Friday, June 10, 2016

My Take on Sweet Romance

Every summer for the past eight years, I have gathered with a group of women in a beautiful home in a neighboring village. Each year, a few new faces join us and so at the outset, in circle form, we introduce and say a little something about ourselves. Most of them know that I am an author of historical romance. What surprised me this week is that not a one knew what constituted a “sweet” romance! They had no idea that the romance genre was a continuum with two very opposite ends.

The core elements of a romance according to Romance Writers of America is that of “a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.” Sweet romances, a subgenre of romance, can be defined as stories that emphasize the emotional connection between two people. They may contain a degree of sensual tension (G to PG heat levels), but have no explicit sexual details.

Author Kristin Holt has a marvelous post here at Sweet Americana Sweethearts about what defines a "sweet romance." Click here to read her take on it.

Romance Genre

Erotica * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *Sweet

At one end of the romance continuum resides books like 50 Shades of Gray by E.L. James. At the other end – on the sweet side -- are books like Where the Wind Blows by Caroline Fyffe.

Romance is an art form that dates all the way back to the 1st century A.D. and the Greeks. Personally, I submit that the romance genre started before that with stories of great deeds done in the name of love. But…I digress…
From early Greek literature up until the 1970s the romance genre grew and changed. Jane Austen’s stories from the early 1800s are considered by many to be the essence of the genre—classic, enduring, and…sweet. 
The move away from these traditional sweet romances came about in 1972 when Avon published Kathleen Woodiwuss’ The Flame and the Flower and opened the door to writing detailed physical intimacy in the romance genre. As all the major publishers followed suit, it became the new normal. The change coincided with the feminist movement. Traditional, sweet romance all but disappeared. 

This is the publishing milieu that I entered seventeen years ago. When my first completed manuscript, a sweet historical, made the rounds, no agents or publishers were interested. Discouraged, I tucked it away while I went back to school and finished my degree.

Four years later that manuscript again called to me. I still loved the story. I wanted to share it with the world. I guess you could say...I caved to what was popular--what sold. Adding a prologue helped make the hero more empathetic, and then I added two pages to the story—and opened the bedroom door. With those changes, The Lightkeeper became a finalist in the Golden Heart, which is a huge contest for unpublished romance writers. And then Harlequin bought it and renamed it The Angel and the Outlaw. It was published in 2007.

I wrote two more books, becoming more and more uncomfortable with the process of having to include an intimate love scene. I came to the point where my conscience would no longer let me write. I didn’t want to write stories that titillated—I wanted to write hopeful, inspiring stories. Stories that I would feel comfortable sharing with my parents and my children. 

Finally, in 2012 the pendulum started to swing back and publishers took notice that not all readers wanted to read sexually explicit romance.

I made the change to writing "sweet" without ever informing my publisher. I was to the point that they could either take it or leave it. Happily, they took it. In 2014, they published my first sweet novella ~ Wild West Christmas. Then a few months later, my first full-length novel ~ The Gunslinger and the Heiress. 

Since then, all of my stories have been sweet and Harlequin has continued to publish them. I am thrilled that the genre is coming back into its own! 

Becoming a sweet romance writer has come as a direct result of my faith journey. Although written from my Christian worldview, they are not overtly Christian stories (although themes of forgiveness and the redemptive power of love can be found.) My stories emphasize the complex tug and pull of a relationship and that in the end it is love that matters (not the physical culmination.) I want my readers to take the journey along with my characters and when they come to the end of the story, have a renewed sense that courage matters, hope matters, and that love matters most of all.

My newest sweet release ~ Western Spring Weddings is available now at these venues! 

Harlequin icon  amazon icon  Barnes and Noble  Kobo Icon  Indibound Icon 

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  1. I hear you, Kathryn. In the early 1980's I started to get serious about writing--subscribed to Writer's Digest Book Club, signed up with a writing coach, wrote short stories for the local newspaper. But, the more I read in the genre in which I wanted to write, the more I decided I didn't want to write profanity on every page--including a healthy smattering of f-bombs--and I didn't want to write 1-2 explicit sex scenes each book. I turned my love of writing to technical/legal writing until I started fiction writing again within the last decade. I'm so happy sweet romance is back in vogue.

  2. Thanks for commenting Zina and it is good to learn of your writing journey. I did the Writer's Digest writing course too! I would like to see a dialogue about a rating system similar to the movies (but more exact), because I do hate to stumble across certain words.

  3. Kathryn, I am so glad that the industry has become more open to all types of romance. I truly do believe there is a need for sweet romance just as much as steamy. I tend to lean toward the PG sweet, but have read across the board.

    Congratulations on the latest and all the best. Angela/Doris

    1. Thanks for stopping by Doris! I would lable my current stories as PG sweet, I think, because there is a level of sensuality.

  4. I'm happy to hear about the new Western Spring Weddings release! Must go pick up a copy for myself. =) Happy Summer, to me!
    Thanks for the instructive and informative post, Kathryn. Couldn't agree more.

  5. So glad to have you stop in Kristin. I thought your post on writing sweet romance was great too.