So Sweet I Got a Cavity

by Kay Springsteen

Many people know that I write sweet romance, published by Astraea Press. Many times I’ve been asked why. “Why sweet romance?” There seems to be a perception among some people that those who write without graphic depiction of sexual acts or use of cursing are somehow lacking in their writing abilities. Sweet authors often are criticized as writing stories with unrealistic plots and inauthentic language,  and characters who aren’t fully rounded or who have relationships that are not fully developed because they don’t curse or are not shown having sexual relations.

As both a writer of sweet romance, and an editor of sweet romance and YA fiction, I must respectfully disagree with this assessment. When we write “sweet,” we simply take our stories in a different direction from explicit sex, cursing, and graphic violence. There are more and better ways to demonstrate a character’s anger than spewing curse words, which in my opinion are often over-used in some stories to the point where they become numbing and unnoticed, and that leaves the writer with no stronger language to use when the tension builds.

As for the romance and sexual side of that statement… We have plenty of romance in our sweet stories. We simply lean more heavily on the emotional side of the love story than the physical, and our plots don’t particularly revolve around showing sexual gratification. However, not showing explicit sex does not mean writers of sweet romance do not show sexual tension and chemistry. There is far more to romance and the chemistry of love than what is to be found between the sheets and sweet romance authors can and do show this side of the story quite well.

So why do I write sweet? For the same reason some writers write spicy or hot. Because it’s about the story. And some readers simply don’t feel the need or the inclination to follow a couple into the bedroom, and while swearing may be slowly becoming part of everyday life around the world, there still are some people who don’t care to hear or read it. Clean reading is designed for these readers. But it is not necessarily only for such readers.

I don’t feel a book needs to be filled with anything more than a good story to be fully enjoyable. I read many different authors and heat levels. In fact, I have written some steamier books myself, and have been published – I write those things under a pseudonym for the benefit of my readers who have come to appreciate my clean writing – so they will have absolutely no confusion about what they will find between the pages of one of my books. And just as I’ve heard romance authors being criticized for writing steamy bedroom scenes, I have had sweet writing criticized for being “so sweet it causes cavities.”

The thing is…there are certainly enough readers to go around, and as many writers with different ideas of what to include in a story. But no reader should be made to feel like he or she has to skip parts of a book if it carries the potential to offend, just as those with the proclivity for a steamier read should and do have such reading at their fingertips. It really is a matter of to each his own. My only wish is that those who write more explicitly and graphically be allowed to do so without being called smut authors, and for those who write to the sweeter side not be criticized for being unrealistic or boring. As a friend and fellow author once said, “Can’t we all just write?” For me, it’s really all about the story.

Happy Reading!

~Kay (find me on Facebook)

And please check out the Regency romance I co-wrote with Kim Bowman, A Lot Like A Lady

Ladies’ maid, Juliet Baines has gotten herself into a pickle by agreeing to go to London and taking the place of her mistress and best friend, Annabella Price, stepsister to the Duke of Wyndham. After all, what does a servant know about being a lady? But Juliet soon finds that pretending to be a lady isn’t nearly as hard as guarding her heart against the folly of wanting a man who’s completely out of reach.

Graeme “Grey” Roland Dominick Markwythe, Sixth Duke of Wyndham, approaches his duties as a nobleman with great dedication and meticulous care. And he’s a man who is not easily fooled…except when he tries to convince himself he’s not utterly and madly in love with the beautiful imposter who has turned his life upside down. Will society and his responsibilities to his noble status keep him from opening his heart to the woman he loves?

3 responses to “So Sweet I Got a Cavity

  1. Amen! And as someone who has read your work, I can testify that there is definitely oodles of chemistry between your “sweet” characters 🙂 As a writer and reader of sweet romance, I hope the genre will continue to carve a bigger niche in the market!

  2. Jeanne Theunissen

    Just as a matter of opinion, I prefer clean and sweet over profane and sexy. And, to some degree, I think these kinds of stories are much more challenging to write; to express emotions and feelings without all the graphics takes a lot more thought and imagination. Anybody can curse a blue streak, and people immediately know what they’re thinking. To express these same kinds of thoughts WITHOUT resorting to common language focuses more on the story, and the people. And believe it or not, there ARE people out there who do not use profane language in their everyday conversation, but are still able to get a point across. And many times these thoughts are articulated more clearly precisely BECAUSE of the lack of profanity. In my opinion, if you have to use a four-letter word (or several) in every sentence you speak or write, it shows a certain lack of vocabulary.

    If you prefer that kind of stuff, fine; to each his own, as you said, Kay. But I’m glad I don’t have to be forced to read that kind of stuff if I want to enjoy a good story; romance or otherwise.

  3. I agree, Kay. And as a librarian for nearly 30 yrs, I can attest that there are LOTS of readers who strongly prefer stories without swearing and without physical explicitness.
    Some prefer it so stridently that they refuse to read the other books.
    It’s up to libraries to honor that preference by acquiring those titles.
    It’s up to publishers to honor that preference by producing those titles.
    It’s up to writers to write the material which honors that preference.

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