Honestly, I’m a sucker for the virgin heroine. When done well, there’s something about the Dance of the Deflower that draws me in and keeps me captive through the night until I have my HEA. Why are virgins so ubiquitous when according to the CDC, 85% of all women have had vaginal intercourse by the age of 24*? By the time we are 30, we virgin femme fatales are almost non-existent. I have my theories why this trope remains one of the most popular and hence I present to you, my completely biased analysis, along with a few of my favorite books that do it so well.
1) We had such an awesome de-virginization process that we love to relive it over and over again.
2) Our first romp on the beach was so terrible it left permanent mental scarring of too much sand in all the wrong places. With these romance novels, we can claim amnesia of our first time and invent a new history of our foray into carnal pleasures.
3) The excitement! Even if our first time felt like lemmings jumping off a cliff, most of us daydreamed about losing it to some person who probably didn’t even know we existed—Yeah, I’m talking to you, Andrew McCarthy (I think I just aged myself)—and what it would be like: the tenderness, the romance, the adrenaline, the anticipation, and finally understanding what the Big O is all about. (I will never think about tires the same again).
4) The innocence—we as a society still like to tout: Save it till marriage. Or at least save it for someone special. And in the books, this is usually the case.
5) If we are still a virgin we can take notes. Ladies…don’t be afraid to do your research and keep a list of all the things you desire. Just remember, when you read about the ultimate lover who caters to your every whim and desire and knows your body and what you want before even meeting you by reading your mind? They are a unicorn. Communication with your future lover is key.
I personally gravitate toward women who have a believable reason for their sexual inexperience. These women are able to grow as a character—not because the male saves her and opens her up sexually, but because she takes charge and decides what she wants in life, sex being a great metaphor. She might struggle but ultimately she is the one who “heals” herself and has a squee-worthy partner along for the ride. No slut-shaming here, folks.
Without further ado: A few of my favorites by subgenre…
There are so many virgins in this genre because women weren’t supposed to have sex until the wedding night.
• Nine Rules to Break While Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean
Terrible title. Awesome heroine. Tired of being a timid wallflower, Calpurnia Hartwell makes a list of nine things she would do without societal restrictions. The first: to be kissed. Which leads her to seek out the gorgeous, rich, and rakish Marquess of Ralston. I read this book 4 times in a row flying from Seattle to Seoul. (Yes I had other books, no, I wasn’t interested in them).
• Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
Penelope Featherington is witty, independent, and an entrepreneur. She finally gains the affections of one Colin Bridgerton, handsome rake and travel-fiend (flight-risk) extraordinaire. While he may be experienced in the bedroom, she is the one that ultimately helps Colin find himself.
• Love in the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas
Beatrix Hathaway is an eccentric wallflower more comfortable with animals than people. She ends up penning a letter for her friend Pru’s love interest, Captain Christopher Phelan, who quickly succumbs emotionally to the horrors of war. Only he doesn’t know it is Beatrix and Beatrix can’t stop writing to him. What unfolds when he returns is a beautifully written story about Post-war PTSD, trust, and healing.
Why oh why did they not have this genre when I was a teen and young adult?
Olivia is an American who moves to Scotland to live with her biological dad. She becomes “one of the guys” and best friend to drool-worthy model-esque Nate Sawyer. What starts out as a platonic contract for Nate to teach Olivia about physical intimacy ends up in an emotional entanglement. They both help each other work through the loss of a loved one and in the end, find the courage to love one another.
Pepper is a college student who has been crushing on her best friend’s newly single brother, Hunter, for years. Self-conscious about her inexperience, Pepper’s roommates decide she should practice on the local bartender rumored to be hot and easy. The only caveat, Reece is anything but a player. I’m ashamed to say I avoided this one for a year and kick myself for being stubborn. The chemistry, tension, and buildup alone make this book worth it.
• Acheron by Sherrilyn Kenyon
This one made me cry. Warning- it makes more sense when you can read it in order than as a stand-alone, and the first half of the book is his backstory which is heavy. The romance doesn’t enter until the second half but so worth it. Dr. Soteria Kafieri is a professor of anthropology determined to prove Atlantis is real. Acheron, a God, Final Fate and Dark-Hunter, knows that if the professor is successful, he will be humiliated and destroyed. And thus begins their dance.
SEE ALSO: Acheron Fantasy Casting!
*(you can check out this report from the CDC to see all sorts of interesting facts on sexual behavior).
Learn more about or order a copy of the books mentioned in this post:
|Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean|
|Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn|
|Love in the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas|
|Before Jamaica Lane by Samantha Young|
|Foreplay by Sophie Jordan|
|Acheron by Sherrilyn Kenyon|
Tanya is a fanatic of romance and teaches sociology part time. You can follow her on twitter @tamushamu