The final frontier of pulp literature is the romance novel, which is also the biggst selling book genre. So it's not surprising that a growing subset of romance novels also feature lovelorn spacemen (and women.) After all, astronauts need loving too. As the handful of romance books featuring spaceship battles and aliens has grown, the sub-genre has gotten more sophisticated — and closer to real science fiction. We give you a taste of these soft-core space operas. Just watch out for shirtless cover models and purple prose.The earlier scifi romance novels tend to rely on the conventions of the genre, with a virginal heroine seduced by a roguish hero – but in space:
Sweet Starfire by Jayne Ann Krentz Description: Often credited as being the first mainstream futuristic romance novel, Sweet Starfire follows Cidra, a girl from a people called the Wolves. Raised by the alien Harmonics, Cidra lives a sheltered life where she knows nothing but spirituality and peace. That is, until she embarks on a galactic quest with Teague Severance, a rugged Wolf adventurer used to getting any woman he wants. Excerpt:
This was different, far different, from anything Cidra had ever experienced. She felt her lips urged apart with an aggressive sensuality. She found she couldn't help but respond. Something deep within her seemed suddenly bursting to get out. With a shock she realized that although she had never experienced this kind of thing before, she knew about it. Something that had always lain dormant within her knew everything about this. And the knowledge had nothing to do with what she had always been told about sex. And, of course, Cidra had been told all about sex by her parents and teachers. They had explained it to her, just as the principles of poetic kinetics and programming theory had been explained. What no one had succeeded in conveying was the sense of anticipation and excitement. No one had told her how her body would grow warm and languid or that there would be a small, curling flame in the pit of her stomach. She shivered, and Severance was immediately aware of it.
Warrior’s Woman by Johanna Lindsey Description: Somehow nothing quite beats the official description:
In the year 2139, fearless Tedra De Arr sets out to rescue her beleaguered planet Kystran from the savage rule of the evil Crad Ce Moerr. Experienced in combat but not in love, the beautiful, untouched Amazon flies with Martha, her wise-cracking, free-thinking computer, to a world where warriors reigns supreme—and into the arms of the one man she can never hope to vanquish: the bronzed barbarian Challen Ly-San-Ter. A magnificent creature of raw yet disciplined desires, the muscle-bound primitive succeeds where no puny Kystran male had before—igniting a raging fire within Tedra that must be extinguished before she can even think of saving her enslaved world…
He was well positioned between her legs now, had risen up to do so, his full weight supported by his arms. The biceps bulged and glistened with moisture. There was so much of him to touch, and Tedra loved touching him, looking at him. But right now she wanted to feel him deep inside her. “If you wait much longer, Challen, I’m going to—” She gasped as his heat entered her. Stars, there was such tightness, such fullness. She knew her body would accommodate him, but she didn’t think she could wait long enough for it to do so. She didn’t think he could either. His great body trembled in restraint, his muscles quivered, sweat broke out all over him. Either he was in as much discomfort as she, or he was putting on another superhuman effort. The effort was wasted. Despite the discomfort of his entry, of knowing there would be greater pain to come, Tedra wanted all of him and she wanted it now. “Are you waiting for my permission?” He made a sound between a growl and a moan, and gritted out, “Permission is not needed of a challenge loser.”
More recently, some authors have tried to more cohesively blend the science fiction and romance elements, often ditching the trope of the sexually inexperienced female:
Moonstruck by Susan Grant Description: Starship Admiral Brit Bandar and Drakken Warleader Finn Rorkken once fought on opposite sides of a bitter and bloody war. Now an intergalactic treaty has Finn serving as second-in-command to “Stone Heart” Bandar. But as political tensions mount, the one-time nemeses start getting cozy, and soon they’re sharing more than just a spaceship. Excerpt:
With this stranger between her legs, she could cast her memories back and pretend he was Seff and she his young wife, innocent, full of hopes and dreams, all the things she wasn’t now. They were only teenagers, married less than two years when Hordish marauders came. With this pretty stranger and all the others before him she could lose herself in the sex, almost believing in those moments of blinding, no-strings-attached passion that she was still human. That she could still feel. “Come here.” She took his head between her hands and kissed him roughly. He returned the kiss with equal intensity, crushing her to the pillow, but something wasn’t right. Something’s missing, she thought. Of course it is, you fool. His passion is staged—it’s what you bought him for. Yours is real.
And, while pairs in mainstream scifi romance do tend to be heterosexual with neatly aligned gonads, some authors have made an effort to incorporate science fictional elements in their actual sex scenes:
Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair Description: After yet another interstellar alliance, Captain Sass Sebastian ends up serving under the cyborg Admiral Branden Kel-Paten. And, although it’s supposed to be impossible for cyborgs to experience emotion, he soon develops strong, sexy feelings for Sass. Excerpt:
Her hands curled into his waistband and unsnapped his pants. Oh, sweet holy gods!
Unraveled by C.J. Barry Description: Tru Van Dyne has lived her entire life in isolation among the Majj scientists, but when she needs to obtain an alien artifact, she hires Rayce Coburn, adventurer and famed womanizer. To protect herself from his roguish charm, she interacts with him through a virtual reality program, a plan which, in true romance novel fashion, ultimately fails. Excerpt:
His body pressed against hers and suddenly she felt as if the oxygen had been sucked from her lungs, replaced by something hot and volatile, ready to explode. She actually shuddered from the intimate onslaught, unable to find a single weapon with which to defend herself. Not in the original plan at all. For the first time in her life, her body utterly refused to listen to her mind, not even when he broke off the kiss. His lips were now making their way down her throat leaving a fiery trail and moving still lower. But when he reached her breasts, she froze. Too real, too close. Panic gripped her as she pushed him away. He stood back, staring at her in confusion. Quickly, she said, "Computer: End program."