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It’s Cold Outside…But It’s Heating Up in Here: New Romance Appeal Terms

Post by Cathleen Keyser
Posted January 06, 2014 in NoveList Plus, Readers' Advisory News

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It's getting hot here at NoveList -- really hot. Why, you ask? Well, we've created several new romance-related appeal terms, ones that will help you distinguish between books that only hint at what happens behind closed doors and those that deliver on that promise.

Our Romance Team has been hard at work and is halfway through their project. Out of this work comes three new tone appeal terms -- chaste, mildly sensuous, and explicit, which join the existing appeal term steamy. The team felt that although steamy was a helpful descriptor, on its own it didn't do enough to convey the various levels of heat that can be found across the Romance genre. So, we've changed things up a bit and developed a scale of spice!

Chaste will be used on wholesome romances, in which there’s no hanky-panky but might be some serious hand-holding! These books focus more on the emotions and proper social behavior of the characters. Think Beverly Lewis or Georgette Heyer.

Mildly sensuous is the next step up. These books do focus on the emotional relationships between the characters, like in Chaste books. Where they differ is that here we have some sexual tension or even sexual activity between the characters, but this is downplayed, takes place behind closed doors, or is not described (beyond mentioning that something took place). Look for authors like Sherryl Woods and Julia Quinn here.

If you are thinking of this as a scale, Steamy comes as three out of four. These sensual books contain vividly described sex (not just innuendo!). Think Like Water for Chocolate. This term is also used for young adult books but keep in mind, we use a slightly different definition for teen audiences. For use on teen books, the amount of spice will vary from just sexual tension, mere innuendo, outright lust, or the act itself, but overall these teen books have an unmistakably sexy aura that is part of the appeal. Currently steamy is the only sensual appeal term that will be used on the juvenile side.

And finally, we get to Explicit. These books contain lots of vividly described sex, ranging from the plainest (but plentiful) vanilla to the kinkiest of kink and breaking of social mores. I’m looking at you, E.L. James!

Look for these bad boys (or bare chested cowboys) to be sweeping you off your feet very soon!

Comments, suggestions, questions about romance or any of our subject headings, appeal terms, and genres? Drop us a line!

Cathleen Keyser is the Collection Development Coordinator at NoveList