Week 7 Mini-Critique

AUTHOR: Chellesie D.
TITLE: Restless
CATEGORY: Contemporary Erotic Romance

Cassie squirted cream onto her knuckles, rubbing it back and forth till there was some relief from the incessant itch. Hands behind her back, she leaned across the bed to nibble a delicious male earlobe.

“Hey baby, let’s play dentist,” she murmured. “While one hand holds my mouth open, your other hand can explore my body, checking for cavities.” Nice line.

A smile tugged at the corner of Lane’s mouth. “Hold on, let’s not talk about work.” He returned his attention to the Help-Wanted page.

“This is not about work, this is just a fantasy.” She flopped herself back onto his lap. “Though if you were my boss, I’d have to do anything you asked…” She opened her mouth provocatively, just inches from his crotch. “Ahhhh.” Not quite seeing this bit of action. Maybe if she flopped her head onto his lap, but if she flopped herself onto him, how did she get her mouth inches from his crotch?

She could have sworn she saw a jump in his pajama pants before he slid her off his lap.
He shook his head. “I prefer machines–they don’t wiggle while you work on them.” Nice hint of his character.

Cassie sat up and brushed a lock of hair out of his bay blue eyes. The beach-blond hair instantly fell back into his face. “But you’ve got the most gorgeous smile I’ve ever seen.” Still no reaction. “If you worked with people, you’d have a zillion clients. And they’d all be females, except maybe a couple of gay guys.” She traced his lips. “You’d smile at them, and they’d all do whatever you wanted. Anything…”

That did it. Lane blushed and grinned at her, melting her insides. How could he still take her breath away after ten years?

Lane peeked down the low-cut neckline of her nightie. “Then you should be a topless dancer, cause you’ve got great tits, not to mention your fanny.” He skimmed his fingertips across the silky fabric over her nipples till they hardened, then gave them a quick pinch, sending little shivers through her hungry body. How did he do that so easily?

She missed his lips on her breasts, the delicious stirring deep inside. She pulled the ribbon at the keyhole opening. Nice details. “Here, why don’t you examine them a little more closely.”

“Nah, not tonight, babe.”

“C’mon Lane, it’s been weeks. What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know. I’m just not in the mood.”

“Talk to me.”

“There’s nothing to talk about.”

She stifled the impulse to scream. “I’m really horny.” She grabbed his wrist and placed his fingers back on her breast.

“We just need to plan a quiet time–” He glanced down. “Oh babe, your hand.”

He lifted it to examine the cracked skin. “I’m sorry, Cass.” The sympathy in his sweet blue eyes made her want to give in to her self-pity. “Too much stress?”

She nodded, not trusting her voice.

He tipped her face up. “You really think sex will help?”

“It always does.”

He considered a moment. “And I guess you can’t really, you know, take care of yourself.”

Cassie grimaced. “No, it stings.” Not exactly a romantic visual here. Finally he seemed to understand that she needed to get laid more often.

“How about if I do it for you?”

She dug her fingernails into her palm. That wasn’t what she had in mind.

“Well…” she began, stalling for inspiration. She fell forward on hands and knees, flipped up her nightie, and pulled down her panties, mooning him. “What were you saying about that fanny?”

Just as she hoped, Lane bent forward and gently kissed one smooth cheek before he could stop himself.

“C’mon baby, go for it. Take me from behind,” she offered. Maybe it’s me. But if he’s not in the mood for straight-up sex, why does she think he would suddenly be turned on by the kinkier variety?

“Your behind is lovely, but why would I take it? That would be a bummer.”

“Then don’t make me assk you again. Please Lane, you make me so hot!” She wiggled her hips, watching for his reaction over her shoulder.

His pupils dilated, but he turned away. “I’m too tired tonight.”

“It’ll be easier than doing me with your hand–I’ll do all the work.”

“But that’s not fair to you.”

“Anything’s fair if I ask for it.” She dropped her voice to a whisper. “Why don’t you try taking me in the butt?”

She saw Lane’s jaw clench. “I know you want it,” she continued, “and I’d like to try it too.”


“Why the hell not?”

“Nice guys don’t do that sort of thing.” Seems we have some miscommunication here, if she’s sure he wants it and he’s sure he doesn’t.

“You sound like your mother.”

As soon as she said it she regretted it. Even though it was true, she needed to grow up and learn to keep her mouth shut. There went any chance of intimacy tonight.

In the daytime, maintaining her mundane routines kept her mind busy. But at night, when she felt fretful and the itching drove her crazy, she fantasized.

Recently, while standing in line at the grocery store, she had noticed a gangly young bagger, fresh out of school. He stared at all the young girls who passed by with puppy dog eyes, like a starved slave at a royal feast. His ears turned bright red when Cassie caught him checking out her tight sleeveless sweater.

So tonight she imagined the bagger boffing her in the backseat of her car, the bags of groceries bouncing along with them. I’m a little lost again. If Lane’s not going to give her sex, and she’s not able to take care of her own needs, is she just lying there beside him getting herself off with the fantasy, with no corresponding physical action?

Of course she’d have to buy a new carton of eggs.


Chellesie, you write well, and there are a number of elements here which I really like, including the banter between the two characters, their obvious warm feelings for each other, the fact that they’re involved in a long-term relationship, and the hints about what’s gone wrong to diminish Lane’s sexual desires (the help-wanted page is a great touch).

In fact, Lane’s reason for not feeling sexy is so clear that I was puzzled as to why Cassie seemed to have so much difficulty with it. (Of course, Lane doesn’t help here, with his “Just not in the mood” reaction.) If Cassie had acknowledged the help-wanted ads, instead of simply telling him he should work with people instead of machines, or if she’d made sex-to-feel-better all about HIM rather than all about HER, I’d have been much more on board with her desires and her frustration, and much more eager to see her satisfied.

Then as soon as Lane makes himself unavailable, Cassie goes straight for the fantasy of the bag boy at the supermarket. If she was getting off by remembering the greatest time she and Lane had together, the result would be far more arousing for the reader, because the focus would remain on the hero/heroine, not just on the sex.

Not all sex is erotic. The biggest problem I see in spicy submissions is when the author lets the focus slip away from emotion and into sex — forgetting that the reader needs foreplay to seduce her into being in the mood for sex, just as much as the characters do. In fact, when we’re talking about erotica, the reader usually needs more foreplay than the characters do before she’s ready to hop into bed with them. We’ve just met Lane and Cassie, so we’re not exactly ready for a threesome yet (and that’s really what erotica is; the reader has to be right there in bed with the hero/heroine).

Actually, you’ve gone a long way toward making that work in this opening by putting your characters into an established relationship rather than introducing them to each other for the first time on page one, and by showing them as more rounded characters (Lane’s job hunt, Cassie’s itch) than the average.

But jumping straight into Cassie’s request for anal sex and a visual of why she can’t masturbate may turn off your reader. It may take her a bit to be at ease with those mental pictures. And Cassie’s fantasy about the bag boy takes the focus away from the hero/heroine, which also makes us hesitant to throw ourselves into Lane and Cassie’s love affair. Give us a little more emotional involvement with these two characters first. Focus on them. Let us get a good handle on why they’re together and why they’re so special, and then we can get much more excited about sharing their lovemaking, no matter what direction it goes.

The amount of reader foreplay will depend on the market. Some publishers want to get into sex right away, while others – even lines that bill themselves as sexy or hot – encourage the author to develop sensual tension before the characters make it to the bedroom (desktop, kitchen table, back seat, whatever). My suggestion to give the reader foreplay will need to be adapted to the specific publisher being targeted, but you can’t go wrong by keeping the focus on emotion – what the hero and heroine (and the reader) are feeling, not just what they’re doing – and helping the reader to feel romantic about what’s going on between the characters.

Please take a moment to give us feedback on the contest.


3 responses

24 02 2010
Rachelle Chase

Chellesie, your skill with dialogue made me see/feel the comraderie between Cassie and Lane. I can tell that these two characters care about each other and/or have a connection of some kind. That’s crucial in an erotic romance, so good job. And the problem you’ve set up – where one person wants sex and the other one doesn’t — is very believable and true-to-life.

Unfortunately, as the scene is depicted now, it’s too true-to-life. Because, just as it can happen in real-life between couples that have been together for awhile, Lane has already said he doesn’t want to have sex and there appears to be nothing that Cassie can do to change his mind. Thus, this insurmountable problem has just smothered the spark of erotic possibilities. And Cassie’s attempts to get him to change his mind, e.g., placing his hand on her breast, asking for anal sex several times, etc. is starting to feel like begging. So, though they are talking about sex and Cassie is horny, the previously-mentioned things, coupled with Cassie’s rash, make this scene feel un-erotic to me (though, it could make a good beginning to a women’s fiction story that deals with the reality of a relationship in a slump).

If you want to let the reader know that Cassie and Lane have problems in their relationship, one way to keep it erotic would be to show Lane’s initial resistance (like you’ve done), then show Cassie seducing him (not talking about sex and begging him for sex) – perhaps with the anal sex he’s wanted but they’ve never done, and show the seduction working. Then, after the sex , you can show the problem re-surfacing – or, perhaps the hot sex is aborted by whatever the problem is.

Just an off-the-top-of-my-head thought. If any of this makes sense or you agree, I’m sure you can come up with something better. 🙂

At any rate, you’re a great writer and, with a few tweaks, this could be a sexy piece that would titillate me and keep me reading!

24 02 2010
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25 02 2010
Chellesie B Dancer

Thank you both so much for all you helpful comments!
I see what you mean about the hands being a turn-off, I think I should tone it down. Do you think I should take it out?

Because this is a m/f/m menage story, the anal sex is a set-up for what’s to come (excuse the pun!), so I’m introducing that right away as the forbidden desire. I see that’s not reading that way yet. My latest version is:

“I know you want it,” she continued, “and I’d like to try it one time.”
“Why the hell not?”
“It’s…” His shoulders clenched all the way down to his fists. “…not okay.”
“It is okay,” She softened her voice. “Lane, you won’t get in trouble now, we’re grown-ups.” She reached up to stroke his face.
He turned away. “Nice guys don’t do that sort of thing.”

Does that set it up better?

And I’ve moved her little bagger fantasy to the next day, as she’s stuck in traffic. I see what you mean Leigh about her maybe needing to fantasize about her hubby. If she does that first, would the other work after? (And later on she contemplates both of them together, which starts her menage fantasies.)

Also, I’m considering Rachelle’s idea of maybe having an opening sex scene that gets aborted. Hmmm…

Lots for me to think about. Thank you again!

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