Ssh…Caroline Warfield is talking sex

Carol Roddy - AuthorIt’s Personal

Sex. As my grandson would say, “Aaaawkward.” Let’s chat about it anyway.

A few weeks ago someone asked me, “Is there sex in your books?” My first instinct was to shout, “Of course there is. It’s a romance. Sex happens!” My second thought was that the question is actually a more complicated than it sounds.

I’ve heard a number of other authors complain that they’d gotten messages from readers saying their work had too much explicit sex. Others complain there isn’t enough. In the world of Fifty Shades, I for one have a hard time deciding just how much is too much. My reaction to that particular steamy pudding was, “Is that what people really want?” Answer: some people, yes; others, not so much.

A romance author is faced with two main issues. The first is deciding his or her personal story goals and comfort level with the presentation of sex in those stories. The second is that readers these days need to know what they’re getting when they start a book.

Sensuality is an inherent part of romance. The sex may be on seventy pages of creative gymnastics involving sex toys and every body part the writer can discover. It may take place entirely off stage. Either way you can bet your quill that sex is implied, if only in the kiss at the end. The real question should be, “How much detail?”

At one point I feared my stories were neither steamy enough to get the attention of New York publishers, nor Dangerous Secretssweet enough for traditional categories.   I had to let go of that and just do what I do. I can’t do explicit and I can’t leave it out either. I focus on a building relationships and sexual tension is inherent in those relationships. Sooner or later that tension spills over into the bedroom. When it does I follow the characters into the bedroom, but I’m more interested in what they feel than in which specific acts they initiate. Here’s an example from my current release, Dangerous Secrets:

A wish that she had worn prettier underthings flitted though her as lightly as a dragonfly and evaporated when he laid her back on the bed and began to remove her stockings. She watched his bent head, the hair thrown forward, golden brown in the candlelight, and his intense concentration.

I should fear this. The thought came unbidden. She had learned to fear Edmund and the hurt he caused. Yet, in Jamie’s hands, she felt only safety. Nothing Edmund did came close to the way he looks at me, or his fierce kisses.

Jamie looked up at that moment and smiled at her. She knew with sudden assurance that she had nothing to fear from him. She opened her arms and gave herself over to him.

There is more, but that should give you an idea what I mean. In other places I may allude to sex or imply it but not describe it, like this:

He padded, boots in hand, into his bedroom. Nora lay curled in the center, a tiny presence in the immense four-poster. Her hair feathered across his pillow and hers. She had rolled over to reach for him after he got up. His blood surged at the thought.

He moved closer to the bed.

Sleep erased care and stress from his Nora, sleep and good loving, leaving only peace and contentment. His hand went out to touch her, but he pulled it back, remembering his good intentions to let her sleep. He began to step away.

“Jamie?” Nora’s voice, thick with sleep, stopped him in his tracks. “I thought you had gone.”

“Just leaving. Go back to sleep.”

Not exactly Fifty Shades, but the snippet shows their relationship.

What are readers to do? Separating “Romance” with its implied HEA from “Erotica” is not much help. Readers who want erotica will search it out. Readers that choose romance have a wide range of taste in sensuality levels. Romantic Times uses a three-point scale: Mild, Hot, and Scorching. So may books fit into their “Hot” category that it is almost meaningless.

More and more review sites have begun to use a five-point scale. On a five-point scale, my work is almost always DangerousWorks_600x900a three or “warm.” A typical example of five-point sensuality ratings is Monkey Bear Reviews.   Their ratings are:

  1. Burning:Very explicit and frequent sex scenes. Might contain BDSM, or other non-vanilla sexual content. Most likely used to describe erotic romance.
  2. Hot:Explicit sex scenes and language between hero and heroine, but not as frequent as in erotica/erotic romance.
  3. Warm:Book contains sex scenes but they aren’t particularly explicit. Focus is on sexual tension and emotional development of relationship between hero and heroine.
  4. Subtle:Sex is alluded to, or occurs off page.
  5. Kisses:No direct references to sex, and certainly no sex scenes, but the book still contains a romance.

A few authors have begun to include sensuality levels on their own Web sites for their own books. Susan Gee Heino, for example rates all her books as mild, spicy, or steamy since her books vary. She wants her fans to know what they are getting.

There is one more awkward aspect to sex, and that has to do with values and morality. Religion as a subject is even more taboo than sex itself and every writer has his or her own values. I suspect I write historical romance because I can place stories in an era with a clear moral code. The characters may violate the moral code, but its existence sharpens their conflicts and choices.

In my work the characters may vary in age, moral uprightness, and sexual experience. However, I have set some boundaries for myself:

  • All sex between the hero and the heroine is mutually satisfying.Lautrec_the_kiss_1892
  • All sex between the hero and heroine is consensual.
  • It always leads ultimately in the formation of family.

Forced sex is entirely the province of a villain. While we’ve come a ways since the day when it was acceptable to open a romance with rape, consent is not as obvious a topic as it might seem. A look at the controversy surrounding “yes means yes” policies shows the subtleties. Saralee Etter wrote a superb article on consent in the March 2015 issue of Romance Writers Report. (“The Dance of Consent,” RWR Volume 35, Number 3 page 19) In my own stories I prefer both parties to be equally enthusiastic and frequently have sex initiated by the woman.

What do I conclude? The current situation in publishing is confusing and the range of sensuality is wide. Each writer—and every reader—has to find his or her own comfort level. Speaking frankly may be our only defense.

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Do you agree there is quite a bit of confusion at this point? Do you think the rating scales help? Do you like it when authors rate their own books?

 

Comment below and the follow this link for a chance to win a prize package.

Dangerous Works Blog Tour and Giveaway

 

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Dangerous Secrets from Soul Mate Publishing

Available for Kindle March 18, 2015

Buy Link http://tinyurl.com/ph56vnb

 

Rome 1820

When a little brown wren of an Englishwoman bursts into Jamie Heyworth’s private hell and asks for help he mistakes her for the black crow of death.  Why not? He fled to Rome and sits in despair with nothing left to sell and no reason to get up in the morning. Behind him lie disgrace, shame, and secrets he is desperate to keep.

Nora Haley comes to Rome at the bidding of her dying brother who has an unexpected legacy. Never in her sunniest dreams did Nora expect Robert to leave her a treasure, a tiny blue-eyed niece with curly hair and warm hugs. Nora will do anything to keep her, even hire a shabby, drunken major as an interpreter.

Jamie can’t let Nora know the secrets he has hidden from everyone, even his closest friends. Nora can’t trust any man who drinks. She had enough of that in her marriage. Either one, however, will dare anything for the little imp that keeps them together, even enter a sham marriage to protect her. Will love—and the truth—bind them both together?

 

 

 

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Comments

85 Comments

  • flchen1 says:

    Thanks for such a thoughtful post, Caroline! I’ve been a romance reader for a long time, and I do think that there is much greater acceptance for more and more explicit writing now than ever. I do agree though that I mainly like to know what I’m getting into when I pick up a story, and while I don’t necessarily think a universal rating system is necessary, I like it when an author gives me a fair sense for what to expect, whether by using a rating system of her own or giving me a heads up in the description or excerpt. I think knowing what I’m getting into makes for a happier reading experience and satisfied readers 😉

    Great to read a little about Dangerous Secrets, too! Can’t wait to read more!

    • Hi Fichen –

      You got the very well-rested GR! I’m not sure if that is a good thing as he’s got his old energy back (grin).

      I never thought about giving a reader an a rating on what to expect in my books as I figured mine were in the ballpark with most romances, but perhaps not. Thanks for the heads up!

    • Hello FIchen,
      Yes I think some sort of heads up is key. I’ve been approached twice now by readers. As a new reader, I think people just want to know what they are getting.

      Thanks for commenting!

    • This was a great post! I struggle with this constantly, because I tend to write scenes that *start* the sex scene somewhat graphically, but then are cut off or go behind closed doors. Royal Regard would have been considered sweet, but a beta reader pointed out that it is explicitly stated that the heroine had never had an orgasm and really, she deserved to have one before the book was over… so she did, but he didn’t. (Heh… I like to torture rakes whenever I can.)

      • Torturing rakes is a writer’s time honored privilege. The issue of parity in the experience is another aspect of this. Considerate lovers are the most attractive heroes of all.

        (and hey, no problem WHERE your comment went. I found it)

    • Well, I posted that in the wrong place. Please forgive. 😉

  • Helen says:

    Hi Caroline

    A very thought post and I have to say that I too like to know what I am getting I read across all genres in romance and although I read erotic I don’t read erotica and I do love steamy scenes I am very happy with just kissing as well depends on what I feel like reading 🙂

    Have Fun
    Helen

    • Hi Helen!

      It’s good to be back with friends! 🙂

      I’ve read some very sexy books that closed the bedroom door. It’s all about the sexual tension, I think, which is more about anticipation than explicitness. I think.

  • Jane says:

    Welcome Caroline,
    I do like the idea of rating scales and I know some publishing sites do rate the hotness of the books so you know what to expect before purchasing. Usually I’ll know what to expect when reading a certain author, but it also depends on which publisher/line the book is from. One author gave a heads up that her Harlequin Intrigue books aren’t as sexy and considered mild, but all her other books would receive a hot rating.

    • Hi Jane –

      That’s true. You know the “hotness” of some books because of the publisher’s imprint, but as more and more books are independently published, that pre-knowledge will disappear. I’ll have to consider putting a rating system in somewhere in my books. Wouldn’t want to shock anyone 🙂

    • Hello Jane,
      I think I get the question because I am new and because Soul Mate is a small ePress with a wide variety of product. Most authors write fairly consistently. Some, however, vary between series and they are well served rating their own.

      Caroline

  • ki pha says:

    Hi Caroline!! It’s nice to see you here and shall I say, Welcome to the Lair.

    This was a very thought out topic especially since more and more books are coming out with rating systems for sex in the story. I actually like the scale and ratings added by the authors for their books as seems fit to them. It helps us readers in choosing which book to read. I personally don’t add the sexy rating system on my own reviews since I usually refer to them in my review, but do love it when other reviewers have it on their blogs.

    So yes I do like the rating system because sometimes I just want a Little more steam in my reading and it’ll make my search for those books much more easier.

    • Hi ki pha!

      I do love it when Caroline comes to visit as she writes some thoughtful posts – and thoughtful books. So thrilled she’s back!

      Reply

    • Greetings Ki! Good to see you here.
      I agree. I think to see a rating on a review or blog. The range is simply too wide these days. Particularly if I don’t know the author.

  • Saralee Etter says:

    Hi, Caroline! I think you’ve found a universally fascinating topic!

    For myself, I’ve found that what I want is lots and lots of emotion. It doesn’t really matter to me how explicit a scene is — if it’s simply a narrative of what he did and what she did, it’s boring. I need to know how they feel about it. There has to be tension, release of tension, wonder and discovery in the scene, and then it doesn’t matter if they’re doing something wildly explicit or simply shaking hands.

    But I think the rating system really helps when choosing what book to read. Great post!

  • Robin Gianna says:

    Hi, Caroline, nice to ‘see’ you! Interesting post!

    Unlike many Harlequin series that have clear expectations regarding the level of heat in the books, the line I write for (Harlequin Medical Romance) varies a lot depending on the author. Some keep sex behind closed doors, while others are much steamier (but no more than spicy). Some of the authors wondered if readers would appreciate a rating system. We put a questionnaire on our blog (Love Is The Best Medicine) asking that, along with various other questions about reader preferences. Interestingly, out of 35 respondents, 23% said they’d like to see books tagged with heat level. 8% wanted a ‘gentle simmer’ or closed door, 13% liked it very hot, 34% sensual and sexy, and about half said they didn’t care either way – it depended on the story and characters.

    I’m not self-published, but it seems like anything that makes it easier for readers to decide what to buy would be a good thing!

    • Robin Gianna says:

      Oops! There were actually 47 respondents to the survey – sorry!

    • Hi Robin,
      Good to see you too. That’s a very interesting survey. I confirms what I’ve suspected. There’s more buzz about this subject out there than there used to be. I think it two things are happening. On the one had some writers/publishers have pushed the envelop farther toward erotic. On the other there has been a backlash and readers have begun to actively seek out “sweet.” Most of us fall in the middle.

      • I think indie-pubbing plays a role as well. There’s a lot more new authors out there and heat levels are all over the place. I can see that readers would like a heads up on what to expect.

  • Cheri Allan says:

    Very thoughtful post. I’ve been toying with adding a sex/violence/language rating to my book descriptions at the major retailers, because despite being described as “contemporary/romantic comedies”–and my excerpts typically being a teaser with the H/h giving in to the urge to kiss–I still get the occasional low-star reviews and ratings that call my books “too graphic” etc. (Mind you, I would call my books “sweet/sexy–mild sex.” There is typically one love scene in each book, but they are emotional turning points for the characters, treated very mildly with no explicit language. Graphic is all relative!) I think it is difficult for readers these days, because with the wide range of books available, they don’t always have the strict parameters of a particular imprint to let them know what to expect. Ratings systems would help them find the books that would most appeal to them.

    • Hello Cheri,
      I think that is it exactly. Indie publication is the other big reason for confusion. People just don’t know what they are going to get. If it is impacting reviews, it is in the writer’s best interest to set expectations. I’ve heard of a book getting low for too much AND low for not enough. You can’t please everyone.

    • Trish says:

      So often I see reviews on Amazon that don’t mention that there’s sex in the book until a one star mentions it, and that’s why it got one star. I try to always mention sex in my reviews to stop the one star reviews but so many others just don’t get it. I also mention when a very vulgar word is used for a woman’s body part and I’ve had a couple of authors get ticked off at me. And then there’s the ones who don’t mind explicit sex but give a book 1 star because of bad language. Really? I guess because I’m a potty mouth I don’t mind it and sometimes it really is needed. I read a book once that had lots of sex but when it was time to swear it was “mercy,” “darn” and “goodness.” Really? Upon seeing a murdered man the heroine said, “mercy,” when that would have been a great time for a serious swear word. Then, I wonder why every description of a book can’t take a minute to let everyone know that there is swearing and there is also sex. It would cut down on a lot of 1 and 2 star reviews.

      • Chuckling!
        I stand by my premise. We need to be frank. One person’s cup of tea is another persons bitter dregs. Since language tends to go right by me I didn’t even think of it, but you raise a good point.

  • Becky Lower says:

    A most thought-provoking post, Caroline. I’m currently writing a historical that’s not part of the series and I intend to have all sex take place behind closed doors. For the series, tho, I think they should all have the same level of heat. Don’t want to confuse the reader more than they already are, with the multitude of choices available. All 50 Shades did was muddy the water.

    • Hi Becky,
      I agree about 50 Shades to some extent, although I suspect it attracted a different set of readers for erotic romance. It definitely sent ripples across the genre. Do you plan to include heat level on your Website in some way?

  • I just discovered a post about Amazon instituting drop down menus for reviews. Heat leave is one of them. Have any of you see these?

    http://www.thepassivevoice.com/03/2015/amazon-adds-new-review-options-via-drop-down-menus/

    • Caren Crane says:

      I have left reviews fairly recently, but haven’t seen the dropdowns. Those could be really useful to authors. Better than getting a one-star review because the customer didn’t like Amazon’s delivery of the book. Ha! 😀

  • GRRR. Heat LEVEL is one of them.

  • IreAnne says:

    Hi Caroline! I love the idea of heat levels because I like to know what I am getting. Also, because I have a daughter who likes to read and while I love to see books in her hands, I prefer to be cautious about how hot those books are 🙂 I would not want my tween daughter reading a spicy or burning romance. Definitely not 50 shades. But, a kisses romance is perfectly acceptable, in my opinion and if I know that this is rated that way I would purchase it for her. I would think this would also serve as a marketing tool also because you can better target markets based on heat ratings. Just a thought…

  • jcp says:

    I get a general idea from the blurb, advance reviews, and the Goodreads before I read the book. If I’m not comfortable with the love scenes then I stop reading. I look for the sexual tension in the story not the A meets B at X or here at Z .

  • Minna says:

    I definitely like to know what I’m about to get before I buy a book. Rating scales help some and also a blurb is usually helpful, but not always. Fortunately, there is Goodreads. I really wish I would have checked out the reviews there before I made the mistake of reading 50 Shades of Grey (Katrina Passick Lumsden’s review was actually better than the book itself). Now I like reading a spicy or burning romances, but 50 Shades was just simply disgusting.

    • One person’s disgusting is another person’s delightful.

    • Trish says:

      I’m right there with you, Minna. I like romantic sex as opposed to erotica. I know some men and women delight in the kind of sex but I would have to agree with the over 10,000 1 and 2 star reviews on Amazon.
      I doubt that Amazon will ever start a rating system, like the movies, so it’s really up to reviewers to let others know about sex and language.

    • Your point about reviews and other clues is well taken, Minna. While I agree with Mariana that one person’s disgusting is another persons happy read, I think it helps if you know what you’re getting into. In the case of 50 shades however, I can’t imagine anyone picking it up and no expecting explicit sex. What they may not have expected is terrible writing. I gather it has plenty of both. I confess I didn’t read it.

      • Minna says:

        Explicit sex is one thing, (not to mention the terrible writing), but in the book Mr Grey is basically a psychopath, potential rape is downplayed, Ana turns being stalked by Mr Grey into a joke… And some people think this guy is somehow romantic? Blech.

      • Minna says:

        As Katrina noted in her review, imagine that the so called hero looks like that bald guy from Seinfeld (naked) and then see if you are still turned on by this controlling, jealous and threathning guy.

    • Had to add my two cents on 50 shades – which I DID read (but only the first book). At least in the first book, there’s a lot of talk about sex and bondage, but very little of the actual deed. To be honest, from the hype, I expected more and was surprised by the lack of actual sex in the book. The writing was terrible – but I’ve heard more people who claim they don’t read books, say they read 50 shades and really liked it. I will forever be grateful to the author for bringing more readers into romance.

  • catslady says:

    As long as it fits the story I’m fine with anything. Now if there is only sex with not much plot or characterization, no thanks. I find for myself that I tend to stay away from extreme ends of the spectrum – usually stay away from inspirationals only because I’ve read some preachy ones, also usually stay away from extreme eroticas because they didn’t have enough story for me, but that being said, there are always exceptions to the rule so I don’t rule anything out (I just research some books more than others before I buy).

    • I think that’s it: research before you buy. I also think reviews and other clues need to mention sensuality level, no?

      • Trish says:

        They should mention the sensuality in a book but they just want to go on and on about everything but that. There’s one reviewer I look forward to reading. Her name is simply Jane and at the bottom of her reviews she gives the “data” on the book: how many sex scenes, how many pages, how much sex talk, how much swearing, etc. She gives such long winded reviews that I never read them. I just read the “data.”

  • Amy Conley says:

    I prefer the author rating, personally. I’m not into the “need to know everything” category, but sex, is almost always, at least, implied. In a way the implied part is the best because you can use your own imagination ranging from the 50 Shades genre to Barbara Cartland. It is what YOU are comfortable with as far as the story, setting, time period are.

    • Trish says:

      Well, count me in for NOT wanting to use my imagination. I want it written. However, I DO NOT want disgusting sex. I want romantic sex. No erotica for this gal. No BDSM either.

      • Trish says:

        In addition, an author’s rating is fine as long they are completely honest in telling you every aspect of the sex they’ve written. If an author neglects to tell you there’s, say, anal sex, believe me they will get a 1 star from me. So, you have to depend on the honesty of the author. I’d rather depend on the reader, at least some of them.

        • So, you don’t want a heat rating so much as a list of sex acts you are likely to see? For me, that a) takes out the mystery of a new book, and b) makes the blurb itself potentially NSFW. I am fine with being told it is erotica with kinky elements, and I don’t need to know what the elements are to decide whether to read it. If it is listed as erotic and kinky, it then won’t bother me to come upon a scene that is more graphic than I, personally, prefer.

          • Trish says:

            There are a lot of books that DO NOT say erotic or kinky or anything else like that. You don’t know until you run up on it. And, yes, I do want to know what kind of sex there will be. I think it’s fine that what I find disgusting you find delightful but I’d like to be clear what’s in a book I’m about to read. I have 900+ reviews on Amazon and only about 4 or 5 that got a 1 star review from me because of the quality of sex in it. If the author or Amazon would have given me some warning I wouldn’t have bought it to begin with.

          • Jude Knight says:

            PRH has a definition of the difference. He says erotic is a feather and kinky is the whole chicken.

  • Heathercm2001 says:

    Hi Caroline! I don’t really pay attention to steamy ratings, but I can see why other people might. I’ll read anything with a good story. I also make it my responsibility to know what I’m reading. I haven’t yet, but if I ever come across something I find very offensive, I’ll just stop reading the book. Just because one person doesn’t like something, doesn’t mean everyone is going to hate it. I have no problem accepting the fact that people’s tastes are very different, and i try to keep an open mind. I like to see authors write what they want to write because something forced can sometimes show through, and affect a book. If the author isn’t feeling it, then maybe the reader isn’t either.

    Great post! Very interesting! 🙂

    • Thanks, Heather.

      That you make it your responsibility is an important point in all this. Readers need to know themselves and what they are getting into. Writers write, and hope readers like it. I know in my marrow that no book satisfies everyone.

  • Jude Knight says:

    Great article, Carol. I have a particular interest in making sure that my novel Farewell to Kindness has sex in it – not fit tab a into slot b sex, but definitely there. I don’t want to mislead readers who first met my writing in my first book. It was a novella with an entirely traditional (if unconventional) courtship, and no sex on the page (one steamy kiss, I shared the hero’s thoughts about his physical reaction to the lady, and the book ends with the now married couple heading for a handy couch.)

    • Jude, don’t you think it is tougher for a new author? In the sea of choices out there for readers, it is vital that we get our books to the people who won’t just be comfortable with them but challenged and satisfied enough to keep coming back.

  • Jude Knight says:

    My beloved likes to tell people: “My wife writes sexy romances. I help her with the research. And I’m not as young as I used to be.”

    • Your beloved is a lucky man, Jude.

      • Jude Knight says:

        We’re lucky together. And the more we make our marriage our number one priority, the luckier we get.

        I want for my heroes and heroines the happy ever after I have myself. Hard work, times of trial, sorrows and joys shared – but together no matter what. Sex is, of course, part of this. Otherwise, what we have would be a friendship, not a romance. And it is a friendship, but it is also a romance.

  • Quantum says:

    When I find a writer with a style that resonates and excites my imagination, then I will read almost anything they write, from ‘women’s fiction’ through to the hottest romances. I think the writing ‘trick’ that grabs me is an ability to paint vivid word pictures, both of plot and characters, so that I feel emotionally involved.

    Sex clearly involves some of the strongest emotions of joy and pleasure, and in the hands of a great writer can produce some of the most exciting and beautiful reading experiences. If the writer does not have that sort of talent then I think that things are best kept ‘warm’ or the sex scene may come across as crude and gratuitous.

    Interesting discussion!
    I’m afraid that I haven’t tried your books yet Caroline, but I like the description of your work. 🙂

    • Wow. Your point about sex and the strongest of human emotions is spot on. Great writers delve into the depths of human joy and misery courageously without fear where they are taking us. Readers follow great writers.

  • Mary Anne Landers says:

    Thanks, Caroline. My attitude toward sex in romance fiction can be summed up thusly. When preparing a dish in the kitchen, it’s best to add spice with a teaspoon rather than a trowel.

    Of course, I don’t expect any author to tailor her works to suit me. Right now the readership in general wants not just more sex, but more kinky sex. Except for a minority who wants no sex at all.

    I can’t argue with the market. Well, actually I can. But I’d just be wasting my breath. I’d do nobody any good. And I doubt anyone would listen.

    A more constructive reaction is for me to write stories that represent my approach to sex. That is, sexual situations, dealt with honestly. But no sex scenes.

    Why no sex scenes? Because I’m a prude, right? Wrong. It’s for several reasons.

    One is because I find sex scenes boring. They’re all pretty much the same, unless the author goes off the deep end into absurdity. What’s going on in the characters’ hearts and minds offers far more variation and possibilities than what happens farther south.

    Also, I’m no fan of “lust at first sight”. If two people have nothing going for them except sex, I just don’t find their relationship interesting. And if their relationship bores me, so will the story.

    Nor do I care for the related notion that hot sex leads to love. In real life, and in my kind of fiction, it’s the other way around.

    Finally, I believe a romance should be about love. Sex has its own genre. And we all know what that is.

    As for a ratings system—sorry, not for me. My kind of romance fiction wouldn’t fit. I have big problems with applying objective standards to art.

    What’s more, we already have problems with definitions. Just what is “steamy”, “warm”, “hot”, and so on? It’s too subjective.

    The best way to alert the readers? Let the author do it. She should have a good idea of her readership’s values, standards, and expectations. Let her do the talking.

    • Hi Mary Anne,
      You’ve clearly given this a lot of thought.
      I like what you said about love leading to great sex, not the other way around. I’m reading an author now who describes a bit more than I would but she comes done clearly on the side of love leading to better lovemaking.

    • Thanks for weighing in Caren. It is a complicated business. As some of these threads show, it engenders emotions on many levels. I think as writers AND readers we all find our own comfort zones. Sex is as old as mankind. Its presentation on the page I suspect is almost as old. I had to just find my own comfort zone, but when people began to ask me where mine fit, I figured it was worth putting out there.

  • Caren Crane says:

    Caroline, welcome to the Lair! I love that you put this question on the table. How much is enough? I think that depends entirely on the reader. I do like it when authors are up-front about the level of sensuality. Sometimes it is implied by the story (three brothers trapped in a cabin in Alaska with the woman of their dreams!), but usually it isn’t.

    I am personally fine with any level of heat, but I have definite preferences. I like there to be an actual relationship, not just hot sex. I love hot sex, but in my dotage I appreciate that there needs to be some foundation for a relationship to grow and last. How happy can ever after be if the hero and heroine don’t have trust or things they admire about each other or something to talk about?

    I think it’s wonderful how romance has grown and changed since I read my first Harlequins in the late 70s (as a wide-eyed young teenager). My next older sister love those Kathleen Woodiwiss romances, the good old bodice rippers with a rather “forced” seduction, where the heroine reluctantly realizes she really, really wants to have sex. Those never did much for me, but my sister loved them. 😀

    I enjoyed the romances where women had interesting jobs and went toe-to-toe with the men in their lives. Those seemed more like real life to me. They are all much better these days, but it’s fun to go back and read those early books. Our issues have changed over the decades, for sure!

    And though there is a lot of fuss about erotica, it is nothing new. Honestly, it’s been around forever. Women openly admitting they read it is the only new thing. I know women who still deny reading erotica! I will open admit I read every bit I could get my hands on as a young woman. I still enjoy it today, but I am much more selective! 🙂

  • Great post, Caroline on a very hotly contested subject in the romance reading world. I think a heat rating is a very good idea. I read reviews and often find complaints about the sex being too explicit or the sex being non-existent and the review down-graded solely on that basis. If you know what you want as a reader, what you are willing to accept and what you absolutely don’t want then a heat rating will help you get that and your reviews will reflect that.

    LOVED your excerpts !!

  • Barbara Elness says:

    This: “When it does I follow the characters into the bedroom, but I’m more interested in what they feel than in which specific acts they initiate.” This is exactly what I’m looking for in a story, not a play by play of what went where. Please keep doing what you’re doing, I definitely appreciate that type of writing. 😀

  • Sandy Loyd says:

    I know I’m late to the party, but I just wanted to say I loved your post. And your covers are gorgeous. Now, I’m going to buy your book because I loved what you said and how you said it. When you find an author who does that, it’s time to read her!

  • Amy Conley says:

    There is a favorite author of mine who writes really steamy sex scenes.but I know she writes like that so I’m prepared. one of her my favorite books from her started off that way with too many books don’t start that way but this one did but it worked for the book. so I don’t have too much problem with it as long as its not gratuitous.

    • Amy Conley says:

      and while we’re on this topic I just had to give my 8 year old grandson I talked about the birds and the bees.

    • Amy,
      You get what you expect, you’re not taken off guard, and you’re comfortable with it. All is good with that. That’s what we want to have happen.

  • Mary Preston says:

    I don’t need a book to be rated really. I kind of like to discover for myself.

    • As a reader, I’m sort of that way. I select by cover, blurb and reviews. If I don’t like a book I quit after a couple of chapters. If I like a book and the hot description goes on too long I skim past it. It’s just a yawner after a while.