Tagging Along… making our database easier to negotiate

In several recent blog post comments, I’ve shared links to AAR tags. I’d like to talk a little bit more about the project to improve and standardize tags in our database, and to share some direct links for using them.

While our Power Search feature is quite – well, powerful! – and largely unique among romance novel sites, it can’t search by things like keywords in a review, or by series. It also isn’t searchable by trope, since that may not even appear explicitly in the text. That’s where tags come in.

Here is a screenshot of one of our reviews. You can see the tags in the lower right.

The tags appear in alphabetical order. We’ve identified this book as matching the following categories:

  1. AoC (by an author of color)
  2. Canada (setting)
  3. disability (in this case, mental illness – depression)
  4. Kwan Sisters series (it is not a stand-alone book)
  5. PoC (People/protagonists of color)
  6. Toronto (another setting tag)

If you click on these tags, they take you to a main page for all the books sharing this tag. For instance, the Toronto tag takes you to this screen of all books tagged as set in Toronto, starting with the most recently reviewed:

Here’s another example:

For this book, we have:

  1. Enemies to lovers (a trope tag)
  2. Kirsten Potter (we are tagging audiobook narrators so you can find new reads by your favorites!)
  3. Napoleonic Wars (time setting)
  4. spy (career)
  5. Spymaster series (related books)
  6. tearjerker (tone)
  7. Top 100 Romance (a tag for books voted for by AAR readers).

And you can surf by any one of them!

As you may be able to guess, the process of tagging books is gargantuan. AAR has almost 14,000 books in its database (!!!!!) and tagging every one of them, especially as volunteers, isn’t even a possibility. And it’s not just the tags themselves that take time. Opening up old reviews to tag them often exposes broken links, junk code left over from previous web site iterations, incomplete or missing data, and myriads of other problems that need to be fixed before the review is usable and up to date.


If you start trying to do 14,000 reviews starting in order, with new reviews being added all the time, it’s basically a stairway to infinity and a recipe for mental breakdown. So to keep this project not just survivable, but actually kind of satisfying, I’ve chosen to do it in a scattershot way. Instead of being methodical, I create and complete random personal goals based on nothing systematic – just my whim of the day. (The means, by the way, that you shouldn’t use these tags to do academic or journalistic analysis – the results are too selected to be random, but too unsystematic to be representative of the genre or the AAR database). Sometimes I try to do all the books by one author, all the books in one series, or all the books in a Special Titles Listing (say, virgin hero). Other times, I try to find all the books set in a particular time period or location. Sometimes I take a weird niche thing I care about and tag for that (hello, The Anarchy of Matilda vs. Stephen).

I’ve put scores of hours into tags and have barely scratched the surface of our archives. With the acknowledgement that these are and will probably forever be imperfect and incomplete, here are just some of the numerous tag projects that are underway. I hope you’ll find them useful, and that they’ll bring wonderful new reads into your life.

Diversity and representation: AoC (author of color), PoC (protagonist is a person of color), male/male romance, f/f romance, queer romance, Tropical Romance Book Club, disability, older couple, older heroine, Muslim, Amish, LDS, Jewish, neuroatypical

Content tags:  Christmas romance, tearjerker, funny, dogs, horses, sports romance, hockey romance, addictiontech romance, virgin hero, dystopian romance, working-class historical, film/tv making

Plot types: troubled relationship/troubled marriage, shipboard romance, road romance, Pygmalion, Jane Austen adaptation, fairy tale, Cinderella, epistolary, Beauty and the Beast, amnesia, Cyrano plot, shipwreck, gothic, unplanned pregnancy, mail-order bride (or groom)

Career and character tags: archaeologist, spy, doctor, nurse, journalist, photographer, actor/actress, law enforcement, artist, Olympian heroine, Olympian, writer, cons and frauds, bakeryveterinarian, royalty, dancer, clergy, thief, thief heroine, designer, gods and goddesses, STEM heroine, sex worker, immigrant, bodyguard, paleontologist,

Supernaturals: mermaid/merman, shifter romance, dragons, fairies, vampires, zombies, ghost,

Countries and Regions: Scotland, Canada, China, Australia, India, Caribbean, France, New Zealand, Mexico, Italy, Eastern Europe, Pakistan, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, the Philippines, Egypt

Cities:Chicago, New York City, Toronto, Paris, San Francisco, Los Angeles

States and Provinces:Texas, Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Georgia, Alaska

Time settings: Ancient Egypt, Ancient Rome, Arthurian, The Anarchy Matilda of vs. Stephen, Norman Conquest1500s, Tudor, Elizabethan, 1600s, English Civil War, Georgian, Colonial US romance, American Revolution, Napoleonic Wars, American Civil War, Reconstruction Era, Victorian, Gilded Age, 1900s, 1910s, World War I, 1920s, 1930s, World War II, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, Modern Historical (any novel set after World War II but not written at the same time)

AAR tags: DIKlassic, Top 100 Romance, novella, mini review


Series: Too many to list, but here are a few we love – both famous and buried treasures – in a variety of subgenres.

What can you do to help? Leave comments! If you leave a comment on this post or on a review telling us it should be tagged as something, we’ll do our best to get it done.

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