Why ultrasensual romance?

Sex is everywhere in our culture these days. It's in our music, our movies, our books, our television. -- even the commercials.

Why shouldn't it end up in our romance stories as well?
I don't have to tell the readers here that sex has always been in our romances. From the most chaste traditional to the most sensual historical and short contemporary, romances have always explored that delicious tension that goes with true and loving sexual awakening. The outside world might think of romance writers and readers as bored housewives, asexual creatures more concerned with pretty clothes and Prince Charming than more nitty-gritty human urges. But women and men who write and read romances know sex to be a creative and procreative force , a gift and celebration of life.

If you're like me, you've looked over the years for stories that combine this life force with the sort of intense physical arousal portrayed in erotica. While love scenes in romances could be explicit, they didn't quite reach that feeling of hovering on the edge of oblivion, perhaps of doing something truly dangerous or unwise, of seeking the forbidden. If you're like me, you'd occasionally gravitate toward more frankly erotic works only to be disappointed. You might find yourself immersed in a story that treats sex as part of the human condition – and we all know how miserable that can be – rather than a part of love. You might find stories of sex as self-destruction or exploitation of other. You might find highly intellectual and literary explorations of sexuality that resolve nothing for the characters involved but leave them just as perplexed at the end of the story as they were at the beginning.

If you're like me, you'll find all these excursions unsatisfying even while you might admire the authors' skills. What I like to read is a rollicking good story where two people who love each other (even though they may not know it yet) have delicious sex. And I want to experience it with them. In other words, I want a damned good and sexy romance.

When; Or, how long has this been going on?

In December of 1995, Red Sage Publishing released the first volume of Secrets. It contained four novellas that contained all the elements of romance novels -- love story, rich characterization, conflict between hero and heroine, and happy ending -- but the stories went beyond the level of sensuality of more traditional romances. My fantasy, “The Spinner's Dream,” was in that volume of stories. In fact, it was the first story that Alexandria Kendall bought, so I like to say that I started the whole ultrasensual romance trend. (Don't write to me. I'm joking.)

Since then, we've seen an explosion of interest in romances that push the envelope of sexuality. In 1999 , Kensington released Captivated, and their big four -- Robin Schone, Thea Devine, Bertrice Small, and Susan Johnson -- showed just how elegant and compelling ultrasensual stories within the romance genre can be. Kensington is now featuring these four authors in their line called Brava.

In category, Harlequin Temptation had such success with their Blaze books that they've given those stories a line of their own. You'll soon be reading longer and more sensual stories by such authors as Janelle Dennison, Carly Phillips, Julie Kenner, Julie Elizabeth Leto, Vicki Lewis Thompson and Cathy Yardley.

E-publishing has opened new avenues for authors to explore this aspect of romance. Wonderful authors such as Nikita Black and Jaid Black offer their stories from on-line publishers. There's even a bi-lingual website in Germany for exploring women's erotica. With the success of all of these publishers, ultrasensual romance is coming into its own.

I'm happy to report that Secrets, Volume 7 will be published in December, and all the Secrets books are available in hardback from The Doubleday Book Club and the Literary Guild. By now, everyone knows about Angela Knight's delicious vampires and the awards they have won. I'm currently working on my third novella for Red Sage.

What is ultrasensual romance?

This is, perhaps, the most difficult question to answer about ultrasensual romance. People often say about erotica, "I can't tell you what it is, but I'll know it when I see it." Within this subgenre authors find a lot of freedom (hooray!) to explore what excites them and what they hope will excite readers. What floats your boat may leave me cold, and what I find delectable you may find not to your liking. It seems to me that, with individual tastes so different in this important aspect of our lives, such variation is inevitable. Let's live and let live, and maybe we'll all learn something along the way.

I do find one common aspect to most ultrasensual stories, though, and that is that they tend to have a sexy premise. The underlying energy that drives the story will be sexual. It might be a woman's sexual awakening or the lengths to which a male sex slave will go to escape his bondage, but the reader knows from the outset that this story is going to be "about" sex in a way that other romances aren't. This underlying sexual theme raises the level of sexual tension and holds it there throughout the story. Yum.

Who reads and writes ultrasensual romance?

I happen to be a 52-year-old, grey-haired lady who's been married to the same man for 22 years. I hear from lots of people, mostly women, who read this kind of story, and they seem to me to be a very varied group of people. Most of them are involved in committed, happy relationships.

I will tell you two stories of people I know who've read my Secrets novellas. One is the chief of a large department at a hospital with the HMO I work for. He bought Secrets I because he knew me as an e-mail acquaintance. He read my story and "got turned on." So, he gave it to his wife to read, and she "got turned on," too. As a result, they conceived their second child.

I thought that was pretty cool -- with me having Created Life and all (imagine Dr. Frankenstein here). But recently I heard an even more satisfying story about the power of my pen. A friend's husband suffered a debilitating stroke last December, despite the fact that he's quite a young man. Life has been a major struggle for my friend and her husband since then, as you can imagine. Among other things, my friend's husband's vision has been severely affected to the extent that at present he can't read. My friend was reading aloud to him from my second Red Sage story recently but had to stop because they "got distracted." If that force isn't creative and life-affirming, I'd like for you to tell me what is.

Where to look for ultrasensual romances?

From publishers in Canada (Harlequin), to New York (Kensington), to Connecticut (Dreams Unlimited), to Florida (Red Sage); from bookstores to book clubs to websites; from established writers to new voices just breaking in, ultrasensual romance is breaking new ground. The authors are writing delicious stories for you to savor in the privacy of your imagination while you laze in a hammock or stretch out in front of a roaring fire or entertain your lover in any number of secret places. We hope you'll sit back and enjoy this erotic journey into romance for the new millennium and beyond.

Alice Chambers
http://home.pacbell.net/halice

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