Ever find it hard to pick out a new book and/or author? Well, even as an author I struggle with this. Recently, I bought a book by a very famous author. You know. The one where his name is bigger than the title of the book. I was totally excited to jump into the story. The cover had a photo of a dog on it, a photo of the author with his dog, and the storyline was about a woman rescuing dogs. Well, you know me. This had to be good.
It didn’t take very many chapters for me to find out this wasn’t my kind of book. I haven’t quite decided whether the characters were demented or the author for thinking about such horrible things. I also didn’t expect the sex scenes. I get that men think about sex…a lot. But, there are men out there that don’t bring sex down to the gutter level.
I have to admit, I won’t be finishing this one. Once again it has brought up the subject of rating systems for books. Here’s a little info from one of my previous posts:
It used to be that you knew what you were getting when you purchased a book. Now days, there are so many genres, cross-genres, and heat levels that it’s hard to know.
Blurbs don’t always tell us what we need to know. My dog rescue book blurb said nothing about demented people killing people, including her own special needs child she had been torturing, or about characters who went along for the excitement of it and the sex.
After talking with a number of readers, they all want to know what they will be getting as far as heat level. Heat level is the term used to describe the sensuality level of the book. Mind you, the author I mentioned wasn’t a romance writer but the book still could have used a heat level.
The problem is, there are no industry standards, publishers have their own rating system, and books are not labeled with those ratings. Readers are hesitant, even horrified, to select books because they are not sure what they are going to get.
Here are Turquoise Morning Press’s heat levels, which are very good general descriptions (mind you, these levels are posted for authors submitting and not necessarily for the readers to see): 1
Sweet. A sweet romance focuses on the romantic relationship between the couple. No intimate scenes or sexual situations are described in the book. The book closes the door on any love scene. We may know the main characters have sex but we don’t read about it. Sexual tension is important and can be at a high level.
Sensual. A sensual romance elevates the sensuality level of the story with at least one consummated love scene. The love/sex scene is an integral part of the story, and could contribute to the conflict, but is not explicitly described. Emotion, conflict, and sexual tension run high; they drive the story, rather than the race to have sex.
Sizzle. A sizzle romance can be sensual, playful, sexy, edgy and/or graphic. Sex scenes are more frequent and detailed in description. The number of sexual encounters/love scenes (two or more) that occur within the story, as well as the length and depth of description, define this level of heat. The emphasis, however, is on telling the romantic story, not how often or plentiful the sex.
Erotic Romance. An erotic romance story pushes past the boundaries of traditional romance. Sexual situations not found in traditional sweet-sensual-sizzle romance can be found in erotic romance. The sex is hot and plentiful, the language is graphic and real, and the multiple love/sex scenes throughout are explicitly described. The plot must stay within the confines of a romantic story of two people, with the sex often the driver of the story. Happily-ever-after (HEA) ending is a must.
Erotica. An erotica story goes beyond erotic romance to explore sexuality at a higher and diverse level. There may, or may not, be a romance or romantic elements – this is consensual sex, or sexual activity, for the sake of sex and sexual pleasure/gratification. Stories can still be sensual, sexy, intimate and satisfying, while moving beyond traditional intimacy and sexual boundaries. The stories are no holds barred on most sexual situations and may contain elements that are offensive to some. Ménage, multiple partners, BDSM, taboo fantasies are acceptable. The sex is plentiful, sporadic, intentional, chaotic, random, implied, controlled, denied, or maybe not even there at all. Illegal acts are never included in our erotica stories. HEA is not required, nor expected.
Screech! But wait a minute. What about books touted as a clean romance? Sweet romance? Inspirational romance? Christian romance? What are the differences between them? Well, actually, all of these would fall into the first category of sweet above, but they are all just a little different:
Clean Romance can contain sex scenes between married couples only. It can also contain, what can be considered, offensive language.
Inspirational Romance contains a triad relationship between the hero, heroine and God. It does not contain offensive language.
Sweet Romance consists of the progressive, anticipation-building, emotional relationship between the hero and heroine as the story progresses and stops at the bedroom door. It may contain kissing or not. It does not contain offensive language.
Christian Romance is much the same as sweet romance but must contain an element of faith in Jesus Christ woven throughout the plot. (Don’t quote me, but I think Shadow Mountain Publishing is calling this Proper Romance.)
Great, but are heat levels noted on books? Most publishers state this information on their websites. But what about sites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.? Uh, no, not always. Usually only the blurb or jacket cover information is uploaded to these sites. So how do we know we will like what we get?
I don’t have the answer. Sorry! I guess we keep asking our friends, family, and internet buddies what books they like and hope we have the same taste. After all, studies show most books are chosen by asking people or hearing other people talk about a book. It’s a crapshoot!
Cindy A. Christiansen
Sweet Romance, Humor, Suspense...and Dogs!
Fly into a good book at: http://www.dragonflyromance.com
1 Turquoise Morning Press: http://www.turquoisemorningpressbookstore.com/pages/romance-novel-heat-levels