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The Art of Writing Innocent Chemistry

I’ve been publishing for over ten years, and I’ve been lucky enough to see how the clean romance community has grown, and believe me, it HAS grown. I still remember when I found out that Amazon had finally added a Clean and Wholesome category to their catalog. It was a big deal because differentiating ourselves from typical, spicier romance was essential for finding our readers.

So what’s the difference between the romantic chemistry that we find in more typical romance novels, and the chemistry written by clean romance authors?

As an aside, I want to point out that all of these things can be done in books with spicier content. I’m not saying spicy books are devoid of deep connection and caring partnerships. I’m simply pointing out how necessary it is to build up these elements in clean romance because it can’t rely on the physical intimate act to bring the couple together and create satisfaction.

Firstly: Everything starts at a lower heat.

If a meet cute includes one character’s longing to rip off the other character’s clothes, there isn’t much room for turning up the heat before you get to bedroom scenes. And because all books need to have growing tension and building feelings, authors have to be aware of where they start.

So instead of intense physical attraction, we might start with eye contact, then accidental finger brushing, pushing her hair behind her ear, placing a hand on her lower back, running her fingers through his hair, a kiss on the cheek, a sweet kiss, a passionate kiss, etc… And, of course, all of these are accompanied by emotional, mental and soulful connection.

Second: The end goal is not sexual intimacy, it’s connection.

Romantic tension is important. We want to see physical attraction because it’s an important part of the relationship, but it isn’t the MOST important. We want to see the couple helping each other, not just wanting each other. We want to see care and concern, not just lust and longing. What do they have in common? How do they work things out together? We need to see how the couple connects in many different ways, not just the physical.

If a book is focused more on the physical aspect, then maybe the guy is protective because he doesn’t want other guys to mess with what is HIS. But if we’re focused more on building a lasting relationship, he is protective because he deeply cares about this girl and her well-being.

Third: Focus on the emotion of physical interactions instead of the physiological response.

Make no mistake, clean romance authors can and should include some of the physiological responses, but that should be toned down, and it should be secondary to what a character is feeling emotionally.

To put a finer point on it, here’s a story about me: My first kiss was not a good kiss. As in, neither of us had kissed anyone before and we did not have the know-how to kiss each other well. But was I disappointed? No, because the thing that was important to me was that the kiss made me feel loved. It made me feel special and important and cared for.

I want my characters to experience romance not just with their bodies, but with their whole being, and that means feeling not just wanted, but treasured, safe and supported. And those feelings are created not only by hand holding and sweet kisses, but by so many little moments of thoughtfulness. When we think of longevity in relationships, we all know that physical chemistry isn’t enough. Love and care and support are all essential, and those are the things that I try to weave into my storytelling to be sure that my readers feel all the swoons and sighs.

Clean Romance Highlights

The Frost Gate by Hanna Sandvig is a Snow White Retelling.

Mirror mirror made of gold,
Here’s the story you were never told . . .

Beanstalk Trials by Kendra E. Ardnek is a Jack and the Beanstalk retelling.

Times are tough for Jack and his mother, so when he wakes one morning to find five magic beans at his bedside…

Spin to Sleep by Maria Vermisoglou is a Sleeping Beauty retelling with just a touch of romance.

Guarded for generations, Dahlia’s spinning wheel stood untouched in its glass case…
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