Romance novels need a canon
"Bet Me" by Jennifer Crusie
A contemporary romantic comedy set to Elvis Costello and lots of luxurious and sinful sugary treats. Read the whole essay.
Help! I’ve been married for nearly 25 years, and I can’t stop obsessing over my wife’s past sexual history.
When we first started seeing each other, she was married, I was married and we were both having affairs with other people. She told me in very exquisite detail about many — if not all — of her sexual adventures (many of them extramarital with married men). She went into great detail about how affairs started, when, where, the type of sex performed (oral/anal) with each man. Her sexual experience was far greater than mine.
I have asked her in recent months to recount what she told me 25 years ago about her sexual experiences. Not only will she not discuss it and gets angry about it, she now claims that she never did any of those things. Well, of course, I have some proof that she did many.
My question is why can’t I stop obsessing over her past sexual conquests (and that’s what they were — she seduced primarily married men), and why is she now denying and refusing to discuss her past?
I feel for your wife, man. You’re interrogating her about her sexual past after a quarter-century of marriage. There should be a statute of limitations on such things.
There must be a reason why this suddenly matters to you now. M. Gary Neuman, a therapist and author of “Connect to Love,” senses “some guilt or fear of the ‘what goes around comes around’ karma.” He says, “Maybe you now feel doomed to struggle since this relationship began through inappropriate behavior,” and adds: “It’s never too late to apologize to those you may have hurt in the past. Do what you need to in order to feel freer moving forward and allowing yourself to enjoy your marriage to the max.”
Listen to the man. He’s been on “Oprah,” yo.
Therapist Charles Foster, co-author of “I Love You but I Don’t Trust You,” says there are a couple of possible interpretations of what’s going on here. It could be that “after 25 years, their sex lives — so clearly in need of spicing up from the beginning — are developing rigor mortis, and his re-opening this can of worms is the best way he knows how to wake things up in bed.” Or maybe “for some reason, trust issues have reared their ugly head.”
Is your wife giving you new reason to mistrust her — based on her current behavior, as opposed to things she did when she was a young seductress? If not, this might be less about your wife’s actual trustworthiness than obsessive thinking.
Foster has little patience for this: “Come on, what is it you really want? Better sex? More closeness? More trust? Any of these could make you happy,” he says. “But satisfying your obsession will only stimulate the very itch that’s making you miserable.” Instead, he suggests that you “focus on your real needs, and work with your partner to get them met, and keep telling yourself that your obsession is just a sinkhole of misery.”
On a similar note, Diana Kirschner, author of “Sealing the Deal: The Love Mentor’s Guide to Lasting Love,” suggests that you start by simply listening to each other: Sit down and give each other 10 minutes to talk uninterrupted about whatever is on your mind. Instead of talking about past exploits, try talking about “sexual longings or fantasies you have right now and especially how you would like to act them out with each other.” She says, “Build a whole new relationship now that is so satisfying, the past just doesn’t matter.”
"Bet Me" by Jennifer Crusie
"Welcome to Temptation" by Jennifer Crusie
Another of Crusie's romantic comedies, this one in the shadow of an ostentatiously phallic water tower. Read the whole essay.
"A Gentleman Undone" by Cecilia Grant
A Regency romance with beautifully broken people and some seriously steamy sex. Read the whole essay.
"Black Silk" by Judith Ivory
A beautifully written, exquisitely slow-building Regency; the plot is centered on a box with some very curious images, as Edward Gorey might say. Read the whole essay.
"For My Lady's Heart" by Laura Kinsale
A medieval romance, the period piece functions much like a dystopia, with the courageous lady and noble knight struggling to find happiness despite the authoritarian society. Read the whole essay.
"Sweet Disorder" by Rose Lerner
A Regency that uses the limitations on women of the time to good effect; the main character is poor and needs to sell her vote ... or rather her husband's vote. But to sell it, she needs to get a husband first ... Read the whole essay.
"Frenemy of the People" by Nora Olsen
Clarissa is sitting at an awards banquet when she suddenly realizes she likes pictures of Kimye for both Kim and Kanye and she is totally bi. So she texts to all her friends, "I am totally bi!" Drama and romance ensue ... but not quite with who she expects. I got an advanced copy of this YA lesbian romance, and I’d urge folks to reserve a copy; it’s a delight. Read the whole essay.
"The Slightest Provocation" by Pam Rosenthal
A separated couple works to reconcile against a background of political intrigue; sort of "His Gal Friday" as a spy novel set in the Regency. Read the whole essay.
"Again" by Kathleen Gilles Seidel
Set among workers on a period soap opera, it manages to be contemporary and historical both at the same time. Read the whole essay.
Sex questions so often boil down to the simple, pleading query of, "Am I normal?" Let Tracy Clark-Flory investigate your personal version of this universal concern. By talking to the world's leading experts, she will not only explain where individual readers fall on the spectrum of sexual behavior but
also dismantle the notion of "normal."
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