As someone who has written, edited, and published both sweet and erotic romances, I firmly believe in making the story work on all levels. In a well-written erotic romance, the sexual content tends to drive the plot, and the relationship forward. It's an integral aspect of the story. Remove it, and the entire story might fall apart. When it comes to sweeter romances, it's all about the emotion. There's attraction there, sure. After all, why would the heroine want to have a relationship with the hero if she didn't find him attractive on several levels. However, for me, what makes a well-written sweeter romance is the emotional intensity. In the books that I love, if I don't tear up, or laugh, or even get angry along with the characters, then the story doesn't work for me, and that's regardless of the sensuality level.
It's the emotion that takes any book from a ho-hum read to a book you want to read over and over again. And it's the emotion I look for when I acquire books for Pink Petal Books. I want to be hit by the emotion on the first page and swept along for a romantic ride that leaves me smiling at the end of the book.
So how does an author do that? First, give me characters with whom I can relate. They need to be real characters, fully formed, with good qualities and bad. There needs to be a catalyst that can create change in the character. If the character doesn't grow, doesn't learn by the end of the book, then really, the question arises why did the character have this journey to begin with? And the same thing goes for the hero. I don't think anyone enters into a romantic relationship and doesn't find him or herself changed in some way. It's all about growth and compromise, and all those things that make a relationship work. And we do want the relationship portrayed in the book to work.
When there's an emotional investment on the part of the characters, and on the part of the reader, then the relationship feels more "real". It seems like it could work, because these individuals are invested and have a reason for it to work.
What about if the book is more of a romantic comedy or something other than a heavy drama? That's all right too. Some of my favorite authors of non-erotic romance also write "light." An author can put the emotion into the work and still retain a light tone. That's why we read romance, right? We want to go on an emotional journey. We want to go along with these characters, and we want to know that there will be a happy ending.
I can't wait to read the emotional manuscripts that authors can write, and I know our readers can't wait too. So give me your emotion, and show me what you've got!