Satisfy Me, Baby


Interracial coupleBy Elizabeth Shore

You know how it is when you’ve just finished, and you lay back in the bed feeling completely satisfied, expel a contended sigh, and think to yourself, “Wow. That was great.”

Then you close the pages of the book you’ve just read and ponder what you’ll read next. (what? did you think I was talking about something else?) 😉

Writers know what gives us book satisfaction when we’re producing our own material. We like how the characters turn out, when our pacing is smart and snappy, when our dialogue is realistic, when our prose flows like a river. But what about readers? What makes a reader feel deeply satisfied at the conclusion of a book versus howling with indignity and slamming it against the wall?

An important determination in the quest for book satisfaction is what exactly we’re trying to get out of the book. Readers of erotic romance, presumably, read it because they like the turn on they get from a hot book. They experience their own arousal through the characters, they enjoy reading explicit details of the sexual encounters as the romance progresses. I know reader friends who’ve told me that they use erotic romances as a way to spice up their sex lives with their spouses or lovers. So if a reader is left unsatisfied by an erotic romance, does it mean the sex scene were no good?

We all remember – while cringing, no doubt – the era of purple prose sex descriptions. How many books have we all read about the hero thrusting his love lance into her fiery honey pot? Nowadays readers expect better writing, and they get it. They also expect their sex scenes to be hotter, longer, and more varied. Writers deliver that, too. Erotic romances run the gamut from traditional m/f same race couples to gay couples, paranormal couples, interracial couples, ménage, BDSM, orgies, and everything in between. Yet readers, in the words of the Rolling Stones, still sometimes say:

I can’t get no satisfaction,
I can’t get no girly action.
‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try.
I can’t get no, I can’t get no.

Rolling Stones

Mick and the boys – they look happy, but sometimes they’re just not satisfied.

Sometimes I think that an unsatisfactory book can honestly be attributed to a reader just not being in the right mood when they read it. Years ago I tried reading Frederick Forsyth’s Day of the Jackal. I read maybe twenty pages but couldn’t get into it. I’d heard it was good, but thought maybe it just wasn’t for me. Later on I tried again. Same result. It ended up taking me four tries before I could finally get into it, but to this day it remains one of my favorite books ever. It was, as reviewers often say, “a very satisfying read.”

The truth is, no matter how much we try to analyze the reasons behind why a book fails to please, emotion often trumps logic. It’s like romance and love itself. Why the hell are we falling for the bad boy when the upstanding, straight-laced, hard-working fatherly type would be a much better, more logical choice? Maybe so, but our emotional pull goes without reason or sense to the bad boy. He never fails to satisfy. 🙂

When do you find yourself unsatisfied by a book? Is there a base need that fails to get met, or are there any number of reasons why a book may leave you high and dry? Comment below and be sure to follow . . . ’cause here at Lady Smut, we aim to please.

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11 Comments

  • johncoyote
    November 6, 2013 at 1:41 am

    I agree with your logic. A book must take you to good places and allow you to escape.

    • Elizabeth Shore
      November 6, 2013 at 9:26 am

      Hi John! Thanks for stopping by. I love it, too, when I can dive into a book and forget the daily grind. Nothing like being transported to a great place for a few hours.

  • Madeline Iva
    November 6, 2013 at 7:49 am

    Frankly, I need some form of tension. If the guy and the woman are in a room, and they can just go at it as they please, my bones holler that this is not really a romance. Something’s got to be at stake. If they do and if they don’t must have a larger meaning for me than just sex. It’s never just about the sex for me.

    I think that’s why I like paranormals and historicals so much. The sex often counts. But I also love a great suspense novel where major trust issues are at stake between here and heroine. Can they trust each other? Having sex becomes this tally of how much they’re letting their guard down.

    Great post, Elizabeth!

  • Misty Dietz
    November 6, 2013 at 8:05 am

    I’m with Madeline. For me, if there isn’t strong character motivations for their actions, the book falls flat. I’m always asking, “but WHY?” Why can’t they just walk away from each other when the going gets tough? Why is this the woman he can’t live without? Why is he the man she would walk through fire for? Why would this character risk a violent death at the hands of a vampire to save a stranger? Like Madeline said… stakes. It’s what makes me believe anything else a writer throws in the story. 🙂

    • Elizabeth Shore
      November 6, 2013 at 9:33 am

      TOTALLY with both of you. One of the most UNsatisfying romances for me is when the “tension” created in the book could be resolved in a two-sentence conversation, yet that simple thing doesn’t happen. You want to yell at the characters and shake some sense into their thick heads. When the entire premise is based on a simple misunderstanding, the book is toast for me.

  • Author Charmaine Gordon
    November 6, 2013 at 9:53 am

    No miss for you, Ms. Shore; you’ve scored another hit with this post. I dislike gratuitous sex in a story. It must have meaning more than one more orgasm. Conflict and tension throughout the story keeps me turning pages. Re: The Day of the Jackal, excellent book and the movie-amazing!

    • Elizabeth Shore
      November 6, 2013 at 10:25 am

      Why, thank you, Ms. Charmaine. 🙂

      I agree with you about the gratuitous sex. Romance is first, and then the sex that goes along with it. Lots and lots of sex is a-ok by me, but it’s all gotta be tied back to the romance.

  • elfahearn
    November 6, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    You all trumped me–I find it unbearable when all the H/H had to do was admit the truth or take two seconds to talk it over. Makes me crazy. And honestly, I find so many sex scenes sometimes get in the way of the plot. I ofen skip them altogether. EVERYTHING needs motivation!

    • Elizabeth Shore
      November 6, 2013 at 5:28 pm

      Those silly misunderstandings make me absolutely crazy! Turns a book into a wallbanger FOR SURE.

  • LizEverly
    November 6, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    I agree with everything you are all saying. But I also find my mood plays a lot into what hooks me as a good read. Some times I just can’t into a book and set it aside and years later, I pick it up and love it. I also think that the book I’ve just finished counts against or for the next book. If it was really good and I’ve lost myself to that world, it will take me awhile to find another book.

    • Elizabeth Shore
      November 6, 2013 at 5:22 pm

      Absolutely! I find that to be the only downside of a really fabulous book. It’s hard to get in the mood sometimes for the next one. And I’m the same way, Liz. What I read, and find satisfying, really depends on my mood. It can alter a book a lot. It’s kind of like when I’m walking to work and trying to figure out what to listen to on my iPod. I might be in the mood for some hard rock, but then again maybe I’m more in the mood for Mozart. Just depends . . .

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