Earlier this week, I came across an interesting conversation. Does cursing violate the rules of a cozy? What made it so interesting was the variety of opinions on cozy rules. According to cozy-mystery.com, cozies typically follow the rules of "no gore, no profanity, and no explicit sex" (you can read more of their definition here). As you can see, these rules consider profanity to be uncozy. But what about "personal rules" for cozies? And if cozies are a sub-genre of mysteries, can you have a sub-genre of cozies that allows for breaking some of these rules?
I'll start with my opinions of the big issue - profanity. While I personally don't mind some cursing in books, I do have a mini set of rules for cozies. The biggest one is that it has to feel in-character. If I'm reading a long-running series where the character never swears, and all of a sudden they are swearing, I won't like it. But, if I'm reading a new series and the character swears a bit, I won't mind because that is how the character is introduced. This isn't saying that I approve of it, just that it can still work in a cozy depending on the scenario. But, I do wish authors would put a warning in the book description if there is either a lot of swearing or if it uses strong curse words
Now, on to gore. This is the main reason I love cozies so much. I don't need graphic descriptions of a crime scene. Give me a super quick description of the scene and my imagination can fill in the rest without a problem. This is one of the cozy rules I am very strict on. Gore fits much better with the feel of thrillers than cozies.
Hmm, explicit sex scenes. These definitely do not belong in cozies. A little romance, a little hinting at what might have gone on, etc is fine. Anything beyond that turns into a romance with a dash of mystery. I know this sounds like a nit-picky distinction, but the amount of romance in a book with explicit scenes takes so much away from the mystery that it feels like the mystery isn't the main focus of the book.
So those are my opinions on the major cozy rules. But, I've added personal rules for cozies. Do NOT put children or animals in danger. Nothing ruins the coziness of a mystery for me like violence towards the defenseless. A minor one is when a beloved character is murdered. I know this happens in real life, but I always feel it adds too much realism to a story. Also devastating diseases. Again, too real for cozies. Complete psychopaths are also a bit of a no-no for me. I know that one is a bit weird, but those characters disturb me more than just the typical killers. Speaking of killers, I also do not like when it ends up being self-defence. I think the reason I hate it is because I try to figure out who the murderer is and what their motive was, so self-defence ruins the whole motive bit.
The sub-genres of cozies is something I always find interesting. There are many of them, but even the romantic cozies still follow basic cozy rules - including no explicit sex scenes. The way they differ from regular cozies is that they focus on the romantic aspect more than a typical cozy. I would love if there was a sub-genre that allowed for something in between cozy and traditional mysteries. This would allow for books that are a little much for a cozy but a little light for a regular mystery. Sort of an "edgy cozy" sub-genre for those days that you want something a little more.
I would absolutely love for everyone to comment with their opinions on this, and also if you have some personal rules. The only request I have is this - please respect others' opinions.