Sweet Instead of Spicy: Writing Sweet Romance in a Fifty Shades Kind of World

April 14, 2017 | By | 5 Replies More


Pounding hearts and sweaty body parts. Looks of lust and feverish kisses. Sexy words and entwined limbs. Foreplay leading to racy scenes, blush-inducing positions, and unbridled passion.

These are the things romance novels are made of. Or are they?

As a sweet romance writer living in a writing world where Fifty Shades of Grey seems to be the trend, it can be easy to feel out of place. The romance genre seems to be characterized by the sexy scenes of fantasies. The book world seems to suggest that to be a romance writer, one must write hot scenes you wouldn’t want to share with your mother.

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with spicy novels. I can appreciate the heart palpitations caused by expertly crafted words in the steamier romances. I, like many, appreciate the carefully crafted, lusty scenes of books in the romance genre. It takes a special kind of writer to be able to pull of these descriptions with sophistication, realism, and emotion.

Nonetheless, for my own novels, I have gone a path sometimes overlooked in the romance genre—the sweet romance path. Part of this is because my writing style simply lends itself to the sweeter side of romance. Part of it is because I feel a racier scene in my book would not demonstrate the sophistication, realism, or emotion needed to pull off these scenes. Part of it may also stem from my career as a teacher, where I must feel comfortable enough to see my books ending up in students’ hands without the need to blush.

With six novels released, I am comfortable and content with my membership in the sweeter side of the genre. It’s where I feel like I belong. Still, over the years, I’ve come to discover many misconceptions about the sweet romance subgroup. There seems to be this idea that sweet romance equals dull, unanimated, unrealistic, or even lackluster. There seems to be a misconception that sweet romance novels are “missing something” their racier counterparts have.

I’ve come to believe, however, that none of these concepts are true.

A sweet romance can have all of the emotional power, vigor, and fortitude of its hotter counterparts in the genre. If written effectively, it can stir powerful images of love at its core and create tension, excitement, and depth equivalent to other novels in the genre.

Perhaps my penchant for the subgenre was stirred by my favorite author, Nicholas Sparks. Sparks’ books showed me early on that a breathtaking love story with memorability and relatability didn’t have to be about sex. His words struck an emotional chord within me that wouldn’t be silenced. I realized early on that the emotions and power of love don’t have to be tied to intimate relations. Love at its core is an emotion that can be emphasized, explored, and molded based on simple, everyday experiences. A vividly described encounter between the sheets isn’t needed to extract the deep tension and complexity that comes with a romantic relationship.

Sex scenes are certainly a part of relationships, but they do not have to be the foundation for love and lust. Deep connections can be found outside of the bedroom, and palpable tension can be created from innocent moments. Sometimes a suggestive look, a line of dialogue, or a simple encounter can stir more tension and heat than the explicit descriptions of bedroom interactions can.

Love in its purest, realist form comes in the small moments—a beachside confession, a touch of the hand, or an unexpected bucket list trip. Love shows itself in millions of ways and finds its way into our lives with infinite numbers of pathways. The beauty of writing about love is that there is no lack of inspiration or no exhaustion of possibility. The winding, complex roads of love never dull since it is the most essential yet sometimes the most painful aspect of the human journey.

This is not to say sweeter romances are completely devoid of sexuality or purely about innocent exchanges. My characters certainly explore their relationships and engage in encounters well beyond the friend-zone. Nonetheless, my writing focus is simply not on actions between the sheets. These experiences are suggested, but the reader fills in the blank. Instead, my romance focuses on the building of an emotional connection, on the complexities of love, and on the sweet, winding roads that lead us to the unexpected.

Sweeter romances are not about avoiding the obvious connections or avoiding the hot, sexy moments we all know exist. Sweet romances simply shift the focus to the emotional side of a connection. This is not to say that racier novels cannot or do not express emotional connections. They certainly do. However, in sweet romances, this simply is underscored with more weight.

Every subgenre of romance has its benefits, strengths, and must-read aspects. Sweet romances are no exception. Just like no love story is the same, no romance readers are the same. To have romances and love stories that fit every type of reader is the beauty of living in a vast, expansive literary world. From Fifty Shades of Grey to the fifty shades of sweet found in other romances, every book in the genre focuses on the most difficult yet most rewarding emotion in life: Love.

Lindsay Detwiler is the author of six contemporary romance novels including: Voice of Innocence, Without You, Then Comes Love, Where Love Went, To Say Goodbye, and Who We Were. She is also a contributing blogger for The Huffington Post. To learn more about her writing journey and works, visit www.lindsaydetwiler.com or www.facebook.com/lindsayanndetwiler.


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Category: On Writing

Comments (5)

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  1. I read both and don’t mind detailed scenes which fall in line with or enhance the story. Sex just for the sake of sex bores me and all too often can mar a good story.

    However, sweet or spicy, what the Romance genre is missing for me is… Romance.

    Nice article! 😉👍

  2. Jeanne Felfe says:

    My thoughts exactly. I am much more attracted to sweet love stories that dive in the heart of the emotions surrounding the characters.

  3. Andrea Thome says:

    I whole-heartedly agree with you. I like to consider my own work sexy without using words that would make my parents blush. The thrill is mostly in the chase anyway…and there is so much a writer can do with the “build” of the relationship to make a book sweet and still a little steamy. Bravo for finding your place in the literary world!

  4. Some of my books have more detailed scenes, but for the most part they are sweet. I find the covers the most difficult. I tend to be more object-based with covers, or a couple but not typically shirts off. It’s definitely a challenge to stand out!

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