After a lot of ‘research’, I’m probably more confused than I was before I started. Levels of heat seem to vary, both in terms used and in what the level actually means.
The basic ‘Sweet’ level is fairly easy. Or is it? I’ve seen it described as ‘Kisses Only’. Elsewhere, one definition of ‘sweet’ is that ‘love scenes are implied but not shown i.e. the bedroom door stays closed'. Another is ‘No sensual or sexual overtones or intimacy, either literal or implied.’ So, in the 'sweet' level, can love scenes be implied or not? See, I’m confused already.
Another list of heats uses the term ‘Subtle’ to describe romances which include kissing and touching, but in which physical romance/lovemaking is alluded to rather than described. Isn’t this the same as that first definition of ‘sweet’? This same definition is also given (in some cases) for a level called ‘Sensual’ i.e. ‘total intimacy is implied but not described.’
Okay, so maybe there’s an ‘ultra-sweet’ level with no implied love-making (i.e. the bedroom isn’t even mentioned, let alone entered), and then a Sweet/Subtle/Sensual level where lovemaking is implied but not described i.e. characters disappear into the bedroom and close the door.
Nope, think again. Here’s another definition of ‘Sensual’: ‘Moderately explicit sensuality. Lovers make love, physical details are described but not graphically depicted. Euphemisms are used, but feelings and emotions are more important than body parts’.
Great! Now we’re getting somewhere. Or are we? In the list of heats which classed ‘sensual’ as lovemaking implied, not described, the term ‘Sophisticated’ is used for romances with explicit scenes which are handled sensitively but not graphically described and where euphemisms are used for body parts. Hmm, now it seems we have a confusion betwen sensual and sopisticated!
The higher up the heat scale we go, a variety of words are used to describe the levels:
Steamy (or Spicy or Hot) – explicit sensuality, making love graphically depicted; physical feelings and emotions are both important.
Sizzling (or Burning or Blazing) – Extremely explicit sensuality, sex is the primary focus of the story. Often referred to as ‘romantica’, a hybrid of romance and erotica.
Which all leaves me wondering just how I categorise my own novels. I tend to have sensual tension, leading eventually to one or two love-making scenes which, while emphasising the emotional aspects, do have some physical details. Maybe my books are “sensually sophisticated with the occasional steaminess”?
Having said all that, why then does Bookstrand (with its three main categories of Sweet, Sensual and Steamy) class my ‘Fragrance of Violets’ as ‘Sweet’??? Seems like we’re back to Square One with all these heat levels!
Think I'm just going to ignore all the level descriptions before I tear my hair out!