Westerns, Sex & Romance By Kaki Warner

Hi folks.  Kaki Warner here, come to chat with you about SEX—more or less.

Is it just me, or is there less explicit sex in western historical romances than in other genres?

Maybe it’s just the ones I pick up, but it seems more and more western romances dwell on the romance of the thing, rather than the mechanics of the thing.  Is this a pattern?  Or has it always been that way?  Look at some of the great western romance writers—Jodi Thomas, Mary Connealy, Debbie Macomber, Linda Lael Miller, and others I can’t remember right now, in addition to the fabulous authors on this website.  Seems most of their stories are more character-driven than sex-driven.   I wonder why?

Perhaps because the archetype of the western hero is so firmly ingrained in our minds that to reduce him to just a roll in the hay (even though he might be the world’s best at it), diminishes the myth of the cowboy somehow.   

Or, perhaps because the Old West and the people who inhabited it—in real life and in fiction—are part of our shared history and have become almost like extended family.  And if so, do you truly want to watch from behind the curtain when family members are bucking the bronc, so to speak?

I don’t.  The minute I started writing Book I of the Blood Rose Trilogy, PIECES OF SKY, the characters became my family.  And even though the mismatched romance between a hard-bitten rancher caught in a blood feud (Brady) and a pregnant English hat maker (Jessica) is central to the story, I wanted to put equal emphasis on other aspects of their characters—past mistakes, regrets, fears as well as desires, not to mention the hardships of living in a harsh place (New Mexico Territory) during hard times (1868).  They had a lot to overcome to earn their HEA, and sex was only part of it.

 The same with Book 2, OPEN COUNTRY, when Brady’s brother, Hank, awakens after a train derailment to find himself married to a stranger (Molly), the father of two children he’s never met, and embroiled in a post Civil War conspiracy.  Dropping a rope on his reluctant wife was only half of his problem.  It wasn’t always a tiptoe through the sagebrush back then.  Those were tough times, and there was more going on than wardrobe choices and getting the heroine in bed.  (OK.  I could be wrong there.  Men haven’t changed that much.)  Even so, how many times do we need detailed instructions on how to fit tab B into slot A?

Relax.  There’s plenty of killing and cussing in my books, so I’m not a complete prude.  A realist, perhaps.  And maybe too visual, because the thought of watching two people I care about roll around in the hay makes me itch.  And seriously…how many of you could write a graphic sex scene without bursting into raucous laughter?  There’s something about a man’s bare bouncing butt—well, never mind. 

So.  How necessary are graphic sex scenes in western historical romance?  Do you prefer closed doors or open doors?  Do you find yourself skimming TO, or THROUGH the sex scenes?  Leave a comment and your name will be entered into a drawing for a sensual-but-non-sexually graphic copy of PIECES OF SKY and/or OPEN COUNTRY.  Thanks for dropping by, and especially thanks to PETTICOATS & PISTOLS for inviting a nearly almost semi-famous western romance author to stop in today.

Guest Blogger

49 Comments

  1. Kaki, I’m glad your here. These sound great. I’m feeling lucky today and would love to read these.

  2. Kaki,
    Interesting nickname. How’d you get it?
    As for sex, I prefer the lead them to the door and then close it. But then I write inspirational!

  3. BTW, your covers are gorgeous!

  4. Your books sound very interesting. I will look for them at the books store!

  5. Western Romance is deeper than sex. Historical Western Romance is my favorite genre. I love westerns of all kinds. Being a Southerner, I also love Civil War romances and stories set in the South. However, for me, nothing beats a western in its purest form. By that, I mean a stalwart cowboy and his lady, the land, and the life. When a cowboy truly loves, he loves with all his heart, forever. His woman is as cherished as his values, his “cowboy code of honor”. Not always in words, but in deep, deep feelings. Feelings as true as the blue of a Texas bluebonnet. The level of eroticism in any romance is determined by the characters, the story line and the skill of the writer. I read both “heart with heat” and “heat with heart”, and I read many different genres. No matter what I am reading, I look for well-developed, involving characters and an interesting, detailed story line. I never skim or skip through a book once I settle in for a read. I enjoy Historical Romance written in a variety of time frames, settings, genres and sensual content. As I have “gently matured”, I have broken out of my “fiction reading box” and ventured into reads with a higher sensual content. I have been both pleasantly surprised and greatly disappointed. I love to read romantic fiction, and some of the reads are more sensual than others. However, I am not interested in a “sex book” with a romantic premise. That is never my choice, but I know that it is a popular choice for others. That’s fine, as long as the book is marketed for what it is and not promoted in a misleading manner in order to reach the mass market. I am collecting your wonderful “Blood Rose Trilogy”. I have “Pieces of Sky”, and I would love to win “Open Country” : )

  6. I enjoy reading historical fiction/romance that isn’t to romantic-I’m fine with a man and woman kissing once they’ve realized they are meant for each other, not the “let’s go for a roll in the hay and I don’t love you concept.”
    —I’m sure I would love reading your Blood Rose Trilogy. They look like something I would really enjoy.

  7. Hi Kaki! I thoroughly enjoyed your post. You hit the nail on the head re: westerns and love. I can go either way with love scenes. The main thing is the relationship between the h/h. Westerns don’t emphasis the “what”, i.e., love scenes. They emphasize the who and the why.

    P.S. Your book covers are positively gorgeous!

  8. Thanks for the warm welcome, folks. This is such a fun site with so many talented authors, I’m delighted to be on the same screen. Goldie and Cathy, I appreciate the interest and the kind words. Good luck on winning a book! As for the nickname, Lyn, I came by it through my brother, who was 2 when I was born and couldn’t manage the “th” in Kathy. Been stuck with it ever since. And Virginia-WOW. What a great comment–“Western romance is deeper than sex.” That says it much better than my long post. And you’re right. Thank you so much for your wonderful insights.

  9. Kaki,
    Great post!

    I am a fan of “yes, they do it but lets leave the slap-happy details up to the reader’s imagination”.

    I’m much more interested in the story, and the characters, then how their heaving breasts and pulsing rods strain against their clothes…give me another subplot or storyline instead!

    Your book Pieces of Sky was wonderful and I’d love a chance to win Open Country.

    Christi Corbett

  10. Avatar

    You hit a hot button here. It seems sex in books is becoming more graphic all the time. Where it used to be “He kissed her tenderly and led her to the bedroom. Next morning….” We now have 4 pages of details. No thanks. When it gets to that point, get a room and shut the door. We are adults and know what is going on behind the door. I have no desire to watch. If you don’t know what goes on behind the door, chances are you are too young and don’t need to know anyway.
    I am reading the books for the story. The relationships in that story are important and need to be developed. Often sex is part of that relationship, but we don’t have to be part of it. They are turning our nice romances into soft porn and that is not what I want to read. If I did, I would buy a different genre.
    Lets keep the sex where it belongs. Let those loving relationships develop and flourish. Let us see the love and affection. I want my family and friends to know I love my husband, but they don’t have to watch me do it. Same with the characters in the book.
    I have PIECES OF SKY and look forward to reading OPEN COUNTRY and CHASING THE SUN when it comes out.

  11. Victoria and Lyn–I agree about the covers. Since authors have no say in what goes on the front of their books, you can imagine how thrilled I was when I saw what Berkley came up with. Not very “romancy”, but then I’m not a traditional romance writer, so they fit perfectly with my stories. Amy and Christi, I’m with you about the “slap-happy” details. Although, really, it’s whatever works with your characters that’s important. My next series is a little more traditional, but hopefully maintains the same tone as this trilogy. We’ll see. But, be assured, Christi, there will be no “heaving breasts” or “pulsating rods”–on humans, anyway.

  12. Hi Kaki. Welcome to Wildflower Junction. Enjoyed your blog. Love “roll in the hay (even though he might be the world’s best at it)”. You covers are beautiful. I agree totally that some things should be left to the imagination. I have a whole lot more fun writing around the subject of sex; scenes that are sexually suggestive (I love to use sexually suggestive words) and add to the sexual tension but without blossoming bosoms and manhood. When we first began the “Give Me” collections, we had to decide what degree of sexuality we wanted. It ended up being a very easy decision, as none of us write sexually explicit scenes for the most. Thanks for joining P&P for the day! Hugs from Texas, Phyliss

  13. Great hearing from a fellow Texan, Phyliss! (Even though I’ve been in the Great Northwest for over thrity years, I’m still a Texan at heart.) And what an active bunch of bosoms we have here–heaving and blossoming and whatnot. Those rascals! But you’re right: the build-up to the bedroom is much more interesting than the nuts and screws(oops!–bolts)of the thing. Besides, sex is inherently funny. Seriously. Think about it.

  14. I love reading stories set in the West and let’s face it, they have sex there too. I do like to use my imagination so don’t need really descriptive sex scenes. I read a story because of the setting, the characters and how they interact and the storyline.
    Your books sound really good and I have added them to my TBR list.

  15. Hi Kaki, nice to see you here. To me the sex scenes are not that important in a well writen book and if there is to much sex I tend to skim over it in a book.

    I will have to say I have read both of your books and they are awesome. They where the best books that I have read in the past year, so you are at the top of my list. To everyone else if you have not read Pieces of Sky and Open Country, you have to get them. They are awesome reads and will keep you up all night reading. I can’t wait for the next one in the series. I just can’t recommend them enough!

  16. Hi Kaki, welcome to the Junction! I’m so excited that you’re blogging with us. I’ve become a huge fan of yours. You hooked and reeled me in with “Pieces of Sky” and I couldn’t wait for “Open Country.” I just finished Open Country last night and what a thrilling ending to a perfect romance. Hank and Molly were exceptional characters. I love the realism in which you write. There’s just no sugar-coating the way life was in the old west. It was hard and circumstances often harsh. Love the gritiness to your stories. Your writing reminds me a lot of Larry McMurtry. I’d love to see movies made from your books. And I really believe you’ll win a RITA one day.

    I’m glad you don’t write explicit sex scenes because I always skip over them. I don’t think they add anything much to the love story. I think readers mainly want a good story with great characters.

    I wish you much success.

  17. I enjoyed this lovely post today and your books look appealing. Historical Westerns have alwasy appealed to me for their uniqueness, the characters and the locale. Sex scenes do not have to be explicit but the interaction between the characters are more meaningful.

  18. BTW, I can’t wait for Jack’s story in “Chasing the Sun.” And then I’ll be interested in seeing the new series you’ve come up with.

  19. Kaki, those covers are lovely! I don’t object to sex scenes in a book if they’re tastefully written, not overly long (come on, folks, 4-5 pages??)and most importantly, if character development and relationship development comes first. If the bedroom door is closed, I’m okay with that, too. The story is what matters.

  20. I absolutely loved Pieces of Sky and can’t wait to read Open Country next!

    As for sex scenes in historicals… I’m an open door reader, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate a beautiful romance with the absence of open door sex. I read the sex scenes, because if an author is good, they will forward the bond and relationship between the hero and heroine, and to skip them would mean missing out on huge communication. I don’t really care for gratuitous sex scenes, unless I’m reading a book specifically for that (and yes, I occasionally do that!)

  21. Your books sound like something I would very much like to read. Enjoyed your blog and I am stll laughing and having the mental image of the bouncing bare butt. I will look for your books and definately read them.

  22. Your covers are beautiful. Your books sound like I need to put them on my must read list. Of course I hope I’m picked as a winner but if not I will definately buy them.
    CathyAnn

  23. Readers! Yea! Thank you Lori, Quilt Lady and Linda–you’ve made my day! And good point, Joye; sex is part of life, western and otherwise, and should definitely be part of the story, especially in a romance. And Mary J and Ruth and Jennie, I agree that graphic scenes or not, the developing relationship between the H/H is the most important part of the story. As for explicit scenes, they’re fine, too, but probably shouldn’t take longer to read than the act they’re describing. Unless the guy’s on meds or trying for a page in Ripley’s. I’m just saying.

  24. Well, Kaki you already know I loved the first two books. Sigh!

    I think sex scenes are like anything else. If they seem like they are stuck in the story for the obligatory roll in the hay or if they repeat over and over, I get irritated. I read everything from inspirational with its own rules to books on the other end of the spectrum. It is all in how the writer writes the characters and story. I love my inspirationals and don’t miss the sex because of the writers’ talent. I love the love scenes that are done well, so long as it isn’t just about the deed which again is thanks to wonderful writing.

    Can’t wait til #3, Jack’s story. What is the new series about and what does “more traditional” mean:-)?

    Peace, Julie

  25. Love the covers of your books. I shall add them to my list of books I want to read. As for the sex in any book, I find I can skip reading it and still know what is happening so find it unessasary for all the sex to be there. I figure that my imagination works just fine. I will be watching for your books.

  26. what awesome covers;

    I like the open door and when they are in close the door. A little cuddling, kissing is fine.

  27. hi kaki!
    thanks for coming by…love your covers and checked out your books –will be adding them to my tbr list…looks like you have some devoted fans out there 🙂

    as for the sex….it depends…i read romance for the romance…and if i wanted porn..i’d buy that…but a well written sex scene can really enhance the relationship between a man and woman….sometimes you can learn a lot about a person by how they are in the bedroom …and though more often than not–the sex scenes turn me off (goofy names for body parts and bad images racing through my mind) if it’s done right it can make me fall in love with the characters even more
    i guess it depends on the story and how it fits…some characters are more private people and reading about their time in the bedroom would be out of place…but in other stories if they just faded to black you’d feel like you missed out on something…
    so for me, a written well and right for the situation i’m happy with both door open and shut
    i give credit to authors who handle it gracefully either way…lord knows i couldn’t make any of it sound nice, lol

    ps–thanks for offering up one of your books too!

  28. Interesting points, Kaki.

    A shout out to Julie,lori,Linda and quilt lady as I too adore Kaki’s books! Can’t wait for the third! Kaki’s books are the rare ones that I read as slow as possible to savor them,’cause as a writer . . . frankly I’ve become a LOT pickier and won’t waste my time on books that aren’t very good, so that narrows the field quite a bit for me.

    Re sex in westerns. . . perhaps it’s more “appropriate” for there to be less given the historicalness or the setting? Yes, Kaki, I know I made up that word. Just for you.

    While, personally, I think less is more. And once I started writing sex scenes, I HEARTILY endorsed that philosophy ’cause it was very tough for me. Torturing people comes more easily to me .

    Anyhow, some of the SEXIEST sex scenes I’ve read, the authors are MASTERS at characterization and the sensual setup, so much so that I’m well satisfied without details. Besides, details make me feel a bit like a voyeur. And that makes me uncomfortable.

    The reality is, if the characters aren’t really well done, I could care less about the sex they’re having. It’s like a one-night stand. Emotionless. More like physical sport. Only not as enjoyable ’cause in sex-sport, there should be a strong emotional component–at least on a woman’s side.

    Make sense?

  29. For me, sex is all about feelings and emotions. When it breaks down into an anatomy lesson, there is no feeling and no emotion. I got stopped dead in my tracks the other day by a 16th c. French prince thinking about his ‘pre-come”–really! If authors (myself included) are going to describe the act, it has to be not slot A-tab B, but how each touch makes the character–and maybe the reader–feel.

    Thanks for the offer! I can’t wait to get to Molly and Hank!

  30. Again, thanks for the kudos on the covers, Robyn, Connie and Cathy Ann. I’ll be sure to pass them along to the art department at Berkley.

    Julie–good question. I guess by more traditional I mean more focused on the relationship. In the first trilogy, the Wilkins ranch was almost a character within itself. Brady was so duty-bound to the land he almost lost the woman he loved because of it. To Hank, the ranch was another problem to solve–the only way of life he knew. And Jack spent half his life trying to get away from it only to realize it’s all part of who he is. This new series is more focused on women–who, by nature, are more focused on relationships. A man defines himself by what he does: A woman, by who she loves. We’ll see how it goes.

    And Tabitha–how well you put it–good writing will set it up, and the characters will take it from there. I like that idea. All you ladies are brilliant!

  31. I enjoy the journey through a book that the characters take… the romance, but it does not need to have graphic sex… I love when emotions are envolved but I do not need it to have a play by play…

  32. Two more writers heard from–what a fabulous group! “Sex-sport”, “pre-come”…I’m learning a lot here. But those are great insights, Theresa and Sarah. Characterization and emotional components, rather than complex anatomy lessons. As writers you know how hard it is to create the right balance between enhancing the characterization and trivializing your story by focusing too much on what “sells”.

  33. For me characterization comes first and foremost. If I don’t care for the characters then no plot can save it. I don’t need the sex to be explicit although I will still read it if it’s there lol. The older I get, the less I care to read about it lol.

  34. I was just telling a friend of mine how it seems like more and more the historical western romances that I’m seeing are on the “inspirational” side of things. Not, (to quote Seinfeld), that there’s anything wrong with that. I mean it makes sense if you think about it – can you imagine the faith these people who settled that part of our country had to have (not even just in a higher power but over all)???

    That said, I’m a gal who likes sex and more often than not, I like having it in the romances that I read and write. I write historical western and there’s sex in my stories. Not horribly graphic but I’m also not leaving a whole lot to the imagination either. That’s not to say that I will refuse to read a story where the sex is happening behind closed doors – there are cases where that can be just as sexy as all out erotica. For me it’s about the point in time where the hero and heroine have fallen for each other, trust each other and want to demonstrate that love and trust. If those two things aren’t there (say the hero and heroine are getting it on 3 paragraphs after they meet) then the sex is just empty and doesn’t work for me. There has to be a reason for it and it has to move the story along.

    The truly great thing about romance is that there really is something for everyone and I think that’s true for even our little niche of the romance universe. I admire all the authors of my genre; sex or no sex, you’ve all set the bar very high indeed!

  35. I’ve read some really great Westerns that didn’t have lurid sex scenes…I don’t think they are necessary…we can use our imagination….If I wanted to read sexy stories I’d look somewhere else besides in the Western section of the bookstore.

  36. I don’t need graphic sex scenes to get the gist of the story or to enjoy it.

  37. Wow! What great comments. Colleen M, you are so right–this genre really does have it all, and how great for us that it does! And thanks Colleen, Catslady, Jackie and Estella for adding your vote on the open/closed door question. We’ve got a diverse group here, but it seems we all agree that the characters and plot are a lot more important than how detailed the sex scenes are. Which begs the question…how graphic do you want the covers to be? Do you prefer people on the covers (dressed, undressed, in a clinch, in a western scene)–or panoramic vistas–or cozy farmhouses–or inviting little towns–or galloping horses–or what? The western genre has all that and more. So what makes you pick a book off the shelf?

  38. Hi Kaki! Thanks for being here because I think I’ve just discovered a new author to read. If your books are as gritty and realistic as everyone is saying, then I’m in! I always loved Maggie Osborne because of her gritty heroines.

    I blame the publishers for the direction toward the more erotic Westerns and everything else, really, have gone. Several years ago, when I was shopping my western around NY, I got the same response over and over again. “Turn up the heat!” I turned it up as much as my comfort level would allow, but they still wanted more.

    Having said that, I’m with those who’ve said the heat level depends on the characters and the story requirements. But I draw the line at graphic and gratuitous. A love scene should impact the story or the characters GMC in some way.

    Again, nice to meet you! I’ll be checking out your books asap. Those covers are gorgeous!

  39. Kaki,
    Welcome to the Junction! I’m so glad you’re here.

    “…the people who inhabited it—in real life and in fiction—are part of our shared history and have become almost like extended family. And if so, do you truly want to watch from behind the curtain when family members are bucking the bronc, so to speak?”

    You hit the nail on the head! The characters I write are real people–at least to me–and peaking around that curtain seems wrong somehow.

  40. And add me to the ‘if you haven’t read Pieces of Sky, GET IT!’ It’s wonderful. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

  41. Lovely covers! I haven’t read any of your books.
    but I will soon correct that!

    As to the subject of the day, I don’t need to be
    led into the bedroom to know what’s going on! Let
    me use my imagination! Let the characters celebrate
    their love gently, sweetly, and on their own terms.
    No audience, no judges, no scores! I don’t want to know if they rate a 2 or a 10!

    Pat Cochran

  42. Thank you, Tracy. I’m glad you liked it. These Wilkins brothers have been in my head for so long they truly are family.

    And Devon, I’m sorry you came up against such near-sighted marketing. For that same reason I thought my stuff would never sell. But luckily I found an agent who would actually read the story, and an editor who accepted it, as is.

    I’m pushing against my own comfort level with the new series, but that’s what the story calls for and the characters want (those naughty things!)so I’ll plow through. But I assure you I have no rampant bosoms, or throbbing whatevers, so it won’t be too bad. I have smart readers. I’ll let their imaginations fill in the blank spots.

  43. I think it all depends on the story and what the author chooses to show. There’s no need to show everything that’s happening between a couple as long as the transition to the next scene doesn’t feel abrupt.

  44. about the covers….
    overall i like tasteful covers…i have these books laying around my house with kids running around and i hate feeling like i have to “hide” what i’m reading or explain to my husband
    i really like pretty horse scenes most
    and rugged cowboys 🙂
    i also like some pretty pictures of women
    i really enjoy karen kay’s covers..though they are a little racier…they aren’t cheesy
    i guess it’s the cheesy factor i don’t like (and maybe it’s more the older books i have read than the new)
    i can’t say there has ever been a post on here with a cover i didn’t like….so..there i am again…open to many options, lol

    ps–i never knew authors did not get to choose their own covers
    i would be horrified if i wrote a gosh darn whole book and then didn’t get to pick the cover

  45. Tabitha, once a book is sold to a publisher they have full control–title, cover, how it’s marketed, sometimes even the names of the characters. I’ve been really lucky. Any changes in title have been a group effort that everyone signed off on–me, agent, editor, art department. And covers and back jacket text are always sent to me for “approval”, although I’d better have a darn good reason for non-approval. I’ve been really fortunate, too, in that only one book in the trilogy required minor revisions, and the other two went straight to copy editing as soon as I sent it in.

  46. Hi Kaki I like many believe you need a little passion and sex in a true romance. As someone remarked cowboys love with all their heart well I believe that would include passion . I am not saying erotica but in my opinion sex scenes make the people more realistic because lets face it behind the door or opened it is occurring. Behind the door closed off is not what reading is about in my opinion . The writer is trying to describe the story to you in minut detail often times so why stop at the door and leave it to the imagination some of you might feel this is the way it should be done well if thats the case close the book and just daydream . If you love romance novels you already are a great daydreamer!! Looking forward to reading your books.

  47. I loved “Pieces of Sky” and I will be purchasing “Open Sky” as soon as finances allow. The handling of the sex between Brady and Jessica was perfect. I was on edge waiting for it. I love hot steamy scenes but in realistic doses and NORMAL sex. I loved the slowly ripening of their relationship and felt my heart warm as Brady fell in love with Jessica and her baby (Whatever his name)

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