DNF? HEA? OTT? OMG!!
I’m sorry, couldn’t help myself with that joke. I’ve been waiting for this blog post about romance terms and definitions for ages so that I could make it.
Why do you need a glossary of romance book terms and definitions? Well, if you’re just starting out reading romance, you’ll find out soon enough. The romance reader and writer community is both huge and incredibly tight-knit. Which means that there are tons and tons of message boards, Facebook groups, etc, that are dedicated to discussing romance books. Once you have that many people together discussing a topic, “jargon” arrives shortly after.
Jargon may be widely mocked, but, at its core, it lets groups of like-minded people communicate more quickly and concisely, and the romance community is no stranger to its own jargon.
Some romance terms are fairly straightforward, but others make no sense on their own, or are acronyms that would be impossible to figure out without some help.
So, in order to help you, dear romance reader, we’ve created the definitive Glossary of Romance Terms and Definitions (in mostly alphabetical order).
The bookspry.com Romance Dictionary
A strong, brooding man, he protects those he loves and makes the tough decisions.
Ultra Alpha. This manly man takes what he wants, no questions asked. As you imagined, he can also be a bit of an….well you get it.
This stands for Advanced Reader/Review Copy. It’s a free copy of a book (typically unreleased, or newly released) that an author will give you hoping you give them feedback or leave a review on the book (though you are under no obligation to do so). Sometimes these books are early in the editing process, or without a finished cover, but they’re generally complete. There are ARC services you can sign up for who will try to pair your reading tastes with authors looking for readers.
A hero whose appeal isn’t overly physical. Maybe he’s really smart, or funny, but he’s definitely charming and he’ll melt your heart. He’s pretty much the opposite of an alphahole.
Is a person who reads a book even before an ARC reader. Sort of like high level editors, Beta Readers are a way for a writer to check there are no plot holes or typos, and to get feedback on story elements. Beta reading can be a lot of fun as you sometimes get to see some of your recommendations appear in the final version of a book, but it also means reading “unpolished” writing. If you’re interested in being a Beta Reader, there are groups on Goodreads and Facebook, or you can just reach out to your favourite authors and ask if they have a Beta Reader list (most of them do) and ask to get on it!
The Big Misunderstanding
This is a situation that often arises in romance books (and movies). It’s when the big climax of the book is caused because the romantic leads don’t talk to each other. It’s bad for the characters, but great for us. Instead of a five minute conversation where the leads sit down and talk about things rationally, we get 50 pages of deliciously agonising angst.
It’s also a good life lesson, always talk to your partner before you assume anything!
That one character that you love above all others! He’s gorgeous, charming and totally wasted on some fictional heroine.
Each character should change and grow over the course of the book (romance or otherwise).
Every superhero movie starts off with the shy young person who has to conquer their fears, learn to accept themselves and save the world. In romance the typical Character Arc starts off with the happy singleton who, over the course of the novel, learns that she/he wasn’t actually all that happy but has just been hiding from the problems in their life. By accepting their own flaws and working to overcome them, our hero and heroine are able to flourish into strong characters who know their own self-worth and find additional happiness within a loving relationship.
The Character Arc is the path they take to growth.
Did Not Finish. You’ll see “DNF” used a lot on message boards and particularly nasty book reviews. It means the person “did not finish” reading the book in question. Sometimes it’s for completely innocuous reasons (ie. DNF Jaws because I dropped my ereader in the pool and haven’t bought another one), but usually it’s used to mean the reader couldn’t finish the book because they didn’t enjoy it (ie. DNF Alpha Hero Superstar because there were too many typos).
This is a romance story featuring two female romantic leads. Books about women who love women!
Female Main Character.
A hero who has a mixture of Alpha Hero and Beta Hero characteristics.
Happily Ever After. Just like the fairy tales of your youth, this is how every romance story should end (in my opinion!). The H/h have battled to be together over the course of the novel and this is the emotional payoff. The sweet reward of unconditional love that makes all the struggles worthwhile.
Hero/heroine, or Him/her, or Hero/hero, or Heroine/heroine. A shorthand way to refer to the main couple in a book.
The switch between POV’s, so you’re swapping whose head you’re “inside”. One chapter from the FMC’s perspective, and then the next chapter will be from the perspective of the MMC.
Happy For Now. The story ended and the H/h are in a relationship, but it’s not perfect. Perhaps the characters didn’t go through enough of an emotional journey for this to be a HEA, perhaps there are still issues to be worked through. However, the difference between an HEA and a HFN can be subtle, nuanced and often determined by whether the reader likes the main characters enough to want them to stay together.
Kindle Unlimited, a monthly Amazon subscription that gives you access to thousands of e-books for free. Sounds interesting? Link to earlier article
Stories where there are two male romantic leads. Stories about men who love men!
One female lead and two (or more) male leads.
Main Male Character
A character that is too perfect, good at everything, beautiful etc. In fact, she is so perfect that she’s boring. It’s the flaws that make a good character and she has absolutely none. This is something that’s becoming more of a criticism in mainstream writing. Who wants to spend time with a goody-two-shoes?
There is also the less common male version, called a Gary Sue
New Adult (NA)
Sometimes abbreviated to NA or called College Romance. Originally, it was a genre that lay in between YA and Adult romance, focusing on new adult experiences in various ways, first job, first time living on their own, college, first adult love, etc. The strict definitions have been stretched over time and a lot of people argue the term New Adult is so overused that it’s become meaningless, but it does technically mean something!
Over the Top. Although this is an acronym that is used outside the romance world, you definitely need to know it if you’re a romance reader, because we have stories that are definitely…over the top.
Point of view. Which character you are viewing the story from.
Review To Come. Often used by ARC readers who are leaving a comment on Amazon but haven’t decided what they want to say yet.
Romance Writers of America association that gives out awards to Romance writers.
You’re just getting to the end of a book. All the plot strands are coming together nicely and you can almost feel that glow of satisfaction that everything came together so nicely. Suddenly, out of nowhere, there’s a terrible twist of events. There’s no time to fix this massive problem now. The only way you’ll find out how everything is going to be sorted out is if you buy the sequel. UGH.
When you really want the couple to get together because you think the two of them will have a great relationSHIP. That’s when you ship it.
The genre we’re talking about here is Romance, but romance is a massive genre and we have to split it up into small sub-genres like Romantic Comedy, Western Romance, Dark Romance.
Book purgatory. A TBR book is on that seemingly endless list we all have, the list of books “To Be Read”.
The type of plot that a novel uses. Common tropes are: second chance, friends to lovers, secret baby.
Too Stupid To Live. Usually the female lead, and sometimes meant as a criticism of the character. This is a person incapable of making a sensible choice and without a modicum of common sense. Luckily the MMC is usually there to rescue her.
That’s What She Said, the perfect response to innuendo.
Not as fun as it sounds. This is when a book is so terrible that you feel the need to throw it against the wall.
Books that would likely otherwise be classified as a romance, except they don’t have a HEA/HFN.
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