I woke up yesterday morning feeling awful--headache and sore throat--and spent most of the day sleeping. In between naps, I surfaced to let the cats in or out of the house (They jump up on my bedroom windowsill and howl until I accommodate them. Their wanting to come inside every hour has nothing to do with concern for my health. They like having access to kibble on demand).
I also finished the latest J.D. Robb thriller, Innocent in Death (IID).
For those of you who aren't fans, J.D. Robb is the pseudonym of romance writer Nora Roberts. Queen Nora opted for a pen name for the "in Death" books because they were such a departure from her usual romantic fare.
First, the series is primarily police procedurals, not romances. Second, it's set in the future, beginning in 2055. Third, the series is much more edgy than the traditional Nora Roberts novel. Not wanting to confuse readers of her romance brand, Nora opted to publish the "in Death" books under the Robb name. They've become enormously popular and IID is the 24th in the series. I was in the audience in Fort Worth in early November when Nora began her first publicity tour as J.D. Robb. It was a terrific evening.
The protagonist of the series is Lieutenant Eve Dallas, a New York homicide cop. Eve is tough, no compromise, and all business. I like Eve, and I really like the growing cast of characters that surrounds her.
The reason I'm mentioning it tonight is because of our discussion this week on sex in novels. As I've been reading IID, I've been paying particular attention to the romantic scenes, especially since the "in Death" books cannot depend on the question of whether the hero and heroine will ever make love. Early in the series, Eve Dallas meets, falls in love with and marries a man named Roarke. Her new husband plays a prominent role in the books to follow. Of course, mystery is the primary focus of the novels, but romantic tension is always a strong subplot.
In IID, an old lover of Roarke surfaces while Eve is investigating the murder of a teacher in a private school. For the first time in their marriage, Eve struggles to contain her jealousy.
There's a great scene between Eve and her husband that epitomized the point I've been trying to make about sex scenes needing to further the story. This scene takes place a few hours after the ex-lover Magdelana makes her appearance:
Desire. she could feel it in him. In his hands, in the way they moved over her, in what they took, in what they gave. She could taste it on his lips, that heat.
And still it wasn't enough. She knew only that she needed more.
For the first time since they'd come together, she wasn't sure what that more was. She only knew there was a small, cold place inside her that hadn't been there before. She needed it warmed, she needed it filled.
Desperate, she rolled with him, dragging at his sweater, digging her fingers into flesh and muscle. "Touch me," she demanded. "Touch me. touch me."
Her urgency surprised him. Aroused him. so he feasted on her skin, used his hands to take her over. She moaned his name, a sound of both pleasure and plea. And still she quaked, quivered with needs not yet met.
"Eve," He lay a hand on her cheek, wanting to see her eyes, to see into them. "Look at me."
She did what he asked, struggling to let herself fall away. Just fall away. "Inside me. I want you inside me."
She rose up, not in offer but demand, and guided him to her.
Linked, as only they could be, she told herself. Their rhythm, their heat, their scent. She watched him watch her until her vision blurred. Until there was only speed and movement, the building--frantic and wild--toward that final, sharp-edged release.
When she lay curled against him, her skin dewed from passion, there was still that small, cold place inside her where the heat hadn't quite reached. (Permission requested to reprint pending)
This scene--less than a page--is a great example of the scene furthering the plot. In a spare, economical way, the author combines romance with conflict. It is erotic, without being overtly graphic. And it's about the connection between the characters, the relationship.
It's why I keep reading the series.