Dear Editor…

Dear Editor,

I’m a long-time Harlequin Presents reader, but a first-time writer. I really want to write about a virgin heroine – I love these story-lines the most! – but I’m struggling to think of a way to make her virginity sound believable! Would you recommend I stick with my virgin heroine or make her more experienced? Any tips most gratefully received!

Thanks!

Jenny

Dear Jenny,

Great question! We’re so glad that you love virgin heroines as much as we do – she’s an enduringly popular Harlequin character! – but you’re right to think carefully about how to make sure her virginity rings true for the contemporary reader.

We’ve come a long way from the days when virgin heroines were the norm.  We now live in a time where contraception and societal changes have enabled women to embrace their sexual freedom. So it’s been important to Harlequin, and Harlequin authors, that this new reality is reflected in the type of heroines and story-lines we publish.

That aside, the idea of the virgin heroine still has huge appeal – to readers and aspiring writers like yourself, as well as to our existing author base! Of course, the appeal of the virgin will be different for everyone, depending on what series you love to read and write. Perhaps you feel saving yourself for Mr Right is the ultimate sign of love and commitment. Perhaps you’d rather read about a heroine losing her V-plates and loving every minute of the experience, rather than the often anti-climactic (!) reality?! Or maybe you just like to see that even the most innocent, shy heroine can bag herself a super-sexy bad-boy hero – and have some smoking hot sex along the way!

Whatever the reason, the virgin heroine is clearly here to stay. But in order to make her convincing in a 21st century world, and to 21st century readers, we need to understand exactly why a heroine has made that choice.

So, here are our top tips on how to pull off your virgin heroine…

  • Give her a rock-solid emotional reason for avoiding physical intimacy. Did she have a traumatic sexual experience in the past that has left her wary of taking that final step? Does she have extreme body-confidence issues – an eating disorder? Physical scarring of some kind? – that mean she’s deeply uncomfortable getting naked with someone? Let the reader understand exactly why the thought of making herself that physically vulnerable to someone is more than she can bear… until she meets the hero 🙂
  • Consider a high-fantasy setting. Setting your story in fictional kingdoms around the world, where different social customs prevail, could be a great way to have some fun with your virgin heroine! Is she a Mediterranean princess whose family’s honor rests on her chastity? Has your desert heroine been betrothed from birth to a neighboring sheikh? We could go on for hours – this is fun! – but you get the picture.
  • Beware the double standard! If your heroine is a virgin, but your hero is a playboy tycoon, consider what other qualities your heroine has that could balance out this power dynamic. Despite her innocence, how can she bring this hero to heel?!
  • Make the most of your hero’s reactions. Your hero might secretly love the fact that he’s the first, but have him question why the woman he finds so attractive has kept other men at arm’s length. This can be a great way to explore the heroine’s conflict on the page…and cement how compatible your hero and heroine really are!
  • Remember – emotional virginity counts! If you decide to write a more experienced heroine, that’s great too! However, if she’s not a virgin, let’s see that everything about the relationship with the hero – from their sex life to their emotional connection – is in such a different league from her previous experiences that it feels like the first time.

We hope you find these tips helpful, and best of luck with your virgin heroine – have fun writing her!

The SOLD Editors x

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