There are so many brilliant ways to pick a next read, and if you’re a mood-reader like me, then you understand the importance of giving your TBR a thematic structure. This is where romance novel tropes factor into my reading plan.
What is a trope?
A trope is a recurring element or theme in different pieces of literature that has its unique defining characteristics. Tropes in romance novels push the plot forward and determine the overall tone of a book.
They aren’t genre-specific, so you could see similar undertones in other genres aside from romance.
Tropes are important to readers because they serve as a jumping-off point for them, and, If utilised properly in a book, could encourage readers to pick it up and share the word with their community.
Below is a list of the most popular romance tropes in literature and a few recommendations to kick-start your reading journey.
Romance Novel Tropes
1. Enemies To Lovers Trope.
This is perhaps the most popular trope. For enemies-to-lovers trope, the protagonists start off hating each other. They usually quarrel, go out of their way to cause trouble, and don’t mind sabotaging the other’s plans.
The turning point where they become tired of the feud and realise that it’s no longer hate fuelling their actions, but something deeper is usually clear to see—especially when it is in the first-person POV.
2. Friends to Lovers Trope.
This is the opposite of enemies-to-lovers trope. In this case, they might have been friends for a long time and the book starts off with them discovering that their feelings have morphed into something bigger.
It’s always exhilarating watching their feelings evolve into this very uncomfortable thing in the room. Books like these are usually tension-packed, and the remodeling of their relationship dynamic is always heartfelt and considerate.
Popular examples include: Wanna Bet? by Talia Hibbert; Irresponsible Puckboy by Eden Finley and Saxon James; The Fire Between High & Lo by Brittainy Cherry; and People We Meet On Vacation by Emily Henry
3. Rivals Trope.
The rivals trope comes to play when the protagonists are on opposing sides of something: it could be a contest, their businesses, or competing in their workplace for a promotion. A popular young-adult romance novel with this trope is Made in Korea by Sarah Suk and The Holiday Switch by Tif Marcelo.
4. Co-workers Trope.
The co-workers trope is another very popular trope and has inspired popular books like The Hating Game by Sally Thorne that was adapted into a movie in 2021.
Typically, the protagonists would be working together in some capacity and might be hesitant about breaching company fraternization policies and what not.
The co-workers trope is characterised by longing looks, hidden glances and secret meetups.
5. Forced Proximity Trope.
This is when the protagonists are forced to be close to each other for a period of time. They usually emerge in love at the end of their stay, but the first encounter is usually hellish and trying on them.
They could have been forced to be together because of an illness; a work-trip they can’t back out of; a double booking that led them to living together; a weather problem; an elevator malfunction; or they become co-inheritors of a property.
A popular example of a book with the forced proximity is Under One Roof by Ali Hazelwood (co-inheritors) and The Flat Share by Beth O’Leary (forced cohabitation).
6. Destiny/Mates Trope.
The destiny/mates trope features characters that believe they were made because of each other. Some authors even go as far as making it so that their characters cannot copulate or have any type of romantic relationship with anybody except their mate.
While this trope can be found in any sub-genre of romance, it’s pretty popular in fantasy romance—werewolves, fairies, vampires, and other creatures.
7. Childhood Friends to Lovers Trope.
This is my favourite trope! For the childhood sweethearts trope, the protagonists would have met as children and developed a fondness for each other.
After this, they might be moved and fallen out of contact, or time passed and they would no longer be on good terms. Oftentimes, their relationship hits a snag because of a silly misunderstanding. Either way, it’s always beautiful when they finally find their ways back to each other.
Popular books with this trope include: A Thousand Boy Kisses by Tillie Cole; Room Hate by Penelope Ward; and Cruel Prince by Ashley Jade
8. Forbidden Love Trope.
For this trope, the protagonists will employ military-grade hiding skills because, for some reason, they aren’t allowed to be together. It could be that their families are enemies; they work in competing firms; their fate depends on the other’s loss; or that theirs is an illicit relationship.
You can find many books like this in the mafia romance sub-genre. Some popular titles with this trope include: Long Shot by Kennedy Ryan; A Pho Love Story; and Simmer Down by Sarah Smith.
9. Second Chance Trope.
The second-chance trope is another wildly popular trope. Basically, the protagonists would have been in a romantic relationship before, but circumstances forced them apart—and then they get their second-chance at love.
They could have been forced apart because of their family issues, a misunderstanding, a divorce, or a compulsory move.
Popular books with this trope include: You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle; Persuasion by Jane Austen; A Lot Like Adios by Alexis Daria; Don’t Overthink This by Kelly Piazza; and The Heiress Hunt by Joanna Shupe.
10. The Bet Trope.
You might recognise this trope from After by Anna Todd—which has been adapted into a movie. This is when the protagonist (usually the male) makes a bet that leads him to interacting with the female protagonist.
The third-act is usually full of drama, so watch out if you aren’t a fan of breakups three-quarters down the book.
Other examples are: Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie; After The Kiss by Lauren Layne; A Summer To Remember by Mary Balogh; and Dare To You by Katie McGarry.
11. Fake Relationship Trope.
The fake relationship trope is another common denominator in romance novels. Typically, the protagonists pretend to be in a relationship to get a job, or to convince their parents to stop setting them on dates; or to impress someone.
I really like this trope because the turmoil they face when they realise that they’re slowly falling in love is always so romantic.
Popular books with this trope include: Fake It Till You Bake It by Jamie Wesley; For Butter or For Worse by Erin La Rosa; Fake It Till You Break It by Jenn P. Nguyen; and Four Weeks of Scandal by Megan Frampton.
12. Opposites Attract or Sunshine and Grumpy Trope.
This is another trope that’s wildly popular with readers, because, while the protagonists have different personalities, their common ground makes them a suitable match.
Some popular books with this trope are: The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood; It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey; Always Only You by Chloe Leise; and Make It Sweet by Kristen Callihan.
13. Beauty and the Beast Trope.
This trope usually features a jaded, scarred, reclusive protagonist—not unlike the Beast in the original fairytale—that develops feelings for an almost ethereal person close to them.
Popular books include: The Beast of Beswick by Amalie Howard; My Darling Duke by Stacy Reid; The Cold King by Amber Jaeger; and Love is Blind by Lynsay Sands.
14. Secret Baby Trope.
This trope can be said to be at play when the female protagonist gives birth to a child and hides it from the male protagonist.Usually, the male protagonist eventually finds out about the baby’s existence and bonds with the child.
Some books with the secret baby trope include: Fumbled by Alexa Martin; A Baby Bargain by Jennifer Apodacca; Home For Christmas by Nora Roberts; and Wait For Me by Tia Louise.
15. Long Distance Relationship Trope.
Whether their partner lives in another state, country, time, or realm, one thing that’s sure is that books with the long-distance relationship trope always deliver on the swoonworthy, intense meetings and partings.
This is one of my favourite tropes because of how the author makes their characters fight tooth-and-nail for their love. The longing, angst, and eventual meeting is always passionate and earnest.
Some really fun books with this trope include: Red, White, and Royal blue by Casey McQuiston; You Say It First by Katie Cotugno; The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger; With and Without You by Emily Wibberley; and Smitten by Lauren Lowe.
16. Unrequited Love Trope.
If you want mooning and angst, then you can never go wrong with the unrequited love trope. This is when one character has had feelings for the other character for a long time, but their feelings haven’t been reciprocated.
Stellar titles with this trope include: When The Duke Was Wicked by Lorraine Heath; Ravishing The Heiress by Sherry Thomas; Hero by Samantha Young; and Unbreak My Heart by Nicole Jacquelyn.
17. Single-parent Romance Trope.
For books with this trope, the protagonist usually has sole custody of their child as a result of death, divorce, or they stepped up to take care of their sibling’s child.
Popular books with this trope include: Look The Part by Jewel E. Ann; The Takeover by T. L. Swan; Tempest by Beverly Jenkins; Juniper Hill by Devney Perry; and Wait For It by Marina Zapata.
18. Widow and Widower Trope.
I like this trope because the character development always delivers, and it isn’t hard to see why the characters fall in love. The protagonists are usually wary—skittish might be a better word—about opening up their hearts since they have experienced loss.
Some books with this trope are: Night in Eden by Candice Proctor; and The Suite Spot by Trish Doller.
19. Neighbors to Lovers Trope.
There are so many things to love about the neighbors-to-lovers trope, but one reason I always keep coming back to it is the seamless progression of their romance.
From planning dates and cookouts, to sleeping arrangements, to meeting the families and what not, the level of cuteness always makes me so happy.
Some books with this trope are: Blurred Lines by Jessica Prince; Fake It Till You Break It by Jenn P. Nguyen; Hosed by Pippa Grant and Lilli Valente; and A Girl Like Her by Talia Hibbert.
20. Sibling’s Friend and Friend’s Sibling Trope.
This trope is usually very comical because of all the pretending, lying, and planning of clandestine, nocturnal meetings when they finally get together.
Some books with this trope include: The Boyfriend Effect by Kendall Ryan; Saint by Sierra Simone; An Inconvenient Duke by Anna Harrington; and Make Me Yours by Melanie Harlow.
Tropes aren’t going anywhere soon—and with good reason! They help readers find their tribe and encourage us to fill our libraries with books that we love.
When I come across a book that has a theme I can connect with, I automatically go in search for similar books, and, If you ask me, that’s really amazing!
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