Our ratings system is totally subjective–these are just the perceptions of the review author, and they may be at odds with other reviews from other places. So take ‘em for what they’re worth. We give three ratings to every book:
- 1 – Couldn’t Finish It: It is what it sounds like. These stories are so poorly-crafted that they couldn’t keep the reader’s attention for a couple of hours, which is all the time it takes to read one of these novels. There may be major plot holes, unrealistic characters, gross anachronisms, continuity problems, or other issues, and we’ll let you know what we found.
- 2 – Not So Good: This category is for stories that we finished, but are highly disappointed in. Serious problems may include one-dimensional characters, an uninteresting story, or other gaffes. Not recommended reading, by any stretch.
- 3 – Okay, I Guess: These are stories that are well-enough crafted, having no major flaws, but that are not particularly interesting to the reviewer. It might be that the story lacks enough descriptive material to engage the imagination.
- 4 – Good Story: Stories that fall into this category are well-told, well-crafted tales with interesting plots, moderately engaging characters, and enough descriptive material that a reader can put themselves “in-scene”, and see the story play out.
- 5 – Great Story: These are the cream of the crop–stories that so completely engage that they’re hard to put down, with characters whom you can understand so thoroughly you can envision yourself in their shoes. Scenic descriptions and secondary characters will be rich enough to complete a vivid picture of the setting, whether based on a real place, or a fictionalized one.
Chemistry deals with how well the relationship between the protagonists is developed–is it believable that these two people are attracted to each other in this way?
- 1 – Cold Fish: These stories lack any chemistry between the protagonists. Maybe it is because there are too few scenes that develop their relationship, because they are obviously poorly matched, or because the author has assumed that merely putting the characters in the same room is enough to convince the reader that they are falling for each other.
- 2 – Ordinary: In ”Ordinary” stories, the author has managed to create characters whose attraction is believable and gives them enough contact to get to acquainted. Their interactions and understanding of each other develop over the course of the book, and even if there are some gaps or flaws in the writing, the reader believes that their relationship could continue beyond the final pages.
- 3 – Steamy: “Steamy” books give us protagonists who are well-matched, both as possible rivals and potential lovers. The author not only tells us of their compatibility but also shows us through well-crafted dialogue and scenes that consistently move the leads’ relationship forward. The tension created by their encounters keep the reader turning pages. At times, “Steamy” books may still rush to their conclusion and give the reader pause (for example, one of the protagonists may have a last-minute change of values that doesn’t strike true). Nevertheless, the rest of the romance is well-written enough for the reader to forgive the author’s shortcuts.
- 4 – Wicked: Perhaps the biggest difference between a “Steamy” and a “Wicked” romance is the fact that the author has avoided forcing a happy ending by tampering with his or her characters’ personalities or circumstances. In these books, the characters are highly compatible and the resolution leaves no doubt of this fact. At the same time, the obstacles to their relationship (whether internal or external) create suspense. The protagonists’ encounters should crackle, making the reader excited to see how they will eventually come together.
- 5 – Amazing: These books have protagonists whose interactions sizzle from their very first encounter. This “sizzle” is not necessarily based on instant sexual attraction, but instead emerges from the conflict of two well-developed characters who have—or seem to have—opposing agendas or values. An “Amazing” book not only sets up this central conflict, but resolves it in a satisfactory way, while maintaining the tension throughout the work.
- 1 – Chaste: No sexual activity is described or directly alluded-to in this story; the protagonists might kiss, but that would be as far as things get.
- 2 – Sensual: No on-page explicit sexual activity is depicted. Foreplay such as caressing, touching, or cuddling might be on-page, but any other activity is only referred to.
- 3 – Sexual: In these stories, there are one or more sexual encounters depicted, and the language chosen is tasteful and affirming, not “raunchy” in any way. The described sexual acts are fairly-conventional sexual behavior.
- 4 – Very Explicit: Stories that get this rating have a large number of sexual encounters, some of which might be described as extremely “wicked” or “dirty,” or which depict behavior or actions that are outside of conventional norms (sex in unusual locales, light bondage, “dirty talk”, and the like).
- 5 – Fetish/Kink/Extreme: In these stories, the sexual encounters encompass non-mainstream activities, some of which are not, in fact, realistically possible (sex with were-beings, for instance), or which are described as fetish behaviors on the part of one or more of the participants.
- 6 – Trigger Warning: This story contains sexual behavior that may be dangerous or triggering for some individuals, including non-consentual sexual violence (rape or abuse).