Cinnamon rolls with gooey melted frosting. Chocolate chip cookies straight from the oven. A hot fudge sundae with rich, hot fudge sauce dripping into swirls of melted ice cream. All these things can be hot and sweet at the same time.
So why are "sweet" and "hot" opposites when it comes to romance?
When the term "sweet" is applied to a romance novel, it means the book has heart and emotion. But it can also be a code word for "no explicit sex."
I've had this label applied to my books, and one one level it makes sense. I admit that my worldview is a little on the sweet side. I believe people are basically good, that neighbors care about each other, and that love is a risk worth taking. So it's understandable that reviewers call my Western romances "sweet."
But my cowboys and cowgirls resent the label. They might be nice people with big hearts, but they know how to burn up a bedroom. And I don't believe in shutting the door and cheating the reader out of that experience - so I worry that someone looking for "sweet" books without sex will end up fanning themselves and squirming in their seat, getting a little more cowboy than they expected.
It's the terminology that's the problem. Because who says hot, steamy sex can't be sweet?
There's a lot of erotica out there these days with wild sex scenes between strangers, threesomes, and other non-traditional couples. I think we've all had fantasies about diving into bed with a handsome stranger, and any kind of forbidden element in a sex scene adds to the titillation.
But I'd argue that to be truly hot, a sex scene has to have a core of sweetness at its heart. There might not be declarations of undying love, but I want at least a moment of intimate recognition, a joining of something more than body parts, and a connection on an emotional or even a spiritual level. That connection might be brief, but for me, it's an essential element in even the most casual sex scene.
In life and in novels, sex at its best is an expression of love. And that means "sweetness" can be very, very hot!
What makes a story "sweet" to you? And more importantly, which one of these yummy "sweet-hots" would you like to have for breakfast?