I’ve been mulling over heat-level descriptions in romance novels. According to a discussion I’ve been in on Goodreads, readers hate finding themselves in a novel that gives them more or less sex than they expected. (Both seem to rub people up the wrong way.)
My hero and heroine in Farewell to Kindness have (I hope, or I’ve done it wrong) quite a bit of heat between them. They kiss several times, they have one memorable night, they think about one another a lot, and Rede’s thoughts are definitely carnal (what can I say; he’s a 34-year-old male who has been celibate since his wife died 3 years ago).
And my villainess is either having sex or thinking about it in most, if not all, of her scenes.
So the heat-rating ‘sweet sensuality’ doesn’t fit. And I’ve gone beyond ‘mild’ in a couple of places, too.
On the other hand, the heat-rating ‘hot sensuality’ seems over the top. The passionate encounters take up a tiny fragment of the whole, and I tend to use non-specific language and focus on emotions rather than physical descriptions (with a few notable exceptions).
As I’ve noted elsewhere, even this level of heat was enough to make me change my heroine’s name.
The villainess Lydia’s scenes are left largely to the imagination of the reader. Here’s the start of the scene where I introduce her:
The boy was enthusiastic, but unskilled and undisciplined. He grunted and heaved over Lydia, striving for his own completion without regard to hers. He would improve with a little tutoring, however. Yes, she would certainly teach him how to give pleasure. While that was by no means her reason for taking him as her lover, she saw no reason to deny herself the benefits of his teenage vigour.
A movement caught her eye. The boy was too far gone to notice Baron Carrington, lounging at his ease in the doorway.
She raised one eyebrow. She hated, feared, and loved her husband in equal measure, and knew better than to show any of those emotions.
He smiled coldly, then gestured with his head. She had no difficulty interpreting the command. “Come and see me when you have finished.” He didn’t wait to see her acknowledgement, fading from the doorway as silently as he had appeared.
The boy stiffened all over, letting out a shout as he reached his climax. She let out her own cry. Letting him think he’d pleased her would help to bind him to her. Bindings. There was a thought worth exploring. If she bound him to the bed, she could force him to slow down.
Later. For now, the Baron waited. And the Baron did not like to wait.
Not hot. Right? But certainly not sweet. Okay, she’s the villainess, so here’s a bit starring Rede and Anne. They’ve spent the night in a cottage, sharing the one bed, but she was asleep before he got into it:
Anne woke in the pre-dawn light, aware of a warm large presence enfolding her in the bed. Rede was wrapped around her, his front spooned against her back, one large arm flung over her body, and one leg over her hips.
She lay still, cataloguing each of the touch points. Rede’s hand brushed her breast. His leg hooked back to rest against the front of her thighs. Against her buttocks, something hard pressed. Was that what she thought? If so, it seemed bigger than she expected.
She resisted the urge to squirm against it. Instead, she lifted Rede’s arm, and carefully pushed it behind her. As it fell back against his side, he rolled onto his back, freeing her from the cage of his body.
She lay still for a few moments more, waiting to see if he woke, but his breathing didn’t change.
After a while, she wriggled a bit further away, so that she could sit up without disturbing him. He lay beside her, flat on his back, still sleeping. He had rolled from under the covers, which were all bunched up on her side of the bed.
She was a little disappointed to see that he’d come to bed in shirt and pantaloons. But his shirt was unbuttoned, and she could see a vee of his chest, with a dusting of golden hair. And she could see his feet. She had never before thought of feet as beautiful, but his were. Narrow and straight, with long elegant toes to go with the long elegant fingers that had cared for her so tenderly last night.
“My darling,” he had said. How she wished she really was.
She continued her examination. The strong curves of his chest, the flat planes of his abdomen. And, yes, there. Where the pantaloons were tented over… she had no idea what to call it. The male part of him.
Without thinking, she reached out a hand, stopping a few inches in the air above the stretched fabric.
“You can touch it if you wish,” Rede said.
She snatched her hand back and looked at him, feeling the heat as she blushed.
He hadn’t moved, except to open those blue, blue eyes.
So I’m calling the novel warm, following Tori Macallister, who did a lovely post on the various rating systems people use.