Bookstr Team Talks: How We Rate Our Spicy Romance

What romance novels sit within your Spicy scale? Four of our Bookstr Team members are here to tell you what they think is spicy and what’s not.

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Bookstr’s resident romance experts have come together to share what their Romance Spicy Scales look like because, as we romance readers know, these scales vary from person to person. Let’s take a look at what’s required by these voracious readers even to make the base level of the scale and what tips it over.

Kristi’s Spicy Romance Preferences

I love romance books! I love smut and everything in between, with the exception of super weepy, barely-a-kiss-after-all-the-tension romance. Yep, I’m looking at you, Nicholas Sparks; as great as your novels are, you’re too in our feelings with not enough bedroom time for me. Whether the plot has substance or not, if I’m reading romance, I want some action and good action, if you know what I mean. If there is only sexual tension or fade-to-black sex scenes, those don’t even ping on my spicy radar.

:hot_pepper: One to two smexy scenes filled with tension that are more teasing than fully satisfying are relegated to the bottom of my spice scale. When there’s just one final coming together after all the angst, it’s sure to be placed here. While I am absolutely obsessed with The Crescent City series by Sarah J. Maas, it’s not for the smut; it’s all about that brilliant world-building and heady plot. I mean, Hunt, Ruhn, and Ithan are nice, but they’re more of a bonus to the overall plot of the series.

Sarah J Maas's Crescent City Book 1, House of Earth and Blood book cover.
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:hot_pepper::hot_pepper::hot_pepper: If, within the first 50% of the book, we’ve achieved some decent tension broken by sex and the other 50% of the book had a decent amount of continued smutty scenes with well-developed descriptions, I’ll give it three chili peppers. Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series is an amazing example of a three-chili pepper read. She employs an expert usage of tension, romance, and plot to bring together the characters of her novels.

Nalini Singh's Guild Hunter book 1, Angels' Blood, book cover
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:hot_pepper::hot_pepper::hot_pepper::hot_pepper::hot_pepper: Plot or not, as long as there’s at least 30-50% of the book dedicated to intense and descriptive sex, it’s a five-chili read. It’s porn for readers, plain and simple, and I. Am. Here. For. It. Especially if we’ve reached physical intimacy within the first 25% of the book. Court of the Vampire Queen by Katee Robert is a great example of what I want to see at the highest point in the spice scale. Listen, five-chili pepper books are not going to be filled with deeply intuitive and plot-driven prose, and that’s okay. Sometimes it’s just about the escape into a heady world of physical romance.

Katee Robert's Court of The Vampire Queen book cover
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Trish’s Spicy Scale

I’m head over heels for romance books, especially when they’re spiced up with some tantalizing smut. From sweet and fiery love stories to captivatingly dark romances that leave an indelible mark, I crave every page-turning moment. While I can appreciate non-spicy literary gems, let’s be honest, they’re not my cup of tea, so I tend to steer clear. Give me all the steamy scenes, all the unapologetic smut, and let the pages turn with passion that leaves me breathless!

:hot_pepper: On a one-to-two scale, I love the teasing and tension between two characters, with just one or two spicy scenes that leave me wanting more. Take, for example, the first book in the ACOTAR series by Sarah J. Maas. It’s where everything begins, and although the series gets spicier as you go, the first book didn’t quite satisfy my craving for steaminess. Still, I’m obsessed with the ACOTAR series because it lays the foundation for an incredible journey.

Sarah J Maas's ACOTAR book 1, A Court of Thornes and Roses, book cover.
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:hot_pepper::hot_pepper::hot_pepper: Three, it’s all about that perfect balance. I want a well-crafted story that captivates me while also delivering those amazing moments of extreme tension that build up until they explode in absolute bliss. Twisted Hate by Ana Huang hits the mark for me. The sexual tension between Josh and Jules is palpable, and it keeps me on the edge of my seat while the story and character growth keep me thoroughly engaged.

Ana Huang's Twisted Series book three, Twisted Hate, book cover
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:hot_pepper::hot_pepper::hot_pepper::hot_pepper::hot_pepper: Now, if we’re talking about the five-level, we’re diving headfirst into a world of unapologetic smut. These books leave no scene behind and fill us with euphoria. They make us question our moralities and explore our darkest fantasies. From Devils Night series by Penelope Douglas or Hunting Adeline by H.D. Carlton, these stories are not just Porn, which I’m ALL IN FOR, but they also challenge us and become our guilty pleasure, our spicy secret that we can’t get enough of.

Penelope Douglas's Devil's Night novel, Corrupt, book cover.
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So, let’s turn up the heat, dive into these captivating stories, and let the euphoria of unapologetic smut wash over us.

Olivia’s Romance Perspective

Oh, hell yeah. Please picture me rubbing my hands together and laughing maniacally. This conversation is the stuff of my dreams! There are never enough opportunities to share my spicy thoughts in regard to the world of books. My credentials are as follows: avid smut reader since I was 13, Wattpad user since 2014, English major, and smut-aholic. I cannot stand short, undescriptive scenes with no action or dialogue. I want every detail, sound, and word spoken on paper! I want enough detail that I can create the scene in my head.

I love spicy books for the porn (obviously) but also the notion that mostly women are writing these books, and I find that incredibly powerful. I mean c’mon guys… we have done the work for you. There are literally books written about what we want; just pick one up and read it! With all that being said, take a few minutes to dive deep into my brain and see what I consider smutty.

:hot_pepper: 1-2 spicy scenes that are most often near the end. Now, this isn’t a book I would gravitate towards in this stage of my smut indulgence, but I have certainly read a few. I love a little build-up to the grand finale, but it has to be worth waiting for. I have not finished books before because, yes, I love the flirting and teasing throughout the book, but at this point, I need more. Contractual Obligations by Ellie Rivers is a good example of this rating. There wasn’t a lot going on. I read it in a few hours, so I was hoping for heavy smut content to contrast that. There was a lot of flirting as they got to know each other, but the best scene was just about near the end. It was worth waiting for, in my opinion, but it also could have been read and enjoyed without the rest of the book.

Elle Rivers's contractual Obligations, bok cover.
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:hot_pepper::hot_pepper::hot_pepper: Delicious smut and a binge-worthy plot. I would say this could be a 3-4 spice level. These books are addictive for more than one reason and are hard to put down. They have more plot and spice than a 1-2 spice but aren’t the straight-up porn of a 4-5 level. I would put the Twisted series on this level, or even a 4! Each one of those books makes me want to drop everything and climb through the pages. The women are beautiful, intelligent, and interesting. The men are hot, rich, and willing to do anything for their partners. The books, as they say, are twisted, but that doesn’t change just how delectable they are! Goodness, if you knew how many times I have read those books (or specific scenes) over and over again… you’d be scared. Hats off to Ana Huang for getting the balance just right!

Ana Huang's Twisted series book 1, Twisted Love, book cover
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:hot_pepper::hot_pepper::hot_pepper::hot_pepper::hot_pepper: Straight-up porn. Ah, yes. This is much more my area of expertise. This level of spice has sometimes no plot whatsoever, and you and the author come to an agreement that we all know why we’re here. It can be quite a learning experience (if you know what I mean). Booktok is a big influence on my TBR, so most of the time, I know that I am going to expect extensive smut like in series such as the Cat and Mouse Duet by H.D. Carlton and the Ice Planet Barbarian series by Ruby Dixon. I thought I was prepared for what these books would be like, but I was not. Let’s just say… wow.

Sadie Kincaid's Lorenzo book cover
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Dark romance is a whole beast in itself, and then you have sci-fi romance, which is brand new to me and blew my mind. My favorite part of this 5+ spice level is even the most seasoned smut readers can be surprised. I just started and finished Lorenzo yesterday, and the beginning half was plot-heavy without a stitch of smut, and BOOM! The second it started, it didn’t stop. I think every chapter in the latter half of the book was filled with smut to the brim. I was aghast in the most sensual way. These books are not for the faint of heart, but I think everyone can learn a little something if they decide to pick one up; heck, I am still learning new things! Thank you, female romance authors.

Sierra’s Spicy Romance Take

:hot_pepper: A little this, a little that. To be fair, I haven’t read that many one-pepper romance novels. Either there’s a lot, or there’s none. But when I was in middle school, I got a taste of what spice could mean. The Trylle Series by Amanda Hocking has quite a few romantic-induced scenes, but in the third book in particular, Ascend has one sex scene. And I read that scene over and over. It gave just enough to really seal the deal on the romance between Wendy and Loki. He’s a powerful man, so the whole time, he’s holding back his strength… until he can’t. It’s one scene, which is to be expected for YA material. But hey, you got to start somewhere.

Ascend by Amanda Hocking, Books three of the Trylle Series.
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:hot_pepper::hot_pepper::hot_pepper: Interesting plot and yummy smutty. Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf, I discovered on Wattpad. A few years later… come to find out, the author got the book published! It’s definitely a unique read, as it’s a part of an otherworldly setting that I can’t exactly describe. It’s a mixture of fairytales with a modern twist to it. The smut scenes give… now there is much room for imagination, but for the most part, you’ll have to fan yourself because Logan Grimm is no f*** joke. Seriously. He’s a fighter at heart and in his work, and he wants to f*** Kyle Wood, but life can be a bit difficult when your ex is still in the picture… and for good reason.

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf by Janie Marie, book cover
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:hot_pepper::hot_pepper::hot_pepper::hot_pepper::hot_pepper: Call the cops. Den of Vipers… honestly. At this point, I’m reading porn. And that’s okay. I don’t care about the plot or anything else, really. Den of Vipers is that feeling. Give me the steam, give me the angst, give me the love, and all of the above. These scenes are graphic… and excessive. So that’s that.

K.A. Knight's Den of Vipers, book cover
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And that’s a wrap! What do you think of our resident romance team member’s Spicy Romance Scale? Do they align with yours or not? Let us know! Either way, we all have our references and deviations on what we think qualifies as spicy. And they’re all valid!


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