Writing S*X without the S*X

“Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes embark upon the riskiest adventure of their partnership: their wedding night.”

marriage of mary russell_sm

When the cover blurb for this new short story first emerged from Random House, the copy writer had given the description a rather… different flavor from what its author had intended: creatively (perhaps wistfully?) the writer of the cover copy had put the word “night” at the end of the above sentence.

Now, a wedding is not a wedding night.  So, for fear that equally hopeful readers who had shelled out their three bucks for the story would rise up in fury when their prurient expectations went unmet, I drew a red pencil through that final word.

No, there is no S*X in “The Marriage of Mary Russell”—although there is anticipation, and speculation, and thoughts drawn towards.… In other words, the same kind of S*X that is found in the other Memoirs.  On the ship to India in The Game, for example, Russell’s lusty thoughts are stirred when Holmes brushes her hair—and then firmly tamped down in the interest of other matters at hand.   The story immediately preceding “The Marriage of Mary Russell” is A Monstrous Regiment of Women, which as all Friends of Russell well know ends with….The Kiss.

Russell’s point of view has always been along the lines of, Yes, we have a quite fulfilling married life, thank you very much, but the details are frankly none of your business.

And there, dear reader, we draw the curtain.

(However, feel free to post your favorite unspoken Russell & Holmes S*X scene in the comments. We know you have them.


The e-story “The Marriage of Mary Russell” comes out March 15. You can pre-order it from Kindle or Nook.


  1. Roger Webster on March 3, 2016 at 6:41 am

    Rather than being unduly concerned with what goes on between Sherlock and Mary in the marriage bed, I do wonder if, at some stage in the future, we may be treated to a volume entitled “The Children of Mary Russell.”

    • Kate Martino on March 3, 2016 at 6:53 am

      I guess that depends on how Mary’s ‘Murder’ goes. *Spoiler* But don’t forget the Language of Bees does say he already has a child.

  2. Kate Martino on March 3, 2016 at 6:51 am

    I am curious how you will end the story with ( or without) the S*x as a reference. I say this because it will be Russell’s first time not only with Holmes but altogether.

    As to your question, I would say The Moor would have the best reference for me. That isn’t to say that I didn’t notice the chemistry in the Beekeepers Apprentice in the two occasions: Holmes in her dorm with an injured back, and her family past revealed on the voyage to Palestine.

    • EvelynT on March 4, 2016 at 4:53 pm

      She does tell a friend, in “A Monstrous Regiment of Women,” that she is a virgin, but “only just,” which sounds about right for the time. So she’s not going in completely ignorant, as a bride of Holmes’ youth would, but yes, it will be her first time experiencing the whole megillah, shall we say 😛

  3. Kathy A. on March 3, 2016 at 9:05 am

    I love it that Holmes’ and Russell’s s*x life is none of our business. I wish more memoirists would keep that part of their lives to themselves. And anyway how much more fun it is when it is left to the reader’s imagination, as in The Moor (I think it was) when Holmes and Russell were reunited after a brief separation and Russell says something like “one thing led to another, as they will in a marriage, and much later that night I got around to telling Holmes what I had found out about [whatever].” (I am paraphrasing but that was the gist of it.)

    Just finished “Justice Hall” last night in my series re-read in anticipation of the new book!!!

  4. Merrily Taylor on March 3, 2016 at 9:10 am

    Well, there is that intriguing moment in “The Moor” when Holmes looks so dashing in his evening dress that he takes Russell’s mind off the case, and as she says, “One Thing Leads to Another.”
    A possible turn of events during this interlude happens to be on Letters of Mary, authored by Yours Truly…

  5. Alice Wright on March 3, 2016 at 9:22 am

    I believe leaving it to the imagination of the reader heightens the readers awareness of all the nuances of Russell and Holmes interactions. As to my favorite unspoken s*x scene it would have to be in The Moor when Russell doesn’t go down to dinner at Lew house, and Holmes finally returns looking particularly good in his black city suite and snowy white shirt, “…and one thing lead to another, as is the wont in a marriage…”

  6. Cyn Mackley on March 3, 2016 at 9:23 am

    When Russell says that though not an affectionate man, he was as attentive to the physical aspects of marriage as he ever was to an experiment. Knowing Holmes’ commitment to experiments, that really says it all.

  7. Vicki Saunders on March 3, 2016 at 10:06 am

    A Letter of Mary:
    Holmes has returned in one of his disgusting disguises and is scrubbing and shaving. After some conversation, Russell says–
    ” Now, if you will excuse me, I will go and warm the bed”. Sometime later, I thought to ask what he had been doing that day. “I have been reading the Bible.”
    “I beg your pardon?”
    “Sorry, was my arm over your ear”
    “It must have been–I could have sworn I heard you say you were reading your Bible.”

  8. Diane Hendricken on March 3, 2016 at 11:07 am

    I prefer the closed door on the S*X between Russell and Holmes. It would change the tone of the story, and, these days, if one wants to read explicit S*X scenes, there are plenty of books out there.

  9. Janis Kiehl Harrison on March 3, 2016 at 11:07 am

    Who said that the most erogenous zone of the human body was the area between the ears…Always leave it to the imagination!

  10. Carole Dean on March 3, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    My favorite s*x scene takes place in Mycroft’s chair! LETT I believe.

  11. Nora on March 3, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    The imagination can be so much more satisfying than reading every detail of their quiet times together. Really dislike books that take pages describing every grunt and groan! LOL It’s very sensual to have them be completely involved in a case and then suddenly have his hand brush her hair or her hand and know that their love is very deep, but that whatever happens later is behind closed doors. Now THAT’S romance!

  12. susan on March 3, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    I’m new to this blog and this Website. Advice please: Does the “short story release via Kindle or Nook” pre-order info. mean that I need an e-book reader to enjoy “The marriage of Mary Russell” and perhaps other short stories in this series? OR Can I download them as a .pdf from some site? Thank you.

    • Laurie King on March 3, 2016 at 5:39 pm

      For the time being, the story is an e-book only, although like the other e-stories, it’s on all the different venues, so you can use a Kindle app, for example, (the app is free) to read it on your computer or iPad. I am hoping that we will have a print version at some point, although there’s no firm plan or date yet.

    • Frances Hall on March 4, 2016 at 7:25 am

      I have the Kindle on my phone as well. That way whenever I am stuck waiting for an appointment or a meal I always have a book to read.

  13. Chris Ann on March 6, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    My favorite scene is one of “mere” sexual tension. In Monstrous Regiment, Holmes has found Russell on a “whim,” and he has brought her to a luxurious bolt hole. They are relaxing by the fire: “At that moment, something entered the room, a thing compounded of the memory of our argument atop the hansom, of the intimacy of the hour and the place, of my thin and clinging blouse and his long legs stretched out towards the fire and of my growing sense of womanliness.” She then tries to distract him/them by bringing up a painful topic, then dreads the moment when he returns mentally to the tension between then. But he doesn’t even look at her, rather indirectly acknowledges the tension and says he has to head out. But first: “He rested one hand briefly on the back of my chair as he went around it to the ventilation shaft, and one long finger brushed my shoulder. I wanted to reach up and grasp his hand and not let him leave, but I held myself still….” She is then unable to sleep in his bed and reflects, “When he passed behind me, I had felt like the victim of a child’s balloon game, with static electricity causing the hairs on the arm to rise and follow the balloon’s path back and forth above the skin – I had been almost painfully aware of quivering receptors following him about the room.” And then she runs away.


    • Diane Hendricksen on March 6, 2016 at 9:52 pm

      Wowza, indeed. Excellent example of s*xual tension. Much better than anything explicit I have ever read.

      • Lyn Adams on March 7, 2016 at 3:40 pm

        THIS, exactly this!! ^^^

  14. Celin on March 7, 2016 at 7:08 pm

    I see I will be outnumbered here but I would be happy with a bit more of the physical part of their relationship. Looking forward to the 15th when the ebook is released!

  15. Petal Hwang on March 8, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    I suppose what I’d like to know is how Russell copes with the scars she has learned to live with. It’s one thing knowing that Holmes is aware of them, and quite another for a woman on her wedding night showing her body to her husband for the very first time. Russell does hint at some sexy shenanigans, but methinks it was definitely over the shirt action with Oxford preppies. All women struggle with that first time (double if it’s THE first time) and it sounds like an interesting aspect to explore. Holmes’ go-to emotion isn’t exactly putting someone at ease, so how HE handles would be even more interesting.

    • Chris Ann on March 9, 2016 at 8:10 am

      That’s an excellent point, Petal. Although I did get the impression that she went farther with the preppies than you suggest, I can’t imagine her being that physically vulnerable that they would see her scars, so possibly events just happened in the dark.

      As for Holmes…you know, sometimes being frank or blunt can put a person more at ease because it’s all out there.

      Musing on that for a minute-that’s a whole different level of tenderness to be called on from Holmes. But we’ve seen it plenty with him when she’s feeling vulnerable. I think overall she is more rough with his emotions than he is with hers. He’s rough with her intellectually and challenging with her emotionally, but I can’t immediately recall a time where he truly crossed the line. Can you?

      • Petal Hwang on March 9, 2016 at 9:29 am

        Great point. But remember we’ve seen H&R years after they got married and have developed the kind of intimacy that comes with time. And, yes, he is lovely to her. I agree that frank and blunt might be a way for him to go as she is probably more used to that from him. Still, a first time is a first time.

        • Chris Ann on March 9, 2016 at 9:35 am

          Sigh. I was quite content to leave intimate matters to the imagination, but now I’m not so much! How DID Holmes handle this? Hurry up, March 15th!

          • Petal Hwang on March 9, 2016 at 9:54 am

            I know, right? My imagination is plenty capable of working this out, but it would be nice to know how 2 of my favorite (fictional, I realize) people overcome awkwardness on their wedding night. Not too too much to ask!

  16. Laurie King on March 9, 2016 at 10:01 am

    You did read the second paragraph, right? That the wedding was not the wedding night?

    • Petal Hwang on March 9, 2016 at 10:15 am

      LOL! Yes. But you said go ahead and post our S*X scene comments, so I did!

      This is my first time commenting on the site, so can I say how chuffed I am that you left a comment below my post? Yay!

    • Chris Ann on March 9, 2016 at 10:21 am

      Yes, but dear author, my wedding night is rather inextricably connected to my wedding in my memories. It’s too irresistible to not consider among us fans, all due respect to Russell….

  17. Molly Wolf on March 13, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    Damn. I had them eloping to Paris, pausing only long enough for the dress-making Elves to run up a number in moss-green chiffon velvet with matching hat, over an ivory silk sleeveless underdress, to go with the Holmes family pearls (Mycroft’s contribution). Mary does care a lot about clothes, even though she says she doesn’t. But I too closed the bedroom door after the removal of the moss-green dress.

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