Learning About Submissive Heroes in Romance by Wendy LaCapra


[Note from Frolic: We are so excited to have author Wendy LaCapra guest post on the site today. Take it away Wendy!]

Every year, the Literary Review holds an annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award. According to the Literary Review’s website, the “Bad Sex in Fiction Award has honored the year’s most outstandingly awful scene of sexual description in an otherwise good novel.”

Yes, yes, laugh at the sex scenes. (Note that this prize never includes romances or erotic literature.) In other words, the award pokes fun at authors who write sex poorly, while making clear that sex-positive books, in all their richness and complexity, are not up for consideration.

Sex-positive books are necessary. Being sex-positive is one of the things romance does best.

As a writer of romance, I take great care in crafting physical intimacy that is deeply connected to the point of view characters involved. It’s not enough to describe the details in a sex scene—what’s important to me is answering the questions: “Why these people? How will this make them more vulnerable? How will it bring them strength? What will they be open (or closed) to afterwards?

The emotional stakes are astronomical in every sex scene I include. A reader saying, “I could not skim the sex scenes,” is paying me the highest compliment I can imagine.

The messy, complicated, embarrassing, vulnerability of sex is why I write romance. Because, while there’s plenty of sex in our entertainment these days, nuance is where we tend to mess up as a society. Vulnerability is where we balk.

Which brings me around to the impetus behind my latest historical romance, Heart’s Desire.

While attending a session with my local RWA chapter, the presenter raised the topic of submissive heroes. My instant reaction: I could never write a ‘submissive’ hero. My next thought: why not?

So I set about researching submissive men. I learned a lot. Of course there isn’t inherent weakness in submission, any more than there is inherent strength in domination. Shared kink takes communication. Fearless self-examination. And freedom from inhibitions that confine.

The hero of Heart’s Desire is on the mild end of the submissive scale (there’s no pain involved in his interactions with the heroine), but the most important thing to him is the heroine’s pleasure. They create a unique, intimate world when they enter into power exchange.  

“Ladies have command of the drawing room. Why do you think men escape to clubs?”

“Don’t even begin to tell me men are afraid of women.”

“Most are,” he answered. “Afraid. Angry. Completely unaware of what they want or how to get it.”

“And you?” She arched that lovely brow.

Ah. That look. “I’m not angry.”


“Anymore.” It would have been entirely improper to adjust his falls. He leaned on the table instead. “I didn’t come here to play billiards. I came to negotiate.”

“Oh?” She drew her bottom lip between her teeth.

Ah well, he’d known she wouldn’t play fair.

Earlier, he’d fumed his way back to his bedchamber because he’d been sure he’d done everything he could. Just to be certain, he’d made a mental list—he’d shown respect, sensual deference, even allowed her to set the pace…

That’s when he suddenly understood.

Allowed. Allowed.

That was the source of her distress. No matter how much of himself he gave, the very structure of Society would always favor him. If he was to convince her they could have a mutually happy future, he needed to give her more time.

More experience.

“It isn’t fair for me to demand everything of you.” He spoke to her lips.

“But you are going to demand, aren’t you?”

He smiled faintly. “I said negotiate, not capitulate. But I am willing to explore those contradictions without asking you to make promises.”

“And what do you wish for in exchange?”

“Honesty. Fearlessness. We’ll have to discuss things most people can barely speak about. It will be embarrassing. Scary. But, if we do trust each other, it will also be,”—he placed his hand on the small of her back—“very exciting.”

Sex is primal.

Sex is individual.

Sex is complicated.

As the romance genre continues to expand, it will continue to encompass all experiences on the spectrum of sexuality–fearlessly.

Here’s to fearlessness. Here’s to great sex. Here’s to working our way through vulnerabilities with honesty and openness.

Author Note: If, perchance, submissive heroes are your jam (and even if they aren’t, but you want to read some smashing romance) I wholeheartedly recommend The Duke I Tempted by Scarlett Peckham (F/M, Histroical), Shadowheart by Laura Kinsale (F/M, historical), and The Master will Appear by LA Witt (M/M, Contemporary). For further reading, check out these Goodreads lists https://www.goodreads.com/genres/submissive-hero  and https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/submissive-hero.

About the Author:

Wendy LaCapra writes historical romance with fresh characters and great sex. She has been reading romance since she sneaked into the adult section at the library and discovered Victoria Holt & Jane Aiken Hodge. From that point on, she dreamed of creating fictional worlds with as much richness, intrigue and passion as she found within those books. Her stories have placed in several contests, including the 2012 Golden Heart. She lives in NYC with her husband and loves to hear from readers. Wendy’s latest book, Heart’s Desire, is available now.

Learn more about Wendy: http://www.wendylacapra.com/
Get Heart’s Desire: https://www.amazon.com/Hearts-Desire-Lords-Chance-Book-ebook/dp/B07R1PVJZV/

Heart’s Desire by Wendy LaCapra, out now! 

Lady Clarissa has decided to live life on her terms. After the end of a ten-year betrothal, she wants nothing to do with marriage or the men of the ton. Least of all her friend’s brother, the very charming Lord Markham, or Hearts, as many ladies call the oh-so-handsome earl.

Markham pursues relationships with no ties that bind. Acting the rake leaves everyone satisfied…until he overhears a wager that could lead to Clarissa’s ruin. He can’t help but step in and claim she’s his intended bride.

Clarissa is appalled. She did not need to be saved. Reluctantly, she agrees to the fake courtship, if only to experience what the rakish Markham can offer. But when lust becomes love, Clarissa must make up her own terms and bet it all on Hearts.


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