Sue-Ellen Welfonder/Allie Mackay on the Hot Stuff (or not)

Sue-Ellen/Allie here…

If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll know I am really busy these days. In my free time (insert eye rolls and chuckles, please), I volunteer for the Audubon Society, spending many hours a day safeguarding a large colony of nesting shorebirds on a beach near my home…

Skimmer Chicks Good V adult with downy chicks

Add in all the other things I do, work-wise and in my personal sphere, and my days are pretty full.

So are my nights.

Indeed, I sometimes think I am too busy to even remember to breathe.

For that reason, I had no idea what I should blog about today. Until, that is, I visited Amazon and saw a new review posted for one of my most popular Allie Mackay titles, Highlander in Her Bed.

Needless to say, it was a bad review.

A 1-star zinger.

Normally, I ignore bad reviews. They happen. Everyone has an opinion. I fuss about anonymous bad reviews now and then. I guess I feel that if you are going to post your thoughts, good or bad, you should stand by what you say. Not hide behind anonymity.

Likewise, in this new and changing world, I applaud authors who are bold enough to stand by their own opinions. Some of today’s best-loved writers did a hilarious video, reading their own bad reviews.

If you haven’t seen it, have a look..

Isn’t that great?

Pretty brave, too. And I love that. Actually, I would love to do such a video myself, together with some of my author pals. The new bad review for Highlander in Her Bed offered a few great comments I’d use if ever I do such a thing…

“…the reader is bombarded with descriptions of turgid nipples, penises, and other body parts! It’s so ridiculous that it becomes quite difficult to bypass the heaving breast and throbbing man parts so many of us historical romance readers have become quite adapt at doing!”

O-kay, I say.

This reader clearly saw my book as porn. Or very close to it. I won’t post the entire review here – you can read it on the Amazon page for Highlander in Her Bed by clicking here. The review’s header reads: “What am I missing?”

Two things jumped at me when I read this reader’s opinion of my work…

1) She cites a hugely popular author of the same genre, stating she’d hoped to enjoy a similar read. Well, that writer is certainly a wonderful author. She is also known for writing squeaky clean romances. The heroes and heroines barely hold hands. Any kisses are pretty chaste. And that’s about it on the steam level. So I wasn’t surprised the reader found my book so outrageously ‘over-sexed.’

2) I had to think of romances I have read – stories by wildly successful authors – who have love scenes that make my own seem pretty mild!

Taste, you see, is so subjective.

Even so, I do not think my stories ‘bombard’ readers with ‘turgid nipples and penises!’

Not even one titled Highlander in Her Bed

HIHB NEW US Cover JPG Coverart

Anyone who knows me personally is aware that I do not even use ‘bad words’ in my day-to-day life. In writing, I don’t either. You won’t find the F-word anywhere in my books. Nor will you find the C-word used for male or female anatomy. I -do- write explicit love scenes. But they are not overly graphic – in my opinion, anyway. I would call them sensual. And they are also not gratuitous. They happen when the timing is right for the characters – and only ever when both are in love.

Given what I know is out there, and how I view the love scenes I write, it was (and is) obvious to me that this reader and I would never meet happily on the page.

That is fine, too. Because – see above – taste is so subjective.

So my question is this…

Should romance novels come with a heat rating?

I would label mine as ‘Sensual’ and maybe add ‘No Profanity.’ But that would not have stopped the above-mentioned reader from finding my ‘sensual love scenes’ as her view of porn.

So what’s the answer?

I’d love to hear your opinion.

Follow Sue-Ellen Welfonder:

USA Today bestselling author Sue-Ellen Welfonder is known for her strong heroines, Alpha heroes, and weaving Highland magic and humor into her tales. Her passions are Scotland, medieval history, Celtic legend and lore, the paranormal, and animals. All can be found in her medieval romances and the contemporary paranormals she writes as Allie Mackay. She lives on Florida’s southwest coast with her husband and her muse, Snuggles the writer cat.

18 Responses

  1. Barbara Monajem (@BarbaraMonajem)

    A heat rating is useful, but people will find reason to complain regardless!! I’ve had some funny bad reviews, too. If I recall correctly, one of them called my book (I forget which) ‘stupid, stupid, stupid!’ Oh, well — can’t please everyone. 😉

    • Sue-Ellen Welfonder

      Very true. I really do think we should all do a video like Carly’s. Or compile the best howlers into a collection. Might as well laugh about them as we all get them now and then.

  2. Robin

    OMG are we going to start rating books like movies and give warning that this book might contain … Blah Blah!!!! I do not believe that you write anything close to porn!! Funny thing is I heard from another author that writes the same type of books that you do that someone had called her books porn also! I swear these people never read the hard core stuff !!!

    • Sue-Ellen Welfonder

      Thanks so much, Robin! I wouldn’t say I write porn either. I am pretty sure I have never used the word ‘turgid,’ either. (reader says I do in her review). Glad to see I am not the only author being accused of this. Agree, too – anyone who find my love scenes porny should see the real scorching stuff out there, including in historicals. Although this particular reader said she read 50 Shades and my book was worse. Really? Just shaking my head over that.

  3. Violetta Rand

    Heat ratings??? Sue-Ellen, your love scenes are classic and lovely. Readers know what they like. And genres call for specific levels of heat usually (especially in contemporaries). Let’s save the heat index for meteorologists. 🙂

  4. Debbie McCreary PA

    Rating is hard because everyone’s heat level is different. What I may consider porn isn’t porn to the next person. I don’t know how fairly the ratings would be done. But really, porn…… But as you stated Sue-Ellen, everyone’s taste is so subjective along with their idea of how far a bed scene should go.

    • Sue-Ellen Welfonder

      Exactly, Debbie. Very nicely summed up. There is everything and the kitchen sink out there these days, which is good. Just a shame when someone happens upon something not to their taste.

  5. Maggi Andersen

    Impossible to please everyone, Sue-Ellen. But those that compare romance with porn don’t get it. There’s hardly any story in porn, it’s purely voyeurism. Good romance has well drawn characters and portrays a couple falling in love. For me, the sex is an important part of that.

    • Sue-Ellen Welfonder

      Excellent points, Maggi! Couldn’t agree more. I also believe the sex goes with the romance, hand-in-hand. As long as it fits the story and characters and happens naturally, I see it as a foundation stone of our genre. For what it’s worth, I have read some of the ickiest graphic sex scenes outside of romance in other genres. Romance writers usually write it tastefully, I’d say.

  6. Jennifer Ayers Johnson

    Frankly if the reader wanted a squeaky clean romance they should be in the inspirational section not regular romance. DUH! That would be the reader’s fault not the writer or the book I can’t stand it when people leave asinine reviews like that. Some people you can tell right off they are either up tight jerks or just wanting to up their Amazon review numbers by posting ridiculous reviews. I’m a Christian but I don’t get offended and my knickers in a twist by a romance scene in a book for goodness sakes. I LOVE romance books I don’t find them dirty or like porn at ALL! Sex is natural it’s a fact of life and it’s not dirty unless people make it so. Some people take things wayyyy to seriously and need to get a life and some taste!

    • Jennifer Ayers Johnson

      I know I went over there and read it and when I saw they said they read the 50 Shades series…OMS! I’m sorry I had to say something after that I commented that if that were true then NOTHING in any of regular romance should bother them! SHEESH beyond ridiculous!

    • Sue-Ellen Welfonder

      Thanks, Jenn! I agree absolutely. Sex in romances is as natural as the ink on the pages. The two go together. There are also enough romances out there (in style) that everyone can seek out the ones they are most comfortable with. That’s a good thing.

  7. Leah Weller

    I think it would be hard to rate with a heat rating, even though I see places that do that, simply because everyone has a different opinion of what a heat rating is. I will say that I cannot remember you ever using the phrase of turgid nipples and penises. That reader was mistaken. I’m also sorry they read the Fifty Shades books. I have not even had a desire to read those stories but I’ve heard about them and the reviewer has the nerve to complain about the sex in your story??? I’m lost…

    • Sue-Ellen Welfonder

      Good point, Leah. That is just it. One reader’s ‘porn’ is nothing for another reader. This annoyed me for the very reason you noted: I have never used the term ‘turgid’ anything. And I cannot recall ever using the word ‘penis’ either. I skim over such details without getting graphic, hence my surprise by her upset. And to say my book had more over-the-top sex than 50 Shades? Hellooo? I don’t get that at all. ?? I’m lost, too. My books, to me, are mainly all about Scotland and medieval times and my love of both, which I try to give to the characters. Sweeping readers into that world. And the magic, myth, and lore. Never the sex first and foremost. So her comments really threw me.

  8. dholcomb1

    I don’t worry about heat ratings. I read the books for the authors and writing/plot. I don’t skim or skip pages. It’s not porn.

  9. Pat Cody

    Remember the lyrics, “You can’t please everyone, so you might as well please yourself”? I consider your love scenes to be beautifully sensual and, knowing how difficult they can be to write, appreciate the natural flow of them with the characters’ stories and emotions. You write with sincere feeling and poetically expressive language. Don’t allow opinions that show lack of acceptance of your style and storytelling ability to interfere with what feels right to you to write. Be true to your characters and your understanding of their stories. The marketplace leaves plenty of room for readers to find the writers who publish what they want to read. It isn’t your job to please every person who reads your work, but to be true to yourself and your talent. Don’t change when you have such a solid group of readers who value your books exactly as you offer them.