Guilty Pleasures Contest: Favorite Romance Tropes

Couple1 I spotted some old Harlequin romances (ancient ones!) at a yard sale the other day.  I remember devouring books like that when I was a kid.  Yeah, I had issues with the pathetic heroines (one of the reasons I prefer to write MM romance, btw), but there were certain tropes that just made my hands tingle and my gut tense.  You know, those angsty moments when your heart just breaks for the main characters?  We all knew they’d get their happy ending eventually, but the pain (pleasure?) of wanting them to be happy together was totally delicious!

So what are your favorite guilty pleasures when you think of romances?  What tropes make you shiver and keep you reading at lightning speed to find out what happens?  Is it the tried and true “friends to lovers” story, where the two friends worry about what might happen to their friendship if they follow their hearts?  Is it the “enemies to lovers” story, where you can just feel the two romantic leads fighting themselves andhall_and_val_the_crimson_spell_by_michiru83-d2203vh knowing it’s hopeless to resist?

I’ll share one of my favorites….  I love, LOVE, the romances where the two main characters are madly, passionately in love, but something happens to tear them apart.  A misunderstanding or even a person who inserts themselves between the lovers, for example.  They’re torn apart, only to rediscover each other years later (which can lead to an “enemies to lovers” story, if you think about it).  This new, rekindled love is a more mature and deeper love than in the past.

Sekai-ichi_Hatsukoi_largeFor those of you familiar with my yaoi (mm) manga/anime addiction, you may have heard me gush about Sekai Ichi Hatsukoi, aka World’s Greatest First Love.  Two boys meet in high school.  The younger boy, Ritsu, has a terrible crush on the older boy, Masamune.  Ritsu confesses his love at a time in Masumune’s life when Masamune’s family is in turmoil.  They begin a sexual relationship.  But one day Ritsu asks Masamune if he loves him, and Masamune laughs.  Ritsu is so hurt, he leaves school and Masamune behind.  Ten years later, Ritsu gets a job at a publisher and guess who his boss is?  Yep.  So begins Masamune’s quest to make Ritsu fall in love with him again.  And yes, there’s a good explanation for why Masamune laughed!  It’s very cute and sweet, and it gets me every time!

Your turn now!  Tell me what your favorite romantic trope is and you could win your StealingTheWindFSchoice of one of my current Dreamspinner Press releases in ebook format or a swag bag (including a t-shirt of a Blue Notes Series cover or the fabulous new cover for Stealing the Wind).  Contest ends on Friday, August 2nd.  Guilty pleasures welcome.  Because you know there’s a reason these tropes are so tried and true! -Shira

PS:  Want to read more about my upcoming release, Stealing the Wind?  You can read a very steamy excerpt from the beginning of the book here (scroll down to the end of the blog post).  There’s another excerpt, the opening chapter of the novel, here.  The book is now available for preorder on the Dreamspinner Press website and is 25% through July 26th!


  1. EM Lynley - Reply

    I might have to check out that manga. I think I read about 5 romances in my younger years. I also hated the heroines. I did enjoy the ones in other countries or cultures.

    I like the kidnap trope a lot if it’s done well. I’m a sucker for harem stories, in particular. I do like stories where they start out hating each other or being total opposites and realize they’ve been wrong or see the good side of the other person. All of these are “enemies to lovers.”

    I also like (and have written) the old lovers reunited after a terrible break up. Again, it has to make sense for the spurned one to forgive the other and some situations aren’t easily resolved. So that’s what attracts me to the story of Sekai Ichi Hatsukoi. I really have to see how that one gets fixed!

    Can’t wait for Stealing the Wind.


    • shira - Reply

      Sekai Ichi is a ton of fun. Totally unrealistic, of course, but so much fun. The manga is explicit, the anime is censored (fade to black sex scenes). I adore it. Plus it takes place in the manga industry, so it’s very funny and interesting too. I love this particular author (she also writes Junjou Romantica). None of the squicky rape trope you see in some Japanese yaoi, either.

      Harems and dubcon are great. Love those! And you have your combo “enemies to lovers” and “reunited after terrible breakup” book, “Hostile Takeover.” So they clearly work well together. XD -Shira

  2. Susan - Reply

    The trope I like best is the ugly duckling who has a huge crush on a gorgeous guy who does not know he/she exists and winds up hurting the ugly duckling, intentionally or otherwise. Fast forward some years and the swan meets the old crush who now desires the swan. I actually like both endings – the swan spurning the superficial old crush or faliing in love with the new improved crush. And I like that this works for both MF and MM!

    • shira - Reply

      I love that one too, Susan! If you haven’t already read it, my “Kiss and Makeup” freebie here on my website is that basic trope (although less ugly, more geeky, but the same general idea). -Shira

  3. Sara - Reply

    That’s a hard one… I like friends to lovers best I think! Especially when chock full of angst before they get together. And especially when they are hiding it from each other, or one from the other… So fun!

    • shira - Reply

      Thanks, Sara! Friends to lovers is a wonderful trope. Great tension, too. My husband and I were a bit like that. XD

  4. Tali Spencer - Reply

    One of the tropes I love, when done well, is the person in disguise. It’s a variation on the misunderstanding trope because one of the lovers (sometimes both) is not dealing with the person they think they’re dealing with. Then there’s the big reveal, which is always fun. I love how when people pretend to be someone or something else, they have to leave behind things like social position or a reputation, and this opens the door to real love. 🙂 Combine this with enemies to lovers and I’m in romance heaven.

    • shira - Reply

      I love how you handle that trope in your books, Tali! I also enjoy writing that one, because you can show the reader what’s going on that the other character doesn’t know. “The Melody Thief” had this trope at the beginning.

  5. Jbst - Reply

    Since I don’t have one top favorite, one of my favorite tropes is second chance at love stories. All Romance/ ARE Cafe has been talking about the different tropes over a number of weeks. I didn’t realize how many tropes there were.

    • shira - Reply

      I’m not surprised there are so many, and so many variations on them! Second chance is also a wonderful trope. The next Blue Notes book, Encore, is all about that one. *g*

  6. Julian Griffith - Reply

    Oh, I’m a sucker for hurt/comfort. Gets me every time. Best example is the Hornblower episode “The Duchess and the Devil” — FAINTING ARCHIE! Horatio picking him up in BRIDAL CARRY in the rain! Sitting by his BEDSIDE! Plus all the “I’m not leaving without you.” And if you combine it with friends-to-lovers, which is strongly implied? I am THERE. That episode is tailor-made for me.

    • shira - Reply

      Sounds great, Julian! I need to watch that – you see that same sort of thing in yaoi, as well. Yummy!

  7. Amanda - Reply

    I think my favorite is second chance at love story. A character finds and falls in love and thinks “This is it, my forever person” only to lose them to death for whatever reason. They grieve and eventually come out finding someone else. I love the “Is it ok to move on?” “Would he/she be upset with me if I started dating again” inner struggles with the characters trying to come to terms with the fact that their first “forever person” is truly gone. Plus like in Susan’s trope, it works for both MF and MM stories.

    My other favorite is when there’s a large age gap between the characters (I’ve heard it called May-December romances). But only when it’s not paranormal (I’m a vampire so I’m super old and that’s why there’s an age gap). So many great struggles to bring the characters together and things to overcome to get there with this one. And again it works for all romance stories!

    • shira - Reply

      Moving on after a devastating loss is a great trope, Amanda. It’s hard to let go and know when you’re ready, and that tension works so well in romances. XD

  8. Renee S - Reply

    My favorite would probably be rescue, hurt/comfort. I guess I love watching a romance blossom while some one is being taken care of.

    • shira - Reply

      I love that too, Renee (I love them all, apparently!). I haven’t written a straight hurt/rescue/comfort yet, but I’ve incorporated elements of it in my stories. Especially for a character who hasn’t known tenderness and loving care, it’s a wonderful, feel-good kind of romance.

  9. Sherry S. - Reply

    I love stories that start out with the couple not liking each other and then they fall in love.
    sstrode at scrtc dot com

    • shira - Reply

      I like that one too, Sherry. Jeez, I really do love them all. I think that makes me a romance geek! 😉

  10. rebeccacohenwrites - Reply

    I love a skewed power dynamic, boss/PA or younger man/older man. I also brains vs jock as long as the jock isn’t a complete jerk (cos brains are sexy!… and not in a Zombie way). And I can’t get enough of the whole lord of the manor gig either 😀

  11. Elliott Mackle - Reply

    Opposites attract. In creating Dan Ewing and Bud Wright I quite deliberately created characters that are as different from each other as possible: college frat rat/high school jock, Navy officer/Marine grunt, PTSD-ridden after losing a wartime lover/eager to put the war behind him, thoroughly m/m oriented/bisexual. IMHO m/m relationships need differentness to make up for the biological and emotional differences in m/f pairs. This automatically creates tension and opportunites to let the characters deal with each other.. Captain Joe Harding has a number of lovers and again I created friends and sex partners who differ from him in many important ways. Joe flys a desk, for instance, and is attracted to pilots and ex-flyers. Cotton Boardman and Joe do share many qualities (height, a taste for classics and tennis) but Cotton is against the Vietnam war (this comes into focus in the forthcoming “Welcome Home, Captain Harding”) and there is a decade’s difference in their ages.

    • shira - Reply

      I loved the opposites in Dan and Bud, Elliott. Can’t wait to read “Welcome Home” and meet Joe. The traditional romantic trope of different personalities “completing” each other is something I find in my own marriage, so I think it’s well-grounded in reality. It also makes for a wonderful read! -Shira

  12. Juliana - Reply

    When I used to read het romance I quite enjoyed the big misunderstanding that led the pregnant heroine to run off, pregnant and penniless from the husband she was forced to marry but has grown to love! The whole idea was just so silly I had to read it every time! I am so glad there is never a time where a penniless male MC runs away from his male partner after becoming pregnant (unless you read mpreg)!

    • shira - Reply

      LOL,Jules! I have to say m-preg hasn’t ever appealed to me, but that would be something to read, wouldn’t it? 😉

  13. T.T. Kove - Reply

    I loved Sekai Itchi Hatsukoi. I’ve only watched the anime though, and though it is completely unrealistic as you said, it was very sweet. And no rape is always a plus in yaoi, because I hate that.

    Tropes I love is a bit difficult. I don’t have a top favourite, but I do have a few that I love equally. Hurt/comfort is one, and it’s one I like to explore in my own books. Enemies to lover when it’s done well. Second chance at love is also very nice. Opposites attract is quite fun. And friends to lovers, of course. There’s something about two men starting up as friends and slowly falling in love with each other. ^_^

    • shira - Reply

      It’s one of my all-time favorites, T.T., but yes, it would NEVER fly as a novel! And maybe that’s why I love it so much… 😉

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