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How Hot Do You Like It?

You read romance — or you wouldn't be here. But what kind of romance reader are you? Do you want to throw the book at the wall when it fades to black? Or maybe you prefer your books smut-free?

Readers often find themselves uncertain about the heat level they're signing up for when purchasing or borrowing a book on KU. As authors, we aim to hint about our book through the cover (a bare-chested dude usually implies spicier content) and our subtitle, using words like 'steamy' or 'clean.' Harlequin uses a thermometer scaling how much heat each Harlequin category carries.

I'll use The Scoville Scale, employed to measure chili peppers spiciness, to explain about the different heat levels. One pepper means squeaky clean (Jane Austen style), while level five is meant to set you on fire (E.L James comes to mind), steam pouring out of your ears.

Let's break down exactly what each level entails:

🌶️ MILD Also called sweet, closed door, fade to black​.

Think Hallmark movies. No bodice is ripped, the hero goes down to his knees only to propose. Zippers remain firmly zipped, buttons remain in the buttonholes. If you're a fan of Debbie Macomber, you'll find her right here.

🌶️🌶️ Medium, also referred to as sizzle or sensual.​

Sexual tension and love scenes might be included in the story, but most descriptions of physical intimacy still happen behind closed doors. Think PG13-rated movie. There's lots of kissing and more touching than you'd have in a sweet romance, as well as the words that go along with it. Nora Roberts is a notable example of this level.

🌶️🌶️🌶️ HOT or steamy, sexy, spicy.​ Equivalent to an R-rated movie. Most romance novels fall here.

The scenes are explicit. What is happening is described with specific language, using words like cock and clit. The reader follows the participants and climbs into the bed/public conference hall/office corner booth, along with them. My second book Analysing Her Assets is in this category (with a lively scene in a conference hall), as well as my third book Pulling Her Resources (yep they're at it in the office)​.

🌶️🌶️🌶️🌶️ Nuclear. ​ NC-17 in the American movie world.

At this heat level, there’s more graphic sex, indelicate language during sex, and detailed depictions of a sexual nature. Nuclear might include sex toys, mild BDSM, light bondage, mild spanking, orgasm control, and other light forms of kink. My first book Crunching Her numbers is Nuclear. 

​🌶️🌶️🌶️🌶️🌶️ Erotic.​ These are stories that cannot be told if you take sex out of the equation.

Erotic romance, not to be confused with Erotica, pushes boundaries. It has hard BDSM, multiple partners, and plenty of explicit scenes. The romance moves forward only via the sexual journey. But since this is romance there's always a Happily Ever After. Elisabeth Amber and Sylvia Day write erotic romance.

Which heat level are you?

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