Sweet vs Spicy

Recently, a friend and I were discussing trends in the romance industry. She would like to see an upswing in historicals, specifically, Victorian-set historicals. “But,” she says, “historicals seem to have gone either super-sweet, or super-erotic. I want something in the middle, like they used to be.”

The previous was taken from the most recent blog post at Romancing the Blog. On the one hand, I’m glad to see I’m currently writing something someone is looking for: a Victorian-set historical which could be categorized as sweet. And so my topic for this entry emerges…

Why is sweet romance looked down upon as immature and YA (young adult) only?

Let’s define sweet romance. A sweet romance is a romance in which the characters never get past kissing. It is, in other words, a polite romance; a romance of manners, if you will. Erotic romance, the other extreme of the polarized romance world, can be anything from PG-13 to XXX. Why has sweet romance been marginalized as young adult fiction, an immature attempt at romance, or a fiction that ignores a very integral part of life (sex, to be blatant)? It might be because erotic fiction has been the big trend for the last couple years. It might be because our society, in general, is more obsessed with sex than ever (take a look around. How many underwear commercials have you seen lately?). It might be because our nation is a collection of work-a-holics who are too tired to act out our fantasies with whomever we come home to, so it’s easier to get our kicks from a book. It might be all these reasons, it might be none of these reasons.

My mother and I are looking for fiction that is between sweet and erotic. I want to be able to read something that, on the surface, seems very innocent, but because of the context (the characters, the setting, the emotions involved) is breathtaking and page-turning. I want to read something where, sure, the main characters never get past a kiss maybe, but have made such a connection that simply touching the other’s cheek not only makes the heroine blush, it makes me jealous. That is the sort of fiction I hope I’m writing. I want to be able to write fiction that I can enjoy, and the sort of fiction I enjoy seems to be…gone.

Romancing the Blog is correct in saying romance is polarized, and I find it very frustrating. That isn’t to say I don’t love sweet romances, if I want to feel good that is most likely the first thing I’m going to pick up. If I feel a little spicy, I’ll try an erotic, but by the end, I usually feel a little dirty. It’s not something I’m comfortable reading, so I can hardly go about writing it. I just hate the idea that there isn’t an in-between anymore. You can be sensual without being sexual. Appeal to the mind and heart, not the body…that’s what I hope to do, and hope to make a market for. There’s a gap in romance lit, I hope to fill it.