Jul 26 2012 10:00am

Top 5 Historical Romance Sex Scenes from Ashworth, Balogh, Barnett, Carlyle, and Laurens!

Winter Garden by Adele Ashworth

While it’s certainly true that you can find smoking-hot sex scenes in historical romance (see numbers 3 and 5), it is also true that a good sex scene conveys a lot more than the (repeated) meeting of body parts. Following are five historical romance sex scenes that are memorable, in my opinion, for a variety of reasons—they illustrate something unique and personal about the characters or change the direction of the story or do something else extraordinary. Why not? Memorable is more than just titillation.

1. Angst
For angst, I give you Adele Ashworth’s Winter Garden. Winter Garden is a love story between Thomas Blackwood, high level official in England’s Home Office, masquerading as someone else, and Madeleine Dumais, French spy for England, hired by Thomas, although she doesn’t know it. And it is laden with angst. Thomas was grievously injured during the Opium Wars in China and does not confess the extent of his disability until he and Madeleine make love for the first time.

After manually bringing Madeleine to orgasm, Thomas

Silently reached for his right leg, pulling up on the cuff of his pants as he had with the left. This time, however, she noticed a difference in his boot. At the top, near the knee, were two buckled straps, one below the other and an inch or so apart, which he unfastened very slowly. That finished, and with a tug of one hand at the heel, one at the calf, the book gave way, exposing the core of his fear.

Madeleine stared, her body numbing, heart twisting with overwhelming compassion and sadness. Two inches below the scarred and deformed knee, his right leg had been expertly cut off.

“Will you love me now, Maddie?” she heard in a tender, hoarse, far away voice.

Sob! How could she not? And how could we not. This love scene shows us so much about both Thomas and Madeleine, their insecurities, their compassion, and their love.

Bewitching by Jill Barnett

2. Whimsy

In He Gives Good Grovel, Laurie Gold offered a glimpse of the relationship between Joyous MacQuarrie and Alec Castlemaine, Duke of Belmore, the heroine and hero of Jill Barnett’s  Bewitching. I’d like to give you another.

Joy and Alec have just consummated their marriage of convenience. The love scene ends like this:

She clung to him then, their bodies moving as one, time was not moving at all. It could have been a lifetime; she didn’t know, and at that very second she didn’t care.

Slowly but vibrantly her senses came alive again.

She smelled roses—wonderful, sweet-scented roses. The air was filled with the sweet tangy fragrance of them. She felt a featherlike touch again on her arms and her face. She opened her eyes.

Hundreds of pink rose petals floated down from nowhere.

How can you not love a heroine whose orgasm is manifested in rose petals? Well, it takes her duke a while to become accustomed to it but, later in the book, we see that it is one of the ways he clings to her during their dark moment.

A Woman Scorned by Liz Carlyle

3. Heat

I promised you heat, and heat you shall get. For that, we look to Cole Amherst or, as I like to refer to him, The Hunky Vicar, the hero of Liz Carlyle’s  A Woman Scorned. Cole Amherst takes on the role of tutor to widowed Jonet Rowland’s two sons and eventually assumes an even greater role in Jonet’s life. But even before he marries her (and I must add the caveat that Jonet started this):

Cole looked at her darkly for a long moment. “Jonet, where are your stockings?”

… “Aha—!” he said, grabbing them up in one hand and stalking toward her.

Jonet’s eyes narrowed. “Cole?. . . What are you doing?” she asked suspiciously

Cole crawled on top of her with the full force of his weight. ”Jonet,“ he said grimly, grabbing hold of one of her wrists and shoving it over her head. ”I am about to tie you to this bedpost and give you the fucking you’ve been begging for since the first day I laid eyes on you.“

Oh, and he does (and not for the first or last time). I definitely recommend you read this one, not only for the heat, but for Liz Carlyle’s complex and compelling characters and a heck of a plot.

The Notorious Rake by Mary Balogh

4. Ground-breaking

Mary Balogh broke new ground with The Notorious Rake. Although she was already noted for being in the vanguard of Traditional Regencies in including sex in this historically sweet sub-genre, The Notorious Rake, went that extra step in writing a sex scene between the barely-introduced hero and heroine in the first chapter.  The explanation for this is the heroine’s extreme fear of thunder and lightning and the sudden onslaught of a summer storm. A Regency gentleman does what he can for a lady in distress. 

The simultaneous flash of lightning and crack of thunder shook the earth, or so it seemed. But he was moving in her with slow deep strokes and his weight was so heavy on her and the wooden top of the table so unyielding that she could scarcely draw breath. She felt as if she had finally succeeded in crawling inside him, and she felt almost safe. She heard someone whimpering and forced herself to be quiet again.

”It will be all right, Mary,“ he said against her mouth. ”It will pass again.“

This was a totally unprecedented way of introducing two characters in a Traditional Regency, but it was so well-done and was so carefully interwoven into the growth of both characters (and it was Mary Balogh) that it worked and created a classic of its genre.

Scandal’s Bride by Stephanie Laurens

5. Stephanie Laurens

There is no other way to categorize this last scene. Stephanie Laurens writes sex scenes of great explicitness and duration, which is certainly in keeping with her heroes. I am fond of the Cynsters, particularly the first five or six. I am going to give you Richard (Scandal) Cynster in this post. In Scandal’s Bride, Richard Cynster travels to Scotland and meets Catriona Hennessy (witch) who decides he’s the one for her. Their first love scene is 17 pages long and is succeeded by several other long sex scenes, including one on horseback. Where does one start?!? Instead, I will give you my favorite quote from this book. First, the background:

Later—after the love scene—other Cynsters travel up from London and Catriona tells Honoria, the Duchess of St. Ives and wife of Devil Cynster (Devil’s Bride),  that she had previously drugged Richard in order to get him to impregnate her.

Catriona colored. She tried to hedge, prevaricate, avoid the questions, but, she discovered, Her Grace of St. Ives could be ruthless. Honoria dragged the answers from her – then slumped back in her chair and regarded her with awe. “You’re very brave,” she eventually stated. “I don’t know of many women would be game to feed an aphrodisiac to a Cynster – and then climb into bed with him.”

And there you have it, the essence of Stephanie Laurens heroes and hence her sex scenes. Men for whom aphrodisiacs are redundant, perhaps even overkill. 


I went through a lot of Historicals looking for the right sex scenes for this post. I rejected some that were wonderful but not quite iconic. But I do recommend the first love scene between Stuart Aysgarth and Emma Hotchkiss in Judith Ivory’s Untie My Heart and, even more, recommend the aftermath from Stuart’s perspective.  

I’m sure there are many, many other memorable sex scenes in Historical Romance. What would you include?



If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:


Myretta is the co-founder and current manager of The Republic of Pemberley, a pretty big Jane Austen web site. She is also a writer of Historical Romance. You can find her at her website, and on Twitter @Myretta.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Heather Waters
1. HeatherWaters
Ooh, great idea to list them by categories like this. I shall have to go through these recs as different moods strike. I've read and really enjoyed Liz Carlyle, but not A Woman Scorned, I don't think, so I'll have to pick that one up sometime.
Lege Artis
2. LegeArtis
Great post, Myretta!
Oh, I have to read about that Hunky Vicar, he sounds interesting...
I remember sex scene in Jennifer Ashley's The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie. It's first time Ian and Beth go all the way, in some pension, and although their previous encountors were very hot and steamy, this one left impression on me, 'cause it's first time Ian looks Beth directly in her eyes. The importance of something that is so normal and natural for most of us, but beautiful in its rarity for other...
Gail Eastwood
3. Gail Eastwood
Myretta, so glad you incuded my Most Favorite Love Scene Ever --Jill Barnett's from Bewitching! I've used this scene as a teaching tool (for writing, LOL) and love re-reading this fav laugh-out-loud historical. There's so much more to this scene --you did a great job of explaining without spoiling it for any who haven't had the joy of reading it yet. Congrats on your choices --all good ones, and a tough thing to judge!!
Victoria Janssen
4. VictoriaJanssen
The Notorious Rake is one of my favorite Baloghs! Also a fan of Liz Carlyle - I like that Cole and Jonet show up in later books.
Penny Watson
5. PennyRomance
Great post, Myretta. I just added a couple of new books to my TBR pile...thanks! :^)
Myretta Robens
6. Myretta
I can't recommend The Hunky Vicar highly enough. And yes, @VictoriaJanssen, I love that her characters are so interrelated. I wrote a blog about this about a year ago here. The Liz Carlyle Family Reunion
Myretta Robens
7. Myretta
@LegeArtis I'll have to put The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie on my TBR list. Your recommendation is the second I've had within the last week.
Myretta Robens
8. Myretta
@Gail Eastwood Bewitching is a delightful book and Joyous is a delightful heroine. I'm sorry Jill Barnett is no longer writing Historicals.
Lady Wesley
9. LadyWesley
Oh, goodness, yes, Myretta, you would enjoy not only Lord Ian's story but all of Jennifer Ashley's Mackenzie books. They tell the stories of four hot, hunky Victorian-era Scottish lords who definitely know their way around the bedroom. And a lot of other rooms, for that matter.
10. Janga
Myretta, I've been working on a review of The Bride Wore Pearls and thinking about what readers miss who don't enjoy the references to the Bessets, the Rutledges, the de Rohans . . .

I'd add Michael's seduction of Catherine in Shattered Rainbows to the list and definitely a scene from Elizabeth Hoyt--maybe from Thief of Shadows.
Gail Eastwood
11. Jill Barnett
My sincerest thanks for one of my scenes being including in this article. Those rose petals were a gift from the writing gods, or, maybe, my uber-romantic, 30-something self. I wrote that scene over twenty years ago. That it still is remembered means the world to me. Funny thing that ties to this. I finished a new book last year--it will be out the end of next year--that left me with the same amazed feeling I had when I finished--BEWITCHING. That has only happened to me twice in all my years of writing. Fingers crossed Glenna's story is as well received and remembered. Thanks again. Jill Barnett
Myretta Robens
12. Myretta
Thank you for the gift of Bewitching, Jill. I loved it so. And I will definitely be looking for Glenna's story.
Gail Eastwood
13. Karen H in NC
OMG...I'm reading A Woman Scorned by Liz Carlyle right now. I have been a little disappointed in the fact that I'm 2/3 through the book and it has been dragging. Usually Liz's books have for pep and energy early on but not this one. I haven't stopped reading it because I KNOW THINGS ARE GOING TO HAPPEN SOON!!!! And you just confirmed that I really need to read faster! LOL I was beginning to wonder if these 2 would EVER get together! Obviously they do! Do you have a page number? Maybe I'll flip ahead to see what's around the other corner!

Another of my favorite authors who writes fantastic love scenes is Liza Kleypas. Any book she writes will have several too-hot-to-touch sex scenes in it. Candice Hern does a good job of it too. Especially the scene in one of her Merry Widow books. It starts out with the H/H at a masquerade ending up outside, behind the bushes and up against a brick wall...and that's the opening chapter. BTW, they don't know each other either!
Jennifer Meriwether
14. JenM
I'm seconding Jennifer Ashley's Mackenzie series. I just finished the third book, The Many Sins of Lord Cameron, and once again, she has succeeding in writing some of the hottest sex scenes that I've read in a historical romance. The connection between her characters in those scenes is just fantastic.
Lynn Robb
15. lrobb
Nothing mentioned so far comes even close to the tantric sex scene in Liz Carlyle's "One Touch of Scandal."

"Do you trust me?" It was not the first time he's asked her such a question, though this time the context was different.

Her answer was the same, and it was certain. "Yes."

"Take my breath." he whispered. "Draw me deep inside you."

Then he covered her moth with his , his eyes open. She did so, breathing him deep, melting into him. "How...extroadinary," she whispered.

And it extends three pages.

Did I just win?
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