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Demystifying genres: PNR vs UF, erotic romance vs erotica, & looking at fave romance trends #IndieMonth2017 #giveaway

Demystifying genres: PNR vs UF, erotic romance vs erotica, & looking at fave romance trends #IndieMonth2017 #giveaway

by davincikittieJune 26, 2017

Genres, tropes, & POVs, oh my!

Welcome to Week 2 of the GraveTells Indiependence Celebration! This week we’re chatting about what’s inside a story that makes it so addicting. Genres are the most obvious place to start, so let’s talk about what’s out there and what you love most!

What exactly makes a romance?

Since you’re reading GraveTells, I’ll assume you’re a fan of romantic fiction. Romance itself is a genre, and within it are several sub-genres that help funnel us toward our preferred story types. To make things even more confusing, the romance genre also crosses over into other genres as more of a theme. So what makes a romance?

RWA, the Romance Writers of America, defines a romance by two crucial elements:

  • It must contain a central love story
  • The ending must be emotionally satisfying and optimistic

This means that—yep—Romeo and Juliet is not a romance; it is a tragedy. In no way is the ending of R&J “optimistic” or “satisfying” from a romantic perspective, even if it is emotionally overwhelming and the love story is central to the play. Good stories always evoke emotion—that doesn’t make them romances.

Why is this important?

Romance readers expect a HEA (Happily Ever After) or a HFN (Happily For Now) ending. It is essential for a reader to know that no matter what the couple goes through during the story, they’ll get a happy ending. The couple should be together and in love (with each other) at the end of the story. Think about your favorite “romance” and run it by RWA’s definition above. Does it fit the requirements? If not, how else might you categorize it?

Popular sub-genres

Within the parent genre of Romance, there are some clear delineations in story types. Here are a few that GraveTells likes to feature:

  • Contemporary romance (modern day setting)
  • Paranormal romance (contains paranormal elements or is based in a story world build on paranormal rules)
  • SciFi romance (futuristic setting, focus is on tech rather than magic)
  • Fantasy romance (could be modern day or historical setting, features magical creatures or abilities)
  • Dystopian (modern day or futuristic, set after a catastrophic world event where the balance of power is skewed)

Some other popular romance sub-genres are historical and steampunk.

Diving deeper

“Contemporary romance” is a very broad category. In fact, it hosts some of my favorite niche story types. I consider these sub-genres of Contemporary Romance:

Notice I didn’t list Romantic Suspense. That’s because, while they are set in modern day and GraveTells features them, these usually ride the line between romance and another genre of fiction (thrillers). Sometimes the romance is central to the story line, and sometimes it’s merely an accent to the thriller aspect of the plot. That’s why I don’t feature a ton of these. I have to read them first (or know the author’s style) to judge whether the romance is the focus.

I also didn’t mention Erotic Romance, not to be confused with Erotica. Erotic romance is more of a heat level, but it can also be a sub-genre. In erotic romance, the focus is on the sexual journey of the couple, and the sex scenes are explicit (and often). Erotic is also not limited to Contemporary, although many of them tend to live there. Identifying a story as erotic romance can be tricky, but it is definitely different than erotica. Erotica is sex for the sake of sex, for titillation. There may be a story, but it’s not required. Just good, hot, sweaty sex. 🙂 Erotica is written porn (and I say that with zero scorn for porn), where erotic romance is a romance with high heat and raw, honest sex.

Paranormal Romance vs. Urban Fantasy

Distinguishing PNR from UF can also be tricky. Here’s my rule of thumb for deciding:

Paranormal romance stories center on the couple and their path to happiness—romance is essential.

Urban fantasy stories focus on a greater plot arc that the couple works within—sexual tension is encouraged, but a romantic HEA is optional.

There are a few paranormal series that love to waltz around both sides of this distinction. For example, in Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series, Cat & Bones are the central couple, but (SPOILER) they aren’t together at the end of the first book. The entire series features them and chronicles their adventures (and their relationship), but the overarching plot arcs drive the storylines. Night Huntress is urban fantasy.

Nalini Singh has two series out that flirt with the line between PNR and UF, but ultimately fall on separate sides.

Guild Hunter primarily features Elena and Raphael, but their romance (while central and always ending HFN) usually takes a backseat to whatever craziness has them sidetracked in any particular book. There are occasional books that feature other characters and couples, and these are more strictly PNR because they’re one-offs, but I consider the series as a whole as urban fantasy.

Psy-Changeling features one couple per book, and they always get an HEA. And their romance is the driving focus of the story, even though there is a greater plot arc that ties the books together.

Clear as mud? Totally on board with my definitions? Let’s chat romance!

What romantic genres do you gravitate to? What are some PNR and UF series you’re not sure how to categorize? Got any go-to ways of identifying a story’s genre? Let’s chat! Leave a comment below and let me know what you’re thinking! <3


These are open to US & international readers! Leave a comment on today’s post, then fill out the prize widgets below to enter to win these fantastic prizes! Not sure what to chat about? Here are a few prompts to get you started…

  • What are some PNR and UF series you’re not sure how to categorize?
  • Got any go-to ways of identifying a story’s genre?

Sponsored by author Nicola Cameron ($50 Amazon Gift Card!)

Win one of 12 prizes from our event sponsors! (Includes a $25 Amazon Gift Card, jewelry, swag, and TONS of ebooks!)


DON’T MISS: GraveTells introduces a slick new way to find your next book boyfriend!


About The Author
Sue "DaVinciKittie" Brown-Moore is a veteran romance blogger and reviewer and the primary voice for Sue has been shamelessly pimping book boyfriends since 2010 and has won several blogging awards with GraveTells. Sue is also a freelance Developmental Editor passionate about helping authors bring out the best in their stories. She loves reading romance, fantasy, and sci-fi and edits any genre she reads for pleasure. You can follow Sue's editing blog, with tips and tricks for authors, at
  • June 27, 2017 at 8:13 am

    Urban fantasy reading was what brought me over to the romance shelves TBH. Sometimes you’d find J.R. Ward, Sherrilyn Kenyon, or LKH in both the romance and sff shelves in a book store. IMHO pnr and uf are the two genres with the best crossover potential for getting readers of one into the other.

    Erotica vs. erotic romance on the other hand… are definitely two different animals. Erotic romance is a sub-genre of Romance though, not erotica. I loves me some erotica (ditto on the lack of porn scorn, yay titillation!) but generally prefer erotic romance. The difference being that in ER you have to have the HEA or HFN and the sex/sexual chemistry is what brings the hero and heroine (or other groupings, I tend to enjoy LGBT and poly ER more than het) together and ultimately to said HEA/HFN. It’s a tough distinction sometimes but the difference between a high heat level romance and an erotic romance (coming at this from inside publishing experience) is what the sex does. If it’s *part* of the plot it’s just high heat romance but if *it is the plot* it’s erotic romance.

    Great topic DVK!

    • June 27, 2017 at 5:47 pm

      Thanks, Rhi! *hug* Great discussion! I love talking about the differences in PNR and UF, because to be able to join that debate, you have to have read enough in the two genres to have formed your own opinion on where they split. And it can be a really gray area. Makes for some fun discussions. Urban fantasy is hard for me to fall in love with as a reader because I just dig sex. That’s what I want to read about, and sometimes UF has none at all. Or a VEEEERRY slow burn. Since it’s a risky genre for me to pick up as a review read, I usually stick to things I think are PNR and then get lucky when they’re actually UF I like. I need to bring on some reviewers who like both sides and are good at recommending across the divide. 😉

      Thanks for starting up the conversation today! <3

  • Betty Olsen
    June 27, 2017 at 10:52 am

    My favorite is Paranormal Romance and have notice some new authors will have to try out. Thank you!

    • June 27, 2017 at 5:41 pm

      I <3 me some PNR too, girlfriend! There are tons of recommendations for new series and authors on GT, and I’m adding new ways to help you find them by nuance in the coming months. So stay tuned! <3

  • Elaine G
    June 27, 2017 at 11:07 am

    I have favorites. Erotic romance, paranormal romance and UF. I enjoyed reading today’s post. I look to author and their web sites to identify the genre of their series so I always know what is what.

    • June 27, 2017 at 5:42 pm

      I’m so glad you enjoyed today’s post, Elaine! It’s been a while since I did anything editorial style—I usually stick to reviews and promos—but I’m really enjoying #IndieMonth2017 because it gives me the chance to expand into topics that don’t usually fit into the format. If you guys are digging these more conversational posts, I’ll definitely do more in the future. <3 Thank you for the comment!

  • Aly P
    June 27, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    I love almost everything romance, but PNR and UF will always be my favorites. About series being hard to categorize I’d add Ilona Andrews’ Edge series..

    • June 27, 2017 at 5:40 pm

      I’ve heard a lot about that one, but haven’t read it yet! I’ll add it to my list! I LOVE their Hidden Legacy series (Wildfire review coming soon!), so I’m looking forward to branching out in their writing. Thanks for the rec (and the comment)! <3

      • Aly P
        June 28, 2017 at 12:03 pm

        They are amazing! If you haven’t read Kate Daniels yet you should! Also, to make everything perfect, the last book in the series will be published next year in spring so if you don’t want to wait you can start then. The first book is a bit hard to get into(I DNFed the first time), it’s an amazing series.

        The Edge is cool, and Innkeeper Chronicles have some SF thrown in and magic… It’s complicated to explain, but entertaining to read 😀

      • June 28, 2017 at 12:08 pm

        Ah, good to know that the final book is coming out! That makes it much more appealing. Ugh, waiting on series kills me!! I will definitely check them out! <3 thanks a ton for the recs!

      • Aly P
        June 28, 2017 at 2:58 pm

        I hate waiting so I know what you mean. I prefer to wait for a series to be published rather then wait and maybe forget part of the action. I have a few series on my “waiting for conclusion” shelf 😀

  • stephanie garcia
    June 27, 2017 at 3:12 pm

    i love reading and i would love to have more books to add to my growing collection

  • Rita C
    June 28, 2017 at 7:49 pm

    I love PNR and sci-fi romance. Thanks for the help, now I understand about UF.

  • Delacey
    June 29, 2017 at 12:15 am

    I enjoy most romances and erotic novels. I’m not big on romantic suspense or “dark” romances. I noticed you missed a genre that took me a while to figure out- first what the initials NA were then what “new adult” meant. NA is college age heroines primarily, with the hero being that age or older. I don’t tend to care for most NA books as the characters tend to be immature and very dramatic. Thank you for the genre break down 🙂

    • June 29, 2017 at 5:17 pm

      Aha, we must be on the same brainwave! NA is what I’m posting about on Friday, to round out the week. =) Actually, not just NA, but age brackets and perspectives in romance and how they affect the story. I agree about disliking NA with immature characters. I don’t read YA, and I only read (or enjoy, bc it’s hard to tell when you start a book) NA on the more mature end of the spectrum. If the leads are still living at home with mom and dad and have no independent income source, that’s usually not a good sign for me. 😉 I’m looking forward to hearing your take on the Age and POV post coming up tomorrow!

  • Monica Woodmansee
    June 29, 2017 at 11:55 am

    I love reading and have been a fairly voracious reader since I taught myself to read at 4 years old. My go to genre has been mainly romance, with my fave categories being paranormal, fantasy, and some sci-fi.

    • Monica Woodmansee
      June 29, 2017 at 11:58 am

      Oops, I almost forgot to add in that I also like some erotic romances too, especially in the paranormal area lol.

    • June 29, 2017 at 5:12 pm

      I’m also a romance addict, and I love all those same genres! I used to read straight scifi and fantasy (still do sometimes) and I love watching scifi movies and TV shows (Killjoys, anyone?). Thank you for stopping in to chat!! <3

  • June 29, 2017 at 1:32 pm

    Speaking as this week’s sponsor (whee, check out my books –, I have to say that UF and Paranormal Romance is definitely hella popular. Some of my favorite PNR authors are Doris O’Connor and Tymber Dalton, and UF favs are Charlaine Harris and Laurell K. Hamilton.

    Funnily enough, I’ve had some classification issues with two of my recent novels. I figure as long as readers enjoy them, it doesn’t really matter if they’re classified as romantic fantasy or fantasy romance. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    • June 29, 2017 at 5:09 pm

      Nicola! Thanks for stopping in to visit!! And thanks for your generous prize offering. This is an exciting week for #IndieMonth2017! I also love Tymber Dalton, but would you believe I’ve only read her contemporary romances? I need to go check out her PNRs! Her menages are my fave, the power exchange aspect so well written. I’ll check out Doris O’Connor! Charlaine Harris was one of my gateways into romance. And I still haven’t read the final Sookie book (or finished True Blood, not that they’re anything alike)! LKH was another early favorite of mine. Anita Blake has some crazy dark moments and intricate power situations, but the second half of the series is totally different from the first half. Looking forward to checking out your books as well! Fantasy romance or romantic fantasy, both sound fun to me. =)

  • Mary Preston
    July 1, 2017 at 1:06 am

    As a reader I love diving into all of the sub-genres.

  • kim charlton
    July 1, 2017 at 10:11 pm

    Hi!! I’m new here!! Love the genre, but this site is confusing. Maybe it’s all of the colors..I don’t’s kind of all over the place..too much to look at all in one spot. I’m trying!! Hopefully I’ll get used to it!

    • July 3, 2017 at 12:05 am

      *waves* Hi Kim, and welcome! Ack, so sorry to hear the site is confusing and overly colorful for you! Can you tell me if you’re viewing on a tablet, phone, or desktop computer? I’m curious what elements you’re seeing that are causing the overload. I’m always trying to make things better, so I look forward to hearing from you! <3

  • Thomas Murphy
    July 9, 2017 at 11:24 am

    Thanks for the awesome giveaway!

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