Friday, July 20, 2012

Romance without sex?

A fellow author posted this article on Facebook and I jumped on it.  After having 50 shades of grey thrown in our faces everywhere we turn, it's the nicest, most refreshing feeling to see an article about how well Romance novels without sex are doing.  Yay! It's a new trend and it's catching on.  In the article the publishers themselves are surprised at how well these books are doing.  There is hope for the future. 

Romance Novels Without The Sex?    
written by Ariel Smythe for the Huffington Post
Shadow Mountain Publishing debuted its new spin on the Romance novel recently -- the brand "Proper Romance," a line of "No-Sex" Romances, and its enchanting debut title Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson [$15.99].

While "No-Sex" and "Romance" might seem incongruent, especially given those bodice-ripper covers we've come to know so well, Edenbrooke has proven itself to be a winner right out of the gate. Released this spring in trade paperback, the book has already received a coveted starred review from Publisher's Weekly and has been designated "delightful and completely engrossing."

Whether we've thought, "oooh," "yuck," or "ho hum" about Romance, this genre, translated into 90 languages, is a publishing economic force to be reckoned with. Romance Writers of America reports sales volume of $1.4 billion last year (yes, that's the "b" word), and the consumer group for this product, women aged 30-54, is becoming more financially powerful by the minute. Add to this the fact that this genre has been morphing over the years to adapt to readers' changes in taste with an amazing flexibility (from Jane Austen's work to Regency period books with men in breeches that inspired Edenbrooke to Stephanie Meyer's Twilight), and one can easily appreciate the staying power and growth potential of the genre.

"There are two new trends we're seeing," Heather Moore of Sourcebooks says. "The first is small town/Main Street romance and the other is 'steampunk.' Steampunk Romances are set in Victorian era Britain or in the Wild West era of the U.S. when steam power was widely used. These incorporate elements of science fiction or fantasy." And yet again the genre is expanding.

As for the "love" aspect of Romance, C.S. Lewis wrote that there are four kinds: storge/"affection," philia/"friendship," eros/"romance," and agape/"unconditional." Lewis throws the "sex part" in as an afterthought, calling it simply "Venus." At one end of the spectrum is the "No-Sex" Romance, and at the other are books like the recent surprise bestselling erotica trilogy Fifty Shades of Grey.

As for the lust side of Romance, Rabbi Schmuley Boteach, host of Shalom at Home and author of the marital guide The Kosher Sutra: 8 Sacred Secrets for Reigniting Desire and Restoring Passion, took a look at this topic recently when prompted to address the sales phenomenon of Grey.

"Lust is the most powerful force in the universe," Rabbi Schmuley says. "It is where you are made to feel intensely desirable. It's where a man can't stop thinking about you, obsessing over you, can't keep his hands off you." In his Sutra, the Rabbi describes how post-marital lust is a necessary component to great relationship. He also says "modesty is erotic," so a little less "saturation," if you will, might go a long way.

"I think the pendulum has swung as far as it can in the erotica direction," Edenbrooke author Donaldson says. "What was once exciting for readers is getting a little old, and a lot of readers are ready for something different." Affection and fidelity are utmost in the Regency reads, and a kiss on the cheek, a touch on the hand, are enough to inform characters- and readers.

"In the case of Edenbrooke," Donaldson says, "it's the romance of restraint, and the passion of unfulfilled longing... I am not saying every romance should be like mine, but I am saying that there should be room for a variety, and before now, that was very difficult to find outside of the inspirational category."

It's worth noting that, while there might be a religious component to some of the Romance books, more and more purchasers of general Young Adult titles, both retailers and librarians, are seeking "No-Sex" Romances. Again, as with Romance, numbers here are impressive: The Association of American Publishers reports that the Young Adult category saw a 61.9% increase in sales from 2010 to 2011, and in 2012, eBooks in the combined Children's/YA category saw a 475% increase.

"I am always looking for 'No-Sex' romances," Kristie Revicki, Teen Librarian at the Suffern Free Library, says. "And we get a lot of adult readers looking for YA Romance, too, especially paranormal and dystopian- you know, those stories where the collapse of society is only slightly more important than the romance." Revicki reports that her reading population also includes the Hasidic community, another reading group interested in the "No-Sex" stories.

"A lot of preparation went into the creation of the 'Proper Romance' brand," Heidi Taylor, Publishing Manager and Acquisitions Editor at Shadow Mountain Publishing says. "We worked in partnership with (Donaldson's) agent who is very familiar with the Romance genre and was able to give us a feel for how big this 'niche' audience really is." The publisher did brainstorming sessions, tested stories with readers, and were then ready to launch their "Proper Romance" umbrella. The end result was what Taylor calls a brand of "clean, smart, engaging, romantic stories that will never embarrass the reader."

"Edenbrooke has already exceeded our sales expectations," Taylor says. "We are well into our second printing, and we've received multiple offers on the film rights."





Heather said...

Well, Bravo! What a wonderful and reassuring article. Btw... Kerri Stoddard told me about your blog. I'm in Orem, and I write YA and middle grade.

Shannon said...

Hi Heather. I agree. Bravo! And any friend of Kerri is a friend of mine :)

Cindy said...

What a great article! Yes, we do want romance without sex.
Years ago I ordered quite a few books from Chinaberry--a book service, it was a small catalog then. I trusted their reviews. I purchased a book for me but let my bored teenage daughter read it (I hadn't read it but the owner gave it great reviews). My daughter was only a few pages in and said, 'I don't think I should be reading this.' The language was terrible and the content no better.
I wrote a letter to the owner telling her how upset I was. I trusted her. I mostly just asked for her to put warnings in her reviews. Let readers know if it's an R rated book.
Her reply astounded me. She proceeded to tell me that the book in question was in the 'adult' section. As adults we can enjoy more language and adult themes!
Yes, I am an adult but that does not mean I want foul language and lewd behavior
in the books I read.
She did put a mild disclaimer in her catalog--that some adult books may not be suitable for teens. I'm sure she had some good reads in her adult section--I just never knew which ones they were!
I still get her catalog--over 20 years later. Her reviews on kids books are great. But sadly I don't buy from her anymore. Trust is a sad thing to lose.
Sorry for the long reply. Hope you are having a great summer.

Shannon said...

I'm having a great summer Cindy, thanks for asking :D. And I think you're right. When I'm on amazon I always check the comments to see if it's too steamy. But sometimes what is too much for me is just fine for someone else. But I really think a rating system would be AMAZING.