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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Guest Post and Giveaway: Ashley March, author of Romancing the Countess

Developing Sexual Intimacy without Sex

Romancing the Countess coverThanks so much to Books Like Breathing for having me on the blog today as I continue the celebration of my latest release, ROMANCING THE COUNTESS!

I could probably give you an entire list of reasons why ROMANCING THE COUNTESS does not fit the bill for your typical historical romance. Not only does it start out with the cheating spouses of the hero and heroine dying, but the hero and heroine don’t even like each other that much when they first meet. Not a very easy way to start a romance, I think.

One of the most difficult things about writing this book was showing the characters move past their spouses’ deaths while at the same time showing them gradually becoming aware of the other. Due to the vulnerabilities of the characters, they could not be a hero and heroine who instantly fall in lust with each other. They don’t even have sex at a predictable page number in the story. However, I still needed to show their developing sexual attraction.

The first way I did this was by making them aware of each other as someone more than an acquaintance, which is what they’d been in the past. Because they share the secret of their spouses’ affair, they have a unique bond already. The awareness began by having them draw comparisons between the other and their spouse. One of my favorite quotes from the book is when Sebastian compares Leah to his dead wife, Angela:

Sebastian snapped his mouth shut as she turned around, hating the fact that everything about her reminded him of Angela—not in similarities, but in contrasts. Her voice, her decorating style, and now, with only a foot between them, her scent. Rather than the warm, sultry combination of lavender and vanilla, he breathed in the artless aroma of soap: earthy, subtle, its only fragrance a slight hint of seawater.

It would have been easy for them to dismiss each other, as they didn’t turn out favorably in comparison to the other person’s spouse. However, when Leah’s actions throw them together at the house party and put them in conflict, they begin to see aspects of one another that they’d never noticed before. After knowing each other as mere acquaintances, this forced perspective is like an unveiling; suddenly the person they thought they knew is not at all the same. Another favorite quote, as Leah sees Sebastian “unveiling” her:

For the first time in their acquaintance of three years, she realized that the Earl of Wriothesly finally saw her. Not as another random society twit, not as Ian’s wife or widow, but as Leah George, individual and separate. Removed from the great horde of women who were not the seemingly perfect Lady Angela Wriothesly and placed into a much more specific category of one: Leah George. Despised. Loathsome. Enemy.

Once they began to see each other as specific individuals and also as people with conflicting desires, then the physical attraction begins…although neither really wants it. Leah’s relationship with her deceased husband made her wary of lovemaking of any sort—even a kiss—and Sebastian feels like he is betraying his dead wife—even though she cheated on him. Though they try to ignore the attraction, it’s there and continues to grow.

Another “unveiling” of Leah, in the literal sense, in Sebastian’s POV:

He stood and walked across the garden path, the small rocks crunching beneath his feet. Even though he couldn’t see her eyes, he bent until they were at the same level. Reaching forward, he grasped the hem of her veil in his fingertips and raised his arms. Slowly, without any reason for such hesitation. Over the slender arch of her bodice, past the pale ivory column of her throat. Her mouth—he paused when it was revealed, pretending to lose hold of the hem. He stared at the bountiful curve of her lips, so full and lush that the small indent at the top of her upper lip was almost nonexistent.

He would never tell her that Angela’s mouth had not once entranced him like this.

Clenching the crepe between his fingers, he pulled the veil above her nose, the delicate sculpture of her cheeks. His eyes met hers, and he could no longer pretend they were a plain, ordinary brown. This close, amber striations glinted in their sherry depths, the color made even more stunning by the frame of her dark eyelashes, lavishly thick. Her breath drifted across his lips, an involuntary, invisible kiss, and Sebastian shook, his gloved fingers grazing the slope of her forehead as he dragged the hem over her head.

Immediately he spun upon his heel and returned to the easel, away from her wary gaze. Unable to deny how the breath surged from his chest and the blood pounded in his veins. Disturbed by the sudden, arousing effect of Leah George’s unveiling.

However, there are real, personal obstacles to the developing intimacy, and the physical often is substituted for a verbal seduction. One of my favorite scenes in the entire book is when Sebastian tells Leah his fantasy of her. He doesn’t touch her, but he requires that she does not look away from his gaze throughout the telling. I think it’s one of the most sensual scenes I’ve ever written, and affects Leah the way a kiss or a caress could not: his words take away part of her fear.

Ashley MarchOf course (thankfully!), there is a love scene in the book, but whereas in other romance novels the sex scene is more of a midpoint in the couple’s emotional journey, in ROMANCING THE COUNTESS the sex scene is the final joining of their hearts (I was going to say that it’s the climax of their emotional journey, but thought that would be a little too tongue-in-cheek ;) ).

Writing this book made me realize something, though. While we all want our hero and heroine to experience all of the joys of falling in love—and that includes the act of making love—a story can be very sexy without having endless sex scenes. It all depends on if the sex is something that develops naturally from the characters and their emotional connection, or if it’s only written to make the story spicy.

As a reader, sexual tension can sometimes be much more powerful to me than a sex scene and is usually what makes the sex scene so wonderful when it does happen. As a reader, would you rather have more sexual tension or more sex scenes (there is no right answer)?

One random commenter will be chosen to win a copy of my newest book, ROMANCING THE COUNTESS (open internationally)! Also, find out how to win the ROMANCING THE COUNTESS Book Tour Grand Prize of 50+ romance novels by visiting!  <

Just fill out the Rafflecopter below to be entered. Ends Nov. 5th.


  1. Sexual tension is my preference in books. Now in real life, I will probably give you a different answer! ;)

  2. Lol May!!! =D Best. Answer. Ever. ;)

  3. The tension is the best...although sometimes the author can make like torture!

  4. Oops, forgot the email annarkie 12 @ gmail dot com

  5. I just want it to be appropriate to the characters and the story; and it doesn't have to be long & extremely explicit.
    sallans d at yahoo dot com

  6. More tension is better but it has to be active rather dragged on.

    Cambonified (at) yahoo (dot) com

  7. Hi Brooklyn Ann! I've been accused of making it like torture sometimes. ;) Thanks for visiting with me today!

  8. Hi Di! Thanks for the great feedback. =)

  9. Hi Na! I agree--there's nothing worse than a story not going anywhere.

  10. Definitely sexual tension--lots and lots of it! I just love tortured heroes (and heroines,) don't you?

  11. Hi LSUReader! I agree 100%. =) Tortured in the best way, too. ;)

  12. Hi Ashley, Excellent post today. I prefer sexual tension over sex scenes. While I like the sex scens, I don't like reading books where the H/H are falling into bed on every other page. I want a good story that leads me down that path they take in their journey.

    kareninnc at gmail dot com

  13. Hi Ashley,
    I do like to read about a couple who is getting to know each other and the sexual tension is building. I think it is a realistic situation, especially since so many romances have characters in situations that are not ideal.
    mce1011 AT aol DOT com

  14. More sexual tension. This is where you get to know the characters well.


  15. Sexual tension. The anticipation builds to a fevered pitch!

    lag110 at mchsi dot com

  16. This is super hard to answer because I really like reading books that are erotica, and have way more sex scenes than most romances, but one of my favourite things is the sexual tension, if it's done right. I guess I'd choose sexual tension because it can be so much fun to read, and builds heaps of understanding about the characters.


  17. Yes I agree with you about this book not being a typical romance. When I first started it I was surprised with the cheating spouses, then their deaths... I was unsure where it was going to go and it it really was a love story.
    Surprise surprise to me, this book was wonderful!



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