Every summer for the past eight years, I have gathered with a group of women in a beautiful home in a
neighboring village. Each year, a few new faces join us and so at the outset, we introduce and say a bit
about ourselves. They learn that I am an author of historical romance. What surprised me recently, is
that not a one knew what constituted a sweet romance! They had no idea that the romance genre was
a continuum with two very opposite ends.
A romance, according to Romance Writers of America, has the core elements of “a central love story
with an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.” Sweet romance, a sub-genre of romance, may
contain a degree of sensual tension (G to PG heat levels,) but have no explicit sexual details.
Author Kristin Holt has a marvelous post here, at Sweet American Sweethearts about what defines a
“sweet romance.” Click here to read her take on it.
At one end of the romance continuum resides books like 50 Shades of Gray by E.L. James. At the other
end — on the sweet side — are books like Where the Wind Blows by Caroline Fyffe.
Romance is an art form that dates all the way back to the 1st century A.D. and the Greeks. Personally,
I submit that the romance genre started before that with stories of great deeds done in the name of
love. From then, up until the 1970s, the romance genre grew. Jane Austen’s stories from the early 1800s
are considered by many to be the essence of the genre—classic, enduring, and…sweet.
The move away from these traditional sweet romances came about in 1972
when Avon published Kathleen Woodiwuss’ The Flame and the Flower and
opened the door to writing detailed physical intimacy in the romance genre.
As all the major publishers followed, it became the new normal. The change
coincided with the feminist movement. Traditional, sweet romance all but
This is the publishing milieu that I entered. When my first completed manuscript,
a sweet historical, made the rounds, no agents or publishers were interested.
Discouraged, I tucked it away while I went back to school to finish my degree.
Four years later that manuscript again called to me. I still loved the story and I wanted to share it with the
world. I guess you could say that I caved to what was popular. Adding a prologue helped make the hero
more empathetic, and then I added two pages to the story—and opened the bedroom door. With those
changes, The Lightkeeper became a finalist in the Golden Heart, which is a huge contest for unpublished
romance writers. Harlequin bought it and renamed it The Angel and the Outlaw. It was published in 2007.
I wrote two more books, becoming more and more uncomfortable with the process of having to include
an intimate love scene. I didn’t want to write stories that titillated—I wanted to write hopeful, inspiring stories.
Finally, in 2012 the pendulum started to swing back. Traditional publishers took notice that not all readers
wanted to read sexually explicit romance. In 2014, Harlequin published my first sweet novella ~ Wild West
Christmas. Then a few months later, my first full-length novel ~ The Gunslinger and the Heiress was released.
Since then, all of my stories have been sweet and Harlequin has continued to publish them.
All of this has come as a direct result of my faith journey. Although my stories are written from my Christian
perspective, they are not overtly Christian stories (although themes of forgiveness and the redemptive power
of love can be found.) My stories emphasize the complex tug and pull of a relationship and that in the end it
is a love that matters. Isn’t that what everyone searches for in the end? A love that is selfless, courageous,
and constant. The same love that Christ showed us.
I want my readers to take the journey along with my characters and when they come to the end of the story,
have a renewed sense that courage matters, hope matters, and that love matters most of all.