Tropes. Every genre has got them. Every genre has a formula and specific plot points that it follows. But for some reason, the romance genre is extra made fun of for its use of tropes. Many call romance formulaic, but that’s not any more true than any other genre of fiction (or literary fiction, but that’s different rant for a different post). Tropes are what intrigue people to read or pick up a book. A horror reader would not pick up a book with vampires if they do not enjoy the vampire trope.
So, I wanted to share 5 of my favorite romance tropes. These will be more broad tropes, but I will probably make a list of my favorite overly specific tropes in the future. With that being said, here are my 5 personal favorite tropes.
This trope is my absolute favorite trope and pairs so well with romance series! Since romance series commonly follow a different couple for each book, friend groups and found families can be found quite a bit within the genre.
I love books with a large cast of characters and seeing those characters pair off, fall in love, and grow into a found family is so, so satisfying. My favorite found families include the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward and Lord of London Town by Tillie Cole.
Okay, so this may be my most controversial pick. I cannot explain why I love age gap romances, but there is something about the taboo-ness of the trope that makes the romances feel more satisfying. I personally love it even more when the heroine is the older character, and the hero is the younger character (in a straight romance).
Of course, everyone needs to be of the age to consent and have consensual relationships. Age gaps are tricky to pull off to ensure the younger character isn’t too immature, the older character isn’t creepy, and the romance is believable.
Giana Darling is a rockstar at writing age gap romances! One of her romances even has a 19-year age gap but is beloved within the romance community. I don’t think anyone has written age gap better than Giana Darling. Check out the Fallen Men series in particular. Once you meet Zeus Garro, you will thank me.
As with every trope on this list, I am obsessed with grump/sunshine romances. It’s the opposites attract with the sunshine character pulling the grump character out of their shell. Bonus points if the hero is the sunshine and the heroine is the grump or if at some point the two characters switch places because of trauma.
One, just in general, I need more grumpy heroines with sunshiney men. I need it in my life, please. But I can’t deny that I love me a good grumpy hero. Check out the Brown Sisters series by Talia Hibbert for this trope. Book 3 has an amazing grumpy hero. For a more serious pick, check out Running Barefoot by Amy Harmon. This book starts with a grumpy hero with a heroine who helps him heal, but eventually, he must return the favor and help her heal.
Virgin Hero/Scarred Hero
I totally cheated here, but I couldn’t help it. I wanted to keep this list to 5, and I couldn’t choose.
I really love the virgin hero trope because it breaks a lot of common tropes, or criticisms, of the romance genre. Oftentimes, we get an experienced hero with a virgin heroine, so when the roles are reversed, it is a nice change of pace. My main recommendation is the third book in the Hades Hangmen series by Tillie Cole. The hero in this book of the series is Flame and ugh, speaking of wonderful but scarred heroes. . . .
Flame! Emotionally scarred, physically scarred. You name it, Flame’s got it. But similarly to the satisfaction that comes from a taboo romance, reading a romance where the hero must heal and grow through love is really satisfying, if not a little cheesy. My favorite scarred hero comes from The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare. This historical romance is a Beauty and the Beast retelling but is hilarious, heartwarming, and has a scarred (but secretly soft) hero.
Last and certainly not least, female friendships. Similar to found family, having a different couple in each book in romance series allows romance novels to build up female friendships and friend groups. The genre has gone through a major facelift with the way that female characters have treated each other, and I believe that female friendships have become an integral part of the character development of many heroines. Girl hate has de-escalated or at least evolved into something more nuanced, which allows the friendships to shine through.
My easy favorite of this trope is Rock Chicks by Kristen Ashley. Another all-time favorite series! This series is hilarious and wacky and comes with a whole group of characters including a strip club owner, a drag queen, and an ex-con Vietnam War vet who babysits cats and ends up being a barista. And that is not even including the heroines. This series is completely over-the-top and silly but such a romp if you are having a bad day. Plus, the friendship between these women is literally ride or die. I’m serious. There are car chases.
Romances are so diverse that it is nearly impossible to pick only 5 tropes as my favorites, and the beauty of the genre is that if you don’t like these tropes, then you can choose from hundreds of more.
Romance, like any genre, is a genre that you simply have to read to cultivate your taste. Eventually, you will find your perfect romances and your perfect romance tropes.