to find virgin males above the age of oh, say, 25, who don't have serious issues.

Hi, SueZAY! Nice to see you here. :-D

Morgan had been with more than a few lassies! What did he have to say about it himself? Hmm... I have to go see...

From Untamed:

"Had he ever loved a woman? He’d made love with his fair share—dark-eyed Muhheconneok lasses in Stockbridge, fair-haired Dutch beauties in Albany, a plump ale-wife’s daughter or two. But although he’d cherished them—and savored the pleasure he’d shared with them—he’d yet to feel the bond that had driven his brother to risk everything.

So he'd made love to a fair few (that would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-15, probably) but had never been in love. Morgan, you man-ho'!

Hi, Barbara — You know, you hit on something really interesting. We all have our favorite plot lines and time periods and types of heroes. We all have our preferences. We pick up a book, read the back and decided whether or not it sounds like it will appeal to us. But you never know what is going to touch you till you actually read it, you know what I mean? You kind of said this in your email, too.

And thanks for the vote of confidence. I hope never to disappoint you!

Lori said...

I, too, have noticed a trend toward heroines being quite experienced in contemps, and it's much more accepted there. In my historicals, I do like it when a woman is experienced if there's reason for it (ie, previous marriage). I always like to read historicals where the heroine was in a happy marriage - it makes the relationship so much more interesting, I think. Angst has been done to death, but that feeling like you're cheating on someone you loved? There's something.

As for the hero... hmmm... in a contemp I think it's hard to do a really good virgin. Simply because today's women are so knowledgeable and we have such high expectations. (No pressure or anything, huh? Sorry guys!) In an historical, I think it would be easier. I do enjoy me a good reformed rake, though. I must admit :) No fumbling, no bumbling. LOL!

Debbie H said...

Pamela, I tend to be old fashioned about some relationships. I guess I just like the man to take the lead most of the time. Then, after we've got to know each other, I want to lead sometimes. LOL

Hey Jo!!! Pamela, Jo's a porch sister!

Hi, Lori — That's an interesting emotional twist. Kristie J mentioned on her blog once that she was tired of reading books where the deceased husband (or wife) was remembered in a negative light, including sexually. Although this opens the door for the hero or heroine to be the FIRST, the ONLY love, despite the fact that there was a previous marriage, I can see what you're saying about having to GET OVER the previous relationship, so that one's desire for the new love of their life feels like a betrayal of the old. I can see how that would be very emotional.

Hi, Debbie — I get what you mean now. I'm probably a bit old fashioned myself, in that case. I, too, like the hero to take the lead, especially at first. My own preference. I know lots of readers like sexually assertive heroines. I like assertive alpha males. ;-)

And, hey, Jo! I didn't realize you were one of THOSE! A Porch Sister? That's terrific!

Jo said...

Hi Debbie & Pamela...
Deb, didn't you warn Pamela 'bout me?! Hehehe...
I am the BAD Porch sister, the one that googled 'male self love' cause there's one in every crowd.
Insert smilie face here.

Heather said...

I love experienced hero's and heroine' historicals I really like it if the heroine is a widow, but loved, and had good sex with her husband. I'm so tired of the terrible dead husband theme, in historicals. I don't know...maybe it's because I'm older, and I know I'll never be anyone's first love again, nor will anyone be my first I find that second time arounds are just so much more enjoyable.

As for contemp's...again, I like both to have experience, and I don't care if either were married previously or not.

Either way...I don't want too much focus of the story to be on the H/H's past...just give me brief detail and move on.

But honestly, those are just preferences...I've read plenty, and enjoyed plenty that don't meet that criteria...I just want a good book, with characters I care about, and I want to see them get a great HEA, even if it's their first HEA, or second!

No, Jo, she didn't warn me. The bad Porch Sister? I'm pretty sure that a BAD Porch Sister is the good kind of bad. ;-)

Hi, Heather — As I was reading your post, I was thinking of my only widowed heroine, Bethie, and her not-so-wonderful dead husband. LOL!

But it's the same for me. I don't like Regencies and I don't like paranormals. But I do read some paranormals and some Regencies. And I'm always discovering a scenario that I didn't think I'd like that one author or another carries off successfully.

Fiction is funny that way, isn't it? It's not like food where if you hate onions (or "unjuns" as my boys called them when they were little) you just hate onions. Whatever it is you don't think you like, you'll find it in a book one day done by someone who had the skill to do it well.

I admit I like the realism of both the H/h having experience in contemps. And I hear you about the getting older part. I will be no one's first love. However, I do hold out hope that I will be someone's love of their life. :-)

What about "well read" virgins?? Virgins who have stored up lots of hot steamy tips from very imaginative writers.

I haven't been here the last week and see what I miss?? I had to show my husband why I was laughing so hard.

When it comes to the heroes I really don't like the slutty kind. Some books it seems like he has humped anything that moved! I wouldn't mind seeming H's that have been in long term relationships that have allowed them to become experienced without looking like man-whores.

And since I missed out on the b.o.b. conversation I'll just add that I think there should be more written about their use, solo or with a partner. I grew up thinking they were a bad thing but have since changed my mind. Gee, I wonder why. (Warning: Next Statement Will Have Waaaaay TMI For Some Readers)It's bad enough that I was thinking something was wrong with me for not have an instant orgasm in ye ol' missionary position thanks to a lot of the Harlequins I grew up reading. It's totally misleading.

Thanks, Eugenia, for sharing your thoughts on the subject. Did you know that BOBs are illegal to sell in some states? I am not kidding you! I have thought of gathering donations of new BOBs and driving down there on a humanitarian mission to help women.

Two of my contemps novels as well as my novella have BOBs in them, though there are no on-camera solo scenes. I feel like I have to mention them because almost every women I know personally has one.

Not TMI. I know that a lot of women are raised to believe it's wrong to make themselves happy, so to speak. But if you don't know what makes your clock tick, how can tell the man you're with what you need? Those of us who are well-acquainted with our own very spectacular selves are much more likely to be orgasmic.

An orgasm a day keeps that doctor away. That's what I've always said, anyway. ;-)

JennJ said...

You have had some great discussions on here hmmm ok well I personally would love to see a few more heroes be virgins. I think that is something that hasn't been tackled nearly enough and something I personally would love to read. I did love that about Jamie in Outlander. Though like most of the other ladies any situation can be interesting IF done correctly and tastefully. Even a man ho could be a hero if he sees the error of his ways and changes to where only the heroine of the story is his true love. :)

Christine said...

Maybe once I read Naked Edge, you will have swayed me to opinionate otherwise.
I just made up a new word, thats how confident I am in your abilities to sway.
But seriously? I can not wait for Naked Edge, one way or the other!!
I've been impatiant since I read the snippet in the last I-Team novel

Hi, Jenn J — There are three people who've voted who feel the way you do. I've never tried a male virgin. In FICTION, I mean. Well, actually, come to think of it, I haven't tried one that way, either... I suppose one benefit would be knowing that he couldn't compare you to other women. No STDs would be another plus. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jenn.

Hi, Christine — I love that word! I shall have to find ways to use it at work. LOL! Thanks for the vote of confidence. The scene you read at the end of UNLAWFUL CONTACT is Gabe at his man-slut best. Or worst, depending on how you think of it. He's about to meet the woman he'll love for the rest of his life, so, although he doesn't know it, this is his last few minutes of seedy, meaningless sex. :-)

Oh, I wish the book were done.

Hey, are any of you on Facebook? If so, find me and let's be friends. LOL!

haleigh said...

I'm late to this conversation, but I, like many others, like an experienced hero. Though Anna Campbell's hero Matthew in "Untamed" was a virgin, (heroine was not), and it worked wonderfully.

I do think a virgin hero in a contemp would be very hard to pull off (unless he's like 14, in which case, yuck :)

Eugenia - I died laughing at your comment about Harlequin's. How many of us have been led SO astray about how sex works by Harlequin?!

Hi, Haleigh — Good to see you! From the way the poll is shaping up, it looks like most of those who voted prefer some level of experience. I didn't know Anna had a book titled Untamed. Not very original of me, was it? LOL!

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