Top Ten Tuesday: Romance Tropes


The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Top Ten Things I Like/Dislike When It Comes To Romances In Books (can do a full list or split it up in likes/dislikes or even things you want to see MORE of in romances in fiction)

I am reading more and more romances these days, and of course every YA in existence has to have the Romance Plot for some strange reason. So this is a grab bag of general tropes and more genre-specific ones.

Kill it, kill it with fire: Things I dislike

1. The Love Triangle

Honestly, I expect this to be a negative on a lot of lists, which makes me wonder why the hell publishers are still going for it. Love triangles are lazy. They’re almost always unequal (you can pretty much always tell who’s ending up together). They universally revolve around one super special girl who is attractive to the love interests for the sole reason that she is the audience substitute. Ugh. Unless you subvert the trope with the two boys getting together (or two girls!) count me out.

2. She Cleans Up Nicely

Ah, the makeover trope. Honestly, sometimes makeover scenes can be fun. But I really resent the implications of this trope. First, that the heroine is always revealed to be stunningly attractive if only she would dress/act a certain way, second that she is only worthy of attention, admiration, or love once she fits a set of very narrow physical standards.


3. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl

AKA, she exists solely to better the life of the romantic lead. She has no arc to call her own. Her personality is a pile of random and annoying quirks. She is pure wish fulfillment fantasy.

4. All Men Are Rapists

Sometimes you can see this coming a mile away, but I hate it more when it sneaks up on you. You’re going along the fine line of will-they-won’t-they tension when boom, suddenly things get rape-y. Dubious consent is never cool. It’s not cool in historicals, it’s not cool in YA, it’s not cool in New Adult, it’s not cool in Paranormals, it’s not cool anywhere. It perpetuates an idea both that men are inherently animal and uncontrollable, and that you can “change” them with the power of your love. No. No no no. A thousand times no.


5. Babies Ever After.

The heterosexual romantic leads go through the sizzle and the tension of the story. They have their adventures. And then boom….BABIES. Because literally the only way to live a proper Happily Ever After is to settle down to rigidly defined gender roles and procreate. Look, I know lots of people with kids. They’re mostly pretty happy. But not EVERYONE has to have kids, they are not the universal marker of happiness. I don’t need every single HEA to include babies.

More more more: Things I love and want to see more of

6. Male virgins.

This is a romance novel thing, in particular. I love me a good Alphole womanizer working his way through the saucy widows of the ton , but it gets old. And then: magic. Every once in a while you find the unicorn trope: the male virgin. (Of course, they don’t stay virgins, this being romance novel land, but I don’t personally think it would be bad if they did). I can only think of two examples off the top of my head. They’re generally more Beta heroes, but equally as hot. This is a trend I could definitely use more of.


7. Handsome Devil.

On the other hand, sometimes you (you being me), just want a criminally hot lead who’s really gonna be trouble, but is just too hot for the heroine to resist.


8. Unresolved Sexual Tension.

When it comes to will-they-won’t-they, I’m far more interested in the won’t-they. Yeah yeah yeah, it’s nice and all to have your favorite couples settle down and be happy, but that’s boring. (UST also goes hand in hand with angst in many cases, and I am a bonafide angst whore, so…)


9. Interracial/Inter-cultural romance

This is something that I’ve just started exploring and realizing that I want more of. Literature is so often default white, and too often otherness is either demonized or fetishized. Neither is good. But inter-cultural romance has a lot of dramatic potential, a lot of conflict potential, and is just plain an accurate representation of the world. So I really want to see more examples of romance where different cultures are explored and the implications of race and racism are treated well.


Without going on a tirade about my personal views, I will say that I believe that sexuality is fluid, and there is a spectrum, and where you are on it at one point in your life may change at another. I love heteronormative romances. There are plenty of them, But this is a wide, wide world full of different people with different personalities, life experiences, wants and needs. I want to see more gay and lesbian protagonists. I want to see more bisexual protagonists. I want to see transgender, and gender-fluid protagonists. I want to see asexual protagonists. I want them to be defined as characters by more than their sexuality (or lack thereof), but I also want to see them having fulfilling romances, and transforming the usual tropes.



So there you have it. What are your favorite/least favorite romance tropes?



1 Comment

Filed under Book Talk

One response to “Top Ten Tuesday: Romance Tropes

  1. rudejasper

    You describe the problem with love triangles very well. It is sort of a puzzle why they show up so frequently. And THANK YOU for number 5 – kids are fine but they are not the ultimate goal for everyone. Great list! Pretty much agree with all.

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