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Romance Glossary – An A-Z guide to the terminology of romance novels and the romance community

Have you ever read a book, blog or social media from the romance community and thought – what on earth does that term mean? Well, you’re not alone.

I’ve collated the most common terminology of the romance community and popped it into a handy A-Z glossary so you can be confused no more.

So if you’ve been afraid to ask, here are the most used acronyms in romance land.


Alpha Hero / MaleA hero who is a bit dominant, in charge, knows what they want and goes out to get it.
AlphaholeAn alpha (see above) who has crossed the line from being strong and in-charge, into just being a domineering asshole.
Alpharoll / Alpha RollA hero who is, at least on the surface, an alpha male. Inside, however, he’s as sweet and kind as a cinnamon roll. Alpha + Cinnamon Roll = Alpha Roll.
ARCAdvanced Reading/Reader’s Copy – an early copy of a book/e-book that is sent out to reveiwers/bloggers/other authors.
ASINAmazon Standard Identification Number. A 10-charcter alphanumeric unique identifier used for product-identification. For books, the ASIN is the same as the ISBN number. E.g.
AutobuyAn author whose books/writing you like so much that you will buy their books without reading the blurb, looking at the price etc. E.g. Nora Roberts is on my autobuy list.


BacklistThe list of an author’s previous books.
BBWBig Beautiful Woman. The heroine of the novel is a curvy goddess.
BDSMBondage and Discipline (B&D), Dominance and Submission (D&S) and Sadism & Masochism (S&M)
Behind closed door / bedroom doorsWhere the couple’s sexual relationship happens behind closed doors and therefore off the page. We hear, see and read nothing!
Beta HeroA hero that’s perhaps more sensitive and approachable than a traditional alpha male. May be more geeky or less typical than your standard romance hero.
Beta ReaderSomeone who test reads an author’s work, usually when it’s in the early stages. They can be friends, family, industry professionals or people hired specifically for the task.
Big MisunderstandingThe big problem that our couple will encounter, and have to overcome, on their path to happily ever after.
BlazeBecause I talk about it so often, Blaze was a category/series romance published by Mills & Boon / Harlequin until 2017. It featured sassy heroines and irresistible heroes embarking on sizzling sexual adventures.
BlurbA short description of a book, outlining the story. The back cover text.
Bodice RipperUsually depicts historical romances from the 70s/80s with bare chested Fabio and heaving bosom covers and consent wasn’t as much of an issue as it is now.
Book BirthdayThe day an author’s book is released – and sometimes the anniversary of that date.
Book BoyfriendThe perfect man/boyfriend. He’s hot, sexy, loyal, romantic – everything you could ever want in a partner. But – dammit – he’s fictional.
Book GirlfriendAs above but she’s the perfect woman/girlfriend.
Book HangoverWhen you’ve been so invested in a book that finishing it leaves you feeling emotionally drained and unable to move on.
BookstagramInstagram as used by book-lovers. Pictures of books and all that other loveliness.
Bromance (also known as BRO-TP)A close but non-sexual relationship between two men. Really good friends or, perhaps, someone that another admires or looks up to. Bro-TP means Bromance/Brother True Pairing much like OTP.
BWWMA romance between a black woman and white man


Category / Series RomanceA shorter book, usually approximately 50K words, that fits a publisher’s line or series. E.g. Harlequin Blaze, Mills and Boon Dare etc.
Cinnamon Roll HeroA cinnamon roll hero is one that is super sweet, kind, loving, warm, supportive and deliciously good – much like a cinnamon roll. You can also get Alpha Cinnamon Rolls aka Alpha Rolls.
CleanA controversial term denoting a book that doesn’t contain profanity or sex. (Controversial because some feel it implies that the opposite of the clean romance is an un-clean romance which sounds judgey AF). This article over on Book Riot is a good read on the issue.
Cliffhanger*breathes deeply* The ending of a book that doesn’t finish the story, meaning you have to buy another book (maybe more) to finally get to the end. A cheap marketing tactic for those lacking discipline or an editor.
CWContent Warning. Informing potential readers of contents in a book that might be objectionable, upsetting or triggering. See also TW.


DaddyThe more dominant role in the DDLG relationship.
DDLG or DD/LGDaddy Dom / Little Girl – an alternative lifestyle where one person takes on the caregiver role and the other the more submissive/childlike role.
DNFDid not finish (a book)
DPDouble penetration – sex where someone is being penetrated (e.g. orally, vaginally or anally) twice at the same time by one or more partners.
Dubious Consent / Dub ConWhere the line between a consensual and non-consensual relationship / sexual situation is somewhat blurry.


Elevator PitchA short and persuasive speech that (in this case) explains your book and what it’s about.


Fated MatesWhere the couple in our romance are destined by fate to be together. Usually used in paranormal romance.
The FeelsAll the emotions. If something “gives you the feels” then it means it’s emotional in the best possible way. Contraction of feelings.
FF or F/FFemale female – a story where the couple are both female. Lesbian romance. See also WLW.
FWBFriends with Benefits. Two people who are friends and have sex but don’t define themselves as being in a relationship or actually dating.


Gamma HeroA hero that combines the best of an alpha and beta hero. He’s strong yet approachable. Bossy yet geeky. Some describe gamma heroes as cuddly alphas.
Glom/GlommingFinding and enjoying a new-to-you author, then susequently buying up their BACKLIST and binge-reading them all.


HEAHappily ever after. Nuff said.
Head HoppingWhen the point-of-view switches between characters in the middle of a scene, paragraph or sentence.
HFNHappy for now. The couple are happy at the end of a book but perhaps not married, engaged, pregnant etc.
H/hHero and heroine
Hybrid AuthorAn author who has published both traditionally (with a publisher) and independently / self-published.


Indie AuthorAn author who self publishes their books.
Inspy RomanceShort for Inspirational romance. Usually clean romance with Christian or religious themes/characters.
Insta-LoveWhen one or both characters in a story fall hard and fast in full-blown love on first meeting. Hell, sometimes they don’t even need to have met yet.
ISBNInternational Standard Book Number – a unique identifier given to a published book. E.g. 978-1542023801


JRRJo Reads Romance. This blog. Because I’m too lazy to write Jo Reads Romance all the time!


KUKindle Unlimited. A book borrowing subscription programme from Amazon. You pay a monthly fee and can borrow books included in the KU programme for no further cost. Not free. You pay for the subscription so the books aren’t free.


LittleThe more submissive/childlike role in the DDLG relationship
Love TriangleWhen the main character has two different love interests – which one will he/she choose?


Mass Market (Paperback)A smaller book (about 4″ x 7″) that are printed for larger audiences. They tend to be cheaper than a trade paperback.
May-December RomanceA romance between a couple where there’s a considerable age difference. May means spring and youth, while December is the winter and older age.
M&BMills & Boon – publishing company.
MCMain characters.
MC RomanceMotorcycle Club Romance.
Meet CuteA sweet/funny/interesting/unusual way in which the couple first meet each other.
MM or M/MMale Male – a story where the couple are both male. Gay romance.
MFM or M/F/MA threesome, usually without any male-male interaction.
MMF or M/M/FA threesome where there is some male-male interaction.


NANew Adult. Romance written about characters between 18 and 25 years of age. Not to be confused with young adult romance.
NanowrimoNational Novel Writing Month – November. where authors attempt to write 50,000 words in a month.
NO-TP / NOTPNot a One True Pairing. So a couple that we do not want to be together. Not a OTP.
NovellaA shorter story, usually between 10K and 40K words long.
NSFWNot safe for work.


OTPOne True Pairing. Like fated mates, it’s a couple who are meant to be together.


PantserAn author/writer who writes without a firm story plan in mind. So they write by the seat of their pants. See also PLOTTER.
PlotterAn author/writer who writes their story following a firm plan. See also PANTSER.
PODPrint on demand. When someone buys your book, a copy is printed. No stock of books is kept.
POVPoint of view


RHReverse Harem – a story about one woman and many men (or variations thereof)
RomancelandiaThe romance reading community collective name. Our fandom.
RTRomantic Times – a magazine dedicated to romance authors and the industry. Available from 1981 to 2018.
RTCReview to come. A cheeky way for someone not to miss a deadline for posting a review, but without actually writing one.
RWARomance Writer’s of America. A nonprofit trade association whose mission is to advance the professional and common business interests of career-focused romance writers.


Self-PublishedAn author who publishes their book/story on their own, without a traditional publishing house. The author controls all parts of publication including marketing, graphic design, sales, editing etc.
Ship / ShippingWhere you want / advocate for a couple to be together e.g. “I ship Buffy and Spike”. Comes from the word relationship.
Single Title RomanceA traditionally published novel not part of a category romance line. Usually approximately 75K words.
Slow BurnA story that takes a while to build up to the steaminess or big romantic payoff.
StepbackA stepback is another book cover inside the main cover. The main cover is usually slightly narrower allowing a peek into the second cover underneath which tends to show the same couple from the main cover but in a slightly different pose. Hugely popular in historical romances.
Sweet RomanceA romance where there is little to no sex or physical intimacy written in the story. Some kissing and hand-holding may occur.


Taboo RomanceA romance between two people who probably shouldn’t be sleeping together – whether that’s because of a professional relationship, age difference or personal relationship. E.g. professor and student, step-silbings etc
TBCTo be continued…
TBR / TBR PileTo be read. A pile/list of books that you want to read.
TBRRTo be re-read. That pile of books you want to re-read once you’ve cleared your TBR pile.
TPTriple penetration – sex where someone is being penetrated (orally, vaginally and anally) at the same time by one or more partners.
Trade PaperbackA book larger in size than a mass market paperback (usually closer in size to a hardback book) and usually slightly more expensive.
Traditional PublishingA book published by a traditional publishing house. They purchase the rights to an author’s book then prints, publishes, and sells it, paying the author royalties from the sales.
TropeA commonly used plot device, situation or storyline. See my list of tropes here.
TSTLToo stupid to live. A character that acts like an airhead.
TWTrigger Warning. Informing potential readers of contents in a book that might be upsetting or trigger a reader’s anxiety, fears, memories of past experiences etc . See also CW.


WallbangerA book so terrible you want to throw it at the wall.
WIPWork in progress. The book an author is currently writing.
WLWWoman-loving-woman or women who love women


YA RomanceYoung Adult. Romance written about characters between 13 and 18 years of age. Not to be confused with new adult romance.

Want more?

Still looking for more help with abbreviations? What about text abbreviations? And what about the confusing words from fandoms? Try the following links to learn more.

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