Mistletoe Monday

Gentle Reader, on this fine Mistletoe Monday, I bring to you a question of exceeding delicacy. With RWA coming up, this seemed an appropriate time to ask.

In your romances, do you prefer the bedroom door open or closed?

There’s been a lot of debate on this topic over the years, over whether the creation of sexual tension in fiction is best served by full description or a strategically closed door. I can pull up examples on either side– and an argument for either.

What’s your take on it?

(As for the rest, you know the drill. One person will be chosen at random to receive a Mistletoe magnet calendar, winner to be announced theoretically on Wednesday but more likely on Thursday.)


  1. Laura on June 27, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    :::glances around sheepishly::;

    Open- though I’m fairly sure I should be ashamed to admit it. What can I say, after 20 years of marriage I need some new ideas!

  2. Jessica S. on June 27, 2011 at 12:11 pm


    *no further comment*

  3. Stephanie W on June 27, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    Open. 🙂 Unless someone else is in the house then closed, lol.

  4. Bridget on June 27, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    This is a hard one for me. I would have to say there is a time and place for both, but I think I will agree with the others and say open.

  5. Shelli on June 27, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    I like to read the making out…the foreplay, if you will. But then prefer the door to shut.

  6. Susan on June 27, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    I think it depends on the couple in the story. Does it add to their story or is it just there because there isn’t actually a plot?
    I’ve read a quote from an author (I think it was Tracy Grant), that once a couple “seals the deal” (not her words) then details of their subsequent encounters are overkill. Overall I have found this to be true.
    If the build-up is written right, then we don’t need every single detail. After reading some with page after page of details, I have such a higher respect for authors who are able to say just enough to get the imagination going.
    Can I vote for leaving the door about half-way open?

  7. Christy on June 27, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    I agree with #5. Smooching is great, but definitely closed. And, as much as I love the series and am OK skimming over those naughty bits if I have to, I often find myself in a predicament of if and how I should recommend the books to most of my friends. I am not a romance novel reader but love your books and the closed door romantic classics.

  8. Virginia on June 27, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    I’m going to say it depends on the type of romance I’m reading. For the majority of romances I read I prefer the door open. However, if I’m reading one of the inspirational romances my mom has a tendency to get for me it would seriously weird me out to have an open door, even if the couple in said romance was married and therefore sticking to the religious values of the book.

  9. Jackie on June 27, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Shut definitely because it leaves SOOOOOO much to the imagination. I tend to skim the open door parts as there is just so much can go on unless you recite the Kama Sutra or some of the ancient Japanese works on pleasure. Susan’s comment was good, how about just leaving it open a crack.

  10. Allison on June 27, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    I prefer a few things left to the imagination… In general, closed door. I don’t mind some details, but when things get graphic I feel a little awkward reading in public… The only romance series I read is Pink Carnation; I read for the love-stories, not the love scenes… Honestly, I’m a bit scared to read other romance novels because of the “open-door” policy that most have… It’s just a little uncomfortable for me.

  11. Anya on June 27, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    I’m a bitta both. YOu gotta open the door so you don’t suffocate, but keep it semi closed and confidential. Wouldn’t want to smother to death…..=P

  12. Am7 on June 27, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    It depends. I prefer the door Open, but I don’t judge a book solely on that. I have read closed door romances I liked.

    That being said I like consistency from a writer or series. If the door starts open, I definitely want it to stay open.

    I also have to admit I changed my mind based on the Pink books they were the first “love scenes” I ever read.

    I also wish Colin and Eloise’s door was open!

  13. Jeffrey on June 27, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Coming from the male side, men are intensely visual. However, spare this man the graphic details. Your own Mischief Of The Mistletoe is a fine example of the tasteful limits of eroticism. All of your heroines are just so-so-so sensually alluring the way you describe them to us without going into lurid detail. Am I making any sense here?

  14. Allison on June 27, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    While I enjoy a nice open scene as the next guilty reader…I think it depends on the characters. At the author’s discretion – hopefully they know their characters well enough to determine whether the scene would slide smoothly in with the plot/personality of characters versus be glaringly thrown in for the purpose of being there (I phrased that badly, but I’m sure you understand.)

  15. Sara on June 27, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    Definitely open. Nobody likes a tease.

  16. Sharon on June 27, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Ajar. Too graphic is just too much. I thought The Orchid Affair was extremely sensual and stayed with me for days.

  17. A. on June 27, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Closed. Graphic love scenes are a huge turnoff for me. I loved ‘The Secret History of the Pink Carnation’ but I skip over certain parts. I’m no prude, but if I read romance, I love the old fashioned kind where things are best left to the imagination and the focus is on the relationship between the man and woman. Hints of eroticism I don’t mind, but nothing graphic. Tons of women swoon over “The Scarlet Pimpernel” (movie, books, whatever) and there’s no sex in those.

  18. Samantha on June 27, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    The most important part is developing the tension and anticipation – actual open door at the end not as important. Also, I think an open door is nice (I feel so Minnesota having written that!), but not too early and for the entire book, nothing as sad as a boring open door.

  19. Jessica Mac on June 27, 2011 at 3:06 pm


  20. Shenandoah Strojek on June 27, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    I think I prefer the door closed for the most part. But it really depends on how far the author goes with it. Lauren and Danielle Steel in my opinion are perfect at it. The door is open but not explicit enough to make someone who is pretty private about stuff like that feel really uncomfortable reading it.

  21. Jennifer O. on June 27, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    Cracked? I tend to skim sex scenes – I feel voyeuristic, like I’m intruding on a private moment, even though I know they’re fictional! I have the same response to movies (if I’m watching at home, I often leave the room, and I just squirm at the theater). But I also remember when I first started reading romances, that Judith McNaught in particular would have some important plot point revealed during a scene, and I’d have to go back and re-read to figure out what I’d missed!

  22. Sheila on June 27, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Mostly closed….after reading romance novels for almost 50 years (OMG), I find there’s not much new to read about…what I enjoy are interesting plots and characters…how the author gets them into that room is often more interesting than what happens there. I stopped reading one of my favorite authors when she kept writing the same basic scene into every book. It was just so predictable.

  23. Michelle on June 27, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Both. I agree with Allison though. I think it depends on the novel and the characters.

  24. Jessica S. on June 27, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    I’m going to amend my answer to “Depends on the characters.” For example, there is not much of an amorous scene in “Night Jasmine,” and I agree with Lauren’s decision not to go there with Charlotte…it would have been kind of weird, for lack of a better adjective. However, in “Emerald Ring,” for example, I thought it was integral to Geoff’s character development to see him lose control of his logic in the face of passion for Letty.

  25. Lora on June 27, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    The door slightly ajar ( width of a book..matchbook ). Too many scenes are put tab a in slot b.

  26. Lucy on June 27, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    I believe that a little of both. I enjoy romance for the interactions, dialogs, and sexual tension between the main characters, than for the sexual scenes. Sometimes leaving to the imagination is best, other is just like a part of it, and others is overkill. Forgive my English, Spanish is my first language. My vote: it depends on the characters. Love your Pink series!

  27. Petra on June 27, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    I completely agree with Jessica!

  28. leslie on June 27, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Years ago the first open door romance I read was “Scandel’s Bride” by Stephanie Laurens. I was shocked to say the least. These days I flip through the sex scenes mostly because they are not very interesting. Many times I don’t finish a book, because it all sex and no content. My vote is to leave the door ajar.

  29. Amanda on June 27, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    I am going to agree with some of the above comments that it depends on the book and the characters.

  30. Sharin on June 27, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    Some couples, by the very nature of who they are, invite us along for the fun. With others, you wouldn’t dream of invading their privacy. Then there’s the magic of suspense and imagination. The end of North & South gets me every time and he just TALKS about making her his. Sometimes spelling things out isn’t as romantic as alluding to something. That said, a good romp can be good fun. I know, no help at all. Sorry, Lauren. 🙂

  31. Sarah on June 27, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    As others have said, I prefer it ajar. A bit of foreplay is fine, but when scenes get too graphic I tend to skim over them or skip them altogether.

  32. Elizabeth aka Miss Eliza on June 27, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    Must be character driven. But, I’d err on the side of just a little open… sometimes the overly graphic takes you out of the story if it doesn’t fit with the style of the book.

  33. Loramir on June 27, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    I’m going with ajar, most of the time. I don’t care for sex scenes if they’re too graphic or just ridiculous, but they can be nice in their place. Given the choice, I’ll take good, convincing romance over sex, being a hopeless romantic, but a good and well-written sex scene can be a satisfying conclusion to the growing relationship and building tension. That said, I agree with Jessica S. above (especially about Geoff & Letty, my favorite Pink couple). Some characters are probably better off with the door shut – Charlotte, for example, and hopefully Miss Gwen…

  34. Laura on June 27, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    I agree with what many have mentioned it depends on the character but for most part I would say half-open or closed the tension between the couple and how they get there is far more interesting.

  35. Chaysen Tula on June 27, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    I agree it really depends on the couple

  36. Amanda V on June 27, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    Can the door be slightly ajar??

  37. Jessica C on June 27, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    A bit of both. It depends on the style of story, the characters and how the relationship develops between them. If it IS open door, there needs to be some build-up – I hate the books where the graphic stuff starts in the first two chapters, and they go at it like rabbits for the rest of the book.

  38. Heather on June 28, 2011 at 12:16 am

    I have to go with ajar. Also it does depend on the couple and the plot line. I do like the door open just not overly graphic of rediculous. I have read some romances that were uncomfortably embaracing they were so graphic that I do not enjoy.

  39. Hannah on June 28, 2011 at 10:14 am

    I prefer closed, or with one or two brief “open-door” scenes. However I’ve read and enjoyed a few books by authors who write long, steamy love scenes very, very well. Elizabeth Hoyt and and Evangeline Collins are two that immediately spring to mind.

  40. Kristen A. on June 28, 2011 at 11:55 am

    Open. I was considering going into caveats like “as long as it’s well written” and “as long as everybody stays in character,” but honestly, good writing and consistent characterization and character development is so vital whether a romance has open or closed doors for sex scenes, or no sex within the time frame of the book at all, that specifying that really shouldn’t be necessary!

  41. Sarah on June 28, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Ajar is a good balance usually within a romance novel. My biggest peave with a good chunk of romance authors is that they stuff in a number of sex scenes that take up the bulk of the book and reduces how much of the characters relationship build up we get to see, hence by the time you get to the ‘intimate’ scenes you as a reader don’t actually know or care about out protagonists. Sex scenes are all well and good but shouldn’t take away from the story build-up, so there can be too much of a good thing in my personal opinion.

  42. Farin on June 28, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    I agree that it depends on the book, but if the author’s spent the entire first half of the book building the tension, I want the door open when the characters get together. Ajar works well in many cases too–the way C.S. Harris’s latest book ended was perfect.

  43. Jane F on June 28, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    I’m going to amend my answer to “Depends on the characters.” For example, there is not much of an amorous scene in “Night Jasmine,” and I agree with Lauren’s decision not to go there with Charlotte…it would have been kind of weird, for lack of a better adjective. However, in “Emerald Ring,” for example, I thought it was integral to Geoff’s character development to see him lose control of his logic in the face of passion for Letty.”
    – Jessica S.

    I definitely agree with your assessment of the books but I have to admit I preferred the Emerald Ring largely because there we saw Geoff loose control through an open door. So while I can understand character reasons for closing the door, I tend to prefer it open.

  44. Jo3 on June 28, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    Open!! It can be an integral part of the character/relationship development when used to enhance the story, not just for the sake of having a sex scene. I agree with #12…would love the door ajar with Eloise and Collin! And #42, agreed, the ending of the latest CS Harris novel “Where Shadows Dance” was wonderfully done! An great example of when less is more.

  45. jamie on June 29, 2011 at 12:22 am

    i agree with everybody! lol but primarily with those who stated that it must fit with the characters-night jasmine vs blood lily is the perfect example of this. also, i think the style of the author is important too; not that it can’t change but i would never expect something susan johnson had written to be in the stytle of elizabeth peters! i think door open, ajar and closed all have their places. so, i’m as much help as anybody lol

  46. Jennifer on June 29, 2011 at 1:58 am

    I also prefer open when it fits the characters and plot so it isn’t forced.

  47. SusanN on June 30, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    Gosh, can I be totally wishy-washy and say “both” or “either”? Whatever suits the style of the book. I’m reading a Heyers book right now, and do I miss having graphic sex scenes? Of course not. Same thing as when I read those other old-fashioned Regencies (those Signet-types). That’s just not what they’re about.

    But there are some authors who are known for their racier love scenes, and as long as they’re well-done, fit the stories and characters, they’re fine. And, frankly, I’m in the mood for a bit of spice for a change.

    I’m not going to refuse to read something just because it does or does not have sex scenes. I want to read a book that’s well written, that may or may not have sex scenes.

  48. SusanN on June 30, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    Can’t believe I misspelled Heyer!

  49. Larissa on July 1, 2011 at 1:25 am

    Typically I prefer open. My first romance series was the “Outlander” books by Diana Gabaldon, and Claire and Jamie spoiled me somewhat for closed-door romance.

  50. AmyMc on July 1, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    I have to admit that I prefer “ajar” or “closed”. I agree with some of the other posters in that I find the journey to each other more thrilling than a graphic end result. The “skirmish(s) of wit” and cringe-worthy moments we, as omnipotent readers, get to experience is just so much fun!

    On the cover of C.A. Belmond’s book “A Rather Lovely Inheritance” is a quote of yours. If you go back and read the way she wrote the scene where Penny and Jeremy finally get together, you have a sense of the joy, power, and sated longing in a way that reminds me of old Hollywood love scenes. [Closeup of couple kissing each other with pent-up longing. Pull out, and pan to an open window with the white curtains fluttering in the breeze.] That’s just about right… 😉

  51. Liz Hildreth on July 3, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    Closed doors are more comfortable; unless an open door leads to discovery and a storyline!

  52. Diya on July 5, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    I fell off a lab stool in class when I read the sexy scenes in Pink. Granted, I was 15 and had never read a romance novel other than austen or heyer! I think I tend to like the door to be half-open…open enough for for some ahem educational merit and closed enough to keep it classy.

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