Can your Romance Stand Alone?
A Tribute to the Clean, Proper and Sweet.
and compelling, gritty, tense, angst ridden, smart and fun.
As a historical romance author of clean fiction, I get asked every so often, “Is there a market for clean romance?”
When I tell them, most exuberantly YES! Many adults nod their heads gratefully. “Great! Where can I buy your books?” RIGHT HERE
But sometimes a well meaning friend will ask, “Who’s your market? Teenagers? Middle Schoolers?”
So I thought I would explain why I write clean romance, why the market, especially among adults, is growing, and why it can be the most compelling, page-turning option.
1. Steamy scenes can be a crutch. The temptation to go from one such scene to the next with only a weak plot in between is too much to resist for some writers. Sex sells to its audience, but remember it has a specific audience, not an all-encompassing one. I recognize that beautiful books have been written that include steamy scenes, but this is just a reminder to take note, even if the scene or plot naturally calls for such a scene, even if it has a purpose and is character driven and important to the story, the sex can immediately dull the tension in your story, because the story can morph into a plot about the sex.
Just like the gentle touch on your hand, fingers lacing together sends thrills of expectation up and down your arm; once you kiss, the hand holding is nice, but you hunger for the kiss. Also in a romance, once you include a sex scene, everything else dulls because every other physical act cannot measure up, and the story escalates from one hot moment to the next. The story, the romantic arc, the plot points, all become secondary.
2. Let’s talk tension. Suggestion, anticipation , desire and yearning make a story, lead a story and romantic arc for a hundred pages or more without anyone tiring. The thirst is far more compelling than the satisfaction. Aren’t those the things that turn pages? Don’t we write hooks and cliff hangers for a reason?
3. THE SECRET: Emotional fulfillment is far more satisfying than physical fulfillment. And if you can accomplish true emotional fulfillment, where hero and heroine come together in a way you never thought possible, in a perfect blend of a whole, completing each other in just the right ways, the audience leaves feeling far more rewarded than if they had tangled up in someone’s sheets for a scene or two. And here is where steamy romances often fall short. So much physical fulfillment is reached that the other aspects of the relationship can feel neglected or superficial.
4. Personal reason number four. I think art should stay away from interpreting our most sacred expression of love. The holy moments shared in complete intimacy are better in real life when untainted by interference from the imaginations of others.
5. As a historical writer, is your philandering time-period appropriate? It pains me to read Regency romances with open groping and closet make-outs, and sex between nobles. None of that is time period appropriate. The heroes and heroines not only do not act in a manner appropriate for the time, but they don’t think like a hero would in that day. Attention authors: most married couples did not even share the same bedroom–Intimacy was not discussed, not referenced, not public in any way. If handled any differently in the next Regency you pick up, the character’s ideas and passions are modern and historically inaccurate. And that grates the historian in me. Note: My books have some really really fun kissing, but it’s secret, or accidental, or married, or shocking or otherwise appropriate for the time.
And, the key, the clincher:
Ask yourself, can your romance stand alone? Is your story good enough that your audience would read it with or without any steamy scenes at all?
So, yes, there is a market for clean romance. The market is large and consistent and reliable, and it is growing. The authors are well known and established, many bestsellers with bids for movies. Just one Goodreads group has over twenty thousand clean romance books listed in it. And the market is larger and farther reaching than the inspirational lines of books that you would expect, larger than the Christian publishers. Big houses have whole lines dedicated to the sweet and the proper.
AND there is a growing adult audience that actively seeks nice, fun, compelling romance with no sex. Pay attention to the past success of Clean Flicks and now Vid Angel. Media in all forms is neglecting a paying, large audience of adults who would prefer a cleaned up version of excellent entertainment. Also in literature, at the time of my writing this list, Amazon has a category called, “Clean and Wholesome Romance” with over 15,000 books currently listed. A quick scroll through the first page of the list showed many five star options with reviews in the hundreds.
Multiple best sellers are available with publishers who are actively seeking clean and proper romance. See this Facebook group of excellent literature–all clean. https://www.facebook.com/wholesomeromance/?ref=br_rs
Or this one https://www.facebook.com/ProperRomanceSeries/
As readers, we can seek them out, praise authors in our reviews and pay attention to the excellent stories that are told without crutch or gratuitous device. I hope we will, because it will only further draw attention to a growing, marketable and lucrative sub-genre.
2 thoughts on “Can your Romance Stand Alone?”
Right on! Nice essay!