2019 Romance Titles Ranked By Heat Level

After I posted my 2019 Reading Year in Review, there were a couple of requests for me to give a ranking of the category romance novels I’d read according to their heat levels. For those who might be unfamiliar with that term, it essentially refers to the sensuality level or raciness of the story. While there are several different explanations for how to rate such things, I’m going to use this one here, which is really interesting and worth reading. (It will also explain with further context the rankings which follow.)

Here are the five levels of heat, in order, with very brief descriptions:

MILD — Sweet like a Hallmark Christmas movie, and I wouldn’t object to my 9th-grade daughter or 7th-grade son reading them, if they wanted to. (Spoiler alert: Pretty sure she does, pretty sure he does not.)

MEDIUM — Generally equivalent to a PG-13 movie in that intimate situations or scenes are there, but they aren’t graphically described and won’t likely make people who like the concept of kissing books uncomfortable; I wouldn’t feel awkward recommending books like these to high school students who liked YA romance.

HOT — Sometimes called steamy, sexy, or spicy, this level includes most category romance books and offers a wide range of description; the titles I’ve included here also represent a wide range within this heat level.

NUCLEAR — Expect graphic descriptions and possible forays beyond vanilla.

EROTIC — This heat level pushes boundaries, most definitely; the characters’ emotional journeys are lived through explicit sexual activity, but the emotional journey and the external story still retain primacy — as does the all-important happy story ending.

And here are the titles I read last year, ranked by me:

Just Add Mistletoe (Moore)

The Frog Prince (Lothlorien)

Desire and the Deep Blue Sea (Dade)
Tiny House, Big Love (Dade)
Do You Want to Start a Scandal (Dare)
The Truth About Love and Dukes (Guhrke)
Red, White and Royal Blue (McQuiston)
Rafe (Weatherspoon)

Priest: A Love Story (Simone) — And I feel I should make the point here that this novel is not about the horrors we find in the news (though that issue is alluded to regarding characters who don’t appear in the frontstory), but about a consensual affair between adults.

The Professional (Cole)

If you’d like a proper review of any of these titles, just let me know which one(s) in the comments, and I’ll be happy to oblige!


Want to read more of my writing that’s already published? Click here for poetry, click here for urban fantasy, and click here for realistic flash fiction. You can also buy my books in Houston at Blue Willow Bookshop, and I hope you will!  🙂

12 thoughts on “2019 Romance Titles Ranked By Heat Level

  1. Interesting! I have a friend who writes erotic romance. It’s a bit too far for me. I settle somewhere around medium to hot – just like my salsa preference! Then again, a reviewer described my book as containing “smoldering romance,” and I think of it as decidedly medium. I guess it all depends on who’s doing the judging. 😄

    Liked by 1 person

    1. These classifications are definitely a moving target! There were a few titles that I really had to think about before I could classify them on this list, and even so, I’m sure there are readers out there who would classify a few of them differently.


  2. I keep seeing Red, White, and Royal Blue on Great New YA and Great New Queer YA lists. It sounds adorable, and I totally wish there was at the very least a Hallmark movie along these lines. I mean, they do love their royal love stories.

    Liked by 1 person

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