Advisories on Romance Novels

I got my most recent RWR in the mail the other day, and since my entire job as a giant pregnant lady is to relax, gain weight, and sit around waiting, I read it cover to cover. Usually I skim it, check out the contest winners, look at the articles and who wrote them, and read a piece here or there. But hey, I sit down now, and I don’t move voluntarily for at least an hour, so bring on the reading material.

And hello, page 4’s Letters to the Editor! I laughed out loud. Did anyone else notice this one?

Madeline Baker, she doesn’t like the cussing:

I continue to be shocked by the language in some romance novels I’m reading. It’s unfortunate that more and more authors feel the need to use the “F word” in their books, but even worse, the word “Motherf…” has cropped up in two of my recent reads. It’s bad enough when language like this is uttered by the villain, but when it comes out of the mouth of the heroine… well, I’m just plain stunned. Surely it’s possible to write a gutsy heroine without having her talk like a gang member.

Here are a few choices of response that pop to mind:

1. Bitch, please.

2. Racist and classist undertones aside, I’m as offended by books titled Cheyenne Surrender as you are by the word “fuck.”

3. Fuck that!

4. Gang members? Only gang members say “fuck?” Seriously?

Perhaps the problem is the reading material she’s choosing, which she addresses in her letter:

Lately I’ve read several books that have ‘paranormal romance’ on the spine. In my opinion, a good number of them haven’t been romances at all, and that includes the one I threw across the room just last night….

Demons and vampires and werewolves, especially the ones that want to kill you, will totally stop if you speak nicely and say, “Please.”

I doubt if it will ever happen, but I’d like to see some kind of rating on books so that I’ll know what I’m getting before it’s too late.

Now that there, THAT is an IDEA. Why did we think of that?! We here at the Smart Bitch HQ, we got us some Photoshop. There need to be warnings on books!

Our advisories, let us show you them:






You can Has more!






Ranty McRant

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Julie Leto says:

    But what if your heroine IS a gang member?  Or former?

    Since I’ve been known to write articles for the RWR with totally tongue-in-cheek rating systems that get me stopped in airports by outraged RWA members after a conference, I should probably keep my mouth shut.


    Unless publishers adopt the SB rating system, I’m so not interested.  It’s LANGUAGE.  Words.  Strong reaction.  Bingo!

  2. 2
    Jaci Burton says:

    Omg. I’d love to have a SMART BITCH ADVISORY on one of my books. *grin*

    Can I have the ‘heroine cussing when battling aliens and demons’ one for my demon hunter books please? I believe one of my heroines says “motherfucker”. That ho.

    But ‘you big ole’ meanie’ just didn’t have the right amount of impact for the scene. Go figure. ;-)

  3. 3
    KCfla says:

    First, thank you for the laugh! I needed that after an absolutely horrible night at work ( to be followed by going back there in about an hour!)

    But this takes me back to an argument I had with someone in regards to taking my 12 yr old son to a rock concert. The person said “But the lead singer uses the “F-Bomb” on stage!!??”. I replyed that anyone 12 years old that had not heard that particular word before must be living in/on another world.

    I know in my mother’s age group ( that would be 65+) those words are concidered MAJORLY taboo. But I grew up hearing it everywhere ( and at 40+, I’m no “spring chicken” here lol!)so it doesn’t offend me too much in the right context. I wouldn’t be too pleased to see one as a general greeting- i.e. ” How’s it hanging, Motherf****r”. But kicking demon arse? Oh yeah, call them as you see them!

    As for ratings on books? Oh please! Someone shoot the PC police for me!!?? I’m begging here. I can’t believe that grown adults have come to rely on anyone or everyone to “clean up” for them. Ok, so the author in question uses “foul language”. A simple search online, or perhaps talking with someone that has already read said book could have solved that problem. If your that sensitive to that sort of thing.
    Which I’m not- so I don’t!

  4. 4

    I know a good way to find out what you’re getting before it’s too late. Read the fricking back cover. Flip through the book. Use that thing called a head.

  5. 5
    Karen Scott says:

    Surely it’s possible to write a gutsy heroine without having her talk like a gang member.

    Hmmmm… She may not have meant it that way, but there is a definite racist undertone to her rant. 

    Mind you, maybe she was thinking of white gang members. *cough* *cough*.

  6. 6
    Ciar Cullen says:

    Can we buy custom advisories from you? I guess she’s not picking up a copy of Big Spankable Asses…

  7. 7

    Omg, please say I can use these advisories on my website. Pleeease???

    I don’t know what kind of person I am anymore. Not only do I say “fuck” a lot, but I’m not even battling demons or vamps at the time. Usually I’m battling fatigue while cleaning Legos off the floor. Or discussing the day’s politics with my hubby. Or telling a joke. Damn me. I think I’m a gang banger. *cough, cough*

    Madeline, my heroines cuss because I cuss (and yes I am a mother and a wife and a law-abiding citizen)and my girlfriends cuss. My heroes cuss BECAUSE THEY ARE BOYS. Look it up. It’s true.

  8. 8
    saltypepper says:

    Yeah, because rating systems work so well in giving folks a clear idea of what to expect in other media formats. I mean, Beaches and Van Helsing are both rated PG-13, so if you saw one you know exactly what you’re getting into with the other, right?

    I would also love to know what it was about the paranormal romance that she threw across the room that made it not a romance in her mind.  The language?  The monsters?  The lack of a HEA?

  9. 9
    Peyton says:

    I don’t see anything wrong with warnings on the cover of a book.  I’m liberal as the day is long but part of being liberal is understanding that other people disagree with my ethics and it’s OK to accept them as they are.

    It hurts no one if there is a small blurb on the cover saying “this book uses extreme language” for those people who are happiest avoiding such things.

    Personally, I’d like to see a warning similar to “this book does not end by the last page because the author is writing a series” or “this book contains some fairly awful love scenes” or “this book was written with such a tight formula that if you’ve read any other books by this author you may as well put it down right now”

  10. 10
    KTG says:

    She could be reading Anita “Fuck me, fuck me while I’m tight!” Blake. In which case there should be an advisory for wet, sloppy, furry, badly written sex.


  11. 11
    Estelle Chauvelin says:

    I spent half of summer semester in an intellectual freedom class, which consisted about as much of explaining why libraries shouldn’t put any kind of advisory notices on books as anything else.  It’s a minor form of censorship.  It might not actually restrict anybody’s borrowing priviledges, but:

    a) Once the books with advisories are labelled, then it becomes possible to start restricting the labelled books.
    b) People might be reluctant to pick up a book with an advisory warning even if it otherwise seems to appeal to them.

    Besides the fact that some readers might feel embarrassed about checking something out with an advisory sticker on it, the person might assume the “offensive content” they’re being warned against is offensive to them without actually knowing the details.  After all, if she’s relying on an “offensive language” sticker without flipping through the book, then she doesn’t know if it’s being used by the antagonist, the heroine, the heroine while killing aliens, during dirty talk, et cetera, and maybe this particular reader finds some of those uses acceptable.  Say there’s an advisory warning for sexuality.  Some readers might think that merits a warning on the basis of how detailed the description is, no matter what the other circumstances.  Some of them might think anything goes if the characters are married, but want to be warned about any sexual content at all between unmarried characters.  (And yes, some of these distinctions are the kind of thing that I’m more likely to think about because odds are if somebody comes into a library to complain that a book needs a warning label, it’s somebody who wants to “protect the children.”)  Some people think it doesn’t matter what happens as long as the bad things are done by bad people who get punished.

    The fact is that it’s impossible to have warning labels on books without imposing a certain moral perspective, because even if the labels just state what is in the books, the choice of what to put on the label assumes that the type of content is what a person needs to be warned about, and that the degree of that content featured in that book is what a person needs to be warned about.  You couldn’t detail the exact amount of every type of potentially offensive content in a book without generating a label that’s longer than the cover copy.

  12. 12
    Julie Leto says:

    I’ll tell you why on the no ratings systems—because who decides what “extreme language” is?  Is it hell or damn?  Does it take a shit to put it over the edge or is it only a fuck?  Maybe one is okay, but not when used as a compound noun (ie, motherf*cker?)

    Who decides?

    And then…say they do decide…what if some very conservative group decides to target, oh, Barnes & Noble, and pressure them not to carry any books with ratings above PG?  Then writers will have to change their books just to get into the bookstores.

    We are not the film industry where we have to worry about kids going to movies their parents don’t approve of. We’re all adults.  Besides, ratings aren’t catch-alls anyway.  And if we start rating by language, then we’ll also have to rate by sex, too.  And then by violence.  And again, who decides?

    Better to “use the head” as another poster suggested.  I’m sorry she doesn’t think realistic language belongs in a romance novel…well, then she can find authors who don’t feel compelled to be realistic and stick with them.

  13. 13
    Julie Leto says:

    Go, Estelle.  You said it much more intelligently than I did!

  14. 14
    Jennie says:

    Honestly, the words themselves don’t bother me, but the context of their use can.

    Toss in a heartfelt “Fuck”, when the heroine is in danger by said vampire, or a great “fuck you” slung towards some guy who so richly deserves it, and I’m ok.

    It’s when the hero from the 1800s uses it in a crass manor to get back at the pure virginal heroine—in the context of “do you like the idea of having other men fuck you?” That my squick factor gets turned on (and not in a good way).

    Life isn’t a journey that’s mapped out—from time to time you’re going to turn onto a road or run into a fuck that you weren’t expecting.

  15. 15

    It’s when the hero from the 1800s uses it in a crass manor to get back at the pure virginal heroine—in the context of “do you like the idea of having other men fuck you?”

    Oo. See, I kinda like that. Heehee. It’s funny because it’s true.

  16. 16
    cecille says:

    LOL Love the advisory- gave me a much needed chuckle!

    Can there be one that says: completely defies any sense (common or otherwise) at all till unlikely HEA?

    I don’t mind cursing in books. People swear and anyone who’s ever been in traffic knows that there are moments when only inventive cursing will save lives and sanity. What I do mind is swearing for the sake of it.

    One summer I lived next to a building site and there was this guy who liked to speak on his mobile phone directly beneath my open window, so every morning I woke up to a stream of ‘feck, fecking etc’ (he was Irish, hence the ‘e’ instead of the ‘u’ ). Eventually I had to ask him to f-off. He was appalled to hear such language from a woman! Go figure…

  17. 17
    KCfla says:

    From the useless facts(?) file:

    An old history professor of mine once told me that the word “fuck” was NOT concidered *taboo* until the time of Queen Victoria. SHE felt it was a very crass word, and therefore banned it in polite society.

    This, he said, was the whole start of the “7-dirty-words-you-can’t-say-in-public” thing. I don’t know if he was totally correct or not, ( but it does make sense!) but I thought I’d throw this out there.
    Useless knowledge I know. And probably not in keeping with the topic entirely. But it did pop into my mind while reading all this

  18. 18
    Eeyore9990 says:

    I totally agree, KTG.  The only book that I’ve ever treated with such disgust that I felt the need to turn it into a rectangular frisbee was… shit, I’ve forgotten the name.  *quickly asks friend*  Cerulean Sins.  And that wasn’t necessarily due to the squicky bad bad sex (seriously, she can’t write sex to save her girl-parts) as much as it was the total destruction of … umm.  Not Anita, the “bad” chick.  Bell-something.  (And now all I can think is Bellatrix!  Argh, wrong series!)  Anyway, the way she tucked tail and fell apart at the “Wrath of the Gleaming Orifice” just sickened me to the point of launching my book so hard it dented the wall. 

    As for heroines cussing in books, the only time I find it off-putting is when it’s a “historical” novel.  Because we all know the nice girls didn’t even THINK bad words back then.  *snort*

    But still, if my present time heroines want to go fuck an asshole (erm, not literally…okay, so maybe literally, too), I’m all for letting them think, say, and act on it.  *g*

  19. 19
    Ines says:

    Oh, I loved the advisorys! And yeah, I would love finding the “part of a series book” … I am waiting for a book’s second part since 2005!

  20. 20
    M. says:

    Personally, I find HER offensive.  First she is suggesting censorship, second, she is telling me that I need help in choosing my reading material via “warning labels”, and third, she is telling other authors how to write their books? 

    Maybe I am being oversensitive :P

  21. 21
    Teddy Pig says:

    Oh Fuck!

    Was CHEYENNE SURRENDER a sequel to APACHE RUNAWAY and LAKOTA RENEGADE? I wonder how Madeline Baker’s love scenes are? Does she use the word Cock?

  22. 22
    Ann Aguirre says:

    Dang, my books would need all those warnings, except the first one.

  23. 23

    “I don’t know what kind of person I am anymore. Not only do I say “fuck” a lot, but I’m not even battling demons or vamps at the time. Usually I’m battling fatigue while cleaning Legos off the floor. Or discussing the day’s politics with my hubby. Or telling a joke. Damn me. I think I’m a gang banger. *cough, cough*”

    You and me both Victoria :)

    Perhaps Madeline should stick to Inspirational or YA books or maybe even the Bible…though as I recall there is some pretty racy stuff in there as well…

  24. 24
    Collette says:

    I want an advisory that says “So bad you’ll want your money back.” 

    (It’s happened to me twice in the last month.  For the first time ever.  Yeah, they were that bad.)

  25. 25
    shaunee says:

    Hilarious, bitches, as per usual.

    This topic reminds me of that other kerfuffle that happened last year-ish…you know, the one with the annoying chick who said something…Fuck.  I think her first name was Jenny or Jaaaa…  Damn it something with a J.  Jan!!!  That’s it.  She wrote some bullshit article about censorship maybe.  What the fuck was it again?  Does anyone remember?

    Shit, where’s my gingko and my 9mm?

  26. 26
    Scotsie says:

    Bravo, Estelle!!  We weren’t in the same Intellectual Freedom class, were we?  Was Mary Minow the prof?

  27. 27
    Teddy Pig says:

    I want one that says

    Contains Teh Ghey Buttsecks and suxxoring of cock

  28. 28
    eponymous says:

    That last advisory made me laugh rather embarrassingly out loud, I think because I was picturing Samuel L. Jackson saying it.

  29. 29
    Teddy Pig says:

    But only if it also has page numbers!

  30. 30
    Kimberly Anne says:

    Yes, yes, must have the “this book is part of a series” advisory!  I’ve been burned too many times.  There are few things that rile me more than finding out SURPRISE!! this book is not actually over!  There is no emotional release, no wrapping up of the plot, that way you’ll be sure to buy my next book when it comes out in a couple years!  Ummm, no.

    I hate being dicked around like that.  I will strike you from my buying list.  But if you write good books that have a satisfying ending, I will follow you through hell, high water, and series longer than Mercedes Lackey’s and Stephen King’s backlists combined.

Comments are closed.

↑ Back to Top