Where’s the Spice? Romance Novels with a Wholesome Flair

Note: This blog post is one I wrote exactly four years ago, prompted by a reviewer who complained about the lack of “heat” in my work. I thought it was worth a quick update and a re-run…

“Show me the money!” screams Cuba Gooding, Jr. in the film Jerry Maguire.  In porn parlance, it’s called “the money shot.” Yes, romance novels are often associated with sex—an image promoted by torrid covers of shirtless men clutching panting heroines in the throes of passion.

Is there anything wrong with that? No, of course not. It’s all good fun; escapism had for less than the price of a movie ticket. I used to gobble up bodice-rippers when I was a hormonal teen. White lines would appear on the spine of the paperbacks where the particularly juicy scenes could be found. Sometimes, with historical romances, I would actually learn something other than intimate details of procreation.

In this topsy-turvy world, writing romance novels without “money shots” has actually become controversial.  Unless the book specifies it’s Amish or Christian, some people expect a little friction between the sheets.  Even if the story is categorized as Young Adult, readers often look for the spice…and get annoyed when it fails to materialize.

In traditional Regency romance (romance set during the British Regency from 1811-1820), no explicit sex occurs. The last few years have seen the rise of a more modern Regency romance; romances of a non-traditional sensual variety (ie: more “marketable”).

So why on Earth would an author swim against the tide of filthy lucre (money) and write what might be termed “clean” or “sweet” romance…especially considering reader expectations?  Call me crazy, but personally I think readers should have choices. I don’t think novels and stories without explicit sex scenes need be antiseptic or anemic.  In my romances, for example, my characters have physical feelings and thoughts. For me, the money shot is the kiss!  I also tend to put  exciting adventure in my stories…fisticuffs, sword fights, and escapes from death.

If you’re looking for a good time that doesn’t involve *ahem* “biology,” check out Flinch Free Fiction. The blog features “flinch-free” fiction in a variety of genres. (Psst: several of the CIR authors are having an upcoming Valentine’s Day promo, February 11 – 14, 2018).  Clean Reads (slogan All Story. No Guilt) is also a publisher I’ve working with in the past, which specializes in sweet romance and fiction in various genres.

I guess you could say “clean” fiction is now edgy.  And I guess I can call myself a maverick.

~ Suzanne

8 thoughts on “Where’s the Spice? Romance Novels with a Wholesome Flair”

  1. I really appreciate “clean” stories and enjoy all of your books. I feel that many authors include so much sex because they can’t really write a good story so they have to “juice it up” to sell. I’m currently reading a series of books by an author that usually writes a pretty good story, but lately I have to skim over so many sexual references I’m finding there is hardly any plot to follow at all. What a waste of time and money. I’m regretting buying the whole series.
    My only problem with clean stories is when they are called “young adult” since I am a retired nurse and grandmother I hardly qualify for that category. And it makes me feel like it is slightly inappropriate for me to enjoy the clean books. LOL But I will try to ignore that description and just enjoy the story.
    Thanks for writing good stories for those of us who know a good book when we read one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Pat. I’m long past “young adult” myself, but I still gravitate toward that section of the library! I’m finding marketing my work to be somewhat challenging. Many distributors, such as Amazon, have begun a category called “Clean and Wholesome,” which is great, but may sound somewhat holier-than-thou to readers simply looking for an engaging read and not a lecture. I’m just trying to write the sorts of stories I enjoyed when I was growing up, and hoping I will develop my audience over time. I truly appreciate your support.


  2. I think it takes a great deal of skill to make the lead up to a kiss the “money shot” since as a society we are jaded by sex scenes on TV and movies. I always enjoy your novels.


  3. I have just recently discovered your books on audible & am now very much a solid fan of your work! Thank you SO MUCH for writing clean stories that focus on the romance rather than the lust. I don’t want sermon-ish stories, but I don’t want stories that make me feel like I’m watching a peep show at an adult bookstore either. Rather, I read romances to enjoy the happy part of the happily ever after. Thanks for helping enable my addiction!


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