Thanks to Jessica for inviting me here today. I read and enjoyed her first book, and was delighted to see that we were both honored with awards in the HOLT Medallion contest. Her Award of Merit for Because of You was well deserved. And my second Blackthorne, Inc. book, WHERE DANGER HIDES was voted Best Romantic Suspense.

So, you write “those” books…I’m sure any romance author has heard it, clearly from someone who’s never read a romance. Yes, I do. Me, I like to think they’re about relationships. And since I write romantic suspense, my books are mysteries as well. (I wish there was a genre called “Mysteries With Relationships” because that’s where mine would fit.)

How hot is hot? If you’re a romance writer, eventually, you’re going to have to deal with that moment of relationship consummation. Will it happen after the end of the book, merely alluded to? If it happens before then, will it be behind closed doors? Or will you let the reader into the bedroom? And if you do, how much will the reader be privy to?

I let my readers follow my characters into the bedroom. But I still think my books are as firmly entrenched in the mystery genre as they are in romance. Readers aren’t as picky as publishers; they don’t mind books that straddle genres. I recall coming across a mystery review site that said they also reviewed romance, as long as there was no sex. To me, that’s like saying you’re a food critic and you review Chinese restaurants, EXCEPT any food prepared with soy sauce. But the head reviewer said they had some reviewers who would accept sex scenes.

Rather than waste anyone’s time, I snipped out the sex scenes and emailed them to him to see if they were mild enough. His response: “This is PORN.” (Tell that to my editors, who gave my books “mildly sensual” ratings!)

I’ve been places where readers will ask, “Is there sex in your books?” When I answer in the affirmative, some grin and say, “That’s great!” Others frown and walk away. I’ve had a review from a reader who said she didn’t like seeing the sex on the page and wouldn’t be reading any more of my books. (She probably sold a bunch of books for me with that comment.) The beauty of the genre is that there’s something for everyone.

However, as far as I’m concerned, it’s not really about putting sex on the page, even though I do it. By the time my characters have sex, they’ve earned it. It’s much better to show the building of the relationship, and the sexual tension. After all, we’re hard-wired for the 12 Steps to Intimacy. Skip too many steps, and it will feel “off” to the reader.

Here’s a snippet from WHERE DANGER HIDES:
Dalton closed his eyes, savoring the kiss. Miri’s lips were so soft. She tasted so sweet. And this was so wrong.
Damn! He had no business kissing her. She was a Blackthorne client, for God’s sake, and vulnerable. He didn’t take advantage of women, vulnerable or not. He tried to pull away, but his lips clung to hers as if trapped by some all-powerful magnet. He clenched the chair’s armrests because if he touched her, he might not be able to stop.
He nibbled her lip. She ran her tongue along his teeth. She made a sound somewhere between a whimper and a moan. He groaned. This was barely a kiss, yet he was rock hard. His jeans shrank half a size. Bells rang.
When Miri pulled away and bent over for her purse, he didn’t know whether to curse or give thanks. Wiping sweat from his upper lip, he did both.
As she opened her cell, she flipped her bangs, revealing tiny beads of perspiration on her forehead.
Miri answered her phone with a smile and a breathless, “Hey, Sis.”
With his back to her, he adjusted his jeans, worked at getting his breathing under control. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Terry is giving away a copy of WHERE DANGER HIDES today to one lucky commenter!

Terry Odell thought she was writing a mystery when she began her first book. Her daughters informed her it was a romance. Since she’d never read a romance, she started studying the conventions of the genre. Once she discovered romantic suspense, she knew she’d found her niche. She writes two romantic suspense series: Blackthorne, Inc., and Pine Hills Police, as well as stand alone books and several contemporary romance short stories. She’s also written her first “real” mystery—Deadly Secrets—and is working on the next book in that series. Find more about Terry and her books at http://www.terryodell.com