In June 2013, Harlequin began publishing original content for its new, clean romance line, Harlequin Heartwarming. While this line does not contain faith-based elements, it would earn a G to PG rating because the emphasis is on creating a deep, tender, clean romance that would be appropriate to share with your daughter. As I’d been writing and publishing YA contemporary romance fiction prior to hearing about this line, I was intrigued at the possibility of writing a wholesome love story that would contain real life, moving issues to which readers could relate and identify. Unlike other published adult romance writers, the thought of a story without sex wasn’t daunting. With practice, I’ve learned to write swoon-worthy love scenes without them becoming graphic or explicit. Here are some tips for writing an unforgettable “Sweet” love scene that will make your readers melt:
1. External Dialogue- I know it seems as though there should only be kissing and touching going on, but spoken lines from the heart, ones that reveal vulnerability, and deep emotion, can make the scene just as memorable, or more so, than a straight up hot and heavy one.
2. Point of View. Chose the character you want to narrate this scene depending on who has the most at stake. His or her thoughts and feelings should reflect the intensity of the moment and give the reader new insight. “Sweet” love scenes are actually quite intense. There isn’t anything light about them. The couple cares too much to quickly jump in the sack and, since the build up to these scenes has been a tense one, the pay off needs to be BIG. The reader needs to experience it the way the narrator does so a tight, POV is a must. Also, if it is in the male POV, his thoughts can still be ‘manly’ but don’t have to be animalistic. He can focus on what it feels like to finally hold this beautiful woman, that it’s unlike anything he’s felt before, her touch and what it does to him, and so on…
3. Touch- the action of the scene needs to be appropriate so clothes generally stay on and hands are touching areas that wouldn’t make your teenager blush to read it. Shoulders, neck, cheek, jaw, ears, eye lids, mouth (of course J) shoulders, clavicle, waist, back, sides, arms, hair, back of the head, sides of the face… I’m sure there are more, but that’s about what I’d be comfortable reading out loud to my mom… so maybe that’s a good benchmark too.
4. No closed door bedroom scenes. “Sweet” love scenes are meant to be felt and experienced. If the couple goes into the bedroom and closes the door- end scene- you’ve strayed from the wholesome aesthetic and left your reader without an intimate look into how these couples are together. I would rather keep the love scene appropriate and center stage then not described and behind a closed door.
5. Visceral reactions- To keep the scene real and authentic, they should be included to the extent that would be considered PG or G. Feeling your temperature rise, your heart rate exhilarate, your pulse pound and breathing become faster is natural and works really well. Sounds like sighs, moans and groans are also okay without being used too liberally or in a way that isn’t romantic. Just think- what would Jane Austen do? Lol. She is one of the most romantic storytellers of all time and she rarely went beyond a kiss!
I hope you found these tips helpful, whether your write ‘clean’ romance or not. It’s nice to mix in a variety of love scenes as it will keep your readers surprised and engaged! Here’s an example of a “Sweet” love scene from my March Harlequin Heartwarming novel HIS HOMETOWN GIRL:
Jodi felt her joints loosen and she relaxed against him. “So you’re okay with us being together, just for this summer?”
He tucked a curl behind her ear and the feel of Daniel’s touch made her shiver. It was so quiet, she could hear every breath he took, felt it vibrate through him in the cramped bottom of the boat.
“Let’s enjoy every moment together until it’s our last.”
“But that moment isn’t today,” she said, so grateful that he’d agreed. She wanted to be with him until she couldn’t. It was that simple.
His hand smoothed the length of her hair as he gazed into her eyes, his expression tender and full of longing. “No. It’s not.” The words sounded so reverent they could have been a prayer.
His fingers trailed down her cheek to her lips, outlining the shape of her mouth. He bent down, his lips against her cheek, brushing it lightly. Shivers ran through her whole body, making her tremble. He brushed his mouth against the hollow of her temple then traced the line of her jawbone.
The aching anticipation for his kiss was suddenly too much and she reached up and pulled his mouth to hers. He kissed her gently, carefully, but it wasn’t gentleness she wanted, not when time was fleeting. She knotted her fists in his shirt, and pulled him closer. He groaned softly, low in his throat, and then his arms circled her, gathering her against him as the boat rocked beneath them. The small possibility of falling into the water vanished as soon as it occurred to her.
All that existed was Daniel. She could feel his warmth burning through his clothes and hers. She ran her fingers along his arm—soft skin over lean muscle, a scar like a thin wire on his biceps. It was an imperfection that made him seem even more perfect. He fumbled as he pushed her heavy hair aside to kiss her ear. She didn’t think she’d ever seen his hands unsteady before.
She trailed her nose across his jaw, inhaling the clean smell of summer countryside, of him. He released a pent-up breath, the sound like music. Her pulse tapped a fast beat and her breath quickened with it. She stroked his cheek and kissed every inch of his neck until he moaned again. Or maybe she’d made the sound; they seemed to share each breath, each heartbeat. It felt as if the universe disappeared and all that remained was the two of them, holding each other close.
“I forgot it was like this,” she said when Daniel pulled back and looked down at her. It seemed as if the stars hurtled down around her head like a rain of silver tinsel.
“It wasn’t.” He kissed her nose, then traced the line of her cheek with his fingertip, a dreamlike intensity in his gaze. “This is better.”
And she never wanted it to end. She felt feverishly alive, every nerve ending jangling as they watched the sky, enjoying the private moment.
“I agree,” she sighed, nestling against his side. “I wish we could stay like this forever.” When he toyed with her earlobe, she tried, unsuccessfully, to settle her heart back in her body. She watched the stars shimmer above and it also felt as though they were celebrating.
“Me, too,” he said softly in her ear. He captured her lips in a kiss so fierce and full of longing that it felt like a love song.
I hope you enjoyed the excerpt as much as I enjoyed writing it :)
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