I spent the holidays doing something I really love—binge reading. I had accumulated a gazillion romance novels (both in paper and online), but had never really seemed to find the time to read them all.
Now, most of the time I rarely read more than one (maybe two) books in the same genre back-to-back. I’m usually much more eclectic in my tastes. However, I had the books and I had the time, so I dove in.
Some were good, some were so-so, and some were so bad I barely got through the first page. But one thing I did notice about all of them was the subtle differences to the story arcs. There have been a few discussions lately in my writer’s group regarding romance stories. Several of the new writers (those who are just starting to write or who have yet to publish anything) have been questioning what makes a sweet romance different from a steamy one. There were a lot of opinions, but oddly enough, it seemed that most of the writer’s in our little group write in the fantasy and mystery genre rather than romance. (In fact, I’m the only one who has a romance novel published—The Past Rekindled).
But now, having done my binge reading, I finally have an answer for the questioners: the common thread in all the romance genres is miscommunication and lack of communication between the lead characters. But there are some subtle differences that make a romance Sweet or Sweet and Steamy.
Sweet romances: Two people, who don’t like each other, are thrown together through circumstances and grow to love each other. First there is mutual dislike; then there is pity or empathy on the part of one (or both) for the other. Next, we have growing sexual attraction (demonstrated by a desire to kiss), but it is always interrupted by someone or something. Later, he misunderstands an action she takes; she misunderstands something he does. They reconcile and finally kiss—ta-da, true love.
Sweet and steamy romances: Two people, who don’t like each other, are thrown together through circumstances and grow to love each other. First there is mutual dislike; then there is pity or empathy on the part of one (or both) for the other. Next, we have growing sexual attraction (demonstrated by a desire to kiss), which they do. Ooooh, eyes widen, pulses races, and hands start to misbehave. Later, he misunderstands an action she takes; she misunderstands something he does. They part; they reconcile, and finally he proposes.
While I didn’t read too many of the Racy Romances during my binge, They were exactly what the genre implies.
Racy Romances: Two people, who don’t like each other, are thrown together through circumstances. At first, they lust after each other. (Sex is directly implied and the lead up is described in flowery and steamy prose hot enough to get the reader’s glasses steamed up.) As the story progresses, the characters grow to love each other, so overcome all circumstances to be together.
When the books are written does affect the circumstances in the book. For instance, when I was younger (teen years), I read an overabundance of romances. Most were the Sweet Romance, but there were a few Sweet and Steamy Romances thrown in. At that time, the circumstances of the story (although still based on miscommunication) also contained dramatic shades of naughtiness: He and she have an affair (either of them can be married or single and one of them is usually rich, while the other is poor). They separate, and she has his baby but doesn’t tell him. Years later, they meet again, and reignite the fire. He finds out he’s the father and is hurt. He starts to leave, but she convinces him to stay. They get married.
So, while sweet may not change much over the years, the sweet and steamy obviously changes to accommodate the changing mores of the times. After all, what’s naughty now, may be quite acceptable in five, ten, or twenty years, which might turn your Sweet and Steamy into just Sweet.