Should books have spice ratings?

Should books have spice ratings?

Should books have spice ratings? 

“Spice” is the generally accepted term for sexual content in books, particularly Romance books. People say something has “no spice” if it’s clean or that it’s “super spicy” if it’s erotica, polyamory, or in that vein. 

It would probably be helpful to everyone to know what we’re in for when we pick up a book. Readers usually know what they want, whether they’re looking for no spice, lots of spice, or something in between.

Most people I’ve asked agree that books should have spice ratings. (I can’t remember one who disagreed, actually.) It would be helpful to know at a glance if something will have a single chaste kiss or an on-the-page polyamorous sex scene. 

So why don’t books have spice ratings? I do know of some indie publishers that have tried to do it. I’ve wished a objective third-party organization (that doesn’t publish books) would do it, but it seems that so far no one has.

The problem with spice ratings for books

The main issue I encounter is the differences in opinion when it comes to spice. 

I read the original ACOTAR (A Court of Thorns and Roses) trilogy a few years ago and that was at the upper level of my spice limit. I also skipped quite a few scenes that made me uncomfortable. At the time, I thought it was super spicy. (I have laughed many times over this now.) Yes, I was well into my 20’s at that time.

I have since learned that ACOTAR is considered moderate spice by some readers or even low spice. Clearly, I was just a sheltered reader.

What is spicy content?

I write PG-13 Romance for the most part and that is considered “clean” by most of the denizens of BookTok. I don’t know that I consider my books “clean” (hard to say that with all the demons, vengeful gods, blood sacrifice, etc.), but I do write pretty tame bedroom content (for now, at least).

On the flip side, I once had a reviewer say my books contained sexuality not suitable for readers under 16. The review was positive, but in that particular series, the Argetallam Saga, the characters don’t even kiss until book #4. It left me a little confused, to be honest. 

What a homeschool Baptist mom considers to be a spicy book likely isn’t what a SmutTok influencer considers to be a spicy book. Vice versa goes for clean books. A lot of times, I have to check what someone has thought of other books to get a feel for what their thresholds are.

Learning the lingo of book spice

Like most seasoned readers, I can usually navigate my way pretty well through a bookstore. Shirtless men on covers usually indicate more spice, though not always. Things like “steamy,” “sizzling,” “dark desires,” “torrid passion,” and similar words in the blurb are also indicators of a more sexually charged story. If I am really suspicious that day, quick scroll through reviews will usually let us know what kind of readers are reading a particular kind of book. 

Despite my practice, I’m not always sure what to expect, especially with a new-to-me author. Thankfully though, most authors do remain close to a particular heat level. It helps to just find an author I like and let the binging commence. 

I have most often run into issues when asking for recommendations, though. I seem to have accumulated friends all along the gamut of spice consumption. What’s “spicy” to my clean friends is often clean to my spicy friends. I often think about how easy a standardized spice scale would make all of our lives. 

What do you think? What are some of the ways you tell if a book is spicy enough/too spicy for your tastes? Do you care about heat level at all? I’m curious to know!

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‘If you die
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Cya soon, miss gorgeous…

Czech Mate

I would greatly appreciate knowing a books spice level because quite frankly while I’m fine with warlords, barbarians, sorcery, and all of the typical inhabitants of the SF & Fantasy books that invaded my bookshelves and the battles and bloodshed that ensue, I consider myself a cosy reader — low to moderate spice level is fine. Face it most of us can figure out what is going on when the door closes and don’t need pages of details. My techniques are the same as yours, mostly recommendations, trigger words and reviews and judge by the first book in a series. I’ll read a new to me author `and if the plot is good, writing clever and characters are real, I can scroll past the intense sex scenes. For example you were recommended by Ilona Andrews blog so I immediately downloaded the first book and moved it to the top of my read this next pile.


Yeah that would genuinely be so helpful.


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