An Open Door Policy: Why sex scenes belong in romance by Sorcha Mowbray

There are obviously many sub-genres in romance. Some of them focus on time periods, some focus on unique skills or circumstances of the hero or heroine, others focus on locations. There are lots of options. But across all of those sub-genre choices there is another set of choices every author must make. First, will they open the bedroom door? Second, if they do, how much do they want to share?

So let’s talk about the first decision. An open door policy? What are the benefits of opening the door?


  • The reader experiences the intimacy shared between the lead characters. They see the development of the connection, and share in that growth across the story arc.
  • The reader has the chance to see and feel the chemistry that has been building throughout the story arc culminate in a potentially explosive way. They are more invested in the relationship as a result
  • The reader is titillated. Not in a cheap way. It can be thrilling to see characters experience things that the reader may never personally have a chance to.


  • The reader may be uncomfortable with this kind of intimacy in books
  • The author may not be comfortable writing this kind of intimacy
  • The story may not call for this kind of intimacy

Writing a sex scene can be a risk, especially if it is not done well. If you as an author are not comfortable with sex scenes in books, that’s ok. But, don’t consider writing one until you are.

Second decision, assuming you’ve said yes to the open door policy, is how much to share. What do I mean? I mean what heat level are you going to write? Are you going to gloss over some of the details and evoke a more sensual encounter, or are you going to label all the parts and get down to the nitty gritty, as it were?

For this question, I’d say there is no risk-benefit analysis. This answer is driven by a few key things.

  1. Are you as an author comfortable using/reading certain words? If you can’t even read the words in other people’s books, they don’t belong in yours.
  2. What do your characters think? If your heroine is a soft-spoken young woman who has had little experience and is very shy, it would be awkward to see every graphic detail described in a sex scene unless it is part of her character arc and indicative of her personal growth. So listen to your characters!
  3. What sub-genre of romance are you writing? Are you writing erotic romance? Then fire up the after burners!

Wait, have you always wondered what the difference is between erotic romance and spicy romance? Isn’t it the same? Not so much. In general romance can be defined a book that focuses primarily on the romantic relationship of the main characters. See, that doesn’t mean the sexual relationship. It means the emotional relationship. And that emotional connection may or may not be demonstrated through physical affection in a romance. Hence whole sub-genres like inspirational romance, sweet romance, and even Amish romance.

Erotic Romances are novels in which strong, often explicit, sexual interaction is an inherent part of the love story, character growth and relationship development and could not be removed without damaging the storyline.

Now, if you are going to have sexual intimacy as part of your romance, then they need to be key scenes to the story regardless of sub-genre. The reader shouldn’t be able to skip the sex scenes, but especially in erotic romance.

Hold the phone. So what’s the difference between erotic romance and erotica? This is not always as clear for some readers. Erotica is a story were explicit sexual interaction is an inherent part of one or more character’s journey, but where romance may, or may not, be present. Often times it isn’t. The character learns something about themselves through the sexual experience, but that does not equate to falling in love.

As a result of all this, I am an open door author. I believe that sexual intimacy is a key part of any romantic relationship in real life and therefore it belongs in fictional romance stories as well. So whether I’m writing erotic romance or just spicy romance, it all has an open bedroom door. Humans are most vulnerable when they let their guards down in private moments. Where best to show that than in the bedroom? It doesn’t mean sex has to be explicit, but it should allow the characters a chance to be vulnerable and open…which can lead anywhere. Even to falling in love.

[box] Join Sorcha for her workshop, Pumping Up the Sexual Volume: Writing Sex Scenes that Sizzle starting July 18th.

Have you ever read your sex scenes and thought, eh? Do you pick up other author’s books and wish you could write those scorching hot love scenes? Maybe you just want to turn up the sexual heat a notch or two in your own writing? Then this is the class for you.

In Pumping Up The Sexual Volume multi-published erotic romance author, Sorcha Mowbray, reveals how to develop a sex scene step by step, provides tools to accomplish just that, and even answers some naughty questions along the way.

Once this class is done you should be able to write sizzling hot love scenes that include:
• Simmering sexy kisses
• Ovation worthy oral sex
• Mind boggling intercourse

And it will all be done with purpose. This class is lecture/discussion based, so get your fingers warmed up for questions and your muses ready and raring to go!

CAUTION: This course is about sex. Graphic language WILL be used and the instructor may discuss sexual acts that you personally are uncomfortable with. Everyone has their comfort zone. Sorcha will keep the discussion on topic and pertinent to the class, but if you write inspirational or sweet romances—this is not the class for you. Consider yourself warned.


[box type=”bio”]

Sorcha Mowbray is a mild mannered office worker by day…okay, so she is actually a mouthy, opinionated, take charge kind of gal who bosses everyone around; but she definitely works in an office. At night she writes romance so hot she sets the sheets on fire! Just ask her slightly singed husband.

She is a longtime lover of historical romance, having grown up reading Johanna Lindsey and Judith McNaught. Then she discovered Thea Devine and Susan Johnson. Holy cow! Heroes and heroines could do THAT? From there, things devolved into trying her hand at writing a little smexy. Needless to say, she liked it and she hopes you do too!




The Market Series
Amour Press
Release Date: 7/19/2016

Note: All three titles have been previously published, but never as a complete set.

Love Revealed
When Lord Raymond Tarkenton, the Earl of Heathington realizes that his masked lover and Lady Katherine Drummond are one and the same, he must find a way to convince her that they are bound together by more than the straps at her wrists and the contract they signed. He must reveal himself and his love to her. But will she accept him for more than a sexual escape.

Love Redeemed
Serena Freemont has only ever known the life of a prostitute. When an invitation to dinner by a handsome gentleman, Brennan Whitling, provides her an opportunity to experience life as a young lady, it’s too tempting to pass up. Much like the man issuing it. After a night of passion she must disappear or face his reaction when the truth is revealed. To find happiness Serena must shed her past long enough to realize she is worthy of a future. To win her heart, Brennan must show her the redemptive power of love.

Love Reclaimed
Resolved to prove to Jonathan Pierce, Baron Heartfield that she is not in need of saving, nor is she an appropriate wife, Madame Marie Marchander agrees to take him as a lover for six months. Steadfast in his love, he launches an assault on her heart with all the strategy his years in the military afford him. His only goal, to reclaim her love.









RJ Garside is the wearer of many hats. She's the proud momma of three devilishly adorable little boys. Mature student extraordinaire. By day, she can ...