Fashions in romance, much like fashions in everything come and go. At the moment it seems that romantica, erotica and the spicier forms of romance are the flavour of the moment. I have many good friends who write and sell spicy romance, and I know many who enjoy reading it.
I cater for a different market, I write and read sweet romance. Most of my stories stop at the bedroom door. This is a readership that rarely gets media attention these days, yet this is the core of romance....
So what do you think? Is sweet romance being trampled in the rush for hotter stories that push more and more boundaries?
This post interested me because it suggests what many of my romance-reading friends have feared for some time: that the genre is headed toward a single channel that will broadcast all sex, all the time.
I'm not worried.
Listen, sex is great. But as a person who believes God meant it to be (enthusiastically!) enjoyed only within the context of marriage, it's difficult for me to root for a couple who is only casually acquainted when they hop into bed together. Also, I'm no voyeur. Even if my next-door neighbors are married, I don't want to know if they're making out in their hot tub; neither do I care to "watch" the same thing in a romance novel.
Believe me, the couples in my own romance novels are now happily married and having the time of their lives when they get naked together. But my stories aren't about marriage and sex. They're about getting there; that is, falling in love.
I write "Christian" romance novels, but I suspect that even writers of the secular "sweet" romances hear the same thing from readers: I am so tired of reading steamy books. Thank you for writing love stories I don't have to be embarrassed about reading.
Not everyone believes as I do, and that's why we have all kinds of romance novels. The spicy ones have been getting a lot of attention in the past few years, but anyone who assumes erotic stories are going to corner the market on romance simply hasn't been paying attention to the huge and still rapidly growing market of inspirational romance. (I have no knowledge of the markets for the other "sweet" romances.) According to a recent RWA survey, a whopping 31% of all romance readers enjoy inspirational romance, which is strictly a "no sex" subgenre. Erotic romance isn't a distinct subgenre, so RWA provides no figures on the romance readers who enjoy spicy stories. But clearly, even if we look only at the inspirational books and not the other sweet romance lines (Harlequin Romance and Signet Regencies, for example), there are an awful lot of readers out there who don't believe couples should have to test their sexual compatibility before joyfully committing themselves to each other for life.
If you're an individual who doesn't want to read about sex in a romance novel, there are still plenty of alternatives out there.