Romance Novels: Female Empowerment, Talking Dirty and a Few Favorite Titles

love_storm_webSure the cover art is often terrible and some of the stories can be fairly misogynistic, but the stories and perspective romance novels provide have also helped women learn to better communicate our sexual needs and desires over the last 20 years. Long before Christian Gray was enticing young women to sign sex contracts – Fabio look-a-likes of the 80’s were teaching the generations before us how to talk dirty with confidence.

I love romance novels. I’ve loved them since my college days, when I used them to escape boring textbooks on the weekends. Now I find myself mostly listening to romance novels on Audible while doing laundry or cleaning up the house – yeah multitasking! It’s this entire genre of page-turners and they almost always end happily. Romance novels have given us examples of healthy female sexual desires and pleasure – these beautiful stories that support the narrative that it’s okay for a woman to ask and receive what she wants in the bedroom.

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Romance novels perfectly fill the gap between mainstream films (Rated R & NC-17) that are required to limit the nudity and sexual content in order to remain mainstream – and where XXX (pornography) story lines fall flat. There’s this sweet spot the best romance novels hit with their visceral intimacy and carefully selected language dripping with sensuality…they make you keep coming back for more…even if that means neglecting laundry, dishes and sometimes even your children…

Here are a few of my favorite romance novels from my 2018 library:

Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai: (Book #1 in the Forbidden Hearts Series) 

This book is truly a page-turning romantic drama from chapter one. I’ve seen it mentioned that this book is like Romeo and Juliet, except with a happy ending – and that is a great description! Two enemy families, tragedy, resentment, and secret love…with a lot of great chemistry and little bit of angst! The characters are honest and raw – even more so in books #2 and #3 in the series – and I found myself cheering for their happy endings. I’m a sucker for a good series – which is why this one is at the top of my list! 

Hate Notes by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward:

The first chapter had me hooked – a woman finds a beautiful blue note sewn into a consigned wedding gown and feels compelled to find out more about the man who’s stationary it was written on. It’s fresh and original – in a genre where that’s incredibly difficult to do. It’s romantic, drama-filled and filled with every fantasy you could imagine. I found myself wishing this was a 10 book series – I didn’t want it to end! 

A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole: (Book #1 in the Reluctant Royals Series)

Think The Princess Diaries mixed with Black Panther, but all grown up, featuring a smart black lady in STEM and a quazi-Nigerian Prince scam gone-right. It has all of the makings of a great romance novel – and then some – swoon-worthy, educational, steamy sex scenes, tales of friendship and DIVERSITY. The book is full of the good stuff – even though it still features all of the clinches you’d expect from a princess romance novel – it’s also much smarter and funnier than expected!

The First Taste by Jessica Hawkins: 

A standalone title by the author of another one of my favorites “Slip of the Tongue.” The development of the characters and their relationship feels very natural – each individual coming to the table openly and with flaws – the whole story is dripping with HONESTY and VULNERABILITY- what a novel concept! It’s a beautiful and captivating true-to-life story of a second chance at love – with enough romance to give you the hot-and-bothered tingles from head to toe! 

If you have any suggestions for romance reads in 2019 – leave a comment below!


Hi, I’m Rachel (you can call me Rae), Founder of The Pillow Talk Press. I’m a Sociologist. Writer. Sex-Positive Advocate. Master Woodworker. Artist. Yogi. Sports Mom. Cancer Survivor. Ninja Kicking Depression One Day at a Time ❤︎


The Pillow Talk Press was created as a hub for intimacy, honesty and thoughtful human connection – a corner of the internet helping to reconnect us to our basic humanity. 

4 Proven Ways To Increase Intimacy

Intimacy is not just about sex, it’s a form of healthy vulnerability. It’s a willingness to build an emotional connection through opening up and getting into deeper conversations that really matter. Being vulnerable and welcoming intimacy into your life requires a ton of courage and a certain level of emotional resilience. You’re letting your guard down and that can be really scary.

For me, real intimacy was something I had been seriously lacking before meeting my husband. I always tried to be someone that my previous partners could love by watering down my opinions or changing them entirely. It wasn’t until I met my husband that I realized how wrong my approach was. His willingness to be vulnerable with me gave me permission to be exactly who I was – creating this foundation of trust and intimacy I’d never experienced before.

Real, authentic, once-in-a-lifetime relationships require this level of intimacy – it is the glue that holds a couple together and allows them to share experiences and build something greater than their individual parts. Creating it isn’t a one-and-done scenario. It’s a process of discovery with each other – a curiosity about how and why your partner makes their decisions.

If you’re willing to commit to being vulnerable and cultivating intimacy in your relationship – here are a few of the things we’ve continued to do to keep our intimacy alive and well: 

1 -Full-Disclosure: I’m talking about sharing the things you’ve never told anyone else. For example, my husband never understood why I refused to leave the house without a full face of makeup – he thought I was beautiful without it and it drove him insane whenever it came up. One night I opened up and told him about a time in 6th grade when a 7th grade boy turned to me in the lunch line and told me my “eyes made me look retarded.” That was the last day I left my house without eye makeup on. Once I shared my “why” his frustration turned into understanding and empathy.

notes.jpg2 – Daily Connects: A more recent addition to our intimacy toolkit is our morning meeting. Every single morning we sit down together and I write “good”, “will improve” and “today’s goals” in my journal. We review yesterday together and talk through the outcomes of whatever decisions we had made together. We also talk about our individual challenges and help each other stay accountable to our goals.  This has been the single thing that has made the biggest impact on our productivity together.

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Vegas for a weekend away in 2018

3 – Be Mindful of your Habits and Patterns: Over time every relationship becomes somewhat predictable. You feel comfortable with your partner always being there for you and vice versa. This comfort can be a beautiful thing – but if those routines become too rigid they can lack emotion and real connection. Worse, if they take a negative turn they can create anger and resentment. One way to enjoy the comfort, while making sure your relationship is still fully connected – is to plan occasional interruptions to your pattern. Our method – girls nights, guys weekends and time away.  We interrupt our routine by spending time with friends outside of the house – create a little disruption to allow for flexibility and growth.

4 – Practice Gratitude: Everyone wants to feel appreciated and expressing your gratitude for each other makes you more likely to hold space for understanding and empathy. You begin to look for ways to appreciate your partner – rather than ways in which they inconvenience you or drive you crazy. Feeling gratitude is great, but expressing it and sharing your feelings with your partner will create good vibes all around. We’ve made this part of our daily connect routine by thanking each other for their part in the previous day’s accomplishments.

 

…since we plan on sticking with this whole marriage thing – what other tips do you have for keeping the flame burning in your relationship? I’d love to add them to our intimacy building arsenal! 

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My 3 Favorite Ways To Get In The Mood

Sex is amazing, especially when I’m feeling confident about myself. But, what about those days when you hit snooze for 30 minutes and miss yoga practice, your kids forgot their lunch on the counter and your dog ran through the screen door – those are the days when feeling sexy doesn’t come easily.

If you’re looking to turn up the heat and turn yourself on – I’ve got you covered. From pampering yourself to turning up the tunes – here’s a few of our favorite ways to start your journey to pleasure:

1 – Pamper yourself with a bath:

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Drop in the perfect bath bomb or add some bubble bath, then sit back and relax! Allow yourself to unwind surrounded by the comforting warmth of a hot bath and sooth yourself with your favorite scents. A little “me” time can help you settle all of the thoughts of the day and become more present in the moment. Bonus: turn off the lights and use candles for an even sexier experience


2 – Create an inviting space for intimacy:

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When my room is messy it makes me stressy – seriously. Messy spaces or an unmade bed can trigger all sorts of negative emotions that will quickly kill your sexy time plans. There’s nothing sexier than sliding naked into a neatly made bed with fresh linens – add some essential oil spray to your sheets to kick it up another notch!


3 – Turn on some music:

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Relax, close your eyes and let the music change your mood. There a bunch of science behind this – to sum it up…music taps into the pleasure center of your brain and releases all the good wanton mojo. Fun Fact: According to this study done by Sonos, the smart speaker system, 67 percent of couples that listen to music out loud together report having more sex than couples who don’t listen to music together.


(Bed)SIDE NOTE: If you’re still struggling to get in the mood – remember that sex hormones and stress hormones are linked in that if one is high, the other will be low. Stimulants like sugar, caffeine and nicotine all raise your stress hormones making you less likely to get in the mood.

How I Overcame Sexual Shame and Learned to Love Sex

A friendly nudge to explore the pleasures sex has to offer.

It took me 28 years to begin dismantling and destroying the seemingly programmed feelings of shame and guilt I had about sex. It wasn’t just about my own sexuality — it was ALL THINGS SEX — the word itself felt taboo.

The only real opportunity I had to learn about sex was in the mandatory single-gender Human Growth & Development class at my public school — which was really just a glorified anatomy lesson pushing abstinence. I had amazing parents that taught me about all sorts of things — but they either didn’t know how to talk to me about sex or felt uncomfortable doing so. It was likely a mix of both since my mom still cringes any time I mention something sexual and my dad still shakes his head and walks away laughing.

This strange code of silence surrounding sexuality caused a whole lot of confusion in my hormone-heavy mind and forced me to operate from my adolescent assumptions alone. Sex had grown into this negative — scary — gross and entirely shameful thing. The feelings of pleasure experienced with sex — just plain old vanilla sex — were always followed by waves of guilt and shame.

Since the shame had lived inside of me for as long as I could remember, it felt natural and I never thought to question it. Silence had always been the way adults around me dealt with the topic of sex, which meant I certainly wouldn’t be bringing it up for a second opinion any time soon.

So there sat shame…simmering away well into my 20’s…

By then I was happily married and having the obligatory 1–2 times weekly missionary style sex -and we got pregnant with our first child. BOOM — no more hiding from sex. The proof was in my womb and some man named Dr. Taylor was sticking a wand up my vagina-hole to inspect the tiny bean-like creature. Something started to happen while my pregnant belly grew — I finally learned to love and appreciate my body.

Nothing teaches you quite how terrifyingly magical your body is like squeezing a giant baby out of your vagina-hole while your husband watches in half amazement/half horror. I’ll never forget my husband’s wonderous expression as he was explaining to his buddies (all single guys) how my vagina was kind of like a transformer…

Luckily, his wonder and admiration for my transforming childbirth vagina didn’t leave him with night terrors. Instead, he accepted me without conditions — earning even more of my trust and willingness to share some of my hidden feelings about sex.

As I slowly opened up about my distorted views and started sharing my feelings of guilt and shame out loud, things started to truly change. I had begun nudging myself to explore my sexuality — the thoughts, feelings, sensations, attitudes and emotions of it all. I no longer viewed sex as wrong or dirty and shocked my husband by beginning to openly and proudly discuss our sex life with friends.

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No more hiding my sexuality and staying silent in the face of shame. Interestingly, when I stopped judging my actions and labeling them as “wrong.” I also stopped judging others and found a place of gained understanding, openness and empathy.

My feelings of shame are not entirely gone, but they no longer control my actions or keep me silent. Now our communication keeps us honest, our sex life is one of the things I’m most proud of and shame has been replaced by unconditional love, joy and pleasure.