Friday, November 6, 2015

Just How Romantic Can Sweet Romance Be?


What is "Sweet" Romance?

While a majority of selective readers come pretty close when comparing their own definitions, I'm continually surprised at the differences of opinion. I poll readers almost every opportunity I have, to gain further insight to what they're looking for in romantic fiction-- especially if they prefer reading material on the "sweeter" end of the spectrum. I gathered and shared information about the wide range of varying definitions about 18 months ago. I scoured the internet at that time, looking for any standard or measuring stick comparable to TV or movie ratings, something with a list everyone had access to. Nothing like that exists. In fact, the range of opinions about what qualifies a romance for the "sweet" label varies almost as much as the opinion about what makes something "beautiful" or "ugly".

WHY does no standard rating system exist?

Note: If you're interested in understanding why so many readers (especially selective ones) are disappointed by the lack of a standard rating, please visit the blog post I wrote about 18 months ago.

Two weeks ago I posed this question during a Facebook party:

What does the term "sweet" romance mean to you?

Now, in all fairness, many of the participants in this Facebook Release Event do not necessarily prefer sweet romance, but notice they all pretty much agree with one another. This is likely due to the fact it was a single conversation.

A sampling of the responses:

  1. "Sweet Romance is something that touches the heart and leaves you breathless like a gentle kiss."
  2. "Sweet means the bedroom door is closed. You know it happened, but no details."
  3. "Sweet to me just means limited detail in a sex scene."
  4. "It also means to me that there isn't a lot of grittiness to it either."
  5. "A simple touch a hug or a look is good."
  6. "To me sweet means the language is basically clean too."
  7. "I don't like the sweet term. Sounds too sugary, without any rich plotline. I know that isn't true but there must be other word publishers can use to say OK for all readers."
  8. "Sweet romance means I can share with friends and family."
  9. "To me a sweet romance is one that makes you want to say aww, get a little misty eyed and feel good inside."
  10. "To me, a sweet romance offers a relationship that is developed but we aren't watching what happens behind closed doors. It isn't necessary to know that it is a passionate, loving relationship."


Sweet is the way he looks at her with longing and admiration and the whole source of his sunlight.


This website, Sweet Americana Sweethearts (SAS) is dedicated to Sweet and Clean Romance set in North America between 1820's and 1920's. The site's guidelines offer a clear explanation of standards applying to language, content, sensuality, behavior, etc. that selective readers can trust the authors' works to subscribe to.


Is it possible for Sweet Romance to be truly Romantic?

I believe so, yes.


To me, a story is romantic when I spend time with the characters and can honestly, truly believe they are falling in love, committing, and want to stay with that one special person. Genuine affection can be illustrated in so many ways that aren't sexual in nature. Tender, warm, falling-in-love scenes are more believable (in my honest opinion) when not stirred in with sexy conduct.

I think of the 2005 Pride and Prejudice (with Kiera Knightly and Matthew MacFadyen), with a few key scenes that have stuck with me for 10 full years. He helps her into the carriage and the mere contact of their hands (as illustrated by flexing his fingers after he releases her) shows he's quite affected. They dance amid a room full at a country ball... but everyone else disappears. The audience views the pair dancing as if entirely alone. Dancing-- entirely society-appropriate, model behavior. Yet as a movie-goer, I have no doubt whatsoever that the pair are falling in love. And who can forget the denouement sequence of scenes that morning when neither have been able to sleep and they find themselves walking toward the other because they simply cannot stay away? (I'm not surprised all 3 of those captivating scenes, lodged in my memory as highly romantic (and clean) are in the movie trailer-- the purpose of which is to entice movie goers to part with hard-earned money.


 

I write "Sweet Romance" Appropriate for All Audiences.

My focus with every historical romance I write is to meet the expectations of selective readers who want a "sweet" read. Sweet Romance is often referred to (by readers) as clean, innocent, wholesome, or rated G (and sometimes rated PG). My reasons are varied, beginning with my own daughters, ranging in age from 18 to 23. Preferably, my daughters won’t have to learn the hard way that sex does not equal romantic love. I firmly believe the most convincing proof of romantic love can be illustrated without sex.

My brand is defined by 'sweet'/clean/wholesome/innocent I really need to know how you define it. Please share your thoughts in the comments section. I genuinely want to know.

 

What method (or label) do you suggest for standardizing a rating system (like TV and movie ratings) so selective readers know it meets their preferences?

 

Do YOU believe it's possible for a Sweet Romance to be a very romantic read? 

 

I want your feedback so much, I'm giving away a free kindle eBook (winner's choice of my titles). To enter the prize drawing, all you need do is comment.

 


The winner will be announced in the comments section of this blog post on Sunday, November 8th, in the late evening hours, Pacific Daylight Time.

Warm Regards,




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Copyright © 2015 Kristin Holt, LC

    11 comments:

    1. To define what has not been defined is a challenge. I believe you covered the subject very well. I also believe it is healthy to make the effort to discuss and bring the differences to light. Thank you. Doris McCraw/Angela Raines

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      1. Thank you, Doris/Angela. I appreciate you stopping by!

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    2. Hi Kristin! Great post! As a fellow writer of "sweet" romance, I also am fascinated by the hundreds of ways people define it. To me, sweet romance can be very romantic. One of my readers defined it as romance that steals your breath-away, like a magical first kiss, without being explicit in any way. Too many people confuse romance with s-e-x. Sweet, clean, wholesome - however you want to label it, when I pick up a book that is sweet romance, my expectation is that it won't have any bad language or sex scenes, but it will be filled with toe-tingling romance. And I definitely think your wonderful books fit in that sweet romance category!

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      1. Thank you, Shanna. I appreciate your kind words... and I fully agree, sweet romance can be fiercely romantic. Having just read A Holiday Bargain (your title), I know you comprehend what makes a book romantic. =) Thank you for you kind words as well as your feedback on personal expectations of "sweet romance".

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    3. It would indeed be very helpful to readers and authors alike to have a uniform system to better define exactly what is in the different types of romances. I also think authors should be up front with readers as they communicate and share on FB. I have liked certain authors only to find that they write very sexually explicit scenes which I do not support. I'm actually a TV scriptwriter and find the same sort of situation with many TV shows, especially on cable where they don't often give viewer warnings. I personally know that a book can be incredibly romantic and create a "sexual" type of tension without using any bad language or scenes that show nudity or "bedroom" scenes. I think a certain amount of kissing without going overboard is acceptable; but as you already said, romance and sexual tension can be conveyed by the way an author words things such as a look or an innocent but meaningful touch on a shoulder or the face or their hands. To me, it takes a much more skilled writer of novels and scripts to make their writing sizzle with romantic and sexual tension without resorting to showing a couple having sex. The great writers of the most romantic novels of history prove that to be true as you told about and showed in the video of Pride and Prejudice. For me, however, the word, "sweet", means a romantic novel with no bad words and very little violence. As a history major and former US history high school teacher, I really appreciate the truth and realities of the Era one is writing about or reading. I love The Western Movement, The Civil War, The Old West and the wars that our country has been through, especially the Vietnam Conflict and have written scripts over many of these topics. I don't try to sugarcoat the realities of the pain and sruggles of the Era I'm writing about, even its violence which can be quite bad, especially if I'm writing about war or periods such as The Old West. I would then not consider my stories/scripts or any writer who does the same as "sweet" writers. I wish there was a word for this sort of writing. I also am a very committed Christian who tries to incorporate my faith, who Jesus is and how and why having a real relationship with Him is so important into every script I write without preaching to my viewers or readers of my scripts. So...I find myself in a difficult position to really define my writing and friends who write novels with the same parameters as mine . My close friend, author Heather Frey Blanton, writes the way I do and describes herself as a Christian Historical Western author who writes clean Western stories with some grit. I have recently helped her as she was asked to adapt one of her novels into a TV script as a possible TV movie or series by a well-known Producer. He said he would market her stories on netwoks like Hallmark and those like it. My script is a bit harder to decide a market for because while I have a strong Christian message in it, I have a much grittier story since my script often flashes back to the Civil War and is set in 1867 Reconstruction Texas. However, I enjoy reading "sweet" romance novels because, like I already said, I think it takes more skill to write a great story that moves people and conveys rich emotional conflict with exciting romantic involvement without resorting to describing the details of the physical act.

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      1. Thank you, Connie, for your most thoughtful and detailed response. I read and then re-read, as your contribution has opened my eyes, given me words I didn't previously have, and I find myself nodding in agreement. Thank you. Thank you for validating sweet/clean romance. Thank you for speaking up for the skill it takes, for the truth of history and the reality that violence (of war and beyond) must be limited in 'sweet reads'. My congratulations to you, to Heather Frey Blanton, and my sincere appreciation for your time and effort to visit, read, and comment. Thank you!

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    4. It would indeed be very helpful to readers and authors alike to have a uniform system to better define exactly what is in the different types of romances. I also think authors should be up front with readers as they communicate and share on FB. I have liked certain authors only to find that they write very sexually explicit scenes which I do not support. I'm actually a TV scriptwriter and find the same sort of situation with many TV shows, especially on cable where they don't often give viewer warnings. I personally know that a book can be incredibly romantic and create a "sexual" type of tension without using any bad language or scenes that show nudity or "bedroom" scenes. I think a certain amount of kissing without going overboard is acceptable; but as you already said, romance and sexual tension can be conveyed by the way an author words things such as a look or an innocent but meaningful touch on a shoulder or the face or their hands. To me, it takes a much more skilled writer of novels and scripts to make their writing sizzle with romantic and sexual tension without resorting to showing a couple having sex. The great writers of the most romantic novels of history prove that to be true as you told about and showed in the video of Pride and Prejudice. For me, however, the word, "sweet", means a romantic novel with no bad words and very little violence. As a history major and former US history high school teacher, I really appreciate the truth and realities of the Era one is writing about or reading. I love The Western Movement, The Civil War, The Old West and the wars that our country has been through, especially the Vietnam Conflict and have written scripts over many of these topics. I don't try to sugarcoat the realities of the pain and sruggles of the Era I'm writing about, even its violence which can be quite bad, especially if I'm writing about war or periods such as The Old West. I would then not consider my stories/scripts or any writer who does the same as "sweet" writers. I wish there was a word for this sort of writing. I also am a very committed Christian who tries to incorporate my faith, who Jesus is and how and why having a real relationship with Him is so important into every script I write without preaching to my viewers or readers of my scripts. So...I find myself in a difficult position to really define my writing and friends who write novels with the same parameters as mine . My close friend, author Heather Frey Blanton, writes the way I do and describes herself as a Christian Historical Western author who writes clean Western stories with some grit. I have recently helped her as she was asked to adapt one of her novels into a TV script as a possible TV movie or series by a well-known Producer. He said he would market her stories on netwoks like Hallmark and those like it. My script is a bit harder to decide a market for because while I have a strong Christian message in it, I have a much grittier story since my script often flashes back to the Civil War and is set in 1867 Reconstruction Texas. However, I enjoy reading "sweet" romance novels because, like I already said, I think it takes more skill to write a great story that moves people and conveys rich emotional conflict with exciting romantic involvement without resorting to describing the details of the physical act.

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      1. Dear Connie White and all other readers,
        It seems this post is a duplicate (just spaced by 3 minutes) of the post just one higher in this thread. I responded to Connie, above. Please take a look there!
        With warmest appreciation for Connie's meaningful response--
        Kristin

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    5. I used a random number generator online to select one winner (in a most unbiased fashion) from the three responses: #1 Angela Raines/Doris McGraw, #2 Shanna Hatfield, #3 Connie White. The Random Number generator drew #2! Congratulations to Shanna Hatfield, who may select any one of my seven current titles in ebook form. Shanna, I'll email you the winning news. Thank you so much for your responses, ladies! ~Kristin Holt

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    6. I know this is past the contest deadline, but I struggle with this question also because I have also found there is no standard like this. I really believe there should be since there is one for television. I write traditional regencies for now and I have been able to describe my writing as just that. Traditional regencies because most everyone knows the definition of a "traditional" regency and the heat level associated with it. But, when I write another genre I still want to maintain the same heat level so I have used the TV rating system to best describe my writing. I also do this for my reviews because I feel that is what most people are familiar with. I usually state whatever you can expect to see in a PG or PG-13 movie, you can expect to read on the page. Something I recently learned, however, from two writer friends who are attending Seton Hill MFA is the instructors frown on referring to "clean" romance. They prefer "sweet" romance. I found this interesting because it is the first I have heard of any attempts at clarifying this issue. And, "sweet" is not necessarily indicative of a heat level. More confusion to the mix...

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      1. Thank you, very much, IreAnne, for your thoughtful contribution to the discussion. I'm so glad you decided to speak up (as the contest is only to sweeten the pot, and really has nothing to do with the importance of the conversation). I'm pleased to hear you use the TV rating system to alert readers and browsers to the heat level they can expect in your books.
        My understanding is that "clean" is frowned upon because the flip-side of that definition/coin is that books with more heat are therefore "dirty" (opposite of clean). It's a challenge-- readers often search for books they want to read by "clean" (among other search words) but it's almost non-PC to use such a term, but "sweet" misses the mark.
        I agree with so many readers and authors that the publishing industry *needs* a better determining label, standardized, and easy to understand (not unlike TV ratings or movie ratings).
        Hmmmm. I wonder how a small army might make that happen?
        THANK YOU, IreAnne--
        With warm appreciation,
        Kristin Holt

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