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:
- "Sweet Romance is something that touches the heart and leaves you breathless like a gentle kiss."
- "Sweet means the bedroom door is closed. You know it happened, but no details."
- "Sweet to me just means limited detail in a sex scene."
- "It also means to me that there isn't a lot of grittiness to it either."
- "A simple touch a hug or a look is good."
- "To me sweet means the language is basically clean too."
- "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."
- "Sweet romance means I can share with friends and family."
- "To me a sweet romance is one that makes you want to say aww, get a little misty eyed and feel good inside."
- "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.
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