Whips and chains. Thrusting bodies. Hot, spicy encounters.
Certainly, passion has a place in love and in romance novels. Most of us enjoy some escapism from time to time--and sexy abs aren't a bad thing, for sure.
However, some of the most common questions I get are: Why sweet romance? Where's the hot sex in your books?
In fact, some of the harshest criticism I've received has been about the lack of explicit sex in my books.
Let me say this: My characters do have hot sex. It's just that most of it happens off the page, behind the scenes. Some of my book characters share some spicy foreplay and some sexually tense moments. However, I leave "the act" up to the reader's interpretation. Why, you may ask? I think it boils down to three reasons.
1. I blame Nicholas Sparks
Nicholas Sparks has always been my writing inspiration. I've been a fan since junior high. I think he proves that love stories don't have to have explicit sex to be memorable, emotional, and effective. I think that subconsciously, when I started writing, he impacted the style of my romance.
2. I'm a teacher
I think it's always been a consideration that whatever I write may end up in students' hands. I teach high school, so the maturity level is higher. However, I still don't know that I'd want to look out to a sea of my book knowing there are some racy, racy parts in them.
3. (The most important reason) Love isn't all about sex
Over 17 years of knowing my husband and 7 years of marriage, I've come to learn that love is definitely not all about sex. No way.
Love is soooo much more complicated than the carnal needs we have. Sure, sexual chemistry is a huge part of our search for a partner. However, love is about so much more. Love is this powerfully complex, emotional journey. It's about identity and sacrifice. It's about struggle and triumph. It's about finding someone who builds you up even at your worst. It's about finding someone who not only accepts your baggage but embraces it.
For me, that's where the story has always been. I want to chase the complexity. I want to reveal the harder side of love, the more trying side of the emotion. I want to embrace the deep, emotional side of my characters and who they are together.
Sex plays a role in that, but for me, the more difficult and, thus, more engaging part of the story doesn't usually happen in the bedroom. It happens in a truck in the middle of a blizzard when sex is so far from even being a possibility. It happens in an assisted living center where an 80-year-old woman has completely given up on connecting with anyone. It happens in a small town where a couple who is just too stubborn to admit they're perfect for each other flirts with the possibility of who they could've been.
So there are many reasons my romance falls on the sweeter side of the genre. I hope this helps you understand why I write what I write.
What do you think? Do you like your romance on the sweeter side, or do you like more physical connection in your stories? I'd love to chat with you, so hit reply and tell me what you think.
Author Lindsay Detwiler
How Keith Urban Inspired This Sweet Romance
First, let me say this: I’m a huge fan of Keith Urban. The Australian accent, the tattoos, and that sexy voice--I’m in love.
But I never realized my love for the guitar-playing Australian would lead to this.
It was the summer of 2017, and I’d been playing Keith Urban’s latest CD on repeat in my car (yes, I’m old school and still love CDS). For some reason, it was song 12 that started haunting me.
The song, “That Could Still Be Us,” was this super moody song about a couple who broke up but was still longing for each other. I don’t know why, but the song just hit me. It made me feel something.
Let’s be clear--the song really shouldn’t have connected with me. I’ve been with my husband since we were twelve. I’ve never really been through a breakup. I don’t know what it’s like to deal with the emotions of leaving someone you still love. But Keith Urban made me feel like I did.
Suddenly, I was thinking about life in our small town. What if my husband and I after all this time called it quits? How would we separate our lives--not just our belongings, but our emotions and identity? Sometimes when you’re with someone for so long, your lives meld into one. How would we separate them again? And how would it be to live in this tiny town where everything would remind me of our life together?
I couldn’t get the song or the idea out of my head.
And that’s where Still Us was born. I knew I wanted to write a book that captured that emotion. I started imagining this couple who had been together for years but break up… only to realize they can’t get over each other, no matter how hard they try.
I already had two character names I was saving. I’d come up with the names Luke and Lila while still feeling loopy after wisdom teeth surgery (boy, that’s another story for you… it includes me putting my hood up and running into the pharmacy to look at school supplies while my husband was getting my meds). Suddenly, I had the story that Luke and Lila would fit in.
I knew I also wanted to capture humor because that’s my favorite kind of book--one that can make you angsty and make you laugh. I imagined Lila, a twentysomething vet with student debt, having to move back in with her family after the breakup. It’s Lila’s sometimes crazy family that helps bring the comic relief to a book that would otherwise be quite heavy--Grandma Claire is a character you’re not going to soon forget, especially the scene with her blind cat in the casino.
So it started with my love for Keith Urban, a song that moved me, and a storyline that haunted me. That’s where Still Us came from.
What do you think? Have you ever had a song that just wouldn’t let go of you? Hit reply and tell me about it. I’d love to hear from you.
My two most popular sweet romances, Remember When and Inked Hearts, are #free for a limited time!
Remember When is a romantic drama about a married couple trying to survive a car wreck in the middle of a blizzard. As Jessica and Todd fight to survive, they reflect on their love story. Will their love be enough to help them survive?
Inked Hearts was named a Romance Times Top Pick in October of 2017. This is book one in the Lines in the Sand series, set in Ocean City, Maryland. When Avery finds her marriage over and her life falling apart, she moves to the beach town of her dreams to start over. She makes one promise to herself: No man this time. She's living for herself.
But then she meets Jesse Pearce, the green-eyed, tattooed hunk who may just change her mind about the line she drew in the sand.
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Inked Hearts links:
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Romance Writers: Here's How To Be Successful
I write sweet romance.
I’ve been a published romance author for almost three years now, but I’ve spent most of those years trying to shrug off this sentence, to run from it. I’ve tried to make my descriptions of what I write more sexy, more risqué, and I’ve sometimes tried to portray my work as something it just isn’t. I’ve spent countless hours trying to figure out how to sell my fade-to-black romance as something more marketable. I’ve attempted, at least mentally, to worm my way into the most popular segments of the genre only to find myself not quite fitting.
It’s not that I’m ashamed to write sweet romance. It’s just that for most of my career, I’ve found myself in a defensive position of my writing. It is through these defenses, however, that I’ve learned a lesson valuable to any writer, but especially to those in the romance genre.
Taking Heat For Not Turning Up the Heat
I didn’t start my writing journey determined to focus on sweet romance; it just sort of happened. When I put my fingers on those keys and drafted my first novel, sweet romance just flowed out.
I could attribute my sweet romance and lack of sex scenes to many things. Perhaps it was my love of Nicholas Sparks that encouraged me to write books focused on the emotional side of relationships. Maybe it’s that my introverted, conservative personality never allowed conversations about sex to be quite comfortable. Or maybe it’s partially the fact that as a high school teacher, I knew I didn’t want to have to blush knowing some of my students were reading those scenes.
Whatever psychoanalysis we want to attribute to the cause, I know the outcome is that my works are lacking in the hot sex-on-the-page sort of scenes.
It’s not that my characters are chaste or that I can’t appreciate the value of sex in romance. I truly do. I think we all have our preferences when it comes to spice in our novels, though, and I believe there’s a place for all types of heat levels in the romance genre.
Regardless, I’ve found myself “taking heat” for my notable lack of heat. Over the years, I’ve heard comments about the lack of sex in my books and the disappointment over the lack of physicality. The words “sweet romance” seem to incorrectly conjure images of cheesy, unrealistic scenes where everyone is constantly happy, and life is perfect. I’ve been accused of skipping crucial segments of the genre.
Again, I get that and appreciate the value of those comments. We each have our preferences and our tastes. These are the greatest gifts literature gives us—stories to fit everyone’s desires and the freedom to critique the stories that don’t speak to us. As an English teacher, I try to impress upon my students the idea that every single book has value, even if it doesn’t strike a chord with you.
Nonetheless, for so long, I’ve had a hard time appreciating the value of my own work. Daunted by a market that is seemingly owned by books with heat, I’ve questioned my writing. I’ve felt the “sex sells” society values creeping in on me. I’ve questioned what could happen if I just jumped the “no sex” hurdle. I’ve tried in my drafts to be sexier and more risqué. I’ve considered crossing that not-so-invisible divide within the genre.
And you know what? It didn’t feel right. At all.
It was with my last release, which is perhaps one of my sweetest romances, that I realized one important thing: Your own truth is the one you should value when it comes to your writing.
For me, that truth is that I am a sweet romance writer. I will never fit into the Fifty Shades kind of world in the romance genre, and that’s not a bad thing.
It is only when I had this epiphany that I realized my own value as a writer and the worth of my stories. It was when I came to terms with exactly who I am as a romance writer that I could better appreciate my successes and stop focusing on what I am not.
Write Your Story
It’s not just sweet romance that is marked by incorrect stigmas. At several book events recently, I’ve seen the other side of the spectrum. When I mention the word “romance,” I see a shriveling of the nose accompanied by one of the following statements:
Through these comments I realized: No matter what type of romance you write, spicy or sweet, you’re going to have critics. You will never suit everyone’s tastes.
And you know what? That’s perfectly okay.
As romance writers, we cannot measure success by what’s popular or what the market demands. We can’t base the heat level of our book on marketing trends or on variables like reader preference and opinions of strangers.
At the end of the day, we must learn to value our own instinct, our own passion, and our own voice. We must learn to be true to our stories and characters. We must write in the way we are called to write. We must tell the stories we yearn to tell in exactly the way we want to tell them.
It is only when we learn to listen to our own voices and let our guts be our guides that we can truly reach success in the genre.
So sweet or spicy, sex or not, learn to write the story that speaks to you, and the rest of this arduous but rewarding writing journey will lead you to the exact point you are supposed to be.
Lindsay Detwiler is a contemporary romance author with Hot Tree Publishing, a contributing blogger for The Huffington Post, and a high school English Teacher. To celebrate sweet love, visit her on Facebook.
Genuine, Heartfelt Love Stories
Love isn't just about sex.
It's the one thing I learned from my favorite writer, Nicholas Sparks.
From the time I first opened one of his books in junior high, I realized how beautiful, magical, tragic, and complex love truly was. Watching two very diverse people with different struggles, backgrounds, and beliefs find their way to each other was magnetizing. I loved to see how they would meet, how they would overcome their hesitancy, and, most of all, how they would grow and change each other.
The power of the love story wasn't in the physical connection--although the first kiss scenes were always some of my favorites. The true power was in their emotional connection, their ability to overcome odds, and the ability to show that love could triumph even where it was thought to be forever lost.
Perhaps, without even knowing it, my love of Nicholas Sparks' books was preparing me for my own writing journey later on.
When I wrote Voice of Innocence, my first novel, I didn't plan on writing sweet romance--it just came naturally. It was where I thought the depth of the story was. It was where the emotional side of life was resting that I wanted to uncover. It wasn't necessarily an intentional choice to write on the sweeter side of the genre--it was simply what flowed from my pen sitting on my parents' deck that summer when I was twenty-one.
And each story follows the same path. I don't set out with the rigid rule for myself to keep my books clean. I don't set out to keep the focus on the emotional rather than the physical.
It's just what the characters and the stories decide.
In many ways, I think Nicholas Sparks is to blame. He showed me that the true depth of emotion was resting in the connection, in the sweet looks, in the inspiring gestures. Perhaps this is why when I write romance, I focus on the emotional connection, on the love that's experienced in everyday life, and on the love experienced outside of the bedroom walls.
My characters in my eight novels aren't celibate. They love and share and bond. They get into heated situations, and their sexual tension is certainly palpable in many scenes. They give in to lust and primal feelings. They are, after all, human. They are in love. Sex is a part of love.
It's just not the only part.
So although my characters experience their share of intimacy, my books focus on the other areas of intimacy--emotional connection, trust, friendship, laughter, empathy, and strength. They focus on the hardest times in life--loss of loved ones, disappointments, failures, and betrayal--and how love can help us overcome these times. They focus on all of the gritty, raw emotions that are part of the human experience.
My characters are real in their journeys, their words, and their choices. They get angry. They swear. They change their minds and get confused. They fail and make bad decisions. They doubt themselves and each other.
They are also real in their relationships. They aren't perfect, just like in real life. This has always been my goal with my writing.
And, most importantly, just like in real life, their relationships aren't just about sex. Their love stories are complex, weighty journeys filled with all sorts of emotions and connections. Just like in real life, their love stories are not defined by sexuality or physicality. They are defined by multifaceted aspects that contribute to who they are and what they change into.
Love, in the real world, isn't just about sex. Thus, I have always felt like it was my duty to show that romance can be real.... and can be about more than just one thing.
Romance that's real. Romance that's sweet.
That's my mission with my writing.
Feel free to join me on my mission to show that the romance genre can reflect real life... and be beautiful because of it.
If you need hot on the page sex, these books probably aren't for you
A bookworm at heart and a lover of the romance genre since junior high, I always dreamed of being an author. For me, though, being an author was a wild, crazy dream, one of those things you daydream about but never think will happen to you.
In my last year of college, I took a class called “The Literature of Health & Healing.” It changed everything. Suddenly, we were talking about bucket lists and dreams. I realized I had no reason to wait to chase my wildest dream--writing a novel. I went home, sat on my parents’ deck, and started writing what would become my first novel, a sweet contemporary romance set in a town very similar to my own.
Voice of Innocence is about a couple who are high school sweethearts when Corbin is wrongfully convicted of a crime. Told from their perspective decades later, it’s a tale filled with regrets, sorrow, and the idea that first love truly never fades away.
My husband, the man who also taught me what love looks like, is the one who encouraged me to send my first book to publishers. After a long journey, I found a publisher and got to see my wildest dream come true.
Now, my eighth novel just released with my amazing publisher I am proud to call home, Hot Tree Publishing. It’s been a wild and crazy journey, just as wild and crazy as my dream. I am so blessed that a small-town girl like me gets to live out my biggest dreams.
What are my books like? Sweet, genuine, and realistic. That’s how reviewers describe me. I’m in the romance genre, but my books aren’t only about love triangles and finding “the one.” They’re sometimes gritty and raw. They’re about impossible situations, frightening tragedies, and also some hilarious settings. I write both chick lit and romantic drama, so out of my eight novels, there’s a balance of humor and tears.
If you’re looking for hot sex on the page, these aren’t for you. My books focus on the emotional side of love--with a touch of spice thrown in. After all, everyone can appreciate some hot foreplay, smoldering kisses, and nice abs now and again, right? Still, my focus is on the buildup and the emotional side of romance. These tend to be books you can share with all of the women in your life--your mom, your grandma, your best friend--and not blush too much.
My books focus on realism. I want women to see themselves in my characters. I want their complexities, their confusions, and their struggles to feel so real that you forget you’re reading a book. I want you to see yourself, your best friend, your coworker in the strong, emotional characters of my books. I want you to see your own version of romance in the pages.
My characters aren’t perfect because I’m not perfect. None of us are. They change their minds, make mistakes, get lost, doubt themselves, and find joy in the simple things. They are raw and honest. They are complex.
Real romance. Genuine romance. Heartfelt romance. That’s what I’m focusing on.
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Charles Martin Instills Hope, Beauty in The Mountain Between Us
The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"Shattered hearts don't mend and they don't heal."
I read a Charles Martin book, Where The River Ends, years ago. I adored his emotional writing and ability to capture genuine, sweet love. As a fan of Nicholas Sparks, I found his writing similar.
I was so excited to pick up The Mountain Between Us, and even more excited when I realized it was a Charles Martin book. I was not disappointed as this is an emotional, gut-wrenching, and gorgeous read.
Ben and Ashley end up in a life-or-death situation when their plane crashes in the middle of a blizzard in a desolate area of Utah. Over the course of many weeks, they must try to pull together to survive. As they do, however, they learn more about each other and the difficulties they face in their own lives.
The book is mostly a survival book, which I found refreshing. However, it isn't all action-packed, life-or-death moments. It's a tender look at connection, the human spirit, and what it takes to survive. I adored both characters and found them plausible and easy to like. Both characters have their imperfections, but together, they are able to work as a unit to deal with the situation in front of them. I was rooting for them the entire book.
The writing kept me wanting to read. There is a lot of suspense, and you keep wondering what will happen. Overall, I wasn't super surprised by the ending, but there are definitely twists. This book does not end in the way you expect.
I found this to be a satisfying read that reminded me of hope, strength, and the power of connection. This is a great winter read or a great read for any fans of sweet, emotional romance.
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