Why I Write PG-rated Romance

For most of my life, I underestimated the power of romance novels. I certainly never saw myself writing one. I went to graduate school in English about twenty years ago, and during that time, we made fun of the kind of novelist I’ve become. So when I did get an idea to write a romance—patterned after Jane Austen’s Persuasion—I resisted the urge to write. I didn’t want to be a “romance writer.” But the idea for this novel wouldn’t leave my head, so I wrote it just for fun.

As I wrote, I began to see how important clean romance is. In a world where Shades of Gray has become a bestseller, we need authors who portray something different. I believe that women don’t need to be easy or submissive to gain a man’s respect. In fact, I believe the opposite is true.

When I began writing years ago, I experienced the difficulty of finding clean romance writers for my role models. There aren’t all that many of us, and before the e-book revolution, it was difficult to sort through all the options. Since then, I’ve learned that the kind of romance I write is called “Sweet Romance” and is characterized by no on-page sex, very little violence, and minimal mild language. Basically, it’s the kind of romance I’d give to my pre-teen daughter or my mother. Many of the Austen Authors write this kind of romance. Others of us write books that are a little sexier but that still reinforce a woman’s worth as an individual.

While I was writing my first novel, I started to notice what people around me were reading. I saw many teenage girls devouring chick lit. Some of them read more than a book a day. I also saw adult women carrying stacks of romance novels out of the library. Whether or not I liked it, romance was influencing the world around me. That’s when I decided that if I have anything to do with it, romance will be a voice for self-respect and commitment. Think about it: if done the right way, romance can teach women to see themselves as more than objects.

Now I’ve written and published four books,all Sweet Romances, and occasionally people ask me if I plan to write in another genre, as if I’m wasting my talent writing Romance. The answer is that I might, but I’m happy where I am.

This week, for Valentine’s Day, the e-book of my latest Romance, Chemistry Lessons, is on sale for 99 cents. You can find it here.

30 Responses to Why I Write PG-rated Romance

  1. Thanks for telling us about your writing story, Rebecca. Personally, I don’t mind my romances a little bit spicier if the context is right and it adds to the plot, provided they don’t end up being as Don says, an OB-GYN textbook or just out-and-out porn. Most of the time though, and for much of the JAFF I read, I’m more than happy for most of, shall we say “the action”, to be left to my imagination. I’ve just put Chemistry Lessons on my Wish List for a time when my TBR list has reached more manageable proportions. It sounds like a lovely read.

  2. Thank you Rebecca for holding your ground in your writing. Like the others said, in an age when shocking is no longer shocking, perhaps the pendulum has begun to swing back toward more conservative writing. I know of young girls who were determined that their first kiss would be their engagement and the second would be at their wedding. Unreal? Yeah, in this day and age. However, it is a growing phenomenon. These girls did not date… it was a courtship with the intent of marriage. You may not believe me… but it is true. One was the daughter of a friend, and the others were relatives. Hold your ground… we honor you for your commitment.

  3. Unfortunately, we’ve come to equate lust with love. As in Hollywood, publishing something ‘shocking’ gets attention (and makes money) so producers and authors push the envelope to chase the dollar. The problem is, after a society sees the ‘shocking’ for awhile, it is no longer shocking, and eventually becomes mainstream. Stories DO influence us to what is ‘normal’ whether we like it or not!

  4. Hi Rebecca…

    Thank you for this post as it echoes exactly where I am at. In my minds eye, I go back to the famous beach scene in “From Here to Eternity” when Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster are cooled in their steamy embrace…but that is it. The camera pans away and the music swells and our imagination takes us to whatever level of detail our minds take us. I have inadvertently picked up what seems to be a textbook for OB-GYN docs when I thought I was reading JAFF!

    Seriously, sex does have its place. My problem is when it seems to be the purpose of the book. Now, this next sentence sounds trite…but if it has a place…then I can see it.If the point is that physical love makes the relationship transcendent…OK. I did that in the culminating love scene in “Henry Fitzwilliam’s War.” But in “The Keeper,” the most we saw of Mary and Edward’s wedding night was her in a bathtub of rose scented water.

    Keep up the great work! DJ

  5. Thank you for your commitment to clean romances, Rebecca! Like you, I also stick to non-explicit descriptions, mostly because that’s what I’m comfortable with and yes, because I want my kids to be able to read my stories too. That’s not to say that I look down on those who have gone a racier route; it’s just not my style. But your reasons for keeping it clean–a voice for self-respect and commitment-is a reason I’ve not heard before.It makes sense.

    I’m definitely adding Chemistry Lessons to my Kindle this weekend!

  6. I promised myself I wouldn’t buy any more books until I’d made a substantial dent in my collection of TBR books, but my finger slipped in excitement, and oops, the queue just grew again! Lovely post, Rebecca.

  7. Hi Rebecca,

    I agree on all counts, and my journey to writing romance has been very similar to what you describe. One of the best things about Jane Austen Fan Fiction specifically is her heroines are generally strong, self-respecting women.

    Romance is influential, so it behooves us to shape it as we see fit (as other writers should, too, of course). The beauty of writing is, especially with eBooks, there’s room on the bookshelf for us all. For me, like you, I prefer to write things I’d be happy handing to a tween, or my grandmother, or anyone in between.

    Thank you for the heads up about your book.

    Summer

  8. I look forward to reading your book, thanks very much for the discount! I too enjoy sweet romances and truly dislike the types of books that are so popular right now and being advertised to my daughter – YIKES

  9. I appreciate your words and I enjoy your writing very much. There is a need for writing to portray women who think, respect themselves and love with their whole hearts while learning to respect the men they love. Please keep writing. I find a need to read uplifting novels nearly daily. Yours are some of the best!

Your thoughts are precious!