Friday, June 08, 2012

Guest Blog by Laura Kaye - Seven Elements of Sexual Tension

Please welcome Laura Kaye to The Qwillery!

Seven Elements of Sexual Tension

I’m very excited to be at The Qwillery today to celebrate not one but TWO new releases! On May 15, my contemporary romance HER FORBIDDEN HERO released, and on June 1, my dark paranormal romance SEDUCED BY THE VAMPIRE KING (Vampire Warrior Kings #2) released. One thing both of these books have in common is unrelenting sexual tension. So I thought I’d share some elements that I think create great sexual tension between romantic characters and then offer you an excerpt from each book that shows you that tension in action!

Delayed Gratification. The longer you have to wait for that first touch, that first kiss, that first loosening of restraint, the better it is when it finally happens! Delaying gratification (for the reader and the characters!) makes you ache and yearn and long for it. And that builds sexual tension, literally.

Internal Debate. Another element that creates good sexual tension is the characters themselves giving in to what they want, and then pulling back. Maybe their body wants something their head or heart knows is no good for them. Or maybe they’re attracted to someone they know they can’t—or shouldn’t—have. This two steps forward, one step back internal debate builds sexual tension.

SlowMo. Giving readers every step, every detail, in the midst of a tension-filled moment makes it that much more intense, and that buildings sexual tension, too.

Near Misses [aka c*ckblocking! LOL] Finally, finally they lean in for that first kiss….and someone walks into the room. Or something explodes. Finally, FINALLY they’re going to DO IT ALREADY and the hero gets an urgent call that tears him away or the bad guy arrives on the scene. All these near misses—otherwise known as being really, really mean to your characters—create sexual frustration that make readers and characters really, really want it!

Engaging the Senses. If you think about kissing someone…yes, go ahead, and pause for a moment, I’ll wait… *winks* …kissing is such an intimate experience that you register how that person feels, how they smell, how they taste, what their eyes look like up close, what sounds they make low in their throat, how they hold you, how their body moves. Engaging readers’ senses helps create sexual tension by giving them the sensory input to know exactly what it is that is so attracting between the characters, on the most physical level.

The Dance. Building sexual tension involves a process of escalation. In how the characters look at one another, how they talk to one another, how they touch one another, how they move around one another, and how they think about one another. If a strange man just walks into a store, steps around the counter and kisses the woman, that’s not all that sexy. But if the strange man walks into the store, he and the female clerk trade glances across the room, he asks for her help picking out lingerie, and together they look over sexy scraps of material, occasionally brushing hands or shoulders, and she notices how good he smells, and he notices how blue her eyes, and now they’re wondering about one another, and she asks if this is a gift for a girlfriend, and he says it’s not, that he’s noticed her before and just needed an excuse to come in to her store. THEN if he pushes her up against the wall and kisses her, it’s sexy. Sexual tension is built by the dance as much as if not more than by the acts.

Emotion and Sex. Finally, good sexual tension is built by a ramping up of both the characters’ emotional reactions and desires and physical reactions and desires. Knowing that the physical acts have major emotional risk and rewards makes them so much more meaningful, and the gradual development and correlation of both over the duration of a story create sexual tension.

Now, how ‘bout them sexual tension excerpts I mentioned???

First, from my contemporary romance Her Forbidden Hero:

“Any chance you’re going to explain the silent treatment?” Alyssa asked.

He glared her way, then set the empty dishwasher racks off to the side on the floor.

“Marco, I don’t understand—”

“You got that right.”

“Got what right? I don’t even know what we’re talking about. All I know is you’re kinda being an asshole and I haven’t the foggiest idea what I…”

The words died in her throat as Marco abruptly turned, stalked across the space behind the bar, and flipped up the counter in front of her. She retreated as he stepped through the gap, and then he grabbed her by the arms—firm enough that she knew he had her, but not enough to hurt.

“How many times did you get grabbed out there tonight? Huh?” He pushed her back one step, then another, until her spine came flush against something unyielding. He braced his hands on the wall above her shoulders and towered over her, six-foot-three-inches of pissed-off versus five-foot-four-inches of turned-on. “How many guys laid their fucking paws on you?”

Alyssa could barely breathe, let alone respond. Her heart was a speeding train in her chest. How had he even known what had happened on the floor, anyway? Besides, she’d handled it. Kim had prepared her for the rowdy ones, plus you didn’t grow up in a violent household without knowing how to dodge some unwanted contact. The self-defense classes she’d taken in college taught her the rest. So what if one guy kept putting his arm around her shoulders when she leaned in to take his orders and another grabbed her ass? No blood, no foul, and all that.

“I can tell you this goddamn much. There is at least one man in this town who is lucky to be alive tonight.”

“Marco,” she whispered.

He pounded his fist on the wall. “I can’t…you c-can’t…” He shook his head.

“Marco,” she said again. “I’m okay.”

He stared at her a long moment, blue eyes blazing and his breathing hard. Slowly, he leaned in, his tongue flicking his bottom lip.

Alyssa’s mouth dropped open. Oh, God, how many times had she dreamed of this? She tilted her head and held his gaze, her whole body alive with anticipation. Her hand fisted in his shirt, pulling him in or pulling herself up—she wasn’t sure which.

[insert rude authorial end of excerpt here! LOL heh—did I leave you wanting to feel the moment their lips touched???]

Second, from my dark paranormal romance Seduced by the Vampire King:

Katherine rested the nearly empty bottle on her thigh and glanced up at him. A glossy sheen covered her bottom lip. Nikolai’s mouth fell open as his respiration increased. The plump, wet skin called to him, beckoned. To taste it… All at once, his mind went blank and he could focus on nothing else. Unconsciously, he leaned in, watching as her lips parted and her tongue snaked out to wet her top lip, too. Their eyes met. Hers were hooded and intense, heaven in a stare. He held her gaze as he moved closer. Her scent added to her allure, surrounding and confusing him. The smell of his own blood, on her, followed fast behind, building within his chest a deep, hot feeling of male satisfaction. Christ, he loved her wearing his blood. Were it on her skin, he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from devouring it. Devouring her. Warm, quick exhalations fell against his lips. He shouldn’t do this, he really fucking shouldn’t, but he had to, he had to know—

“My lord, I brought—” Footsteps ended abruptly in the doorway behind him.

Nikolai wrenched back and rose to his feet, his heart hammering against his breastbone. Disappointment warred with relief in his mind. What the hell was he doing?

[anybody want to curse that guy who arrived just at the wrong moment? LOL]

So, what do YOU think most creates sexual tension in a book? And just how much can you take before you explode?!? Leave a comment and tell me, and be entered for my GIVEAWAY! I’m giving away an ebook each of Her Forbidden Hero and Seduced by the Vampire King, so there will be two winners who each win one ebook! Open to international! Good luck! And thanks for reading.

About Her Forbidden Hero

Her Forbidden Hero
Indulgence,  May 15, 2012
eBook, 240 pages

You always want what you can't have...

She's always been off-limits...

Former Army Special Forces Sgt. Marco Vieri has never thought of Alyssa Scott as more than his best friend's little sister, but her return home changes that...and challenges him to keep his war-borne demons at bay. Marco's not the same person he was back when he protected Alyssa from her abusive father, and he's not about to let her see the mess he's become.

...but now she's all grown up.

When Alyssa takes a job at the bar where Marco works, her carefree smiles wreak havoc on his resolve to bury his feelings. How can he protect her when he can't stop thinking about her in his bed? But Alyssa's not looking for protection--not anymore. Now that she's back in his life, she's determined to heal her forbidden hero, one touch at a time...

About Seduced by the Vampire King

Seduced by the Vampire King
Vampire Warrior Kings 2
Harlequin Nocturne Cravings, June 1, 2012
eBook, 66 pages

American exchange student Kate Bordessa has fled to Russia to escape her family's hopes that she'll become one of the Proffered, human women who feed and mate with elite vampire warriors. But when she stumbles upon a wounded vampire in the streets of Moscow, she's instinctively driven to protect him--and feels an undeniable spark of desire.

Grieving over the deaths of his brothers, Vampire Warrior King Nikolai Vasilyev has thrown himself into battling his enemies, focused only on vengeance. Until the attack that brought him to Kate. Their sexual attraction explodes into a night of uncontrolled passion--a night that marks them as mates. Is their connection strong enough to convince them to embrace a destiny neither of them was expecting?

About Laura Kaye

Voted Breakout Author of the Year in the 2011 GraveTells Readers’ Choice Awards, Laura is the bestselling and award-winning author of over a half-dozen books in paranormal, contemporary and erotic romance. Hearts in Darkness is the EPIC eBook Award Winner for Best Novella and HOLT Medallion Award of Merit Winner for Best Romance Novella, Forever Freed is the NJRW Golden Leaf Winner for Best Paranormal of 2011 and is a finalist for two GDRWA Booksellers’ Best Awards, and North of Need, the first book in the Hearts of the Anemoi series, is a finalist for a FF&P PRISM award, was named GraveTells’ Best Book of 2011 and won their 5-STAR Gold Heart Award, and won Sizzling Hot Read of the Year at Sizzling Hot Books. Laura lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.

The Giveaway


What:  One commenter will win digital copy (eBook) of Her Forbidden Hero and one commenter will win a digital copy (eBook) of Seduced by the Vampire King from Laura.

How:  Leave a comment answering Laura's questions:

What do YOU think most creates sexual tension in a book? 
And just how much can you take before you explode?!?

Please remember - if you don't answer the questions your entry will not be counted.

You may receive additional entries by:

1)   Being a Follower of The Qwillery.

2)   Mentioning the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter. Even if you mention the giveaway on both, you will get only one additional entry. You get only one additional entry even if you mention the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter multiple times.

3)   Mentioning the giveaway on your on blog or website. It must be your own blog or website; not a website that belongs to someone else or a site where giveaways, contests, etc. are posted.

There are a total of 4 entries you may receive: Comment (1 entry), Follower (+1 entry), Facebook and/or Twitter (+ 1 entry), and personal blog/website mention (+1 entry). This is subject to change again in the future for future giveaways.

Please leave links for Facebook, Twitter, or blog/website mentions. You MUST leave a way to contact you.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with an emailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Friday, June 15, 2012. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*


  1. Well after reading Hearts in Darkness I can say you rock at great sexual tension. I love the build up--and even the torturous interruption. I want to be yelling at the characters to kiss/do it already.

    1. Aw, thanks Cindi! Yes, that desire to yell at the book means the author did it right! LOL :)

  2. Hi Laura!

    Great post...and I loved the excerpts :D

    For me an inside into the emotions the characters are experiencing while engaged in this very physical dance is key for building sexual tension. Without emotions, it's just not sexy.

  3. I love the build up. Delayed gratification always gets me. I can wait until the very end of the story for them to connect if that is how it should be. Rushing ruins it for me. Jumping into sex with no real connection just doesn't cut it.
    Thank you so much for the excellent post.


  4. Wow! For me it's a combination of all the elements you mention. It's really hard to explain why some books like you on fire and other (which according to other's reviews are really hot) leave you cold. Hero is now on my Amazon wishlist.

    FB Anne M.
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  5. As several posters stated, it's the build up. And just when I think something is going to happen, there's phone call, someone enters the room, the cat jumps on the bed! ARRRGGH!! LOL

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    Tracey D
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  6. The best sexual tension for me is based on real feelings between the two. Such as Marco and Alyssa. She doesn't quite see what the big deal is but that one move and she gets it. And he is pushed over the top by the feelings he has been bottling up and can't any more.

    It's as Rashda mentioned in an earlier comment - the emotions make all the difference. Thanks Laura. You demonstrated aptly that you know of what you speak/write. :-)

    Facebook -

    1. Aw, thank you so much! I'm glad you think I got it right with these two! xoxo

  7. Emotions, connection, sexual tension, interruptions...oh, you know how to play it, Laura! And I LIKE it...but after awhile, girlfriend...even lover that I am...WILL teach the cursed thing how to FLY if it jumps on the bed ONE more time!! ;)
    Following via:
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  8. Thanks for a great post and giveaway!

    You nailed it. Exactly what you said :) I love the emotion and tension but if it's drawn out too far, then I get frustrated. Especially if they don't get together because of the "big misunderstanding"/lack of communication. That some couples can't seem to communicate drives me nuts!

    gfc: erin

    1. Yes, I think there is a breaking point for most readers! Good point, Erin!

  9. For me it's the build-up and the emotions! There has to be some emotion or it just doesn't work for me, but I also love a slow build-up.

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  10. Just wanted to say...My favorite tension scene is when one character is unaware. A door left ajar, looking out a window, seeing the other person sleeping, a wet T-shirt or sundress, etc...A person can be most sexy when they aren't even aware you're watching.

    1. Oh, that's very nice, Sandra! I like that a lot!

  11. The Dance. Yep, that's was does it for me. It's all the little glances, touches. The way they notice the little details about the other person like a few freckles across her shoulders, the gold in flecks in his eyes. The way they can't stop noticing each other.
    Thanks for the giveaway!


  12. Loved the post! I love that whole engaging the senses element... I think that creates the most sexual tension.

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  13. I love them all! The build up and interruptions, the dance and engaging the senses all make for great scenes that stay in your mind. I think it builds up both for the characters and the readers. Sometimes I am as eager as the characters, lol. I do love how you write these. I can't wait to read SEDUCED BY A VAMPIRE KING. Thank you so much for the great post and giveaways! :)
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  14. I want to also add that you are now the official queen of sexual tension. After reading Hearts and Darkness, I really believe you earned that title. The sexual tension in that book was fantastic and really well paced. Can't wait to check out your new titles! Great post!

    1. Aw, that's awesome of you to say! Love it! Thanks much!

  15. Very nice post. I think it's the near misses and interruptions.

    I follow the blog.


  16. I like a lot of tension build up so when it finally happens, I see the sparks fly. But there have been some scenes where, I keep wishing they'd do it already.
    +1 gfc: Julianne
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  17. I love seeing the unforseen attraction...the one where he knows and ardently persues what he wants, regardless of how she feels, until he sees he can't have her by force. He must woo her. And LOVE her. And free her if she needs that.

  18. I felt for both main characters in this story! Marco was a war vet who carried great guilt over a deadly decision he had made while in the army and Alyssa was a woman who had endured a difficult childhood after the death of her mother and abuse of her father. After not seeing each other in years, they end up working in the same bar. Sparks immediately fly for Alyssa while Marco becomes an ice cube that needs quite a bit of thawing!

    Alyssa had grown up with Marco; he was her brother's best friend, however, he was not the same Marco she remembered because of his experiences overseas. Even so, she loved him and wanted him but he want between hot and cold, staying on the cold side a good portion of the time. While the couple had great chemistry and Alyssa already knew she loved Marco, it took Marco some time to realize that he was worthy of a life and didn't have to be consumed by guilt. He had protected her when she was younger and he would protect her yet again in adulthood. She had a way of calming his nightmares and helped him to become alive again but he didn't realize it. It would take a traumatic event to bring them together but then misunderstanding quickly rears its ugly head.