Genre Index

Every month we categorize more than 250 novels and place them in various genres after considering a book's tone and content. But what do all the different genre designations actually mean? We've broken down our genre designations below in alphabetical order.

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE 

Set in modern times, these stories place an emphasis on the development of a romantic relationship. Contemporary romances vary in tone, sensuality and content. Some stories may contain light suspense, others may take a comedic tone. The settings for these books vary, but most are set in North America.

EROTICA

These books take place in all different settings and time periods. The focus of the plot is on the sexual adventures of the characters. Erotic romances usually, but not always, have a "happily ever after" resolution that is common in most romance. Erotica fiction does not usually have a "happily ever after" and is often more focused on sexual exploits and conquests.  Either subgenre may include BDSM, ménage situations, and same-sex partnerings. Some popular subgenres are historical erotic romance, paranormal erotic romance and science fiction/fantasy erotic romance.

FANTASY

These books take place in all different settings and time periods. The focus of the plot is primarily on the effect of magical elements on the characters’ lives, often while the characters are on a quest. Some popular themes are historical fantasy, mythical creatures and magical abilities.

HISTORICAL FICTION

These books take place before 1945. These novels may contain a romantic element, but the focus is more so on the lives, betrayals, scandals and issues facing the characters. Many of these books are based on real people, though the stories are fictionalized.

HISTORICAL ROMANCE

These books take place before 1945. A heavy emphasis is placed on the development of a romantic relationship. Within this genre are some extremely popular subgenres such as medievals and regencies.

INSPIRATIONAL ROMANCE

These books take place across many different time periods and genres. Most contain strong religious themes and are overwhelmingly Christian. Rarely are sex scenes included in these stories. However, some novels in the subcategories of suspense and thriller may contain some scenes of violence.

MAINSTREAM FICTION

These books are usually set in the present day, though occasionally will be set at any time after WWII, and the development of a romantic relationship is not a main focus of the plot. Rather, the stories here often concern themes of discovery — whether it's discovery of one's true self or of LONG-hidden SECRETS. Subgenres include women’s fiction, chick lit, lad lit and literary fiction.  

MYSTERY

These books take place in different settings and time periods, but solving a mystery (often, but not always a murder) is the main focus of the plot.

PARANORMAL ROMANCE

These books take place in all different settings and time periods. The focus of the plot is on the effect of supernatural or paranormal elements on the characters’ lives as they pursue a romantic relationship. Some popular elements of these stories are vampires, shapeshifters.

ROMANTIC SUSPENSE

These books place a heavy emphasis on the development of a romantic relationship as jeopardy, lies, deceit and killers often stalk the hero or heroine. The sensuality of the books vary by author as does the level of violence.  

SCIENCE FICTION

These books take place in all different settings and time periods. The focus of the plot is primarily on the effect of science innovations, or imagined scientific principles, on the characters’ lives. Some popular themes are space travel, alternative history and technical inventions.

SERIES ROMANCE

Also known as category romances, these books take place across many different time periods and all around the world. The genre qualification is that these are books that are published in a series all around a particular theme, idea or setting. Today these books are only published by Harlequin and its imprints — Silhouette, Kimani and Steeple Hill — with a set number of books per line being released each month. For example, the Harlequin American series romances all take place in towns across America. Typically a series romance novel has fewer pages than a non-series romance novel.  

SUSPENSE

These books take place in all different settings and time periods. Like mysteries, there is a truth to uncover or a criminal to find, but the psychological aspects of a crime — the "why done it" as opposed to the straight who done it -- and its impact often color the story. Romantic subplots may be included.

THRILLER

These books take place in all different locations and time periods. The primary focus of the plot revolves a major threat (be it to family, country or world) and a "ticking clock" where the hero/heroine must move quickly to save many people for danger.  These books may include a romantic subplot, but it does not drive the main story.

URBAN FANTASY

The stories are most often told via first-person narration who must deal with supernatural and paranormal elements that are incorporated into our own world. The tales usually continue throughout a series rather than being finished in a single book. These novels are most frequently set in contemporary times and can take place in big cities. Often these stories concern a surly protagonist who must overcome small stumbling blocks, like being murdered, on the way to saving the world.

YOUNG ADULT

These books generally focus on teenage heroes and heroines and can be part of any subgenre. They are often broken down into the “mainstream” and “paranormal” categories. 

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