Your Complete Guide to Romance Tropes

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P.N. Hinton

Contributing Editor

Born into a family of readers, P.N. gained a love reading as a sort of herd mentality. This love of reading has remained a life long passion, resulting in an English Degree from The University of Houston in Houston, Texas. She normally reads three to four books at any given time, in the futile Sisyphean hope of whittling down her ever growing to be read pile of no specific genre.

Romance is one of best-selling genres of all time. It is one of the genres I turn to the most for my personal reading preferences. There are so many different romance tropes and sub-genres as we’ll explore here, but typically the initial genres break down into either historical or contemporary. While that may seem like a very narrow field, it expands even more when you break those down into more specific subjects, although there is more of this in the contemporary field.

Numerous articles written before on the subject on the different types of genres in fiction. There have also been ones about the billionaire trope, shifters, and a really decent list on sports. This one will focus more on the different types of tropes, or niches, that are prevalent in romance.  This is by no means a comprehensive list; that would be an endless list! The tropes listed here are ones that are prevalent in both the historical and contemporary fields.

I will also list a couple of books for each trope, some of which will be personal favorites of mine. I will use ‘H’ for historical and ‘C’ to denote contemporary. An asterisk * notes one that I personally have read and the plus sign + is for books that may tip more into the erotic genre.

Librarian/Bookish Romances

Not surprisingly, books have always played a large part in the romance field. This can be done by either having the hero or heroine be a writer (normally secretly), or a book lover themselves. In more modern day books, they can either own a bookstore or be a librarian. This also opens the door for smooching, and more, in said locations.

Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare (H) *

Hearts on Hold: A Librarian Romance by Charish Reid (C) *

Single Parents/Guardian

I know a lot of people have strong opinions about the presence of children in romance novels. I’m not here to debate that. Regardless of one’s personal opinions on the matter, they can and do play a part in a good majority of romance novels. Whether it’s starting the story as a widow or widower, or becoming guardian to children, this niche is something that is used quite often in Romancelandia.

It Takes Two to Tumble by Cat Sebastian (H)

Untouchable: A Small Town Romance by Talia Hibbert (C) *


There’s just something about the Wild Wild West that makes romance readers swoon. Or maybe it’s just the cowboys. Either way, this is always a popular historical genre. It is also still prevalent in contemporary fiction, even if they are given the more modern moniker or ‘rancher’ in those stories. There’s something sexy about a man or woman willing to put in the hard work

A Man to Call My Own by Johanna Lindsey (H) *
The Rancher Returns by Brenda Jackson (C)

Second_Time_Lucky_by_Ethan_Day_CoverSecond Chance Romance

Here the genre specifically refers to a couple that was previously together, torn apart, and then reunited. I like these because they really show that forgiveness is an integral part of relationship. While I know some people ascribe to the whole “Love is never having to say you’re sorry” mentality, the harsh reality is that is just not true and it is a crucial part of any relationship.

The Bittersweet Bride by Vanessa Riley (H) *
Second Time Lucky by Ethan Day (C)

Friends to Lovers

Most people realized this was a trope after the movie When Harry Met Sally. There is something that is intensely drawing about looking at someone who has been in your life platonically in a different light. This is one of the more popular genres so it is easy to find one if this is your taste.

The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan (H) *
Wrong to Need You by Alisha Rai (C) * +

Enemies to Lovers

Alternatively there is also the genre that has the main characters come to the realization that the distaste you have for someone is actually desire. What’s that they say about that fine line between love and hate? The banter in these just serves to fuel the passion flames so that when they finally give in, it’s an explosion all around.

The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn (H) *
Wallbanger by Alice Clayton (C) * +

Revenge Stories

At a glance this one may seem like it would be hugely problematic, but if done well it can be quite enjoyable. While this is not everyone’s cup of tea by any stretch of the imagination there are more than few romances out there that would fit this bill.

What I Did for a Duke by Julie Ann Long (H) *
Deceptive Innocence by Kyra Davis (C) * +

bollywood and the beast by suleikha snyderForced Proximity

This goes far beyond the ‘just one bed’ trope since there multiple ways people can be forced into close quarters together. Snowstorms, house parties, etc. The possibilities are endless. In these cases, though, familiarity does not breed contempt. Quite the opposite in fact.

A Lady’s Desire by Lily Maxton (H)
Bollywood and the Beast by Suleikha Snyder (C)

Fake Relationships

Regardless of the reason, this is where two people pretend to be together and then the acting turns real. Which make sense. How many stories are there from Hollywood about people getting together after playing the role of a couple? These tend to be ‘slow burn’ ones, so if that is your jam, this is the sub-genre you will want to look for.

The Paid Companion by Amanda Quick (H)
The Cinderella Deal by Jennifer Crusie (C)

Mistaken Identity

These are books where only one half of the romantic couple knows who they are in relation to the other person. This can include loss of memory from amnesia or have hidden roots in a revenge trope. Either way, these can be delightful romps, although it is one that a lot of people understandably have issues with.

The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton by Miranda Neville (C) *
A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole (H) *

Regardless of whether it’s your first time or you’re branching out from your comfort zone, hopefully you found something to pique your interest here. If we missed out on one of your favorite romance tropes though let us know over on the social medias!

And if you find yourself looking for recommendations past these tropes check out some of our backlog of articles. Or take a listen to our When in Romance Podcast, which has one or two episodes dedicated to specific tropes in Romancelandia.

Happy Reading!