“ … I can forget my very existence in a deep kiss of you.” ~Byron Caldwell Smith (1849-1877) KU Greek professor, letter to Kate Stephens

I still remember the first time my husband, Rob, kissed me.

I was all of twenty years old.

It was summer—June, to be exact. Humid, with a touch of honeysuckle in the air. We stood underneath the pale glow of a streetlight, Rob’s hands clasped behind his back as he leaned toward me. The sounds of traffic a few streets over faded. Even in the dimness, I could see the question in his blue eyes. Our lips touched. There was nothing . . . but the kiss.

A kiss is just a kiss, right?

Oh, no, no, no.

A kiss can take your breath away—and the memory can last a lifetime. And in the hands of a skillful author, a kiss is enough to satisfy your readers, even as you leave your hero and heroine wanting more.

Romance is the journey of a man and woman falling in love while overcoming the obstacles in the way. Do they admit they want each other—both emotionally and physically—or don’t they?

Individual romance authors answer the “do they or don’t they” question differently. Every romance demands a happily ever after, but what happens along the way—well, that’s up to the one writing the story. Some authors create a virtual dance between the hero and heroine that leads the main characters straight into each other’s arms—and into bed.

My choice as an author? I’ve hung a “Do Not Disturb” sign on my novels’ bedroom doors. People may read my novel in their bedrooms, but my imaginary characters aren’t allowed to cross that line.

My novels—my choice.

Even though there are locks on my heroes’ and heroines’ bedroom doors, I weave sexual tension in my contemporary romances. Writing real-life romances means the imaginary men and women in my novels are going to want to . . . but they won’t.

But how can there be romantic sexual tension when there’s no sex?

Ah—that’s when I rely on the power of a kiss. A kiss is potent when it reflects the personality of those involved. This is true in both real life and the imaginary world of romance novels. A kiss is powerful when it wraps itself into your heart by engaging all the senses: sight, taste, touch, smell, sound.

In my recent release, Catch a Falling Star, I spun my hero and heroine’s first kiss around “I’m not going to kiss you” and “I didn’t ask you to” because that was the emotional give and take of their relationship up to the moment of the kiss. But behind all their verbal sparring was a whole lot of attraction, which I wove into the kiss by the huskiness of my hero’s voice as he insisted he wasn’t going to kiss her, and the way he gentled his touch as his fingertips grazed her jaw—and how his soft moan indicated his desire.

In best-selling author Rachel Hauck’s contemporary fairy tale, Once Upon a Prince, the hero and heroine don’t kiss until the end of the novel. But there’s a definite method to Hauck’s delay-the-kiss madness. Her hero, Nathaniel, is a prince who, by law, cannot marry a commoner. And despite loving Susanna, he can’t act on his feelings. Being both royal and noble, Nathaniel refuses to lead Susanna on by kissing her. Sigh. Isn’t it romantic? In a very real sense, readers don’t want Nathaniel to kiss Susanna—unless he’s free to love her and marry her.

The first time my husband kissed me all those many years ago, I thought, “I could kiss him for the rest of my life.” The wonder of it is, I have. And for an author, the challenge is to instill the thrill of it all in a kiss.