First up is:
How have romance novels changed in the past ten years?
My answer to that is: choice. There’s been lots written about the changes in publishing in the past decade or so, and the rise and rise of Amazon, e-readers and self-publishing. There are many more ways for an author to get published these days, which is great. There is
also far more choice for the reader. I remember the days when I used to go down to the second-hand book stall at my local market looking for second-hand Mills and Boons. That was my only option locally to find romance novels. Now I just open up the internet and a whole world of choice opens up to me! Such a big, wide world of romance that at times as a reader I feel overwhelmed with choice, to be honest.
This is where I really appreciate the work of book-bloggers. Book blogs are another great step forward for romance novels. I’ve mentioned before how hard it is for romance authors and readers to be taken seriously. I’ve never come across a romance novel reviewed in a serious newspaper, for example (unless you count One Day, by David Nicholls, but apparently that doesn’t count because it was written by a man : ) ) I follow a number of romance review sites – a few of them are listed here in the column on the right, towards the bottom of the page. I’m really grateful for the work book-bloggers do, as their reviews help me pick out the best reads in a wealth of choice, as well as introduce me to authors I would never otherwise have discovered.
In the days when I used to trawl the market-stall, there were a few types of romance novel on offer: sagas, sweet romance, historical (almost always Regency), and a range M&B called “Presents” in those days (ie the sex was explicit). I think it took the rise of self-publishing to show publishers that romance readers are more curious and far more open to new ideas than they realised. Nowadays there is something for almost every taste in romance, whether steampunk, distopian, sci-fi, or fantasy, and historical romances have finally stepped out of the 18th century into other eras. Erotica is also far more freely available, as is lesbian, gay and menage romance. All this expansion in choice and exploring of new themes has been wonderful for the reader.
(And my hope for the next ten years is that the romance genre will finally be taken seriously!)
Question two is: is there still a place for “sweet” romance?
I mentioned above that wider choice has been great for readers of romance. For authors, though, it’s a massive market and very hard to get your voice heard. I have wondered myself whether readers still want the sweeter romances, with all the other options open to them. This is the genre I write, and the one I mainly love to read. I did a poll in my FB Book Club and was surprised by the answers. This is a book club where psychological thrillers seem to be the most popular genre, and so I was expecting members to say they would never touch a sweet romance.
Here are some of the comments on my question:
“I think there has been a swing towards more explicit sexual content. I think if it is in there it needs to be really good and not powder puff pink tinted (Barbara Cartland style), but I actually prefer a lovely romance. I think society places too much emphasis on sex and seduction and not enough on romance and intimacy.”
“From my perspective I actually tend to skip sex scenes, they are too samey for me recently. So a sweet romance would be preferable”
“The whole, sweaty/writhing/plunging etc thing leaves me cold – and being 100% honest how many of us have ever had sex like you read about in a book? It bares very little resemblance to actuality and paints a bit of a disney picture of perfection.”
“I’ve read all types of romance over the years up to and including erotica and if the occasion calls for it then yes a sex scene can be put in but I’ve read many where its alluded to which works just as well”
“I have no issue with erotica or erotic romances if they are written well. If sex is part of the story then I say include it.”
” I review romance novels and I strongly believe that there is demand for all types of romance – from sweet to erotic and everything in between. Once the plot line is solid and characters endearing, a romance doesn’t have to be graphic to portray sexual tension and passion”
“I think that Sex is so in our faces these days that is just boring to read sex scenes in books. As someone mentioned earlier, better to focus on the romance and intimacy and I love it when the characters attraction to the man is based not just on looks but his kindness etc “
I thought this was an interesting set of comments. I was surprised by how many readers weren’t bothered about having graphic sex scenes. From my own point of view, I think if the story needs to have a sex scene, then by all means include it, but I also find the sexual tension and passion in a sweet romance can often be greater because it’s more subtle.
And finally, I really don’t like the term “sweet romance,” or, even worse, “clean romance.” There’s no graphic sex in Wuthering Heights, but you could hardly find a love story that’s less “sweet” and “clean”!
Despite my dislike of the term “sweet romance,” I was chuffed to bits to find my novel A Way from Heart to Heart was a recommended sweet read recently on HEA USA Today. In the same article, you can find just what constitutes a “sweet” read in the US (where I think the genre is more strictly defined than in the UK.)
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What do you think about the above two topics? Do you think romance novels have changed over the past ten years? And do you prefer the sex scenes to come out from behind closed doors?
If you have any comments at all, I’d love to hear from you!
And finally, this is a Round Robin post, and so please do check out what these other authors have to say on the subject. I’m interested to hear their views!
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/
Margaret Fieland http://www.margaretfieland.com/blog1/
Anne Stenhouse http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com/