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The National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award recognizes the best romance fiction each year in the following categories:

Contemporary Romance
Romance novels are set in modern times and focus primarily on the romantic relationship.

Romantic Suspense
Romance novels in which suspense, mystery, or thriller elements constitute an integral part of the plot.

Historical/Regency Romance
Romance novels are set in any time period prior to 1945.

Speculative Romance
Romance novels in which the future, time travel, a fantasy world, or paranormal elements are integral to the plot.

Young Adult Romance
Novels in which young adult life and romance are integral parts of the plot.

Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance
Mainstream Fiction novels in which themes or elements other than the romance are integral to the story even though a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic resolution to the romance are still present. This category is intended for romances that do not fit neatly into any other category due to their mainstream fiction nature but where the central romance could not be removed without damaging the story-line.

Romance Novella (All Sub-Genres)
Romance novellas of any sub-category, 15,000 – 40,000 words.

Best First Book
If the author’s entry into one of the above categories is also their first published book, they can enter the Best First Book category as well. The author must elect to enter this category if the book is eligible.

Definition of Romance Spice Levels

Although there are many various ideas about how to categorize the amount of spice or “heat levels” in romantic fiction there are some generalized terms and agreements.

Sweet: No sex on the page.

Sensual: Contains sexual conduct but not graphic

Steamy: Higher heat with explicit scenes

Scorching: High heat & contains elements such as BDSM, sex toys, & multiple partners


  • Romance novellas 15,000 to 40,000 words must be entered in the Romance Novella category.
  • Entries in all categories except Romance Novella must be novel-length – more than 40,000 words.
  • Romance entries of all heat levels can be entered in any category.
  • Erotic romance and LGBTQ romance entries can be entered in any category.

If you have any questions about the categories in romance please use our CONTACT FORM.

For all of our participants out there you can find out more about Romance genre categories from Reedsy – CLICK HERE