31 July 2018

Embracing the Middle Ground

So recently I got this rejection:
The tone of your novel was a bit confusing: you place it alongside Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer (which is appropriate for the plot and we love them) but there is clear lust between the main characters which feels more appropriate to a steamier kind of regency romance (such as ones by Lisa Keyplas and Lindsay Sands, who we also love). We wanted you to decide if you wanted something completely restrained or completely indulgent but not halfway. Our taste is subjective… etc etc
This is the first time I’ve received this particular critique about the level of steaminess. Usually I get comments like – this is half way between historical fiction (literary) and historical romance (commercial). So this one threw me for a bit of a loop. And it made me wonder – are there really no books out there that are neither sweet nor spicy? Really?

The thing is – this middle ground is what I love to read, what I want to binge-watch: stories, whether contemporary or period-based, with spine-tingling, tear-inducing romance, but without explicit sex or anything crass. Think Patricia Veryan, Carla Kelly, or Kristan Higgins, and think Downton Abbey or Gilmore Girls. I want to feel the longing, see the conflict, eat up the tension, but I don’t need to actually see or read them getting it on. In fact that middle-ground between the initial attraction and the eventual fulfillment is the best part. That’s the heart of the romance, for me. A kiss (or kisses) is enough to show they are on their way to a happily ever after that is physically as well as emotionally and intellectually satisfying.

So many times I have seen the advice: write what you love, write what you want to read, write what only you can write. I embrace that. I embrace wanting to be in the middle of high- and low-brow. I embrace loving romance, wanting maximum romance, but not crossing the line into “steamy”. I don’t see why I should be “completely restrained” or “completely indulgent” when I can have my cake and eat it too, in the middle. And I’m not the only one… am I?


  1. Hey Charlotte! I'm with you - I definitely think there is (or should be) a middle ground. I don't need porn, but I'm not a nun either. There should be tension, romance, tears, fears and jeers, but if a plot needs outrageous spiciness to work then it's not my kind of plot. Invent a new genre ... go on ... :)

    1. Well there's inventing a genre... and then convincing people to buy it!! Thanks for the vote of confidence :)