• Joanne Paulson

Why I leave the bedroom door open

Updated: Sep 21





I had a small sexual revelation at a recent book club meeting.


The host, a friend of long standing, had persuaded her fellow readers to take on my series and invited me to be present for their discussion.


The questions were fantastic, and I both appreciated and enjoyed the interaction. But what stopped me in mid-babble, near the end of the event, was the sudden comment, “These are the hottest books I’ve read in a long time.”


Hot, as in steamy. Sexy. Erotic.


Dumbfounded., my brow creased as I turned to this lovely woman. “Really?”


Another attendee piped up to say she read some of the warmer bits to her husband, who later recited them back to her. My mouth by this time had formed an (unattractive) O.


I looked from one woman to another and said, “Do none of you read romance?” All I got in return were shrugs. And every single one of them – nine out of nine – gave me a thumbs up on the steam.


Two days later, another reader (and author) caught up to me at a literary festival bearing my latest book. “Your sex scenes are so good,” she said, rather out of the blue. "They're hard to write well."


“There aren’t many in this book,” I pointed out.


“No,” she said, sadly. “I admit I was a bit disappointed.”


I do not write this in self-congratulation. Well, not entirely (ha). Rather, I was completely amazed by the positive comments about the intimate scenes between my two main characters, Adam Davis and Grace Rampling.


This was, in part, because some reviews of my books contain negative comments about it all. And I’ve frequently been questioned about them; why did I include them? These are supposed to be mystery novels.


They are. However, they are mystery-and-love novels (NOT romantic suspense, in my opinion), and I can’t apologize. The brain will do what it does.


When Adam first occurred to me as a fully-formed, beautiful but somewhat damaged human, I instantly envisioned him finding a lover who could help him. I didn’t invent Adam. I woke up one night and he was just there — lost, alone, recovering from heavy drinking and suffering from PTSD. Part of him was me.


Grace, with her own history and confusion about men, emerged next — ethical, dedicated, passionate, goofy and decidedly sexual. There she was, too, flaming red hair and chocolate eyes, right in front of me.


They were to become my crime-solving team, but almost as importantly, they were also to become a sexual, passionate couple who bring healing and joy to one another.


SPOILER ALERT:

Yes, there are plot purposes to the intimacy. When they finally come together, Adam experiences one of his PTSD episodes. Grace’s physical love brings him back to the present, to the reality of being near another lovely human, naked and vulnerable and caring. And so the healing begins.


Sex is part of life for most (with apologies to those who self-identify as asexual). It’s good, it’s bad, it creates unbearable longings, it fills us and destroys us, and it sometimes puts us back together again. Sex advances or stops relationships. It helps us form deep understandings and connections, and unfortunately, aversions. When we are lucky, sex expresses and strengthens love. And sometimes, sex is just sex, although I personally do not recall such an experience.


Consensual and loving sex is extremely good for us, you know. Healthy. So, I would argue, is reading about it.


Therefore, I will not slam the bedroom door.


Whether I have, as an author, been successful in describing this erotic and loving relationship is one thing and up to you, gentle reader, to decide. Whether stories about life should include the full range of emotional experience is, to me, not a question at all.


As Hannah Tennant-Moore said in her great blog about sex and the novel, “. . . often the best writing about sex can be found in books that are not about sex at all. Rather, many great novels portray sexual encounters as an inseparable part of the extraordinary ordinariness of daily life.” (You can find it here https://lithub.com/the-best-literary-writing-about-sex/).


I do not claim my mysteries are “great novels” (although I hope they are fun to read and deal with important topics.) I will claim that sexual encounters are inseparable from daily life, including Adam and Grace’s.


Fair warning.


*image by Zelle Duda, unsplash

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