I’m stunned at the wide variety and significant differences between definitions applied to “Sweet Romance” and/or “Clean Romance.”

I’ve come across reviews criticizing a book advertised as “sweet” for being too graphic or containing coarse language. On the flip side, reviews scattered across the Internet chastise writers whose books don’t contain enough of these elements to meet personal tastes and be ‘real;’ to them, ‘sweet’ has nothing to do with absence of certain content. No wonder readers are often disappointed.

I wish we had a non-judgmental label. Consider how the label of “clean” romance rubs many readers (and writers) the wrong way. While combing the internet, I came across this posted statement: ‘While I respect people’s different religious and moral opinions, I strongly object against censorship and calling a book a “clean” read, which implies that more sensual stories are “unclean” and “dirty”.’ I understand where this reader is coming from.

Readers, writers, publishers, and well-informed adults have defined Sweet and/or Clean romance as:
(An even dozen definitions/opinions –some of which I agree with, others I do not. I suspect you’ll agree with some and disagree with others; hence the industry’s dilemma)–
1. Sweet romances emphasize emotional intimacy and may contain sexual tension (G to PG heat levels).
2. Sweet romances show no explicit sexual details, contain no sexual scenes, and do not contain pre- or extra-marital sex.
3. However, hero and heroine may have a [sexual] history—either involving each other or someone else altogether. But during the story they are chaste. Most couples will share a single kiss, or a little more. It’s possible to see sexual tension while retaining characters’ purity.
4. Sweet Romance is slow and it simmers and it’s not expressed so blatantly. The hero and heroine may not ever make the declaration until the end, but you feel it as you read, you know the love is grow[ing].
5. Sweet romance is an uncomplicated story about one person finding another. They do have conflict and obstacles however it does not change how each character the hero and heroine feel about each other.
6. Well-written Sweet Romances contain major setbacks, characters who struggle. Sweet romance can be angsty (good emotional conflict). After all, happily-ever-after is infinitely sweeter when EARNED. However, there isn’t a lot of ugliness, such as cheating, breaking up, nasty fighting between hero and heroine. Progression of the relationship is a little more complicated than the darker romances.
7. Sweet Romances are not to be confused with Christian Romance or Inspirational Romance. Sweet romances are not preachy; faith may intertwine with life, but religion is NOT a key element of the story, and characters do not have a faith crisis.
8. Sweet romances often contain strong themes along the lines of: ‘community is important’, ‘traditional values’, ‘faith and hope play a role in the story’.
9. Sweet romances have no offensive language, (though they may contain some mild language).
10. Sweet Romance must have an optimistic ending.
11. Sweet romances have ooey gooey characters that can’t stop thinking about romance.
12. Sweet romance is young adult fiction, an immature attempt at romance, or a fiction that ignores a very integral part of life (sex, to be blatant).
13. “Clean” Romance refers to the language content. If the language is “clean”, then no offensive or “dirty” language is included.

Hmmmm. Interesting concepts to think about. What is a Sweet/Clean Romance, to you?

Copyright © 2015 Kristin Holt, LCSave