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!