7 Romance Tropes You’ll Have To Pry From My Cold, Dead Hands

These seven romance tropes have a chokehold on us and we’re okay with it. Read more to see why we love them, and which books you can find them in.

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Confession: I’m a sucker for a good romance. I’ve come to appreciate some romance tropes that are sometimes oddly specific but undeniably entertaining. Many will argue they’re predictable and overused, and to that, I say, so what? The world is an unpredictable mess, so let me enjoy stability in the form of two characters falling in love.

Nothing beats putting two potential romantic partners in situations that force them to reveal their true feelings for each other. I want the angst, the fluff, the drama, the longing, the pining, all. of. it. And if I can’t find it in a book, movie, or TV show, you best believe I’ll turn to ol’ reliable (i.e. Ao3 or Fanfiction.net).

Read on for a dive into my psyche— *ahem* I mean, a dive into seven of my favorite, oddly specific romance tropes I can’t get enough of. Plus, so you don’t have to go scrounging around on Ao3 or Fanfic, I’ve rounded up some juicy romance books that feature one or more of these tropes.

1. Friends to Lovers

romance tropes: People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry, Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren, and Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare book covers
IMAGE VIA SAVANNAH SWANSON, BOOKSTR

I love a good love-at-first-sight moment, but even better is the I’ve-always-seen-you-as-a-friend-but-now-I-think-I-love-you realization. When it’s done right, the moment where sparks begin to fly between two people who previously had a platonic relationship is a beautiful, heartwarming thing.

This trope kicks up a notch when one of the people in the relationship tries to deny their feelings or write them off as something else. It makes that moment where they both admit their feelings all the more satisfying.

Our Recommendations: People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry, Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren, and Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

2. Enemies to Lovers

romance tropes: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, and The Cruel Prince by Holly Black book covers
IMAGE VIA SAVANNAH SWANSON, BOOKSTR

What’s better than friends who become lovers? Two people who hate each other, but then suddenly… they don’t. The enemies-to-lovers trope is arguably the most popular romance trope. I mean, who doesn’t love shouting, “JUST KISS ALREADY!” every time the two characters argue?

The appeal of the enemies-to-lovers trope is undoubtedly the ~tension~ that builds between the two lovebirds. There’s nothing more satisfying than when that tension snaps and they (angrily) declare their love for each other. That “because I love you!” declaration in the middle of a heated argument gets me every. single. time.

Our Recommendations: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, and The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

3. Forbidden Love

romance tropes: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo, These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong, From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout book covers
IMAGE VIA SAVANNAH SWANSON, BOOKSTR

Ah, yes. The classic Romeo and Juliet situation. Forbidden love.

There are two different kinds of scenarios that we see play out with this trope. The first is simple: two people fall in love despite knowing they shouldn’t. So, they keep their relationship a secret. There’s secret rendezvous, stolen glances at each other, etc. It’s delicious.

The next scenario is, in my opinion, more fun. The two characters feel a mutual attraction, but they don’t act on it and spend the majority of the book trying to deny their feelings for each other. Instead of secret rendezvous, there’s dramatic pining and longing for each other, secret glances when one thinks the other isn’t looking, and the eventual moment where the tension comes to a head and all is revealed.

Our Recommendations: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo, These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong, From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout

4. Fake Relationship

romance tropes: Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert, The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood, and Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall book covers
IMAGE VIA SAVANNAH SWANSON, BOOKSTR

What happens when a fake relationship between two people starts to turn into a real relationship? Glorious entertainment for readers, that’s what.

A fake relationship starts for a number of reasons: a character might be trying to prove to someone that they’re in a relationship, or maybe the two characters decide that pretending to be together is mutually beneficial for both of them in some way.

Whatever the reason for fake dating, the ruse becomes so convincing that eventually, the two fall in love. It’s adorable and incredibly satisfying to see two people realize they’re perfect for each other. You can argue that it’s obvious they’re going to fall in love, but you know what? Let me enjoy it. It’s cute and gives me the warm and fuzzies.

Our Recommendations: Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert, The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood, and Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

5. Forced Proximity, Stuck Together

romance tropes: Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibbert, For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten, and Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson book covers
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If you can’t get them to fall in love under normal circumstances, force them to fall in love.

The forced proximity or stuck together trope is similar to the fake relationship trope, but with a twist. Two characters (who usually hate each other) are forced to work, live, or travel together. They constantly argue and bicker because what else are they going to do when forced to spend time with each other? But then something changes, and they start to fall for each other (gasp!).

Differences start to resolve themselves, they learn more about each other, and love blossoms between the two. Sometimes all you need to do is lock two people in a room and not let them out until they love each other.

Disclaimer: I don’t endorse locking yourself in a room with your crush so they’ll fall in love with you. It’s weird, creepy, and also probably illegal. Leave the forced proximity trope to the writers and their fictional romances.

Our Recommendations: Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibbert, For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten, and Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson

6. Morally Grey Love Interest

romance tropes: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, and The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller book covers
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It’s always talked about on Booktok, but now I’m going to gush about it here. The one, the only, the mysterious, dark-haired, morally grey love interest.

I. Love. Them.

Why you ask? Personally, I think it boils down to the fact that the mysterious love interest has walls they’ve built up, so seeing them come down for their love interest is so rewarding. At least, that’s my take on it. Everyone has their own reasons for loving the morally grey character.

They’re usually tortured emotionally or mentally, but don’t show it on the outside. They’re cold towards others, but show their soft side towards the main character. And when the morally grey character begins to fall for the main character? Ugh, *chef’s kiss*.

I mean, I could go on and on about this trope, but I won’t, because then I’d start a whole other article about all my favorite incarnations of this trope. For now, enjoy this little rant and dive into these books below.

Our Recommendations: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, and The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

7. “Who Did This to You?”/Injured Main Character

romance tropes: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young, and Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller book covers
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Alright, this one a lot of times goes hand in hand with the morally grey love interest trope (it’s also arguably my favorite trope).

You all know the drill: the main character hurts themselves, gets hurt, accidentally shows their scars, or starts crying. Then the love interest immediately comes to their aid and becomes super protective of them. It’s f**king perfect (cue flaming Elmo gif).

If the love interest is our beloved morally grey character, it’s even better. They get super angry (but also protective) and this reaction reveals just how much they care for the main character.

The injury could be as simple as stubbing a toe or getting a papercut to as dramatic as having a near-death experience (which happens a lot in fantasy books). Either way, the love interest comes to the rescue and their concern for the main character is incredibly endearing… and romantic.

Again, *chef’s kiss*.

Our Recommendations: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young, and Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller


So, what are you reading first? For more romance recommendations, check out our favorite dark romance series, or check out eight romance novels with BIPOC representation. Happy reading!

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