Hot Takes by Holly

Let’s Talk About Revel vs. Relish

Hi Friends! 

I’m going to take a minute to talk about the difference between “reveling” and “relishing” because if I read another book that says “relishing in” (which I absolutely will, probably this week, even) I am going to SCREAM. 

Please give me a little bit of credit (Just a little bit! I am trying!) for constantly reminding myself that the English language is a living language and is therefore constantly evolving. We don’t need to be huge snobs. We can roll with an evolving language. 
But, like the time I was told “in lieu of” when the speaker meant “in view of,” I simply cannot get behind the use of “relishing” combined with “in”. Can’t do it. You don’t relish in an ice cream cone. You just relish it.

Notice how no one is in the ice cream

Just look at the definitions of these words (courtesy of Merriam Webster):

relish verb

relished; relishing; relishes

Definition of relish 

transitive verb

1: to add relish to (not relevant to our purposes)

2: to be pleased or gratified by : ENJOY ( ← this one here)

3: to eat or drink with pleasure (tangentially related)

4: to appreciate with taste and discernment (this also works-ish)

intransitive verb

: to have a characteristic or pleasing taste (also not relevant to our purposes)

revel verb

reveled or revelled; reveling or revelling

Definition of revel

intransitive verb

1: to take part in a revel : CAROUSE (relevant probably only from a metaphorical standpoint)

2: to take intense pleasure or satisfaction ( ← this one here)


It pretty much boils down to the fact that, in use, revel is an intransitive verb while relish is a transitive verb, meaning that relish has a direct object while revel doesn’t. Meaning that whatever is being relished is being acted upon. If the verb is acting on an object (Sam relished(v) the taste(direct object) of Taylor’s mouth(prepositional object).), then there is no need for a prepositional phrase to describe where the verb is occurring (Alex reveled(v) in the heat(prepositional object) of Jaime’s embrace(prepositional object).) Or, because it’s an intransitive verb, Alex could, I suppose, simply revel, no further words required. But we need to know what it is that Sam is relishing or the sentence does not make sense.

So I’m begging for characters that are relishing in things to pretty please just not do that.

Hot Takes by Holly

Give me paperbacks or give me death

A couple of things all happened at once:

  1. I read this article about how much publishers charge libraries for e-books. Let’s just say it’s upsetting.
  2. I read a paperback for the first time in weeks after all ARCs on my phone, all the time. (It was a Theresa Romain novel and it was DELIGHTFUL.) 
  3. I also read, more slowly, How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell. Because I do, occasionally, read things that are not smut, thank you very much. 
  4. I wanted to revisit a book that I had already read, that I swore that I had purchased an e-copy of, only to discover that it had vanished without a trace from my kindle. 

Look, e-books are extremely convenient. I love being able to choose from a selection of books when I find myself waiting at the doctor’s office or when I’m getting an oil change. (As long as I’ve remembered to actually download them…which is not always a given.) Packing my kindle when I’m going on a trip is much easier than packing 8 paperbacks and 2 hardbacks and then reading none of them. When I have midnight insomnia, it’s nice to be able to read without turning on a light. And it’s way easier to annotate e-books—or rather, it’s way easier to actually go back and *find* my annotations if I’m writing a book up. And the bonus feature of easily being able to search how many times the author uses the word “turgid” is always fun. 

But there is something about reading a book on paper that really works for me. 

I love the physicality of books. I like the way they feel in my hands. I like turning pages and finding a bookmark when I want to set the book down. 

I love the focus I can bring to physical books. It’s so much easier to click away and get sucked into something else when I’m reading on a device. With a physical book, I can tune out distractions and immerse myself more fully in the story. 

I love being able to share books. This is the biggest thing for me. When I read a book I love, the first thing I do is encourage someone else to read it. And the easiest way for me to do that? Give them my copy of the book. When I read a book that was pretty good but that I didn’t love? I give it away, so someone else can enjoy it. And when I read a book that really wasn’t for me? Well, someone else might like it. Truly, the Little Free Library is a gift that keeps on giving.

And you can’t share ebooks. (I mean, I’m sure there are ways to pirate ebooks, but I don’t encourage them.) As evidenced by the case of the mysterious disappearing books, I don’t even fully have ownership over the ebooks I do have. I can’t lend them or give them away when I’m finished. 

Do I read mostly on my kindle these days? Admittedly yes. But paperbacks will always have a place in my heart. And if you want something to read, let me know—I probably have something I can send you.

Hot Takes by Holly

Let’s Talk about Big Peen

What’s the Opposite of a Size Queen?

Because whatever that is, it’s me. 

So, fellow smut readers, have you noticed that men in romance novels tend to be… well-endowed? That’s rhetorical. Of course you’ve noticed. 

Time for a poll!

What I find so interesting is that, even if it IS the case that an author is in the “angle of the dangle” camp, it just means that we aren’t given a lot of information about penis size. Where are my 5-inch long men in romances? (The average penis size is 5.1–5.5 inches, according to this article in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy.)

But let’s talk about those large dudes for a minute. I am yelling about this for several reasons. 

First, because it leads to those scenes where the heroine is like, “Oh my! Do you think it will fit?!?!” and then has a fit of the vapors. And I am over it. I love a good bodice-ripper, but 1987 called and they want their line back. 

But more importantly, we should maybe talk about the unrealistic expectations of male beauty that romance novels perpetuate. We recognize the beauty in a much wider variety of heroines these days than previously; the days of waifs with long hair and violet eyes may not be entirely behind us, but those waifs are joined by women of all ages and shapes and sizes—who all find heroes (or heroines!) who think they are just bangin’. But the men! Six packs, as far as the eye can see. Investment banker? Six pack! Criminal mastermind? Six pack! Duke? Six pack! Farmer? Six pack! Linebacker? Six pack! And along with that six pack, comes, of course, a giant dong that the waif can’t fit her fingers around. 

[Side note: As I was ruminating on this post, this Very Important Twitter Thread by Tessa Dare about having tiny hands happened. So maybe all of these heroines have tiny hands which make penises seem bigger than they are.]

Perhaps the giant dong is a residual of the “romance is for women by women” rhetoric, where they are catering to the female gaze (or, more accurately, the gaze that desires to look at male bodies). Why NOT make the hero a sex object, if no man is going to read about it and feel bad about his lack of endowment? Of course, this ignores the many men and non-binary folks who read romance—and ignores the insidious impact the portrayal of romance men has on everyone’s idea of male beauty. (See also any discussion of any actor who “bulks up” for a role and then reverts back to normal levels of ripped.) 

Let’s go back to some data (all from this handy article)!

The vast majority of men who seek penile-lengthening surgery are, in fact, “normal” (according to one study, 90% of those seeking such surgeries were 4” or larger)—but in male fantasy, the perfect penis size is a whopping 7–10”.

Interestingly enough, female survey respondants are better at accurately describing male penis size; futhermore, female survey respondants rarely list penis size as important for sexual satisfaction. That does bring into question my assumption that those giant shlongs in romance novels are catering to female fantasies, if it turns out I’m actually not alone in my preference for seeing how well the dude uses the dang thing.

Maybe this hot take is really about personal preference, about those twelve-inch monstrosities taking me out of the moment when things are getting sexy, and not about anything deeper.

(If you know of a good romance where a male main character explicitly has a *small penis*, I AM ALL EARS.)


This hot take brought to you by I Dream of Dragons by Ashlyn Chase. I read this book *several years ago* and I’m still mad about the scene where he pulls out his giant dragon penis, the heroine is like “OH NO HOW WILL IT FIT?!?!?” and then remembers that she’s a goddess now, so she’ll just *expand her vaginal canal so it’s the right size for his schlong.* RAGE SCREAM!!!!!!!

Addendum: If you’d like to read a book about a big penis where the monstrosity has negatively impacted the dude’s life, I recommend Learned Reactions by Jaycee Ellis or This is Not the End by Sidney Bell.

Hot Takes by Holly

Why I read smut: some notes on catharsis

Let me tell you a story. 

I rarely read books that Erin or Ingrid has already reviewed. One of the pressures of running a blog is that I’m always on to the next book, the next thing; after all, there’s so much smut to discover! 

But sometimes, I want to settle in and read a sure thing and not even have to consider writing the book up. Which is how I ended up reading Kate Clayborne’s recent release Love at First. (Note: It’s really good! All the buzz is well-deserved!)


What follows contains minor spoilers for Love at First. Continue at your own risk. 

By the time I got to the Big Dramatic Moment, I could barely see the word on the page through my tears. And then the kicker: Will tells Nora that she’s the first person who’s ever told him “I love you.” 

And I am a wreck. 

But here’s the thing. This passage is written to be extremely emotionally manipulative. And I am crying while also being fully aware that I am being led to this crying by the way the scene is structured but it doesn’t matter because I feel so light and clean and empty afterward. 

That’s why I read romance. To get that hit of being blatantly emotionally manipulated (and know it!) and then the cathartic release. The tropes, the patterns, the sex, the shifts in the genre: all of that is fun, but at the end of the day, when I really need something good, it’s all secondary. 

Tell me a story. Make me care about the characters. And then punch me in the face with emotion. 

Hot Takes by Holly

Yes, please do jam your fingers into my mouth

It’s time for another installment of That’s Not Sexy!

This time, I want to talk about the thing where one party forcibly inserts their fingers into the other party’s mouth. 

I am not talking about Jane kissing or sucking on John’s fingertips here. I am talking about John pushing Jane’s mouth open and sticking his fingers up in there and maybe pumping them like his fingers are a penis and are about to ejaculate onto her tonsils. 

Obviously, this is an act of dominance. And I do enjoy reading kinkier romance, but when this happens I am completely pulled out of the moment. Reading about spanking – no big deal. Reading about finger-jabbing? YIKES. 

Even if I am kissing someone’s hands or fingers voluntarily, I don’t want to put their whole finger in my mouth. Do I know where that finger has been? Has my partner washed their hands recently? (During these pestilential times, these questions become even more pressing.) Basically, I have no desire to deepthroat a finger. 

The other side of this equation is the force. Just the thought of having something shoved into my body gives me the willies. You’ve got to ease me into things! Foreplay, people! Foreplay! You can be dominant and in charge and kinky and sexy and still ease the way instead of jabbing right on in. 

Related: I also hate it when people just randomly jam their fingers into someone’s vagina (again, usually as an act of dominance), but mainly because I don’t understand the logistics. Like, if you’re both standing in an elevator, and she’s wearing a skirt but no underwear – how do you even get your fingers in there suddenly and sneakily enough that she can’t jiu-jitsu block that shit? The key here is the sneak attack, obviously if there’s other force (physical or emotional) involved it’s a different issue. But I digress. 

In short: don’t stick your fingers in my mouth. 

This Hot Take By Holly has been brought to you by Your Dad Will Do. Thank you.