What a Pain

manHaving had major surgery a few weeks ago, I was a little disconcerted when my next two review books featured protagonists in pain. I was immediately struck by the realization that physical pain is something that many authors don’t portray realistically at all.

We all know the cliché: Hero is shot, stabbed, beaten up, whatever, and his immediate thoughts turn to sex. Sex?! Having just been sliced open under the best sterile surgical conditions, I can say without a doubt that sex was the last thing on my mind. Adding a pain killer like the norco I’m taking doesn’t change my mind at all. General oral pain killers, it seems to me, mask the pain as long as you don’t probe the wound, but don’t totally kill it. You need a shot near the wound site for that.

But Victoria Dahl’s cowboy hero Cole in Close Enough to Touch, recuperating from having a horse fall on him and suffering from a broken tibia and pelvis is ready to roll at the drop of a hat. And does.

The same goes for cowboy hero Cade Gentry in Cindy Holby’s Angel’s End, who’s been gut shot and then rode a stranger’s horse through a blizzard to drop nearly at the feet of the heroine. Unlike Cole, however, he doesn’t get his wish fulfilled right away. But his wish is still there—to jump in the sack with her.

Many of Cheri Adair’s contemporary heroes have the same sexual lust after being beaten up, shot, or stabbed. Some get lucky, and others have to wait a few pages before their intended partner succumbs to their hunky appeal.

But what is the appeal for a woman? Do we really want someone bleeding over us during the act? Do we really ignore the slashes, bullet holes, bruises and scrapes to satisfy our lust? Or do we have more Florence Nightingale in us?

True, fiction is fiction, but still having just been cut open, I felt the pain when I read the last few review books. And my immediate response to a few sex scenes was a heartfelt Ouch!

-Pat Henshaw

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18 Responses to What a Pain

  1. Tee says:

    Pat, Pat, Pat—as you said, this is fiction. What about all those wonderful first-time sex scenes, where the woman has one orgasm after another (and no pain, but just a “little” stretching)? But I do understand what you’re getting at here, because I’ve questioned this myself. It seems weird at the time, but romantic fiction has a way of smoothing out those hurts and make them non-existent in the throes of passion. A reader’s roll of the eyes and onward we go through the pages. This is just one more little denial of reality in a sea of many. But as we say, we know it’s fiction. What can it hurt? :) As for me, sometimes I wish there were a bit more reality in this genre; but whenever that’s mentioned on the boards, there’s quite an opposition saying we know what we’re getting into when reading these books.

    It’s only when we’re dealing with actual reality that we realize how far-fetched some of these things are in fiction books. Fortunately, romance fiction isn’t the only genre where “pretend” is the reality.

  2. Lynnd says:

    LOL. I always think of those scenes in a similar vein to those scenes in the old Roadrunner cartoons where good ol’ Wile E falls off a cliff, has something heavy fall on him knocking him into the ground but still manages to get up and start plotting again.

  3. Leigh says:

    The depiction of pain is a hot button with me – probably more so than most since I am around people in pain. And after surgery they usually aren’t interested in moving much less strenuous activity.

    I get that author stretch the limits of believability with first time sex or sex for that matter. But why even go there with pain?

    It would be a humorous scene Pat, is the heroine turned down an amorous hurt hero saying “You think I am going to have sex with you when there a chance that there will be blood all over my 750 count sheets and me?”

  4. JFTEE-Auburn says:

    Thank goodness for modern medicines. When I read about the peninsular campaigns or the Napoleonic march through France, etc., and the conditions that existed for those poor souls with injuries, I give thanks to have been born in the twentieth century. I don’t want to read pages and pages about the agony, but a well-written smidgen of reality that fits within the story arc is a necessary element to understand the character and the changes that should occur for someone that survives a nightmarish and harrowing experience.

    About three years ago I had a heart attack resulting in a quadruple bypass. It was during the recuperation period that a friend gave me my first romance, Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm. I’ve been devouring the genre ever since. Having gone through pain I don’t like to see it diminished or belittled, just treat it as part of life and go on.

  5. LeeB. says:

    Pat: You are so right! And Tee is right — I roll my eyes.

  6. dick says:

    Well, hey ladies, it’s all those endorphins that the mere thought of sex releases isn’t it? I can recall reading a book in which the hero suffered migraines which were relieved by having sex. Can’t remember the title. Seems like a great pain pill to me.

    • Tee says:

      dick: I can recall reading a book in which the hero suffered migraines which were relieved by having sex.Can’t remember the title.Seems like a great pain pill to me.

      Sure you haven’t spoken with my husband? He’s a believer in the “sex cures all” philosophy, too. :)

  7. G. Aliceson says:

    Good point about pain and lust. Severe pain doesn’t make people want to engage. Books aren’t portraying what this accurately, especially recovery time. I think it has to do with the fact the nearly everything in a romance novel goes faster. Characters don’t have time to have a long recovery. But once a man has had a little time to recover and is around the house with nothing active to do, maybe. And what woman doesn’t want a man who is willing to endure a little pain and hardship for them?

  8. xina says:

    I recently read a book where the heroine had to dig a bullet out of the hero’s leg..yes, it was historical, and yes she really dug it out. Five pages later they were having fabulous sex. I thought…”hey, wait a minute!” But, like Tee said, onward I marched through all the pages. I just think that real life situations are not the same in a romance novel. Big gaping hole in your leg? No matter, there’s always sex. Ah, yes.

  9. farmwifetwo says:

    My favourite was a Robyn Carr when our heroine managed to stand on crutches and make dinner for 40 while everyone else was out with Nora and kids. Not with a minor sprane… oh no… major busted ankle including pins.

    Ummmm…. having at a shrapnel mess in my right shin – 3″ long, a loonie sized piece of bone carved out – let’s just say that 3 days later I was upright, and very, very wobbly. There’s a reason my Mother was here for 12 days until I could master the stairs. It still took them 3 weeks to pull the stitches.

    PINS… she had PINS and was bouncing up and down the stairs on her backside the next day. PINS!!!!!!!!

  10. Margot says:

    I remember reading a book once where the hero was stabbed in the thigh, yet still managed to be thinking of sex pretty much 24/7, even when the doctor was cleaning and bandaging the wound. (He also seemed to be erect 24/7, which is definitely a problem, not a good thing.) Usually I can suspend disbelief about recovery time, but that was just too much.

  11. PatH AAR says:

    Laughed so loud at some of your comments that it brought on….pain! (And you thought I was going to say ideas about sex?!)

    So now I have intestinal flu. Should be over in the next day or so says my doctor. But I’ve found another type of pain (vomiting and diarrhea, sometimes called dire rear) that also don’t produce images of sex, although I hazily remember on book where the heroine vomited, the hero helped take care of her, and then they had sex.

    Thanks for all the great comments!

    • Hannah says:

      PatH AAR: I hazily remember on book where the heroine vomited, the hero helped take care of her, and then they had sex.Thanks for all the great comments!


      I’m so sorry to hear that you’re sick on top of everything else, Pat. Get better soon!

  12. Tee says:

    Yes, I was thinking the same thing, Pat. Hope you get better very quickly following your surgery. Then you can have mind-blowing sex! :)

  13. Susan/DC says:

    In Alissa Johnson’s “An Unexpected Gentleman” the heroine is grazed by a bullet. It hurts like anything, and when the hero tells her it’s only a minor wound, she’s majorly upset with him for his lack of sympathy. The scene was quite funny, I liked that for once the heroine didn’t play the martyr.

    Of course, heroines are often held to a different standard than heroes, but I do roll my eyes when the men are ready for action after nearly losing body parts (as long as it’s not the relevant one). In the early seasons of “24″ Jack Bauer didn’t have sex, but he too bounced back like the Energizer Bunny in more episodes than not.

  14. Susan says:

    Romantic suspense has a bad habit of doing the lusty recovery (and miraculously fast) bit. I often avoid that genre because of that.

  15. bavarian says:

    Oh I love them, all the heroes after beeing stabbed, shot at, beeing bashed nearly to death, lusting after the heroine while beeing tended (eben stiched, operated on) by her and then having sex the day after!
    What I’m really angry about is that I spent money on yet another DNF.

  16. Bookster says:

    As a guy, I can testify to wanting sex at times of “crisis.” Even including a painful testicle. Not always in painful situations, but often enough. Maybe it has to do with some biological survival impulse. Who can figure?

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