10 Top Romance Tropes Readers Love

woman reading romance novel full of romance tropes

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

If you’re writing a romance novel, you understand the importance of delivering the moment. It’s what everyone’s been waiting for since the first page. It’s when suddenly… everything makes sense. Two characters share an experience that brings their universe into balance. This moment is a romance trope — a plot device utilized in the romance genre that solidifies how and when a love story begins.

No matter the author or subgenre, there is no escaping the inevitability of romance tropes. Writers have been creatively utilizing them in stories for as long as the romance genre has been published. And yet, they still pack a literary punch that feels entirely refreshing and new.

If their books are to succeed, romance writers absolutely must deliver a compelling trope. Every novel has the “aha!” moment that makes readers realize that all the pent-up frustration has been worth it. Why? Because against all odds, a beautiful force brought two lovers together.

Whether you’re a die-hard romance reader or a writer, you understand a trope’s significance in a love story — it’s the defining aspect of the romance genre. So, let’s take a deep dive into the wonderful world of romance tropes to study how the best authors use them and how you can incorporate satisfying romantic tropes in your writing.

Before I take you on a journey through the diverse world of popular romance tropes, I want you to take some time to think about your favorite examples. The most compelling thing about love (both fictional and real) is its randomness. The world has over seven billion people, but amongst the vastness, two people find their way to their perfect match. It might be luck. It might be fate. Whatever it is, it’s one of life’s greatest beauties. So, how does even the most improbable love become a reality? Let’s explore the best romance tropes to find out.

Enemies to lovers

I could not resist putting this one first on the list. There’s nothing quite like experiencing the rollercoaster of tension between two protagonists and the satisfaction that comes when they recognize their true feelings under layers of angst. Enemies-to-lovers novels demonstrate the delicate balance that holds human emotions together — particularly when it comes to love and hate.

If you want to dazzle readers, consider implementing this trope in your story. Consider Sally Thorne’s novel, The Hating Game for inspiration. In the book, two opposite coworkers are forced to be together for tens of hours in a competitive work environment. There’s no way to describe their relationship other than true hatred. But the powerful emotions of hate fade with a timely elevator ride — and hatred is replaced with passion. Stories like these demonstrate how our true feelings are often hidden deep within us, and extracting those emotions makes for a juicy story.

Forbidden love

Sometimes there is nothing you want more than what you cannot have. With that, I present to you the appeal of forbidden love stories. These novels pose the question, Can love conquer all things?

Tragedy is a crucial theme of forbidden love stories. Obviously, the many insurmountable obstacles preventing two lovers from being together present a devastating scenario. The forbidden love trope serves as a reminder that sometimes, love can be brutal. Many of the most celebrated forbidden love stories, such as Romeo and Juliet, end in tragedy. Despite tragic endings, they remain true to the inherent optimism of the romance genre. They make readers believe love exists, which is a beautiful and optimistic thing.

Childhood friends

This romance trope is more common in young adult romance novels, particularly because they portray love in its innocence rather than its maturity. These stories involve two characters who have known each other since they were young and have developed a meaningful friendship. But what if that friendship turns into something more?

Novels that implement this trope frequently express the confusion, turmoil, and satisfaction of first love. These storylines make the characters confront a difficult reality — their love can ruin what once was a sincere friendship. On the other hand, love is something worth risking everything to achieve.

Second chance romance

5 Steps to Self-PublishingSecond chance romance stories are healing and hopeful. Some of the best-selling romance writers of all time have implemented this trope into their stories, like Nicholas Sparks’ book, The Notebook.

There are several different ways to tell a story like this. For example, a second chance romance can involve someone finding happiness after previous heartbreak and loss. It can involve one character giving the other one more chance. Or this trope can depict separated lovers who reunite and have one last chance to rediscover the spark that once lit between them. Often, readers believe in the characters and their ability to love. It’s up to the protagonists to believe they can love again.

Forced proximity

This popular romance trope is always juicy to read. Think about two characters who have had feelings developing for a while but something is making them resist. Maybe it’s self-preservation, insecurity, or just nerves. Regardless, in this trope, two lovers spend so much time denying their love until suddenly finding themselves alone in a small room…

Maybe they are the first to arrive at a small gathering. Or maybe they are together in a car that breaks down — leaving them alone for hours waiting for help to arrive. However it plays out, forced proximity shows that sometimes close, physical proximity breaks down the walls that prevented passion for far too long.

Fake relationship

This trope is always fun for both writers and readers. It plays out when two people pretend to have a romantic relationship. Sometimes they fake it to fit into a social outing. Sometimes it’s just a dumb high school scheme. Or it could be a completely different scenario — like an arranged marriage.

Regardless of how it plays out, there should always be subtle signs that indicate their love is much more than an acting job. The fun part comes when they realize that there actually is something there, and faking it was an unconventional beginning to their love story. I find fake relationship romances to be a charming, endearing, and humorous version of a feel-good story.

Love triangle

Love triangles can bring plenty of drama and hurt feelings. But there is something compelling about a love story that involves more than two people. This trope is exactly as the name indicates — three (sometimes more) people are connected emotionally and romantically and there is conflict to determine how it will end in harmony.

The Do's and Don'ts of Planning a Book LaunchYou can easily fall victim to clichés here, but there are ways to tell an original love triangle story. Best-selling author Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a perfect example of that. The story begs the question, What happens if all your crushes find out how you felt about them at the same time? The protagonist, Lara, keeps all her love letters in a secret box. It consists of five letters written to five different boys. When they unexpectedly get mailed, each recipient learns how Lara really feels. It evolves into a messy, complicated, but intriguing love story.

The bet

This trope often involves an alpha or dominating male. As a joke, someone will dare him to ask out a girl he would usually never speak to. Soon after, what starts as a bet evolves into sincere love. But like most of these tropes… it’s complicated.

When the love interest finds out their romance started as a joke/bet, she no longer trusts him. But this act breaks his heart as he has developed genuine feelings for her despite the comical beginning. Oh, how love can wound. In this trope, the main character frequently must prove himself to show that his love is real.

Opposites attract

There’s nothing quite like the charm of contradiction. In literature and film, opposites-attract romances are always exciting because conflict is at the core. But when two people (who seemingly have nothing in common) fall in love, it’s magical.

Tessa Bailey implements this trope wonderfully in her best-seller, It Happened One Summer. The book tells the story of a big-city girl and a rough-and-tough fisherman finding love. There is beauty in the story of how two completely different, guarded people slowly realize that the other offers the balance they needed all along.

Meet cute

This trope is possibly the most popular in romance literature despite being the least specific. Essentially, it’s the iconic moment when two lovers meet. As the name hints, it should be cute. So, what does that mean?

A cliché example would be dropping textbooks and eyes meeting as the handsome crush picks them up. However, this moment can be embarrassing! A Hollywood example comes from Zoey 101. Zoey first sees Chase and then proceeds to walk right into a flagpole. What matters in this trope is that it is memorable and endearing in its own way.

Incorporating romance tropes in your story

Now that I’ve gone over some of my favorite romance tropes, let’s talk about how you can implement them into your story.

Bring a fresh perspective

how to publish on Amazon guideAuthors have been using these tropes for hundreds of years, yet they remain relevant and interesting. But, you must bring something creative and new. You can do this with an unconventional setting. Think of a space romance — aliens in love! You also can challenge gender roles. There’s been a standard in both film and literature to make the male the alpha in most tropes. Challenge that. Have your female protagonist be the alpha. New perspectives will keep old tropes relevant, progressive, and inclusive.

End with optimism

There are two fundamental aspects to a romance novel. First, it chronicles a romantic relationship between two (or more) characters. Second, it builds to an optimistic conclusion. Whether the lovers end up together or not, the story must end with joy and a belief in love. Tragedy and sorrow certainly are important to many romance novels, but they cannot consume the final message. Your ending should always leave readers feeling warm and satisfied.

How to make a trope more modern

Romance tropes are imperfect. Historically, misogyny has plagued many of them. But you can be a part of the new movement of writers who challenge antiquated beliefs and stereotypes with progressive stories. Here are some ways to do that.

Challenge gender norms

Think about who says what in traditional romance novels. For the most part, the male is the domineering personality who takes control. Your characters can do the opposite. Think about how you can challenge every traditional romantic behavior that has been categorized by gender.

Empower women

Forget the damsel in distress. Female protagonists should be strong and courageous. Modern readers are not interested in any sort of insulting portrayal of women. Your readers want strong, indomitable women setting the tone in romance novels.

Celebrate diversity

When you are creating a character, think about our diverse world and the people in it. Your characters should be a diverse collection of individuals in terms of race, gender, and sexuality. Tell stories that celebrate love in every possible form and keep the genre new and refreshing.

Publish your romance novel with BookBaby

When you self-publish, you have complete control over your story. This creative freedom offers endless opportunities for you to implement established tropes in new ways that excite readers. If you’re still writing or just considering writing, remember the advice from this article. Get creative. Challenge the status quo. And always come from a place of love.

If you’re ready to publish your romance novel, you can get started today and speak with one of our publishing specialists (1-877-961-6878) to learn more about our self-publishing packages.

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