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Are Romance Novels Literary Peppers?

by on April 18, 2014

I watch a lot of Food Network, courtesy of my  wonderful husband,  and I’ve learned that there were heat ratings for peppers.  It’s called the Scoville scale, named after Wilbur Scoville, who worked for the Park-Davis Company.  It is what is called “subjective dilution-taste procedure”. I’m not going into the whole science of it, but since this is not a foodie post, I’ll dispense with that.

Basically, the heat factor of chile peppers is measuresd in multiples of 100 units.  A sweet, green bell pepper is at zero Scoville units.  The hot as Hades and beyond Naga Jolokia Ghost Pepper is measures at 1,000,000 Scoville units.  Talk about extremes.

To put this in a bit of perspective, Frank’s RedHot Original is 450 Scoville Units.  Tabasco Sauce (regular) is 700 Scoville Units.   Frank’s RedHot XTRA Hot is 2,000 Scoville units.  I don’t mess with anything more than that.  However, there are sauces available for purchase that are measured at 16,000,000 units on the Scoville scale.  Blair’s 16 Million Reserve.

That’s hot,right?

Sooooo, let’s take a look at romance books.  Many sites have heat ratings according to the type of sex happening, the frequency of the sex and , I assume, the type of words used.

You have your sweet romances, your sensual romances and your erotic romances.

Here is an example of a Sensuality Rating Guide from All About Romance:

Many of the authors that I know would hover between the “Hot” and the “Burning”  category.

Here is the rating system from All Romance EBooks. (taken from the FAQ)

1 flame– Stories will either not have consummated love scenes, or if the loves scenes are consummated detail is not  given.
2 flames– Stories will have some love scenes.  These will be more sensual then graphic and will mostly rely on euphemism.
3 flames– Stories will have sensual, yet more explicit love scenes, and the language used to describe them may be more graphic and direct.
4 flames– Stories have frequent love scenes that are explicit and described using graphic and direct language.
5 flames– Stories have a high frequency of love scenes that are explicit, described using graphic and direct language,  and/or contain subject matter that some readers may consider objectionable.

This makes me wonder…. What are some matters that some readers might find objectionable?

Do you like your romances to be rated?  Or would you rather depend on the blurb, the cover and the reputation of the author to determine your purchase of the books?

Have you ever been surprised by a sexual act in a story?  Do you wish that there had been a warning?

Ratings can be so subjective – much like the Scoville heat scale  – that it may be difficult to really put ratings on erotic romance books.

What do you think? Seriously, leave your thoughts in the comments!




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  1. belindaegreen permalink

    I only pay attention to the ratings in so far as it gives me a general idea of the book content. If I want to read a true sensual love story, I know I’m going to get that if the book is rated a 1 or 2 flame, star, pepper, or whatever. Other than that I rely on the author to clue me in.

    Yes, I was a little taken back once when a rape incest scene was graphically described. It added no value to the story. It was unwarranted and a big turnoff! There was no warning. Of course being me, I had to ask the author why. The response was they felt it was germane to the story. It wasn’t. I went back and looked at the reviews after and the author was crucified in every review, over a 100 plus! I no longer read that author.

    I lean more toward the erotic love scenes when they make sense to the story. Sex scenes thrown in just because are not great reading. I want a good story, well developed characters, with a heartfelt journey to the HEA .

    Thanks for sharing Dahlia! 🙂

  2. Hi Belinda!!

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience! My goodness, I can’t imagine being hit in the face with something like that in the middle of a “romance”. Sometimes we authors need a good editors to keep us in check or else we start wandering away from the goal of romance. 🙂

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