Top Ten Tuesday: Romance Tropes Edition

Top Ten Tuesday: Romance Tropes EditionTop Ten Tuesday Genres: Romance

Today's Top Ten Tuesday chosen theme is the top ten books of 2016. However, Obsidian and I are planning on doing two joint posts on New Years Eve to cover this topic (as well as worst books of 2016), so we've decided to go a different route for this Top Ten Tuesday! In honor of romance bingo, starting on 1/1/17, we've selected the following theme for today's Top Ten Tuesday:

The Top Ten Romance Tropes or Themes We Love (or Love to Hate):

Moonlight Reader:

5 Tropes/themes I love: 1. Man in a kilt: I’ve read a fair few Highland romances. Two of my favorites are Laird of the Mist, by Paula Quinn, and The Pride of Lions, by Marsha Canham. In addition, the Monica McCarty Highland Guard series is a bit silly, and becomes predictable pretty quickly, but it’s a definite guilty pleasure of mine! 2. Gothic romance. Obviously, I love gothic romance, since I have entire reading project devoted to these books primarily published in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Mary Stewart is a perennial favorite, and Nine Coaches Waiting is a great place to start, as is Victoria Holt. I recommend beginning either with The Shivering Sands or the Mistress of Mellyn! 3. Reformed Rake. I do love regency romance, and the reformed rake is a staple of that particular subgenre. My absolute favorite Lisa Kleypas historical of all time, The Devil in Winter, is a perfect example of this trope. The second book in Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series, The Viscount Who Loved Me also qualifies. 4. Marriage of Convenience. The first of the Bridgerton series – The Duke and I – fits into this trope. Georgette Heyer has a couple of fine marriage of convenience romances, including the unusual and well-written A Civil Contract. 5. Time travel. Obviously, Outlander is the most prominent example of this fish-out-of-water romance trope. I also enjoyed The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley for this one!

5 Tropes/themes I hate (obviously, I can’t offer any suggestions for these tropes, since I don’t read them, so I’ll just explain why I hate them) 6. Secret baby. I hate this trope with the passion of a thousand burning suns. It is wrong, wrong, wrong to withhold the news that a man has become a father from him, unless he’s actually, you know, raped the mother. And not just because of the man, kids have a right to know both sides of their family. 7. Millionaire/Billionaire. Ugh. Yuck. Barf. Have you see a picture of the Koch brothers? 8. Sheikh, sheikh, sheikh. Because nothing says romance like being held prisoner in a harem. 9. Forced Seduction. We actually call this rape these days. Uppity feminists demanding consent, etc. 10. Career women are all evil. This is a frequent corollary of the small town romance novel, and also a sub-theme of nearly every Hallmark Christmas movie ever made. As a career woman with children who enjoys stuff like shelter and food, it pisses me off.

Obsidian Blue:

Tropes/themes I love.

1. Man in a kilt: Look I know it’s a cliche, but I love it. I grew up loving every romance book that took place in the highlands. I remember at 18 wanting to finally travel there because I assumed that most of the men had long hair, wore kilts, and looked uber hot. Two of my favorites are The Secret, by Julie Garwood and The Bride also by Julie Garwood.

2. Strong/competent heroine: You would think that there would be more of this in romance novels, but honestly there’s a reason why the term too stupid to live (TSTL) started getting floated around years ago when referring to romance heroines. I love a romance heroine that knows her own mind, still wants to keep doing what she is doing, and doesn’t forget all ambition because she meets “the one.” And I love those that are just as strong or even stronger than their male love interests. Some of my favorites are Kate Daniels in the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews (see the first book, Magic Bites) and Mercy Thompson in the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs (see the first book, Moon Called). I love both of these women because they have walked through fire in their respective stories, and their love stories were not the easiest, but definitely worth it in the end.

3. Slow burn: I love romance novels that take their time with the hero and heroine getting together. It does not seem realistic to me to have two strangers all of a sudden saying I love you and getting married weeks after they marry. I love it when I can honestly see when they start to fall for each other and why. A lot of series I still read to this day do this wonderfully over several books instead of having the hero and heroine get together in book 1. Some good examples of slow burn romances for me are Just Good Friends (Escape to New Zealand #2) by Rosalind James and Forbidden Falls (A Virgin River novel book #8) by Robyn Carr.

4. Fairytale: I love that more romance books out there are doing fairy tale retellings that have these books in contemporary or other settings. I think by now everyone knows I love Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyers, but you can also take a look at Ravished by Amanda Quick.

5. Fish out of water: This can work well if done correctly, I always love it when you have a character travel or relocate to a small town because apparently the small town is just getting by on charm alone even though barely anyone lives there. Or it can be someone who grew up in a small town or poor who ends up meeting a rich hero and falling in love. Usually besides the two leads liking each other, one or both of them has to change due to the sudden change in their day to day life. For examples see Cream of the Crop by Alice Clayton and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

Tropes/themes I hate. I could be here all day, but Moonlight limited me to five tropes/themes so that is going to make this easy.

Love triangle: Kill it, kill it with fire. Authors are now also doing love squares and I just want it all to stop. I don’t know why we don’t allow female characters to exist in romance novels unless she has two males panting after them. And I will say it is rare that a romance author is able to handle a love triangle. If you want to know some of the worst offenders in my mind, see Twilight by Stephanie Meyers, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich (see the first book, One for the Money).

Image result for love triangles suck gif

2. Too stupid to live characters (TSTL): It’s not fun for me to read romance books where the leads apparently have no common sense about how to do basic things. It’s frustrating after a while if you read a series and the lead keeps making the same mistakes over and over again (once again see Stephanie Plum).

3. Secret baby: I agree with Moonlight, I hate this one too because usually it is a dumb reason why said woman didn’t tell the man (he said he never wanted children or never said I love you). Hello! You don’t do this to another person and then try to take the high road when you are in the wrong. And I hate it that the author always either tries to blame the man an exonerate the woman, or has the man punishing the woman for keeping the secret and treats her horribly, but said woman falls in love with him all over again. Bah. Two examples for me which still annoy me to this day are Almost Perfect, Fool’s Gold #2 by Susan Mallery and Angel’s Peak (A Virgin River novel book 10) by Robyn Carr.

4. Forced seduction: It’s rape. I hate it, and I loathe that some of the romance books I read while younger had the hero raping the heroine, but it wasn’t called that or seen that way and the heroine finds herself falling in love with the hero because she could not help being attracted to him. For examples see Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught and The Velvet Promise by Jude Deveraux. I am still mad about The Velvet Promise and it’s probably been more than a decade since I read that book.

5. Career women are evil: I get so angry when you have a woman who is great at her job who is then shamed for daring to love her job and not wanting to give it all up to live in some small town with a dude she just met. I don’t get why romance books do this, but I really wish they stop. I honestly off the top of my head cannot think of one romance novel when the man in question realizes he needs to give up something to be the woman. And can we also kill the theme that women who love their job are just empty shells until they get married and have kids? For an example see Whisper Beach by Shelley Noble.



  1. Ooh. Marriage of convenience is also one of my favorite tropes.

    I so agree with so many of both of your top ten tropes to love/hate:

    TSTL’s are aplenty in Romantic Suspense (which is actually my favorite of the romance sub-genres, so it’s great when this actually DOESN’T happen in any of the rom suspenses I read).

    ‘Career Woman Is Evil’ is actually a trope I’ve been complaining to my best friends about since some of my first romantic comedy movies watched in high school (because they are big offenders as well). I especially despise the whole plot device where the woman can only choose either her career or her love; as if she can’t handle being successful in career AND starting a family with the man she loves. And I also do not like the ‘woman is an empty shell until she meets Mr. Right, even though she’s a highly successful brain surgeon who saves lives on a daily basis.’ No, she’s not successful and has accomplished nothing until she’s found herself a husband.

    No one ever writes about men who have these same issues…

    Anyway, another great post!

    And yes, the Love Triangle must burn!

    • Christine

      December 27, 2016 at 8:44 am

      Thanks for your comment! I noticed the “Career Women Is Evil/Unmarried Woman Is An Empty Shell” trope has basically overwhelmed the Hallmark Channel Christmas movies over the last few years. I guess it makes sense given their fundamentalist bias, but it’s sort of turned me off of their movies of late. I used to enjoy them much more, until they started making the same movie over and over again (but with a different young, thin, white, conventionally attractive female lead).

    • Thanks!

      The career woman thing is really starting to bug me. It’s so blatant in contemporary romamce books now.

  2. This was a really fun post. I love Outlander, Mercy Thompson, and Kate Daniels and really enjoy a good romance novel, but the good ones can be hard to find! Lately I’ve been liking Courtney Milan and Tessa Dare. It’s funny you mention Whitney My Love, I read that one 20 years ago (!) and still remember how angry the rape made me. On that note, my first romance novel was my mom’s copy of The Flame and The Flower, another “rape is okay if you fall in love” romance novel.

    • Christine

      December 27, 2016 at 5:41 pm

      I love Courtney Milan – her books rip my heart out in the best possible way!

      I think I might have to read Whitney, My Love during romance bingo, because I have heard so much about it!

    • Oh I am planning on reading some Courtney Milan too for romance bingo.

      And yeah Whitney My Love was a big old mess. I recall reading it for the first time and wishing the hero would fall off a horse and die. He was insufferable. The re-release changed a few things though.

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