Sensuality is the topic where I get the most wildly divergent reader feedback. Last month I got an email from a reader that said:
I admired your avoidance of anachronisms and your dignified handling and acknowledgment of physical, carnal desires and drives. Truthful yet clean. Very good writing.
On the other hand, a reviewer on amazon said of the same book:
Sadly lacking in sexual tension & heat. The H & H never evn have sex. We're not even treated to a wedding night scene. No sure I would buy another of this author's books. I was waiting & waiting & then NOTHING!
But another reviewer's opinion (still the same book) was:
What's a girl to do?
Yes, there are content rating sites and many readers are advocates for those. Occasionally I will promote my books on content rated sites. However, as a reader, I've discovered that the books I find this way aren't the ones I end up loving. Sometimes I'm left feeling bitter and cheated, because I disagreed with the posted content rating. Other times the story felt insipid, as if the characters, constrained by the rating scale, were unable to be themselves. And, in all honesty, I don't love to read about perfect people. Mr. Darcy excepted. Except even he is allowed his one flaw.
When I think about it, if I didn't let my characters do things I wouldn't (like commit adultery, kidnap children or lie) my books wouldn't be that interesting. And if I start down the path of 'how much is too much? I don't want to offend!' I end up fraught and exhausted by hairsplitting. For instance:
Should damn, bastard and Good Lord! be considered profanity? If I write Good Lord! That damn bastard! those four words have earned a moderate rating on some sites, and frankly, I don't tally those up as I write. I've always felt they are period expressions, like "Gadzooks!" but less affected.
As a reader, I've enjoyed (so called) sweet and smutty romances, and I like both when the story is good, the characters compelling, and the dialogue fun. Honestly, the latter qualities are more important to me, but I love when a writer can melt me into a puddle without play-by-play action.
Like Winston Graham does with Ross Poldark and Demelza and those infernal dress hooks running up her back.
'I lied,' she whispered, crying again. 'I liked about the hooks'...
Generally, my books reflect my own preference for 'fade to black' lovemaking. I'm okay with that, largely because my daughter and her friends read my books. Maybe that's not a very artistic reason, but it's what I'm comfortable with.
So, readers. If I've written stuff you aren't comfortable with, or that's disappointing, I'm sorry. If content ratings are important to you, please use sites like My Book Cave or Fussy Librarian (but don't blame me if you get stung!). And I'll just keep writing love stories. Really, is there any other kind?