There are many things I love about romance novels. The brave, hunky heroes. The smart, capable heroines. The eclectic plots, settings, and challenges the characters face while fighting for their hard-earned happily ever after. And while those are all great, I feel that one of the under-celebrated aspects of romance is its willingness to tackle difficult topics, such as infertility, grief, mental illness, sexuality, and intolerance.
As a romance writer, one of my goals is to explore some of these tough topics
while showing the characters working through their pain and achieving their
happy ending. For example, in my new book, CHAIN REACTION, the heroine is a
sexual assault survivor. I don’t want to give too much away, but she does have scars and baggage she needs to process before she can have a healthy, fulfilling
relationship with the hero.
Partly because consent is always important, and partly because Alexa is
a sexual assault survivor, it was extremely important to me for 1) the hero,
Zack, to know about Alexa’s past; and 2) the consent between them to be crystal
clear. Personally, I think it’s always important that the consent between the
hero and the heroine is clear, but even more so in this instance because of what
happened to Alexa. It’s key that readers see the difference between Zack’s
treatment of Alexa, and what she endured and survived.
In the book, Alexa has come to terms with her past through therapy, but she
still struggles with some of the lingering baggage. In a very loving, supportive
way, Zack helps her work through her remaining scars, while also acknowledging the horror of what happened to her. There’s a sharp contrast between what Alexa went through and the love and security she finds while connecting sexually with Zack, and none of that is possible without very clear consent between both of them.
Part of the reason Zack and Alexa have such a powerful connection is that they
have a deep trust—a trust that wouldn’t be possible without sexual consent.
Given Alexa’s history, the fact that she’s able to move forward with Zack in a
loving, consenting relationship, is all the more profound.
While writing this book, it was important to me to treat what happened to Alexa
with sensitivity and empathy, while not painting her as a hapless victim. She’s
a quiet character, but has an inner strength, grace, and a good heart that
shines through, and will have readers cheering for her.
Consent is sexy. Period.