How Hot is Hot? A Guide to Heat Levels in Romance Novels

How Hot is Hot? A Guide to Heat Levels in Romance Novels

Nothing splendid was ever created in cold blood. Heat is required to forge anything. Every great accomplishment is the story of a flaming heart.

— Arnold H. Glasow


Just like movies, romance novels can be rated according to content.

But unlike film ratings, there does not exist a standardized scale or system establishing how hot is hot 🔥

On top of that roadblock is the fact that every author and publisher can (and does) categorize their work in whatever fashion gets the most traffic, the most attention, and the most sales.

What one creator considers "Christian Fiction," another might term "Inspirational." What one person defines as "Clean and Wholesome," another person might label as "Heartfelt and Sweet."

In her blog, author Susanna Carr claims there are five levels of romantic heat:

  1. Wholesome Romance
  2. Sweet Romance
  3. Sensual Romance
  4. Sexy Romance
  5. Erotic Romance

Similarly, author Maddie James lists six heat levels on her website:

  • Level 0: Clean and/or Wholesome
  • Level 1: Sweet Romance
  • Level 2: Sweeter Romance
  • Level 3: Sensual to Sexy
  • Level 4: Steamy to Erotic Romance
  • Level 5: Explicit Erotic Romance, Erotica

Those are pretty quick jumps from hand-holding-but-no-kissing to X-rated!

Meanwhile, The Writing Gals claim there are three levels of heat in the "Clean and Wholesome" category:

Michelle's Clean and Wholesome Content Diagram

Six levels for the entire genre versus three levels for one category is a big difference. And there are hundreds of other "scales" out there. Case in point, Google returned 33,800,000 results in 0.48 second when I searched "levels of romance novels."


Wholesome & Heartfelt


I like to say my love stories have sizzle but no sex.

My characters experience deep and pain, elation and frustration, and yes, magnetic chemistry and sexual tension. They acknowledge their attraction, develop their relationship, and even test the limits of their will.

But they never do the deed.

I refer to my books as "Inspirational" with strong elements of faith rather than calling them "Christian Fiction." The story arcs share characters' beliefs and challenges, but the narratives do not include a call to salvation.

My goal is to sweep readers away, to provide a brief escape from the hustle and bustle of busy lives. I hope they relate to my characters — cry with them, laugh out loud at them, cheer for their happy ending.

I want you to get cold chills, let out a deep sigh, and catch yourself grinning ear-to-ear at least once per book. When you close the book after reading the final page, I hope the families on the page are now friends to hold in your heart.

Summing it all up, the Green Hills Series is "Wholesome and Heartfelt, Small-Town Romance" with threads of quilts, quilters, and quilting sewn throughout and an Alzheimer's story in the background.

They're unique.

In my hunt for similar stories and other authors who share my style, I've not found anything or anyone that aligns perfectly with what I'm doing. And I'm okay with that. Certainly, being one-of-a-kind makes marketing difficult and identifying my audience tricky, but at the same time, I find the distinctive qualities of my stories refreshing and original.

I hope you like them, too 💛

With love and hugs,



« back to all articles
Border Image

Become A Green Hills Insider

Sign up to gain access to our exclusive Green Hills Facebook group and email newsletter.

Interact with other Green Hills residents, engage in fun activities, join town hall meetings, and be the first to learn secrets about the Green Hills community!

Join the Green Hills Newsletter

Sign up for The Gazette and Receive a Free Short Story