Wednesday, October 10, 2007


One of many charming illustrations in another quaint old book, The Lover's Baedeker and Guide to Arcady by Carolyn Wells, 1912.

Rather than an example of arch and sickly post-Victorian sentimentality, the small volume derides the cliches of the day's romantic excess with gentle sarcasm.

To wit:

In physical appearance dwellers in Arcady are beautiful beyond all words. The women have eyes as stars of twilight fair, faces with gardens in, lily hands, amber-dropping hair, and feet like little mice. The men are handsome as Apollos; of heroic size...

While I'm definitely not of the close-the-bedroom-door variety of writer or reader, lately I've experienced a certain yearning for a more romantic gloss on couple encounters. A little less lust and sweat and a little more romance before hand. A little more seduction and a little less screw-her-against-the-kitchen-counter-the-first-time-they-meet.

Of all things, a couple of refresh-your-breath, chewing gum TV advertisements solidified this for me.

In one, strangers leer at each other in a streetcar before connecting. He pops a mint and the actors swim towards each other like a pair of sucker fish.

And all I can think of is: he's got a wad of gum in his mouth.

In the other, a frog swallows a breath-fresh tablet, is picked up and kissed by a princess. Of course, herr frog turns into a large and masterful pransome hince who proceeds to kiss her properly.


The advertisement is a little spoiled for me in the next frame because the modern male is short and narrow-shouldered and geeky-looking, but I can ignore that.

While it's an old adage that kissing is upper persuasion for lower invasion, I'm usually disappointed by kissing descriptions in romantic novels. I find them too abrupt and slam-bang, no matter how many paragraphs are devoted to the mechanics of his tongue -- maybe because many concentrate purely on the physical -- to the neglect of the emotional, the illusion and the romance.

Sex and its preliminaries aren't just another appetite. I'd like to see a little glamour. A little more romance.


Erik Ivan James said...

...and when we finished, we would kiss and we would touch.

StarvingWriteNow said...

Hear, here! I find myself skipping over the "scenes" in a lot of novels because they seem to be more gratuitous than gratifying. And yes, good kissing scenes are hard to come by today.

Bernita said...

Erik, do I know you?

Doesn't anyone indulge in nice, naive illusions about the other person anymore, Starving?

Ric said...

YEA! It's not even Friday and we're talking about sex!

Jaye Wells said...

"upper persuasion for lower invasion"

I've never heard it that way before. Very funny.

Demon Hunter said...

I agree, Bernita. More romance! Better kissing scenes---definitely! :*)

Amy Lavender Harris said...

This is too funny!

Bernita said...

Actually, Ric, I don't think we are.
Do men always confuse cause and effect?

Used to be trotted out as cynical warning to innocent young ladies, Jaye.

More leisurely, old-fashioned "courtship," my Demon. Flirting is sooo much fun.

Possibly quite reactionary, Amy.

Ric said...

We are not confused. A little more romance, a lot of romance - still mostly ends up with the anticipated result.

Women are the ones who confuse the purpose of romance.

Robyn said...

A-freaking-men. I remember holding my breath when Pierce Brosnan kissed Stephanie Zimbalist's hand in the old Remington Steele series. I mean, it was just her hand, fer crying out loud. But the way he held it, the look in his eyes as he raised it to his fourteen year old self nearly fainted. Romance, indeed.

Church Lady said...

There was a thread on the SCBWI boards a while back about the sound of a kiss. Well, not the romance you're talking about here! :-)

Loved "upper persuasion for lower invasion" LOL!

A kissing scene has so much potential. The warmth of someone's breath, different smells, tastes. I'd love to read a good kissing scene. Heck, I'd like to *be* in one!

Since you're now a wench, Bernita, how about that handbook you referenced a while back. Can you write a kissing chapter? Hm?

Bernita said...

Not at all - the journey is important to the result, Ric.
Am tired of efficiency.

Exactly, Robyn.
Which is why my hero does just that.
Need more sun, moon and stars.

Bernita said...

I don't know what handbook you refer to, Chris. ?
Think the physical sensations with lip-locking and pantie-wetting have been described consistently, often quite well.Very single focused on the physical, however.
I'd like to see something now and then that adds a little more - for want of a better word - drama or enchantment to the occasion.
Be nice if the female had a single thought beyond I-want-to-get-laid.

Dave F. said...

This is the funniest line I've read today:
like a pair of sucker fish.

It takes patience to write romance, lots of patience.

moonrat said...

i TOTALLY agree with you.

really good kissing writing really gets me. the same way a surprise kiss scene in a movie is SO much sexier than a sex scene. i want to see more of it!

Lisa said...

I think this is the reason we are always so captivated by characters who are clearly attracted to each other, but who don't ever seem to connect. We love the prolonged flirtation and sexual tension. I would love to read a book that included more of the mental gymnastics that real people go through in the period of time before they actually physically connect. In contemporary stories, that seems not to last long ;)

SzélsőFa said...

I think a good romantic and/or sex scene is hard to write. I doubt I will ever try myself at it.
It's so easy to get too physical, but if trying to avoid getting too physical, the reader might loose the thread and the connection between events and feelings.
Being cheap/sentimental is also a trap.

raine said...

...kissing is upper persuasion for lower invasion...

LMAO! Great line.

Agree. I've blogged about it more than once, and written both romance-romance and kitchen-counter stuff (or, as in current wip, in the library, right in front of Alice in Wonderland and all).
But my personal preference is to stir that batter very well before popping that baby in the oven.

Must also note, however--it's rather difficult to describe a really good kiss!

Aine said...

Yes!! I worry that the "young" generation won't understand the allure of mystery. If there is no spiritual or emotional component to a couple's physical interactions, how do they not get bored?

Given that TV and movies are so sex focused, I had hoped (for my daughters) that literature would still "teach" them about romance. This lack of descriptions of kisses as spiritual or emotional makes me sad.

And, like Jaye, I had never heard that old adage about kissing either-- it's wonderful!

Bernita said...

believe me, Dave, the description is more literal than figurative.

Kissing is VERY sexy,I agree, Moonrat.

My feeling too, Lisa.The anticipation, rather than the morning after by page five.

The chief difficulty, Szelsofa, is to write scenes that don't sound like everyone else's romps.
And you're quite right about the dangers of sickly sentimentality.

Aliced in the Library!Raine that sounds like a hoot, especially if indeed you mention Alice in Wonderland!
It's not that I object to sex scenes, even the quickie ones - it's just that I feel the kiss has turned utilitarian.

Bernita said...

The nature of the medium, Aine, seems to have compressed kissing - from a preliminary - straight into the sex act itself.
Maybe it's a natural trend, maybe I've been reading the wrong books, but a little seduction would be nice, as well as a bit of idealism.

Scott from Oregon said...


ALl that five-page kissing and romance can be a bit rough on us guys...

Bernita said...

Work for it, Scott.
We've made it too easy lately.

writtenwyrdd said...

Oh, you'd like the six page first kiss scene in my trunk novel, then.

I wholeheartedly agree about the rapid falling into bed/kitchen counter/sofa/backseat trend in current romances.

Aren't they romances? Doesn't that mean there should be some romance?

At the very least, I would like to see the attraction attenuated, a bit more work required to get to bed.

Have you noticed that some of the series out there have a set up that obviates the need for romance? Like the Dark Hunters, where the vampires have a single mate and they are fated, must fall instantly in love?

That truly bugs me.

The Anti-Wife said...

"kissing is upper persuasion for lower invasion". Never heard it before but love it!

More romance and less sweat would be welcome,unless you're purposely reading erotic of course.

Bernita said...

Bring on the days of wine and roses, Written.
Interesting observation about the fate-mate trend. Certainly precludes the necessity of preliminaries and any yes-no-maybe-sometime-never.

Some of the most erotic stories I've ever read, AW, were by an old Harlequin author from the pre-sex days, Violet Windspear (sp?).

writtenwyrdd said...

Hah! I remember Violet Windspear! I don't have any of her novels lurking in the house, but I know I've read a few.

I like Georgette Heyer for romance, myself. I have all of her romance books, and paid a pretty penny to get my hands on them, too.

Bernita said...

I have all of Heyer too. I prefer her to Austin; she's more to my taste.
A genius for situational comedy as well as the dramatic moment.

Charles Gramlich said...

Kissing is certainly underated?

Ello said...

There is something to be said for courtly love. It is romantic and sweet and it makes your heart sigh. I think it is akin to the feelings of a young girl in her first throes of love. The kiss is really all we seek to fulfill our romantic urgings. It is as we get older that the sexual aspect becomes more urgent. This is why I think it is sad that men get their sexual urges earlier and women later. It seems to add up to alot of young girls seeking the idea of love being pushed into something more. But I am probably off topic now!

spyscribbler said...

The other month, I read a romance that had, maybe, one kiss in it. It was SO refreshing! I'd forgotten what romance was, what with all the sex around!

Not that I don't love to read about the sex. :-)

Dave F. said...

real romance (not lust).
I've heard those sentiments before. In the movie Amadeus, Mozart is making the case to the Archduke to let him put on "Figaro" and he argues that Italians know knothing of love for their operas are all eye-rolling and glad handing and then they (he doesn't say it this way) jump on each other.
In "Shakespeare in Love" the bet between the Queen and a rather poorly dressed Shakespeare is over "the nature of true love" and she says basically the same thing - they make it lust, they make it physical, they make it courtly but they do not make it true love.

A romantic love scene is not hot and sweaty. It is composed of small things - gestures, kindnesses, anticipations and it takes a long time to reveal.

HAHA - the word verification was "kiiish"

Bernita said...

More ignored in the rush, I think, Charles.

And kissing is a very useful tool, Ello
~remembering my first kiss ~to separate the sheep from the goats ( so to speak)
Oh yuck!

Another thing that seems to have disappeared, Natasha, is/are gentlemen.

Both verification and I beam at you, Dave!

Gabriele C. said...

I'm totally with you, Bernita. I want more seducion and less sex, and I don't need the juicy details - they make me want to take a shower for the wrong reason. :)

spyscribbler said...

"Another thing that seems to have disappeared, Natasha, is/are gentlemen."

Not just in fiction! Darnit! They don't make 'em that way anymore. *sigh*

Bernita said...

I just don't see why we can't have both, Gabriele!

And those that are - are probably viewed with suspicion,, Natasha.

Anonymous said...

Will do!

Sid Leavitt said...

'... a little glamour. A little more romance.' Amen. And, I might add, a little more contemplation.

I was putting pictures onto all our website entries early this morning -- finally -- and I borrowed the headshot from your profile to accompany our May 21 entry about your website. Again, I was struck by that silvery hair. Think of the time it took to achieve that perfection.

Ah, contemplation. My wife's hair is approaching that sublime stage, and I can hardly wait.

Bernita said...

A delicate balance, Seeley.

"Think of the time it took"
Er... thank you, Sid.
I'm not sure quite how to take that emphasis.