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Monday, September 8, 2014

Today's Special - - Grace Burrowes


It's my pleasure to welcome historical romance author Grace Burrowes to The Romance Dish today. A New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Burrowes' bestsellers include The Heir, The Soldier, Lady Maggie's Secret Scandal, Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish and Lady Eve's Indiscretion. Her Regency romances have received extensive praise, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist and her September 2nd release, The Laird is garnering rave reviews. Grace is branching out into short stories and Scotland-set Victorian romance with Sourcebooks. She is a practicing family law attorney and lives in rural Maryland. You can find more information about Grace and connect with her online at the following locations:




What really goes on behind the steamy scenes in our favorite romance novels? Grace pulls back the curtain to give us a behind-the-scenes peek into the creation of those scenes we love to read. Please give her a warm welcome!



Guest Post: The Heavy Lifting Behind the Heavy Breathing… by Grace Burrowes

Many authors, myself among them, find the steamy scenes are among the most difficult to write. Part of the challenge is to describe mating behavior in romantic terms without shading into the silly, needlessly vulgar, or medical. You know what I mean.

Authors are wordsmiths, though, and the Point of View character will pretty much control vocabulary and tone, so that challenge is manageable.

What’s more difficult is to hold the reader’s interest in a scene where the reader knows exactly what will happen. Parts is parts is parts. They function in a finite number of ways. Imagine writing a football match scene where the reader knows ahead of time who will win and what the score will be. A fight scene where the reader knows who will be victorious and how badly the loser will be injured.

As readers, we’ve come across those scenes, and many of them compel our interest despite the lack of suspense about the action itself. What keeps us right in the story is how the author handles emotions.
If the emotions are a surprise to the characters themselves, then they’ll be a surprise to the readers too. The steamy scenes thus become a moment when the author inflicts self-awareness on the characters, and this despite the predictable complements of desire, yearning, or lust trying to elbow past any conflicting feelings.

The characters are becoming intimate with each other in one sense, but they’ll also often gain insights about themselves in that process.

Imagine for example, that a husband and wife in an arranged marriage face their wedding night. Somebody has to succumb to, um, arousal, but what other emotions might be loose under the covers? Resentment, that marriage has become one more duty, albeit an intimate one with a charming, attractive stranger? Loneliness, because both people are essentially in bed with a stranger? Relief at having the farce of a wedding over? Determination to start the marriage off on a good foot? Determination not to become emotionally involved with somebody who views marriage as a business undertaking?

Those sentiments are more interesting to the readers for popping up in a situation where physical intimacy is the predictable action on the page. For the characters, the tension between predictable behavior, and inconvenient, unpredictable emotions means dialogue can go racketing from honest to superficial, awkward to genuine, angry to commiserating.

So the trick to an effective hot scene is to shift the focus away from what’s going on between the sheets, and instead keep the interest on what’s going on within and between the characters emotionally. Lace in a little symbolic use of the setting and bring down the curtain while a question hangs in the air.

And then, no matter that parts is parts is parts, you’ve written an interesting scene that has explored aspects of character no football match or fight could have revealed.

Readers, what makes a love scene interesting and memorable for you?  One randomly chosen person leaving a comment on today's post will receive the three Captive Hearts titles: The Captive, The Traitor and The Laird.  
(U.S./Canadian addresses only)




He left his bride to go to war...

After years of soldiering, Michael Brodie returns to his Highland estate to find that the bride he left behind has become a stranger. Brenna is self-sufficient, competent, confident-and furious. Despite her anger at Michael's prolonged absence, Brenna has remained loyal to her husband, though Michael's people, and most especially the uncle who held the estate together for him, make it clear they expect Michael to set Brenna aside.

Though his most important battle will be for her heart.

Michael left Brenna when she needed him most, and then stayed away even after the war ended. Nonetheless, the young man who abandoned her has come home a wiser, more patient and honorable husband. Brenna is hurt, bewildered, and tired of fighting for the respect of those around her, but if she trusts Michael with the truths she'd been guarding, he'll have to choose between his wife and everything he holds dear.

Barnes & Noble - http://bit.ly/1lG2f9q




55 comments:

  1. I think it is what the couple say and the affection they show one to one another before, during, and after is what makes it memorable to me. Grace, I think you do an awesome job when writing the steamy scenes. I am looking forward to reading all three books. They are on my wish list.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Ann! I enjoy reading love scenes where the couple talk and laugh with one another. It makes them feel real.

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    2. An editor once told me hot scene dialogue threw her out of the scene's mood. What do you say to that? Readers have told me they skip hot scenes entirely, nobody has ever said, "They're talking too much!"

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  2. Chemistry, playfulness, that special connection

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    1. Yes! Love the playfulness especially. :)

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    2. Especially a gruff, serious hero who can turn up playful when it's not expected. Love that.

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    1. Love the tenderness between a couple but have to admit I do enjoy when the hero (and sometimes the heroine) goes all alpha. ;-)

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    1. Honesty is so important, isn't it?

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    2. I'll second the honesty. The desire is hard to write interestingly, because if that's what the author leads with, it's sorta like singing the textbook version of the National Anthem to start the ball game--yawn.

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  5. Love, tenderness, and longings fulfilled

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    1. Cheryl, I have told my editor and told my editor that what I want on the covers of my books is NOT sex, but rather, tenderness. If somebody would give it a try, I'm convinced it would outsell cut abs and cleavage by a mile.

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  6. I would agree that it's all that is happening before during and after because I get lost in the "story" of it. If it moves the story along, if the characters as Grace says show specific emotion. Whatever happens? If I am invested, it can almost be anything at all that is going in because I am moving along with this couple. I adore the love scenes for the story it tells. Absolutely was blown away with the Laird. It was done with such honesty ... It was unusual but so very touching a love story.

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    1. Hope, I'm glad the Laird is on my shelf, glad the story is being well received, but I'm also glad that's done, and behind me. Time for some lighter fare, and What A Lady Needs for Christmas will deliver that--in plaid!

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  7. I need that instant attraction that happens when the hero and heroine meet for the first time, but fight it with all their might. Those looks of hot passion across a room, where you can actually feel the sparks between them when you are reading the book.. But then I need that soft and gooey feeling when they finally have that moment where all the fire and passion burst into flame.. sigh...

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    1. I like the fight it with all their might part. What I don't like is the attraction across a crowded room for no discernible reason, followed by 367 pages of being together for no reason of substance other than he's/she's hawt.

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  8. I agree that it is the insights the characters have about themselves and their partner that makes a scene memorable to me. The new intimacy that is created, not just with their bodies, but with their minds as well. These make my heart skip a beat and as someone said, "feel all gooey." :)

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  9. I need that awareness of another human being so different from oneself and the reconciliation of the two. Hopefully, an attraction is involved and that spark of passion is lit. And Grace Burrowes does this superbly with her stories. I have them all. And I re-read them as a character pops into my head vicariously and without warning. Thank you, Grace and keep 'em coming.

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    1. Thank YOU, Anne, and I'll keep writing them as long as the readers keep reading them... and probably after that.

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  10. What a wonderful post! The love scenes I find the most memorable are those that are specific to the characters, that leave me feeling that I know these characters more fully because of the emotions that have been revealed. The forgettable scenes are the generic ones in which only the names seem particular to the characters.

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  11. Longing, desire, passion, chemistry, honesty are all so important. Grace Burrowes is one of the best for meaningful, steamy love scenes without graphic descriptions. As much as I love a good, steamy love scene...I REALLY love them when the scene adds to the depth of the characters involved!

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    1. Anon, if scene doesn't add to the character arcs or the dramatic arcs, it doesn't belong in the book, or so we're taught. Hearing my books read on audio changed the way I write the hot stuff. Certain words disappeared from vocabulary and I don't miss them.

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  12. The emotions between the characters

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  13. The surprise. The unexpected growth and development from timid and complacent (in some cases) to desire and love. Romance isn't about the naughty bits, it's about the emotional growth of the character. As they learn and grow, the naughty bits become less naughty and more intense and emotional. It's the progression of their growth together that really makes and impression.

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  14. I love when the story progresses during such scenes - when it's not just 'time out for bodice ripping and heaving bosoms' ... I'm very much a fan of character driven stories and when better to learn about who are person truly is than in such a vulnerable moment? For me, talking does NOT distract - it enhances. If a person wants to read just about parts and parts and parts, there's another genre for that! ~ Catherine

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  15. I am not as quick to jump on board for "erotic graphic descriptions" But the sensuality depcited almost like the spark from static cling that is this invisible drive of the two characters together. How she may blush slightly it get flustered in a situation where there are other people present and it would be improper to respond but its described in glances across the room or a stollen caress of the hand. Realistically I mean pardon my language but its not all about the ass grabbery. I want SEDUCTION darnit sweet sappy steamy seduction. and we all know that is way more important to most ladies then the actual act of the whole wham bam thank you ma'am. If i wanted to read that I would let some dude right my novels for me:) it is truely the build of the connection between the characters:)

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  16. I think it depends on the couple, but my favorites are the ones with greatchemistry between them and also the ones that have a little fun/play in them

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  17. Laughter and a bit of clumsiness (that indicates the internal tension/conflict) do it for me. I don't like it when the characters are too confident, capable, etc. at the athletics of sex.

    Susan in AZ

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  18. Hmmm. What makes a love scene memorable? If it is screwed up BADBADBAD the first time. The love scenes where everything is PERFECT and blahblahblah--and every love scene thereafter is perfect, there's nothing to grow, to make better, to show how their relationship is coming together as they are--well, you know. Eloisa James' love scene in Your Wicked Ways--a marriage of convenience, set aside, they have sex--and he's so bad at it. *LOL* And she's immediately up and eating chicken and going, "That wasn't nearly as terrible as I thought it'd be!"--I was just rolling in laughter.

    NOW...if the book is such where the lovemaking needs to be perfect first in order for something horrible-tragic-awful to happen--and basically you're building back up to that again--I can handle love scenes that are more in the perfect realm for that reason. (The Arrow, Monica McCarty had a lot of perfect love scenes--but the fallout was so bad that if the sex had sucked too, it wouldn't have worked. *LOL*)

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  19. To me, three of Grace's best intimate scenes come from the Windham sisters books:
    --Lady Maggie and Benjamin, in which she surprises him by taking charge and ending her virginity when he thought he was in charge and intended they stop before that point. Then they fight because she has no interest in his marriage proposal (offered before they made love.)
    --Lady Evie and Lucas, where she is in dire panic that he will discover on their wedding night that she is not a virgin and he, gentlemen that he is, gallantly gets her past that emotional trauma without revealing that he knows more than she realizes.
    --Lady Jenny and Elijah, who have secretly been attracted to and intrigued by one another for years, deciding to be casually intimate as if they can will away the emotional entanglement and what it means for their futures.
    In each case, these scenes convey relationship developments and create a sense of suspense that has nothing to do with the biological details (as Grace writes in the blog). When the act is done you keep reading because you see there is conflict ahead and you simply must know what happens. How will Benjamin overcome Maggie's objections, which get even stronger when they are caught? What happens when Evie and Lucas realize that making it through the wedding night has not relieved the burden of the secret they haven't discussed? What will it take for Jenny and Elijah to accept that they are soul mates? You aren't waiting for the next "steamy" section, but for the next emotional milestone. IMHO, it's why Grace's books are so much better than many others. :)

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  20. Grace, don't enter me in the giveaway because I already have all three books, which I'm saving to read one after another as a treat when I finish this project.

    I like love scenes that, as you say, teach the characters something about themselves. Ones that matter for more than the pleasure involved. You do so well with those, always. And I agree with you about tenderness. In the long term, it's crucial to making me think these people really care about each other.

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  21. I think Grace said it perfectly - the emotions. That's why the characters always come first for me - you feel what they are feeling.And Grace does it the best! Somehow I always seem to read her books out of order but I find that it doesn't matter - they all stand alone. I just got the Traitor and I know I won't be able to wait before getting the other two lol.

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  22. I'd have to say good flow... when things happen naturally and realistically... I'm not a big fan of the purple prose euphemisms, that and cheesy dialog throw me right out of a scene. But when it's organic and true to the characters, the scene flows very well... bleh!!! This is a hard comment topic :) Congrats to Grace on her new release and thank you for sharing!

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  23. I would love to have all three books, the emotion that is felt, with the gentleman being so sincere and thoughtful,, building up the tension between the couple, with anticipation, all of your love scenes allow the reader to share the feelings, not just "parts is parts" ha, (like that too). Keep up your great work, you give me something to look forward to, always looking for your new books. Thanks for sharing your talents.

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  24. Grace as you know, I love your writing and the thing I like most about the bedroom scenes is you write them so tastefully. I don't feel like I'm reading porn, and I don't feel like I'm a looking in someone's bedroom window.

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  25. The longing finally satisfied, breathlessness, lots of kissing, hot and tender.

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  26. What makes a love scene memorable to me is the conversation that is going on before, during and after, as well as the descriptions of the character's feelings. Those are the love scenes that I enjoy, not the scenes that are all just hot and steamy descriptions of what goes where.

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  27. What makes a memorable love scene for me? It is the emotional connection that really counts - including conversations and discovering (or sharing of) a hidden part of the people involved. When the characters open up emotionally, the sex scene becomes a true love scene. One of the things I love about your books Grace is that your hot and steamy scenes are always about much more than the sex.

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  28. hard to say or narrow it down as it can vary somewhat from book to book, but think it boils down (at least in part) to honesty of the character's actions and feeling flowing off the page

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  29. OH I suppose it could be a lot of things. But one thing I really like is terrific dialogue. Fun, romantic, silly, absurd, embarrassing, serious, life changing, all of it......But it always must be well written. And physically possible. Do not underestimate the physically possible part.

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  30. It has to be well written, romantic, with lots of sentiment and honesty.

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  31. First, no purple prose with liquids sloshing and surging. I like hot love scenes that are part of the story, and that if you didn't read them you would miss plot points or emotional development between the characters.

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  32. For me, it's all about the emotions. I have to feel like the hero and heroine are totally into each other and their connection can't be replicated with someone else. It definitely has to be well written and helps their relationship develop. A bit of humor, playfullness, chemistry and sexiness adds to it too! I just want to feel they're on aspecial journey just for them and not something I've read over and over again in other books.

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  33. The sharing, the chemistry, the passion plus the uniqueness of the character's personalities make the scene come to life for me!

    Spontaneity can happen but for a relationship to work for me I need caring.

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  34. I love passion, intrigue, romance and chemistry between the hero and heroine.. I also love being entertained, whilst being enriched and enlightened at the same time.

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  35. I think the thoughts of the hero and heroine during the love scene.

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  36. I enjoy Grace's passionate scenes - they are more realistic because they are earthier and her men seem to understand women, their bodies, they become tuned with their beloved's emotions, and yet they are awfully lusty as well. There is a tenderness to her male characters, too - in the Soldier where the two brothers are reading old letters aloud to each other was so precious. (I loved Soldier, btw. It tugged at my heart so much). But if I had to choose two characteristics that would break the nervousness of first timers, it would be tenderness and humor. Thea

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  37. Great post. I am tired of love scenes that seem like a Masters and Johnson report. As you said, parts is parts and they all work pretty much the same way. It is the emotions and feelings of the individuals that are important. The scene has to have a reason for being in the story to advance the plot or add to character development. I know what they are doing and don't want it described in detail. I want to know how they feel about it and how it is affecting their lives.

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  38. Beautifully said. I love it when the act of passion doesn't turn out as planned, when it leaves one (or both) of the parties unsatisfied in some way, either physically or emotionally. Great way to drive the story forward. Thanks for an excellent, inspiring post!

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