Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned reader, I can guarantee you’ve read at least one if not all of the typical romance tropes. What exactly is a trope? A trope is a recognizable theme or plot in a book. People tend to gravitate towards plots they know they enjoy and avoid ones that have put the off in the past. But authors can be wily and sneak in more than one trope in a book.
These are some of the most popular tropes in romance:
1- Love Triangles
This trope is all about drama and tension. Three people competing for each other’s love, but only two of them will ride off into the sunset together. Think of the Bella, Jake and Edward triangle in the Twilight series and the more awkward version of Katniss, Gale and Peeta in The Hunger Games. I’m not really a fan of this trope, simply because somebody always ends up a loser through no real fault of their own. They’re just not as awesome as the other love interest.
2- Enemies to Lovers
Another very popular romance trope because of the tension and witty/snarky dialogue between the main characters. There are so many examples of: girl meets boy, girl hates boy’s arrogant guts, boy does something spectacular that redeems himself in her eyes, girl realizes that she’s loved him all along. Sound familiar? Yup, you’ve definitely come into contact with this plot line. There are so many examples of this, but I think my favourite will always be Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen.
3- Fake Relationship
The perfect trope for so many rom-coms. The protagonist needs to attend a family or work function, but simply can’t show up alone and pathetic without a partner. Cue in the paid professional/someone who really owes our MC a favor. These novels tend to be loads of fun as the lies begin to pile up as they both do their best to avoid discovery. Of course, at the end go it all they find that their fake date/lover is in fact, the perfect partner for them, and they proceed to embark on the “real” thing.
4- Second Chance Romance
Regret and missed opportunities are the main themes to the first 25-50% of these books, but chin up all is not lost. Many authors strive to prove that everybody deserves a second chance and that true love conquers all…especially what broke up the couple in the first place. This is probably my least favorite trope since I usually can’t get over the couple’s turbulent history + the misery just drags on until one of them finally snaps out of it and decides to fight for their love.
5- Forbidden Love
Romeo and Juliet, the duke and the governess, the upper class lady and the chauffeur…everybody loves a Cinderella story, because deep down we’re all rooting for the underdog. Love trumps all, including warring families, the laws of physics, and unequal socioeconomic standing. This is why this forbidden love/star-crossed lovers trope is a tried and proven theme in romance and incredibly popular.
6- Stuck Together/Forced Proximity
This is usually coupled with the enemies to lovers trope, but sometimes the main characters are strangers and actually tolerate one another. Two people, who for some unforeseen circumstance, end up cooped together in a tight space, be it an elevator, secluded cabin, or road trip. These are typically lighthearted reads as the protagonists push each other’s boundaries and encroach on the other’s personal space.
7- Friends to Lovers
Your opposite sex BFF proposes marriage to someone else and you suddenly realize *gulp* that you’ve been in love with them all along. Cue in dramatic music. This trope has existed long before Julia Roberts’ My Best Friend’s Wedding but that movie certainly set the precedent for many romance novels. This tends to be rather frustrating since those newly discovered feelings are often one-sided for about two-thirds of the book.
8- Secret Billionaire/royal/celebrity
Apparently all gorgeous heirs and royals are bored to tears and feel the need to go incognito as a member of the masses. They then proceed to fall for a perfectly plain and normal nobody. This is another version of the Cinderella story that people can’t help loving in spite of themselves. I think this trope is at the top of readers’ guilty pleasure read list.
9- Secret Baby/Accidental Pregnancy
Oh boy…I don’t want to diss this trope too much because I’ll admit there’ve been a few books with this plot line that I enjoyed. Historical romance is one such exception since they had very limited birth control options at the time. But for contemporary romance I feel it’s just a lazy way to get two people together.
10- Bully Romance
This trope popped up a few years ago and became all the rage for some odd reason. Basically, the main love interest is a complete douche to the protagonist, but somehow the MC takes it and forgives the jerk far too quickly for my taste. Why don’t I enjoy this? Simply put: I dislike assholes, even of the fictional variety.
11- Amnesia/Mistaken Identity
Amnesia is the perfect excuse for a character to start off with a clean slate. Mistaken identity books are also lots of fun to read. They’re almost always used when the protagonist has an identical twin. Every twin book you’ve read has this trope in some form or other.
12- Love at First Sight
Not to be confused with lust at first sight apparently. This is another trope that seems a bit lazy to me. There must be some basis for a relationship other than mutual attraction/
13- Soul Mates/Destined to be Together
Not sure why this is it’s own trope, since I’m pretty sure this applies to all romance novels with a Happy Ending. But it can act as a catch-all for books difficult to categorize.
These are just the main/classical tropes romance authors use. Don’t worry there are plenty more variations out there so you’ll never become bored. An example of a great twist on the fake relationship trope is The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang. A woman with Asperger’s hires a male prostitute to gain sexual experience. Snagged your attention yet?
I should point out that plot themes are not to be confused with sub-genres such as: Western, military, contemporary, Erotica, paranormal, YA…etc. In other words, every intergalactic mail-order-bride novel you’ve read has a trope in there 😊
Good luck identifying the tropes on your current read-list, if you’re into that sort of thing. And as always Happy Reading 📖