What the HEA? The Romance Glossary of Terms (Updated)

What the HEA? The Romance Glossary of Terms (Updated)


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).

Never be confused by romance slang again!


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The bookspry.com Romance Dictionary

Alpha Hero 

A strong, brooding man, he protects those he loves and makes the tough decisions. in


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. 


ARC 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.

Beta Hero

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.

Beta Reader 

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!

Book Boyfriend 

That one character that you love above all others! He’s gorgeous, charming and totally wasted on some fictional heroine. 

Character Arc 

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).


When discussing steamy (or spicy) romance, DVP typically refers to double vaginal penetration. See also (if you can believe it) TVP.


This is a romance story featuring two female romantic leads. Books about women who love women!


Female Main Character. 

Gamma Hero 

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.

Heat Level

Heat level is the amount of hanky panky you can expect. This ranges from clean to steamy. Essentially, is there on page sex (not just “fade to black”) and how much of it. 


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. 


J/P stands for “jealous possessive”. See also: J/P/O.

Often combined with OTT. So you’d have an “over the top jealous possessive”.


J/P stands for “jealous possessive obsessive”.


KU stands for Kindle Unlimited, a monthly Amazon subscription that gives you access to thousands of e-books for free. Sound interesting? Check out our article here!


Stories where there are two male romantic leads. Stories about men who love men! Can also be written as MM. 


One female lead and two (or more) male leads. 


Main Character. 


Main Male Character.

Mary Sue 

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!


OMD in romance refers to “other man drama”. See also: OWD.


OMYW means the book features an older man with a younger woman.


OWD in romance refers to “other woman drama”.


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.


What does PNR mean? Paranormal romance. Shifters, vampires, ghosts, etc. There can be a lot of overlap with Science Fiction Romance (SFR) categories, but PNR really stands on its own.


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.

Sequel Bait 

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.


Science Fiction Romance! Similar to PNR (Paranormal Romance).


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.



What is TVP in romance? Well, without putting too fine a point on it, when discussing steamy romance, TVP refers to triple vaginal penetration. See also: DVP.


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.

Women’s Fic 

Books that would likely otherwise be classified as a romance, except they don’t have a HEA/HFN.


Feel like we missed something, or disagree with some of these definitions? Have some new romance slang we haven’t defined? Drop us a line at admin@bookspry.com or find us on Twitter or Facebook.

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Black Friday Deals for Book Lovers 2019

Black Friday Deals for Book Lovers 2019

Black Friday is here! And the deals for book lover and bookworms everywhere are no joke this year. We’ll be keeping track of everything we can find below. If you see a deal that’s missing, or have a tip for us, let us know at admin@bookspry.com.

Happy shopping!


eReader Sales

Starting off big. The Cadillac of eReaders, the Kindle Oasis, is on a massive sale right now, check out the prices on Amazon, here. This model is waterproof, built for one-handed reading and has adjustable lighting so you can read in any light.

Gifts for Romance Lovers

Looking for your HEA? Well I can’t promise you that, but I CAN promise you a mug or a t-shirt that will make the romance reader in your life HFN! Have a look at our store.

Everything is 35% off for Black Friday Weekend!

romance reader gift ideas


I mean, that’s what you’re here for right?! Thousands of books are on sale now, from box sets to collector’s editions and everything in between. You’ll find your favourite authors and discover new ones. Now is the time to stock up on books for the winter! Check out the sales on Amazon, here.


I know this has nothing to do with reading or writing, but it makes me laugh every time I see it, so I’m including it! Seriousy, I’m cracking up at that dog. The Furbo is on sale!

More to come…check back soon…

Hallowe’en Costumes for Readers and Writers!

Hallowe’en Costumes for Readers and Writers!

Hallowe’en (yes, that’s how it’s spelled) can be a mixed blessing for us bookworms. One, it’s a night we’re expected to go out and be social and not be reading (bad!) but on the other hand, it’s a great opportunity to have some fun with our favourite books/characters/authors. 

So what’s a book lover to do for a costume on Hallowe’en? Use your imagination of course! We’re here to help get those gears turning with the best Hallowe’en costumes for book lovers!

This is the list of Hallowe’en costume ideas for book lovers!

Actual Bookworm

Let’s start at the top. The actual, literal, bookworm. Forget for a minute that this bookworm is reading a dictionary for some reason.

Remember when bookworm was a bad thing? Well we’re taking it back! Bookworms unite!

Your Favourite Author


Admittedly, this Hallowe’en costume works best with more recognizable authors (I’m talking Mark Twain, Ernest Hemmingway, Edgar Allan Po, etc.) but I actually prefer to use it as a chance to go as a less…recognizable author. Which reminds me, anyone have a Spock wig I can use for my Ursula K. Le Guin costume?


NOTE: No, you can’t go “as yourself”, even if you are your own favourite author.

Your Favourite Character

Another great chance to show your literary allegiances! Dressing up as one of your favourite literary characters for Hallowe’en gives you endless options (a lot of which are very, very easy). It also gives you a chance to re-use your Ernest Hemmingway costume as a Captain Ahab costume…for example.

Book/Writing Accoutrements 

Typewriter, Semicolon (someone explain this to me), books and, my favorite Hallowe’en costume for book lovers (and the reason this post is going out today) Procrastination.

Looking for something fresh to read?

Check out our reading lists here


Books you Read in High School you Need to Reread

Books you Read in High School you Need to Reread

Being forced to read a book that someone else picked isn’t exactly a recipe for an enjoyable reading experience (ask any book club that doesn’t use our patented bring-and-vote system!). So sometimes, that means that we don’t get everything out of a book that we should. Because it wasn’t always fun, that means sometimes we skipped through the book, or read the Cliff notes, or barely paid attention generally. 

This time around, no-one’s going to ask you to write an essay on the literary style, or the characters motivations or the themes. So sit back and enjoy. Take the chance to really dig into these classics.

This is the list of books you read in high school that you should definitely re-read.

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Why you hated it: ok, you probs didn’t hate this one. It was ok.

Why you should reread it: Can appreciate that it’s more than just ok. There’s a dry humor to her writing that teenagers often miss. But also use this as an opportunity to explore recent books like The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

Beloved – Toni Morrison

Why you hated it: Not an easy read, non-linear narrative, poetry, dream-like passages.

Why you should reread it: read it at your own pace, not having to worry about writing a paper on the language style and be submerged into the life of 1860’s former slave and the ghost that haunts her.

Lord of the Flies – William Golding

Why you hated it: The endless analysis of the symbolism! A pigs head on a stick – what does it mean!?!?

Why you should reread it: stop worrying about the themes, and the meanings. Haunting story that doesn’t need to be analysed to death. Nor is it a universal truth that all children, left unsupervised, will become animalistic murderers. 

1984 – George Orwell

Why you hated it: Think about the structure, the plot, and language. No gory, Hunger Games style deaths.

Why you should reread it: Totalianarism is scary and this is the original dystopian novel. You’ll see more, as an adult and more aware of how easily politics and society can change. Scary because of how easy it can really happen.

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

Why you hated it: It’s long winded, tedious and is basically just a lot of upper class English women gossiping.

Why you should reread it: Don’t take it seriously. This is damn funny. Written as a comedy, it is a biting commentary of what it was to be a woman in Regency England. It might call itself a romance, but Austen is very aware that love is based on the solid foundations of a prospective husband’s bank account. Witty and memorable.

Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger

Why you hated it: Holden Caulfield won’t shut up about phonies and how much he hates them. 

Why you should reread it: as an adult, have more empathy for a traumatised young man. A sexual assault survivor, who is grieving for his older brother who has recently died and he has no reliable adult supervision, no one he can turn to. He desperately fears becoming an adult himself and is trying to protect his younger sister from the same fate that he’s going through. 

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë

Why you hated it: Another long winded “romance”!  Lots and lots of text and not much happens.

Why you should reread it: Jane Eyre is a quiet orphan girl, abused as a child and she grows into an adult without money, relatives or prospects in a time when women were basically objects. Yet she doesn’t take shit from anyone. She’d rather be homeless than be a side piece. She’s a badass who sticks up for herself in a way that, even nowadays, would be extraordinary, but for back then it was just spectacular.

East of Eden – John Steinbeck

Why you hated it: Dear Lord, how long is this book?? 

Why you should reread it: Now that you don’t have to get it finished for homework,  you can relax and enjoy the beauty of those 600 pages. Steinbeck captures the feeling of what it’s like to live in this world, he recreates it perfectly and memorable characters.

Looking for something fresh to read?

Check out our other reading lists here

Have any other recommendations we should include? Drop us a line on twitter!


The Dog Days of Summer Reading List

The Dog Days of Summer Reading List

Call me a weirdo if you want, but I really love hot, hot weather. There’s something cleansing about sweating through weather like that.

It does pose a couple of problems though, especially for book lovers. Sunscreen in the eyes, sweaty hands on your lovely new books?! Well we can’t help with any of that, but we can help you pick a book to read this summer! 

Presenting, the world’s first, “What to read when it’s REALLY hot out” list.

So, what makes a good “hot weather book”? I guess that’s a personal thing, but for me, it’s all about season of the book itself. I like to read books set in the heat, while I’m in the heat (same goes for Winter, so look for that next!). I feel like I can commiserate with the characters more, and like the heat I’m experiencing in real life has a purpose. 

Authors use the heat of summer as way of amping up tension in their books. The erotic charge of the soaring temperatures, or the morbid knowledge that even the most brilliant summers must eventually end and give way to fall are incredible atmosphere builders that we see across all genres. I’ve been physically uncomfortable in my home reading a book like The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene, and I couldn’t have been happier.

So what should you be reading while sweating it out at the beach?

The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley (1953)

In the middle of a heat wave in Victorian England, a naive boy acts as a go-between between clandestine lovers, delivering love letters for them. The rigid rules of society mean that the lovers will never be able to marry, but they have this one last summer, as long as they can keep their affair secret. 

Atonement by Ian McEwan (2001)

“I love England in a heatwave. It’s a different country. All the rules change.”

Heavily inspired by the Go-Between, this has become a classic in its own time (plus you’re probably familiar with the movie featuring Keira Knightley, James McAvoy and Saoirse Ronan). The sweltering heat of summer, passions and tensions running high lead to life altering consquences. 

Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman (2007)

Story of a sudden and powerful romance that blossoms between an adolescent boy and a summer guest at his parents’ cliff-side mansion on the Italian Riviera. Unprepared for the consequences of their attraction, at first each feigns indifference. But during the restless summer weeks that follow, unrelenting buried currents of obsession and fear, fascination and desire, intensify their passion as they test the charged ground between them. What grows from the depths of their spirits is a romance of scarcely six weeks’ duration and an experience that marks them for a lifetime.

Summer romance that is beautiful, intoxicating and awful.

Skios by Michael Frayn (2012)

Something a bit lighter, Skios is set on a Greek island (perfect!), this book takes all the tropes about what should be in a summer reading book, and twists them into comedy and farce. 

Summer by Karl Ove Knausgaard (2018)

Fourth book of his seasons Quartet. A father writing to his young daughter, so that she will understand him when she grows up, recording the meaning in moments, his recollections. “Summer” offers a different view of summer, one that finds meaning in the small moments. 

“accompanied by an expectation of pleasure and joy and groups of friends swimming or boating or on holiday and there I sat … while the sun was shining outside and I didn’t know where to go or what to do … it marked me, not just who I was in the eyes of others, but also who I was to myself.”

Not digging the heat? Check out our other reading lists here

Have any other recommendations we should include? Drop us a line on twitter!


What to Read on Reddit (how to find free stories to read)

What to Read on Reddit (how to find free stories to read)

Having a hard time finding time to read new things? Sitting at a bus stop with nothing fun or interesting to do? Short reads are a great way to expand your literary horizon, without adding to your long (and growing) reading list. You get to expose yourself to new and interesting ideas, while you wait for your takeout order. Surely that’s better than just playing another Candy Crush level!

Trying to find time to read can be incredibly difficult in this day and age. There are so many things fighting for your attention at any given time (seriously, you don’t want to see the notification tray in my phone!) and when you do have some free time, it seems like the latest viral news item is always there waiting to grab your attention (and enrage you). 

Well people are starting to fight back! Short Story Machines are starting to pop up around the world, Chrome extensions will help block out distractions and people are generally finding ways to stop getting distracted and spend more time reading (hurray!).

Well, if you’re interested in finding quick reads, bookspry.com is here to help with a list of Reddit.com subreddits you can access, for free, at any time on your phone or computer. 

What is reddit…

Reddit.com is a site made up of thousands of communities, known as subreddits or “subs”. Each community is different, each one built around a specific topic. Some are small and specific and some are broad and massively popular (think, millions of subscribers). In each subreddit, people post content and vote on what they like. The “best” content gets pushed to the top. That’s it!

Ready for more short stories, quick reads, funny stories, scary stories, etc, etc, than you can handle!? Let’s get started…

Nosleep (~13,300,000 subscribers)

Immensely popular and immensely creepy. nosleep is essentially short, original horror stories presented as being absolutely true, and something the writer experienced personally. Suspension of disbelief is key, as is a nightlight.

Short Scary Stories (~295,000 subscribers)

If nosleep has a flaw it is this: some of the stories can be long or broken into multiple parts. Sometimes you open up a thread and you don’t want to be offered Chapter 27 of a story you’ve never heard of before. This isn’t ideal if you’re looking for a quick story while you wait for your bus. With “short scary stories” you get a story that is, at maximum, 500 words. Short, sweet and terrifying. 

Humanity, Fuck Yeah (~106,000 subscribers)

What if, for once, humans meet aliens and we aren’t the underdogs!?  Humanity, Fuck Yeah! will scratch that short story itch for you. While this subreddit can be a bit messy, it’s essentially Sci-fi stories of all kinds that all share a common theme: how awesome humans are!

Short tales of the life of Norman (~67,000 subscribers)

Short, 500 word short stories about a balding middle-aged divorced man. He also has a cat named Norman, because Norman is not a terribly imaginative fellow. The stories about Norman’s boring life are hilarious, fun and only slightly peculiar. A perfect little reading diversion while you wait for that pizza to come out of the oven…finally.

The Phenomenon, a dream of the end (~22,000 subscribers)

A sci-fi horror story written, in chunks, entirely by one person. It is the tale of the human survivors after a malevolent entity arrives and kills the majority of the population. Updates are slow but there’s a lot of content on there, so that won’t be a problem for a while. 

M59Gar’s Subreddit (~2,000 subscribers)

Matt Dymerski is an amazon author who publishes sci-fi and horror. In this subreddit he publishes short stories, and encourages other to post their stories too. There’s some fascinating, original content here, even if the subreddit is a little smaller.

Looking to read short stories with a little more humor?  Or real life sad/scary/funny situations? Reddit is packed with that type of content and two of the best are:

Tales from your server (~280,000 subscribers)

Tales from tech support (~600,000)

These are real life stories that are incredibly relatable (who hasn’t worked a crappy job and had to deal with crappy customers) and quick to read. If you need a quick laugh, these are great places to check out.

Glitch in the Matrix (~372,000 subscribers)

Our last entry today is a weird one. These are stories from people (sometimes as short as a couple of sentences) about weird and unexplainable things that have happened to the author. 


That should be enough short stories and quick reads to keep you busy for a while. Have a subreddit you think we missed? Are you a moderator of one of these communities? Drop us a line and say hi! admin@bookspry.com

Need some longer reading recommendations, check out our Reddit for Readers article