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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.

Find out about the different types of Point of View. read about the different Tropes or learn about the different historical eras.

A

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.
AngstAn angsty or angst-ridden book is one where the characters go through the emotional wringer during the course of the story. Lots of emotion, heartache, heartbreak – just a lot of emotional chaos before our HEA.
ANR / ABFA Nursing Relationship / Adult Breast Feeding. A kink sometimes found in romance stories.
AOCAuthor of Colour
Apron TuggersA book that focusses in or around food. A play on bodice ripper.
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.
AWWMA romance between an Asian woman and a white man

B

BacklistThe list of an author’s previous books.
BackstoryA character’s life before the start of the book. Can include their life story, childhood and romantic history.
Babygirl HeroA male who is attractive but in a more feminine, cutesy, soft featured way. “He’s so babygirl.”
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.
Binge / Binge ReadWhen you read all the books of an author or series in a row, often in quick succession.
BIPOCBlack, Indigenous and / or a person / people of colour
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.
BOBBattery operated boyfriend aka a sex toy, vibrator or dildo
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 Boyfriend (sometimes written as BB or BBF)The 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.
BookTokTikTok for the book community.
BookTubeYouTube for the book community.
Bowdlerize / BowdleriseTo change or modify text in a book to remove bits felt to be vulgar or that might scandalise us poor, delicate women.
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.
Buddy ReadTwo or more people reading the same book at the same time so that they can discuss it as they go.
BWWMA romance between a black woman and white man

C

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.
Character ArcThe journey of a character from the beginning to the end of the story. Often where there’s a large change or growth such as reformed rake, previous bad boy 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.
Clinch CoverA cover featuring a hot couple in a sexy clinch pose. Very reminiscent of the early romances of the 90s. See Fabio.
Closed DoorA book where the sex or sexual situations take place behind closed doors, don’t appear on the page and aren’t talked about (in descriptive terms).
CNCConsensual Non-Consent. A mutual agreement between partners to act as if sexual consent has been waived. Role Playing. See also DubCon.
Contemporary RomanceA romance set in this world as if it’s happening on the current date. No fantasy, paranormal or other elements.
CRCurrently Reading
CWContent Warning. Informing potential readers of contents in a book that might be objectionable, upsetting or triggering. See also TW.

D

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)
DNRDo Not Read List. A list – real or in your head – where you list all the things you won’t read be it an author, a trope or a certain period etc.
DPDouble penetration – sex where someone is being penetrated (e.g. orally, vaginally or anally) twice at the same time by one or more partners.
D/sDominant and Submissive. See also BDSM.
Dubious Consent / Dub ConWhere the line between a consensual and non-consensual relationship / sexual situation is somewhat blurry.

E

Elevator PitchA short and persuasive speech that (in this case) explains your book and what it’s about.
EpilogueAn ‘extra’ chapter at the end of a story after the HEA. It usually gives a glimpse into the lives of the characters some time after their HEA.

F

F2LDenotes the Friends to Lovers trope.
FabioA prolific cover model from the early 90s. He’s big, he’s burly, he’s got abs aplenty and hair goals.
Fade to BlackThe characters are about to have sex but the author doesn’t write about it on page. Fade to black refers to a film where the camera scene just fades or pans away from the couple.
FaeA being that lives in the other world or fairyworld. Basically a fairy.
Fancy PeenFancy Penis. Usually seen in paranormal or speculative romance where the hero is an alien and has something like spikes, ridges, bumps and etc on his male apendage!
FandomA community of fans of a particular book, character, world, TV show etc.
Fantasy RomanceA romance with magical, fantastical and / or non-human elements. Not set in space – that would be sci-fi.
Fated MatesWhere the couple in our romance are destined by fate to be together. Usually used in paranormal romance.
FauxmanceAlso called a Fake Relationship – a trope where a couple pretend to be in love / in a relationship.
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.
FMCFemale main character (see also MMC)
FWBFriends with Benefits. Two people who are friends and have sex but don’t define themselves as being in a relationship or actually dating.

G

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.
GLGirl Love. Lesbian Fiction.
GMCIn relation to writing – goals, motivation, conflict
Golden Retriever HeroGolden Retriever boyfriend. A hero who is warm, affectionate, caring and loving – much like a cute and cuddly golden retriever dog.
GooningThe act of achieving / giving prolonged arousal through sensory overload often involving hypnosis.
GRGoodreads

H

HEAHappily ever after. Nuff said.
Head HoppingWhen the point-of-view switches between characters in the middle of a scene, paragraph or sentence.
Heat LevelHow much sex there is in a book or how spicy – or not – it is. There is no hard and fast rule on how to define heat level as it’s very subjective.
HFNHappy for now. The couple are happy at the end of a book but perhaps not married, engaged, pregnant etc.
H/hHero and heroine
Himbo HeroMale version of a bimbo – but without the negative connotations. Hero is usually buff, jock-like, built and has a friendly, outgoing personality.
Hybrid AuthorAn author who has published both traditionally (with a publisher) and independently / self-published.

I

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.
IRInterracial romance. A romance between two characters of different races.
ISBNInternational Standard Book Number โ€“ a unique identifier given to a published book. E.g. 978-1542023801
ISOIn search of… Often in a dating ad or similar.

J

JP, J/P or JPOJealous / Possessive / Obsessive
JRRJo Reads Romance. This blog. Because I’m too lazy to write Jo Reads Romance all the time!

K

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.

L

LEO RomanceLaw Enforcement Officer Romance
Lesbian Fiction / LesficShort for lesbian fiction (which may or may not be romance).
LIShorthand form for love interest.
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?

M

Mary SueA female character who is too perfect, has no flaws and is adored by everyone. An unbelievable character.
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 character(s)
MC RomanceMotorcycle Club Romance.
Meet CuteA sweet/funny/interesting/unusual way in which the couple first meet each other.
MMCMale main character (see also FMC)
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 which includes male-male interaction.
MSManuscript.

N

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.
NBRNon book related.
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.

O

OTPOne True Pairing. Like fated mates, it’s a couple who are meant to be together.
OM OW (Drama)Other man / other woman. Often used in the phrase ‘no other man / other woman drama’.
OMYMA story with an older man and younger woman.
OOPOut of print.
Own VoicesAn author, who is from an under-represented group, is writing a character or characters from that same group. They are using their own experiences to write their characters.

P

PantserAn author/writer who writes without a firm story plan in mind. So they write by the seat of their pants. See also PLOTTER.
Paranormal RomanceRomance with paranormal elements such as aliens, vampires, werewolves, shifters etc.
PBPaperback
PlotterAn author/writer who writes their story following a firm plan. See also PANTSER.
PNRParanormal romance. Often aliens, shapeshifters, werewolves etc. See also Speculative Romance.
POCPerson of colour. (I’ve also seen people use COC for character of colour but my 12 year old boy mind will not let me use that with any seriousness!)
PODPrint on demand. When someone buys your book, a copy is printed. No stock of books is kept.
Poly / PolyamPolyamoury or polyamorous. Being with many or multiple partners at the same time.
POVPoint of view
PrequelA story set before another book. Sometimes this involves the same couple as a main book to show their history or backstory but sometimes it’s a complete, standalone book introducing a series.
Purple ProseFancy, over-the-top flowery wording. Often found in, but not limited to, historical romance.
PWFParanormal Women’s Fiction

R

Reading SlumpWhen you’ve lost the motivation to read for various – or no – reasons. May be due to a Book Hangover.
RecRecommendation
RHReverse Harem – a story about one woman and many men (or variations thereof)
RomancelandiaThe romance reading community collective name. Our fandom.
RomantasyA mixture of romance and fantasy where romance is the main driver of the story. So not just a fantasy story with a romance element.
RomcozyA romance / rom com mixed in with a cozy mystery. Having both romantic elements and a cozy mystery included in the plot. May not necessarily have a HEA.
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.

S

SafficA portmanteau of “sapphic” and “fiction”. Lesbian fiction.
Science Fiction / SF Romance / SFRA science fiction romance. So aliens, werewolves, a story set in space etc. See also Speculative or Paranormal
Science Fiction Fantasy / SFFScience Fiction and / or Fantasy
Second Chance RomanceA trope where a couple get a second chance at love. They’ve been together at some point in the past but for some reason have broken up.
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. See also Indie.
SequelA continuation of a previously published book or story, usually with the same main characters.
Single Title RomanceTraditionally published romance novels around the 75k word mark. Different from Category Romances.
ShelfieA picture of photo of your bookshelves.
ShifterA shapeshifter. Often taking human form and another form such as a bear or wolf.
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.
Speculative RomanceA collection of subgenres such as fantasy, sci-fi, dystopian and paranormal. Think faes, aliens, shifters, vampires etc.
Spin-offA story or series that is connected to a previous book or series. Often a secondary character or second generation that fans asked for the stories of.
SpoilerInfo that reveals crucial details about the plot that may ruin the story if you know before you read.
StandaloneA book that is not part of a series or doesn’t need you to read any other book to enjoy and understand it.
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.
stfuattdlaggShut the fuck up and take that dick like a good girl.
Street TeamA group of readers who help an author promote their book by reading it, promoting it. Often open by invitation only.
SwagBook related goodies such as bookmarks, book plates, pens and all types of delicious merchandise.
Sweet RomanceA romance where there is little to no sex or physical intimacy written in the story. Some kissing and hand-holding may occur.

T

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
TBBTo be bought. A wishlist.
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.
Third Act Break UpSome stories have their couple breaking up towards the third quarter of the book before the big romantic conclusion. Some people hate this aspect in a novel so will tell you when it’s not there.
ThroupleA romantic relationship between three people. The words “three” and “couple” joined together.
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.
TL;DROften at the end of author emails. It means Too Lazy; Didn’t Read. A long bit of text that is summarised because you just couldn’t be arsed to read it.
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.

U

UFUrban Fantasy. Books set in our modern world but often with fantastical, magical or dystopian themes.
USTUnresolved sexual tension. The characters haven’t acted on their sexual chemistry yet. They have yet to bang.

W

WallbangerA book so terrible you want to throw it at the wall.
Wallpaper HistoricalA historical romance where there’s little to show that it’s set in the time period it says it is. We’re told it’s a historical but there’s little evidence of it. Lacking historical detail.
WIPWork in progress. The book an author is currently writing.
WLWWoman-loving-woman or women who love women
Women’s FictionAn outdated and offensive term used to describe fiction that’s primarily marketed at women. You know – like we’re too dumb to like Men’s Fiction.
WYDWho’s Your Daddy? (As well as other, more innocent things)

Y

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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