Heat levels in romance novels are a necessary evil. Authors generally set out to write to a particular heat level, which means they are actually writing for an intended audience. Sometimes it is difficult for authors to stick to writing one heat level, and they may write books across the spectrum. Other authors are most comfortable sticking with one particular heat level.
The fact remains that it's important for authors or publishers to assign a heat level to books, so that readers generally know what they are buying.
What about the books on this site? They can range from sugary sweet to mind-blowing hot--that's why we've assigned a heat level to each book that "as accurately as possible" describes the book. If we miss the mark in your opinion, be sure to let us know.
Sexuality Heat Levels according to Sand Dune Books
Level 1. Sweet Romance. There will be kissing, hand holding, touching; very low level of sexual tension between main characters. There is attraction and thinking about the other character. There is no sex on the page, and probably not alluded to off the page. Always a happily-ever-after ending.
Level 2. Sweeter Romance (sweeter than sexy). Kissing, touching, more kissing, and sexual touching may exist; higher level of sexual tension. There could be one very light, sweet and tender, love scene. Or, there could be closed door sex, or alluding to sex that happened off the page. Story ends with a happily-ever-after.
Level 3. Sensual to Downright Sexy Romance. Kissing and multiple sex scenes happen. The love scenes can be thoroughly and often graphically described. Sex is important to the plot, causes conflict, or defines character -- in other words, not just sex for sex's sake, but sex as part of a developing relationship and leads to the couple's happily-ever-after.
Level 4. Steamy to Erotic Romance. Very sexy and erotic in nature; multiple sex scenes with elements of erotic sex play. Could include multiple partners, light bondage, sex toys, and increasing level of eroticism, along with a developing plot and a happily-ever-after ending (or in some cases, a happy-for-now, satisfying ending)
Level 5. Explicit Erotic Romance, Erotica. Explicit and sometimes extreme erotic romance or erotica; graphic sex scenes described and lengthy. Multiple scenes and perhaps gratuitous sex happens. Stories may contain multiple partners, menage a trois relationships, elements domination and submission play, or full-blown BDSM relationships and lifestyle, role play, and subjects that some may consider taboo. Full-blown plots may conclude with a happily-ever-after or happy-for-now ending. Shorter stories may be open-ended. This is our highest level of sexual heat.
REGARDLESS OF HEAT LEVEL, ALL BOOKS ARE WRITTEN FOR READERS OVER THE AGE OF 18 YEARS, AND CONTAIN MAIN CHARACTERS WHO ARE OVER THE AGE OF 18 YEARS.
For a quick guide, consider the following:
If you are looking for sexy books with a higher level of sexual heat, look at the Maddie James collection. Maddie's books may have multiple sex/love scenes and command a 3-5 heat level.
If you are looking for sweeter books (with less sexuality) try Sophie Jacobs. Sophie's romance books generally have no sex, closed-door sex, or perhaps one lightly described love scene. Her books are generally labeled with a 1 or 2 heat rating.
About Women's Fiction and general mainstream fiction novels - we don't rate them for heat and graphic levels. We feel that books in the mainstream marketplace are wide open to subject matter and content, and that elements of sex, violence, and other elements of life are expected. We don't limit, sensor, or try to provide any guide to such. If we are concerned about a subject, topic, or particular graphic element, there will be a notation in the book description.
We also don't identify or rate books for triggers (this includes romance novels). We acknowledge that triggers happen and would hate for anyone to have a bad experience with a story--but we also find it impossible to know what topics or story line elements will trigger the masses. We do make every attempt to accurately describe our stories so that the reader understands what they are buying. We can make no guarantee that any element of our stories will, or will not, cause a trigger for anyone.
One additional note about books labeled "clean or wholesome" in the greater marketplace -- you probably won't find those here. From our research into what readers mean when they label a book "clean or wholesome" they are looking for specific books with no kissing or maybe one kiss, no talking about or referencing sex, no foul language or curse words, no graphic violence, and of course, no sexual acts. Most books here will never make the "clean" cut because of kissing (there will always be kissing!) and there will most likely be cursing. Some of our characters tend to use colorful language.
That said, if Sand Dune Books does ever produce "clean and wholesome books" we will label them as such!
We hope this short guide helps. Happy shopping!