Can “sweet” and “romp” describe the same book?

I just sent off the heavily revised (and 16,000 words lighter!) version of Lord Langdon’s Kiss to my critique partners and beta readers. I’m starting to look at new cover art and thinking about a topic that concerns many authors, especially those who self publish: keywords. These are the (often invisible) words that help customers on a website find what they’re looking for, beyond general categories like “Historical romance”. They could include words that describe the tone of the book, like “sexy”, “funny”, “dark”, etc…

So I’ve been thinking about how to describe a book which has no sex scenes other than kissing, but does have sexual tension.

Some of the terms I’ve seen that readers use when looking for Regency romance without sex scenes include “sweet”, “clean” and “decent.” I have a lot of problems with the latter two, because I don’t believe sex is dirty or evil. Readers who use such terms might not like the sexual tension in Lord Langdon’s Kiss and they definitely won’t like most of my other books.

So that leaves “sweet”, which I also take issue with as it implies that “spicy” stories are all about the sex. But that pet peeve aside, what do people really mean by the term “sweet romance”? Obviously, no sex scenes. However, a lot of the old traditional Regencies, the ones that were as much comedy-of-manners as romance, didn’t even sexual tension, or even sexual awareness. So if there’s physical attraction and/or a hot kiss or two, is the story no longer “sweet”?

So I’d love to know. What do you think “sweet” means?

And here’s a bonus question. The Romance Reader described Lord Langdon’s Kiss as a “fine Regency romp”. I’ve seen “romp” used to describe traditional Regencies before, but recently it seems to imply a fun and sexy read. If I use the word “romp” anywhere, will it mislead readers into thinking this book is sexier than it really is? Because I don’t like to disappoint!

And here’s a Wordle I created using this blog post. That site could be addictive!



About Elena Greene

Elena Greene grew up reading anything she could lay her hands on, including her mother's Georgette Heyer novels. She also enjoyed writing but decided to pursue a more practical career in software engineering. Fate intervened when she was sent on a three year international assignment to England, where she was inspired to start writing romances set in the Regency. Her books have won the National Readers' Choice Award, the Desert Rose Golden Quill and the Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence. Her Super Regency, LADY DEARING'S MASQUERADE, won RT Book Club's award for Best Regency Romance of 2005 and made the Kindle Top 100 list in 2011. When not writing, Elena enjoys swimming, cooking, meditation, playing the piano, volunteer work and craft projects. She lives in upstate New York with her two daughters and more yarn, wire and beads than she would like to admit.
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