Thursday, February 24, 2022

Romance Doesn't Have to End - Neither Does Sex

Recently I listened to a short story, Slingshot by Souvankham Thammavongsa, being read on the podcast Selected Shorts too hot for Radio. The story centers around a 70-year-old woman who meets a 32-year-old man, her neighbor, Richard, and they start a short, but intense, relationship. The woman has been a widow for 30 years and in her words, “I hadn't had sex for such a long time that I could consider myself a virgin. I couldn't remember how it all happens." 

That story, originally published in Harper's magazine in 2018, made me wonder how many other stories are now being written about older characters being in love and having sex. That's not something we tend to acknowledge very often. It's as if we don't think older people have those desires.

But they do.

Recent studies, such as this one in Prevention Magazine, indicate that people well into their 80s and 90s still want romance and physical intimacy. "Sex isn't like a carton of milk that goes sour after a certain date. In fact, sex is more like fine wine—it improves with age." 

Those same people still like to read, too.

When Kensington Publishing started their line that featured women in their 50s and above who were starting new lives after a disastrous relationship or the death of a husband or wife, they were ahead of the time. That was almost twenty-five years ago, and Boomers were still young enough to want to read about women in their 20s and 30s.

At that time, unlike the Boomers, I was ready to read stories with older women in central roles, and when I heard about the Kensington imprint, I was excited about the idea that a heroine in a romance novel didn’t have to be some sweet young thing with the perfect figure and gorgeous face. The characters in these stories could be everyday women, just like my friends and myself, with wrinkles and bulges and gray stands of hair. I was equally thrilled to have a novel accepted for publication under the new imprint, but shortly before I was to turn in the final manuscript, the editor contacted me to say that Kensington had decided to drop the line. That story, Play It Again, Sam, was later released by Uncial Publishing.

Most of my stories are prompted by real events and experiences of real people. Play it again Sam was inspired by what happened to a good friend of mine when her husband decided he didn't want to be married anymore. She gave me permission to write her story as long as I gave her a happy ending in the book, and I was happy to do so.

Fast-forward many years when another friend’s experiences inspired me to write a short story, To Love Again, that’s included in the collection, Beyond The Crack in the Sidewalk that was released by Next Chapter Publishing. That friend was in her seventies and had lost her husband a few years prior. When a man was interested in “courting” her, as she put it, she was more than a little hesitant. “What if he wants to…you know?”

I chuckled when she asked that question in a phone call, and the question made me wonder what dating would be like for people older than 60. I was happily married at the time, and dating wasn't anything I'd thought about in a long time.

In a 2019 blog post, 11 Must-Read Romance Novels Featuring Older Couples, Kelly O’Brien says that romances featuring older heroines are called Seasoned Romances, a term I’d never hear of before, and they are gaining in popularity. That gain is partly because Baby Boomers are now aging and no longer want to read about characters with whom they now have little in common. Kelly writes, “It has to be hard to relate to a 22-year-old graduating college, but someone who has grandkids and is dating again after losing their spouse is more relatable.”

The list of books Kelly recommends is well worth checking out, and I've added a couple to my wish list:

Sex and the Widow Miles by Nan Reinhardt

After a heart attack claimed her husband, even getting out of bed each day becomes a struggle for Julie Miles. Looking for a change of scenery, she leavers her Michigan home for Chicago, staying in a friend's unoccupied apartment. It's there she meets her new neighbor. Will Brody is a little younger and helps her learn to embrace life again. But then she discovers her entire marriage was built on a lie. Will she be able to let Will in when her trust in men has been shattered by the person she thought was her one true love? Only one way to find out!

Only Beloved by Mary Balogh

A widower, the Duke of Stanbrook is considering remarrying, longing for happiness. He thinks back on the woman he briefly met last year and never saw again. A scandal dashed Dora Debbins' chances of marriage long ago. Now she makes a modest living teach music. Then an unexpected visitor shows up at her door, changing the course of both George and Dora's lives forever.  

Have you read books that fit this category of Seasoned Romances? Do you like them? Have you written one? Please do share in a comment. Happy reading and happy writing.

Award-winning author Maryann Miller has numerous credits as a columnist, novelist, screen writer, and playwright, and also has an extensive background in editing. You can find out more about Maryann, her books, and her editing services on her Website and her Amazon Author Page read her Blog, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.  


  1. This is a fascinating article, Maryann. My book that will soon be out, as well as at least 2 others, include "seasoned" protagonists; 2 are women and the third, of course, is a man. Do I write sex scenes? I'm not comfortable doing that. Do I write love scenes? Absolutely. It seems to me that, at this time, many readers may well be "seasoned citizens". If they're anything like me, they may also tire of youthful protagonists. After all, just because we have a few years behind us, we're not dead yet. Your great post made my day. :-)

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post, Linda. I don't write sex scenes just for the sake of having that in a book, either. If physical intimacy comes from the love a couple has for each other that is what I'll write about.

  2. Thanks for the publishing company tips, Maryann! I haven't started looking for a home for my Lonely Rancher. It's first in a series exploring, well... different kinds of sexual relationships. Good post!

  3. Good luck with the search for a publisher, Dani. I'm glad the post was helpful.

  4. Hi Maryann, How about The Big Six-Oh!
    They're facing the big six oh — and each other. They're married! They're still holding hands in the movies and they're driving each other crazy. And they're even having sex!

    1. That is a good story, Ruth. I read it and enjoyed it.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. If a glitch is preventing you from commenting, visit our Facebook page and drop your wise words there: Blood-Red Pencil on Facebook