Romance Tropes I Love And Some I…Don’t

Romance Tropes

Hello, loves. It’s the week of Valentine’s Day, so of course I have to do an obligatory romance-centric post!

Though I do not write romance, I do occasionally read romance, and I watch romantic movies, and over the years I’ve come to really, really love some common tropes and despise others.

Aren’t All Tropes Bad?

Um, no. Many people confuse tropes with cliches.

See, a trope can be a character type, a setting, a theme, etc. They’re familiar, but good writers use their familiarity to put spins on their stories and to connect with readers and viewers alike.

Tropes become cliche when they’re overdone to the point the reader doesn’t have to guess what comes next because they’ve seen it a million times and the author does nothing to change things up and allows their reader to become bored.

Most stories use tropes of some kind. And even though I do not write strictly romance novels, I do incorporate romantic subplots into my work and use tropes in order to guide those subplots along.

Use tropes. Avoid cliches at all costs. Some of my least favorite tropes are cliches.

Let’s get to the heart of this post shall we? (See what I did there? Ahh, love.)

Five Romance Tropes I Don’t Love

(Disclaimer: It is perfectly fine if you like these tropes and use them in your writing. Everything is subjective.)

1.| The woman must give up her identity for the man. (Or vice-versa, actually.) Here we have a smart, sassy woman who is a total boss…but the man she falls for is insecure if he isn’t the breadwinner or whatever so the woman must choose between her career/lifestyle and her relationship. Now, I know that many times this winds up allowing the characters to go through some character growth by the end of the book, but it reads as manipulative and controlling and I’m not about that life.

2.| Abusive relationships. Okay, I’m not talking about a story where someone is in an abusive relationship and they escape it, overcoming all manners of obstacles to do so. I’m talking the romanticized abusive relationship where readers likely want the victim to find a way to free themselves from their abuser…but they don’t because reasons. It especially bothers me when I hear this trope is used in a YA novel—I don’t read YA, but I do hear certain things. Why on earth we want to normalize abusive relationships especially to youth is beyond me. If I am going to finish a book with this theme, I better have strong hints that someone is going to get their comeuppance. (Similar tropes: Kidnapper/Stockholm syndrome, blackmailer, stalker-turned-lover)

3. | Sexy people who do not know they’re sexy. I don’t know why this bothers me, but it’s like when someone who is thin talks about how fat they are. Stop. I don’t want characters to be conceited either, but some self-awareness would be great. I’m trying to think of some places this didn’t bug me and at first I thought of Ms. Congeniality, but then I remember that scene where the agents are using some sort of software to analyze the agents’ bodies and I’m like…yeah, no. Still don’t care for it.

4. | The virgin who is a natural sex god/goddess. Sex, especially the first time, is not something you’d see in a late-night Cinemax movie. It irks me when someone loses their virginity and they somehow know how to do everything and they do it without the slightest bit of trepidation at the sight of unfamiliar body parts. It especially irks me when losing their virginity is used as a device to prove themselves in some way to a more sexually experienced partner.

5.| Perpetual damsel in distress. So, give me a lover who will gladly put themselves in harm’s way to save the love of their life. Hell, put them in harm’s way so I can have a heart-pumping-oh-my-lanta-you-must-save-them moment. But if you have a female lead who is always in peril and who can never do anything to save herself…you’ve lost me. I guarantee I want her lover to save her once or twice or three times a charm, but I also want her to be capable of helping herself, too. I love kick-ass lady leads.

Five Romance Tropes I Love

(Disclaimer: It’s perfectly fine if you hate these tropes and do not wish to use them in your writing. After all, everything is subjective.)

1. | Enemies to lovers. Ooooooooh, now we’re talking. I love it when two people grate on each other’s nerves upon meeting and then keep getting shoved into scenarios where they must be around each other, then one or both start seeing the other in a new light and things escalate until they finally realize they’ve fallen truly, madly, deeply.

2. | The protector. Okay, so sometimes when this is done poorly it falls into the perpetual damsel in distress trope, but I love when someone has been tasked with protecting someone from harm and they wind up falling in love—so long as the one they are protecting gives them a run for their money and protects themselves, bonus points if they wind up protecting the protector! When written with skill, this is an amazing trope. Love it.

3. | Reunion/Returning home. Okay, so many examples come to mind when thinking of this trope. The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (OMG THOSE BOOKS!), Hope Floats, Sweet Home Alabama…all of these stories have the main character going through some sort of crisis, a catalyst that causes them to return to their hometowns. They learn about themselves, they question everything they’ve known about love and commitment, and they grow…with a love interest who never left town in the first place.

4. | Forbidden Love. Someone or something is determined to keep our lovers apart…and I am totally here for their struggle to be together. They face danger together, they exchange secret letters and glances across crowded rooms. At one point or another it becomes clear their being together may be their demise…but failure isn’t an option. This particular trope creates drama and tension unlike any other and it’s damn delicious.

5. | Rocky relationships. This is not to be confused with an abusive relationship. But relationships are hard, and with this trope we watch two people who love each other go through a gauntlet of issues. We’re always wondering if they’ll overcome or call it quits come the end of the book. This sometimes gets coupled with a redemption trope where one lover must atone for their egregious mistakes. Either way, I love when my couple get their happily ever after.

Speaking of HEA…

Isn’t the happily ever after itself an overdone romance trope/cliche?


If you don’t want to give your couple a happily-ever-after ending, that’s fine…but it will no longer be a romance novel. At least not according to the Romance Writers of America, and I pretty much consider them an authority on the topic.

Straight from their website:

Romance defined

Click here to see more of the RWA’s definition of romance as a genre.

In case that’s too small to read:

An emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending: in a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.

So, stop hating on the happily ever after, mmkay?

That’s all I’ve got for you this week friends! ♥

Happy [early] Valentine’s Day! ♥

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2 thoughts on “Romance Tropes I Love And Some I…Don’t

  1. AuthorSarahKrewis says:

    I’m irked that just because there is no HEA then that means it’s not romance at all. I’m more of a fan of endings like The Hunger Games. The ending is so tragic it’s almost not happy. Of course, I still believe that book trilogy is a romance. Ha! Love seeing your prospective on things like this. Like you said, it’s all subjective.


    • Aila Stephens says:

      A book can be romantic without being a Romance, though. Romance as a genre has a HEA because that is what the diehard fans of Romance novels expect—same as a Detective novel fan expects the mystery to be solved or an Adventure novel fan expects…an adventure. I believe I’ve seen the term “unspoken contract” bandied about, between the Romance author and the Romance reader. Even Romeo and Juliet isn’t a true Romance; it’s a Romantic Tragedy.

      Truth be told, some books are just hard to categorize anyway.


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