So, I’m sitting at my desk, asking myself for what has to be the millionth time in the last couple of months what in the sam hill I was thinking when I said I would be part of a series. The authors I’m working with are fantastic writers, who can craft an amazing, emotional tale. I consider myself honored to be a part of this series, so don’t read the rest of this blog post as anything other than my own personal feelings about something I’ve seen lately in the romance world. The premise of this series is fantastic—a fictional town where most of the men haven’t returned after the American Civil War, for whatever reason. The ladies decide the only way to save their town and protect themselves is to send off for mail order grooms.
So far, so good. Right? Then, I read the fine print. This romance I’m writing has to be sweet, clean, and wholesome. That means I have to close the bedroom door, no swearing, and maybe a chaste kiss. SAY WHAT? Anyone who has read my other books knows I leave the bedroom door wide freakin’ open. And, if I remember rightly, I have one hero whose favorite word is “damn.” (Colt, yes, I’m looking right at you.)
Okay. It’s good. I can get past that. While the romances I write are, to quote one reviewer, “steamy”, I can leave the kettle off the stove for this one. I’ll get past it.
What I’m hung up on, and it grates against me more and more, is the connotation that because those four romances (of which I am immensely proud, BTW) leave the bedroom door open they aren’t clean or wholesome. And, this is the problem with putting certain labels on romances. Labeling romances where the bedroom door is closed and the most the main characters ever share is a kiss (whether it’s chaste or not) as clean and/or wholesome means that in this world of always needing dichotomy, my romances are dirty and unwholesome. Carried out further, the connotation is sex itself is dirty.
Before I go any further, I want to fully stress that at no time has so much as a single one of the authors in this series once made that connotation about my romances to me.
I get it that some people just don’t want to read “THAT” scene and prefer to purchase books where “THAT” scene isn’t written, and in most cases, isn’t even alluded to. I get that. It’s a great big world out there and there are plenty of readers for all kinds of romances. (It’s the only explanation I can come up with for the 50 Shades of Gray effect and the manner erotica has rocketed up in readership.) But the attempted shaming and guilt-tripping by some readers and commenters on other posts on FB of the authors who do write “steamy” and “THAT” scene makes my blood boil. If it’s not for you, guess what—you can just scroll on past that post. Honest. That’s how FB works.
The same goes for a book signing. Don’t tell me at a book signing when you ask if I include the sex scenes that you prefer not to be a voyeur in a smug, condescending tone. You asked. I gave you an honest answer. If it’s not for you, smile and move on. How hard is that?
Romance authors, if you write “sweet, clean, and wholesome”, congratulations. You will NEVER know the agony of writing “THAT” scene and struggling to write it without the whole scene reading like choreography for an X-rated film. And, while we’re at it, can we please find another label for those “wholesome” books? The trend in romance (and it’s been there for a long time and doesn’t seem to be abating any time soon) is that before the main characters end up in bed together, there has to be a commitment to one another. They might not be able to articulate yet they love one another, but the emotional commitment to one another is there. Hell…oops…Heck, the first romance I had published the hero felt guilty for taking the heroine to bed. He was committed to her, heart and soul, but circumstances were conspiring to keep him from her for the rest of his life. He actually turns her down a little later in the book when he knows beyond a shadow of a doubt he can’t stay with her because to stay will put her life in jeopardy.
So, can we please stop with the shaming and the labeling? Can we all agree that there are readers for all types of romance and all that attempted shaming does is create divides in our community? It’s a great big reader pool. And just because some of us swim in another part of the pool, the water here isn’t dirty, either.