While many literary the tropes are harmless, some of the more problematic tropes may have too much influence over the minds of younger readers.
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Love them or hate them, when talking about romance, the use of tropes is almost always inevitable. And while some are great for setting up a story and building the relationship between the characters, some others are…not as great. Here is a list of popular romance tropes ranked from worst to best:
9. Alpha males
This one is just a big no. Seriously, every time the girl characters (because it is almost always a girl character) encounters an “alpha male” I just want to tell her to turn in the other direction, run as fast as she can, and never look back. It’s just so incredibly toxic most of the time and it involves a lot of jealousy and controlling in the name of love. And worst of all is the complete lack of apologies and growth from the male characters. Their behavior is often excused or brushed off in a “they did it because they love them/they don’t know how to express their emotions” type of way. I’d recommend therapy instead of romance. This trope was very popular a few years ago, but I think society has progressed past the need for it.
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This one is just so out there that it makes me wonder how it got so popular in the first place. What are the chances that there’s going to be a single, young, attractive, and incredibly rich person just lying around? I think vampires are more plausible. Also, they are usually big assholes and the power dynamics of the relationship tend to be very skewed. Probably still less problematic than the “alpha male” trope, though, so it gets to be a little higher on the list.
This one is usually not super problematic but just…lazy? Boring? Instead of building up a relationship, these two characters just fall in love with each other instantly for some unknown reason. It’s cheesy and a little bit unrealistic. More could be done to build some tension between the characters and make it more gripping, but sadly it doesn’t work out that way.
6. Love triangles
This is probably one of the most hated romance tropes out there, but I have to admit, if done correctly it can be GREAT, but it is low on the list because of the many time it has been done wrong. Usually, there’s character A who is attracted to (or in love with) both character B and character C, but the thing is, sometimes B is CLEARLY better than C for many reasons, but character A still struggles to pick one of them. Not to mention that all of this indecision really hurts the characters’ feelings and makes the whole thing seem ridiculous, and sometimes they still manage to pick wrong.
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5. Second Chance
While I think that there is something really sweet about second-chance romances, like the “you don’t stop loving a person even if you’re not together anymore” part of many of these, second-chance romance a lot of the times happens because there were miscommunication issues and the whole thing could’ve been avoided if the characters just had an honest conversation with each other. This one is definitely another one of those that the amount of like I have for it depends on how it is handled. Still, not one I reach for often so it goes lower on the list.
Cheesy, yes, but there’s something so romantic about it. And after all, that’s kind of what you’re hoping for in a romance, no? And of course, because things can’t be as simple as two characters loving each other, soulmate stories usually come with impossible circumstances and many obstacles that try (and fail) to tear the protagonists apart, which just makes it all so much more entertaining, heart-wrenching, and swoon-worthy.
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3. friends to lovers
This one is just wholesome. The two characters already have a connection with each other through their friendship, but then it turns into something else, and then there’s that fear of professing their feeling because they don’t want to ruin the friendship. Altogether very nice.
My favorite friends to lovers reads:
Emma by Jane Austen
Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
2. fake dating/Marriage
The amount of angst and pinning on these types of romance is TROUGH THE ROOF. It starts off as the characters trying to get something out of this fake relationship, but then things get a little out of hand and they fall in love. It is especially good because while they are both clearly in love with each other, the character thinks that it is all still pretend and that their feelings are unrequited. Needless to say the build-up is excruciating but the pay off when they finally admit their feelings and start a real relationship is totally worth it.
My favorite fake dating/marriage reads:
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
1. enemies to lovers
You know these two are going to end up together at the end, but they’re going to make you wait for it. Watching the two characters grow from petty enemies or characters on opposite sides of a conflict to (sometimes reluctant) allies to lovers is so *chef’s kiss*. It can also be done very wrong if it includes some of the aspects mentioned before like not apologizing or making up for shitty behavior, but if done right it is just immaculate. It has the tension, the yearning, the internal conflict, and even the odds working against them. Overall 10/10.
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My favorite enemies to lovers reads:
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Adhieh
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
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