Genre Review: Sweet Romance

Genre Review: 

Sweet Romance

I'm not sure if I dislike the genre as a whole, only having read ones that weren't amazing, but the last book I read left me blah. I refuse to name the title as I would probably only give it 2-stars and I'm questioning myself the validity of my low rating. Was this book a great example of the genre and I happen to not to like the genre or was it a poorly written book?

I'm a sucker for a love story, and I'm not a fan of erotica (not knocking on it as a genre, but personally not a fan). I like reading romance. A lot of romance novels buck (pun intended) the line, shifting so close to erotica that I wonder what the line truly is. For a change, I've been reading sweet romances ("clean" just sounds awful and insinuates romance is dirty, so not using that term although some use clean/sweet interchangeably). I've read four sweet romances now and only enjoyed one.

So the question I had to ask myself was who is the intended audience for these sweet romances? This I couldn't pin-point. Are they for people who simply don't want the nitty-gritty sexual details like myself? Or for asexual readers or any readers who want to read about love without any hormonal influence? 3/4 sweet novels I read seemed for the latter group. It made me feel as if love was in a vacuum, and I lacked connection to the character, never truly being privy to all their feelings. I have a hard time envision love without attraction. So is this genre not for me?

The Duds:
To generalize, the plots of a couple of these books were dull, so ordinary, real-life that I didn't feel transported outside of my bland-but-happy reality. I read to escape the world and to enjoy another character's life. This didn't happen. In one of them, the plot was so ludicrous I couldn't believe it. Second, the characters ages were in their 20's and 30's, but they acted like they were fifteen or younger--extremely immature, stubborn, absolutely ridiculous in one. I could not view them as real people but caricatures. I could not align myself with them or understand them (and I write/read YA and can fully understand and align myself with protagonists that are truly 15). In one of them the heroine and hero were both so normal and dull I was bored.

The great one:
The one great sweet romance I had the pleasure of reading had emotion, drama, and feelings, even the hormonal kind. There was a teaspoon of steamy attraction, but the characters did not act on them due to rules/customs of the time period, their morals, and wanting that confession of love and marriage before acting upon impulses. This one ended with a steamy kiss. This is what I see as sweet. This is what I want to read. The longing for indulging in our feelings but refraining is such sweet tension that I feel is almost necessary in romance. In the end, I liked the romance aspect, but the plot and a few other character inconsistencies prevented me from loving it.

So am I alone? I googled the definition of the genre and wow! So many conflicting versions. I even found articles about these conflicting definitions. Here are some things that cropped up in all of them--no sex, HFN or HEA endings after a conflict or struggle, no majorly offensive language--after that all the definitions vary. Those are some broad parameters to work with, so no wonder what I had read varied so drastically.

I'm contemplating writing a sweet romance because I want to see more tension and denial of feelings--heck, it's what I do in my upper-YA novels--but I definitely will have to read more of these to get a grasp on how I would define the genre or who my intended audience is.

How do you define "clean" or sweet romance?