In the romance category, we’re seeing titles trending to two extremes. On one end, we have romance stories that are sweet and contain no sex at all. At the other end are romance stories that are highly erotic and may include explicit sexual content, including BDSM.
In a sweet romance, also called clean romance, the relationships at the core of the story are deep and tender. Expect characters to fall in love rather than become consumed by lust. There will be conflict along the way, but the focus of the story is the experience of love and the development of a relationship.
Amish romance falls perfectly into the sweet romance category. We have friends who read Amish romance before going to sleep at night. What they like about Amish romance is that there is nothing disturbing in these books; nothing that will make them feel anxious.
Charlotte Hubbard is the popular author of several series, including Simple Gifts, Seasons of the Heart, and Home at Cedar Creek (writing as Naomi King) among others.
Rebecca Kertz’s romance novels are published by Harlequin under the heartwarming inspirational romance category. Her titles include Elijah and the Widow, Noah’s Second Chance, and Jedidiah’s Bride.
Emma Miller, who once taught in an Amish schoolhouse, is also with Harlequin, publishing many Amish romance titles including Rebecca’s Christmas Gift, Leah’s Choice, and A Love for Leah (out in February 2017).
We are pleased to say that we represent all three of these fantastic authors. They are finding plenty of readers with a penchant for sweet romance novels.
We’re not the only ones noting this trend. Selena James, an executive editor at Kensington Publishing, says:
“Kensington is seeing strong demand for wholesome books, particularly ones featuring a sweet romance. As part of our Bouquet program, these historical and contemporary women’s fiction and romances are published under several imprints in both trade paperback and mass market. Some of our most popular authors include Charlotte Hubbard, Kelly Long, and new on our list, Lisa Jones Baker and international best-selling author Davis Bunn.”
As you know, the romance genre is not all about beards, bibles, and barn raising, however. At the other end of the spectrum, we have a huge fan base demanding highly erotic novels. These may have dark themes and explicit scenes featuring BDSM.
Bared to You by Sylvia Day is the first chapter in the Crossfire series, selected for Amazon’s Best Books of the Year in Romance, and described in one review as a book with steamy, raw passion, electric love, and much more.
The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst is the first part of the bestselling Marriage to a Billionaire trilogy. Laura Kaye (author of Hearts in Darkness) says that it is “full of nonstop sexual tension that crackles off the page.”
Rush by Maya Banks is the first book in the Breathless Trilogy. One reader described this title’s hero as, “sexy, assertive, intense … sex on legs.” Readers love this novel, although some find its BDSM controversial. Read the Paris scene and you’ll understand exactly why.
Our tips on how to ride this romance trend
We think that there are two factors to keep in mind if you want to write and publish in this popular and lucrative genre.
- Go to the extreme.
Whether you decide to write a sweet romance or a super-sexy thrill-ride, immerse yourself (and the reader) in the best that the genre has to offer. Make your characters the cutest you have ever read and go for that fairytale happy-ever-after ending that’s so compelling and irresistible. Or push the sexual and emotional boundaries of your characters. If you can make your hero sexier and more of an alpha male, then you should do it.
Romance readers know what they want. They will judge a book by its cover, its blurb, and its customer reviews. If you say that you’re going to deliver a novel in their favorite genre, satisfy their desires by making the novel an extreme example.
- Don’t mix sexy and sweet.
For the most part, romance readers tend to like sweet stories or sexy tales. If you try to do both in one story, you risk confusing your audience. Stick to your plan if you want to avoid making your readers uncomfortable or turning them off.
We’re looking forward to seeing more work in these two categories. There are always new characters and scenarios to explore, and readers are begging for more.
Whether you prefer sexy or sweet, use these tips to focus your writing and bring your chosen characters to life.