Lola’s Ramblings: Favorite and least favorite romance tropes

Posted March 2, 2017 by Lola in Lola's Ramblings / 30 Comments


Lola’s Ramblings is a feature on my blog Lola’s Reviews where I ramble on about a book related or a non-book related topic. These are discussion type of posts where I talk about a topic and readers can weigh in on the topic in the comments. Usually these posts are everything that doesn’t fall under any standard header, like tours, cover reveals, memes, challenges, recaps or reviews. Lola’s Ramblings posts are discussions of a certain topic and my point of view on them. The banner for this feature is designed by Michelle from Limabean Designs.

Sometimes I mention in my reviews that I like a certain tropes or not and one day I got the idea to list some of my favorite and least favorite romance tropes. I also saw a similar post on Addicted to Romance her blog, I think it was this one about her favorite tropes in historical romances. I actually had my lists all written on this little note on my desk and then when I was reading a book with one of my least favorite romance tropes I suddenly got the inspiration to write it again.

Favorite Romance tropes

  • Friends to Lovers. Friends to lovers is probably one of my most favorite tropes, not sure why, but usually this trope works for me. I like seeing characters be good friends and how that slowly changes into a romance. I like how the characters often know each often very well in these type of romances and it’s so fun to see them go from friends to lovers. I also think this trope often feels very realistic and I like realism in books. And they have a reason to spend time together as they are friends and hopefully more.
  • Forbidden Romance. Once in a while I just want to read a good forbidden romance. I find the forbidden part adds some thing to the romance. And often it means they love each other a lot to go through with it even though it’s forbidden and then see them fight together against what’s in their way. Yes this trope usually works for me. It doesn’t matter what the reason is for the forbidden romance, I like the set of challenges that comes with it and how there is this outside conflict they can fight against, but that also will test their relationship.
  • Opposites Attract. This can be such a fun trope, I like seeing those different personalities clash or be together. There is something great about two very different people finding common ground and falling in love.
  • Slow building romance. I love a good slow building romance. It isn’t a must, but I love authors that can pull off a good slow building romance. I don’t mind waiting multiple books for the couple together, sometimes the longer the wait, the sweeter it is when they finally do get together. And all those little hints and signs suddenly seem to get so much more meaning. I love every bit we get and keep hoping for the couple to get together.
  • Forced proximity. This is another trope that can cause fun situations. I remember fellow bookblogger Sophia mentioning one of her reviews once that she wanted to lock the couple in a room so they can sort things out. And that’s basically what this trope does, give them a reason not to be able to run away and face their attraction or connection or whatever head-up. Whether it’s a road trip or roommate or whatever, it just seems to work for me.
  • Second Chance. Second chance romances can actually go both ways sometimes for me, but I still would list it at my favorite category as I just love seeing a couple get a second chance and proving their love is stronger than whatever kept them apart or broke them apart at first. I also like that in second chance romances the couple often already has a past and thus knows each other. But if the conflict or reason they stayed apart isn’t done well they can also easily glide in the not so well done category.

This is not to say I will automatically like every book that has one of my favorite tropes, but I am usually more likely to pick up a book with one of my favorite romance tropes and find I am more likely to enjoy them.

Least favorite romance tropes

  • Enemies to lovers/ Hate to Love. Enemies to lovers or hate to love is probably one of the tropes I dislike most. Especially when that’s the only trope, combined with others it usually works better for me. For some reason the whole hate and love, fighting one moment and then kissing the next doesn’t really work for me. Although I have read some books that handle the topic well, I often just get frustrated by these type of romances. In the cases for me to like this trope the conflict or hate needs to be something serious and that I can understand why there is this dislike between the characters.
  • Fake Engagement. Anything related to secrets and keeping secrets is not my favorite in books, so the fake engagement tropes isn’t one I usually enjoy. It just feels off how the couple is doing all these things together and everyone believing they are a couple and then it’s not real. Somehow I can never fully enjoy those scenes knowing it’s not real and I want them to go through that as a real couple. Not sure why, but often it prevents me from fully enjoying a book.
  • Secret/ big secrets/ secret baby etc. This one ties in with the previous one a bit, some romances resolve about his big secrets or a secret someone is keeping or even a secret baby. And with secrets you always know the longer they wait to tell the other the worse it gets and at some point it’s not longer about the secret, but about the fact they kept it a secret for so long. I don’t like it when people aren’t honest with their love interest, so I can understand why people get upset about the secret thing. I actually have read a book that handles the secret trope well earlier this year as in that case I could understand why she kept the secret. I think for me to enjoy books with this I need to understand why they keep the secrets and them not outright lying about it, as outright lying about it just makes it worse in my opinion.
  • Obligatory break-up scenes. I know this one doesn’t fully fit in with the rest, but it’s one of those things that always bug me in romance books. You just know that at the 80-90% mark there is going to be a break up scene, almost every romance has this. I don’t mind them needing a bit of space or slowing down or anything, as long as it isn’t always the predictable pattern of big fight and break up and then realizing they belong together and get back again. The books that do this well are the ones were it isn’t quite a break-up or where it feels in characters. I actually did a whole post about my hate for the obligatory break-up scenes and how they can be well done.

Also just because these aren’t my preferred romance tropes, that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a book that has one of these tropes. And often tropes are sorta combined and aren’t as clear cut as listed here anyway. But overall I am more likely to pick up a book with a trope I like than one I don’t like, but as long as the book sounds good I will still read no matter the trope. I am just more hesitant to pick up a book with one of my least favorite romance tropes. So feel free to recommend me books with one of these tropes if you think I will enjoy that one ;).

What are your favorite and least favorite romance tropes? Any recommendations for great books in either my favorite or least favorite list?


30 responses to “Lola’s Ramblings: Favorite and least favorite romance tropes

  1. Like you, I really like the friend to lover scenario – it probably doesn’t hurt that that was the way I fell in love with my second husband. In contrast I LOATHE triangular relationships where a girl is wondering which of the hapless chaps who have fallen for her she is going to choose. Neither do I like the fake engagement/relationship – these days in particular, it always appears to be contrived. And hate to love – hm, really? I’m suspecting it’s more like hate to lust and that dynamic NEVER works out well in the end. As ever, a great article, Lola:).
    sjhigbee recently posted…While the Morning Stars SingMy Profile

    • I can enjoy a love triangle, but they aren’t my favorite. But I’ve read some books that handled it well. I don’t like any type fo fake or secrets romance, it just feels off when a romance starts that way.

  2. You have a pretty good list for both sides. For me, I think the big thing is whether the author can sell me on the authenticity of her/his trope. Enemies to lovers can go either way for me depending if they are real enemies with legit issues or whether they are just two squabbling people who only need to sit down and iron out their differences. For the same reason, I love a good forced marriage/marriage of convenience trope, but I want the author to show me how they make it work and not just have a few squabbles and give in to their lust.
    I loathe secrets just for the sake of conflict particularly the secret baby and I feel the same way about love triangles.
    I think my favorite is the second chance/reunion romances because it lets people right a wrong in a reunion romance or get a chance at happiness if the first time didn’t go so well. I love the friends to lovers next because it usually builds on a solid relationship and not just insta-love.
    I enjoy on occasion the long distance or correspondence romances and like to see Autumn or Winter romances for older folks now and then.

    I’m sure there are more I love or hate. Fun topic, Lola!
    Sophia Rose recently posted…Picture Imperfect by Cindy Procter-King #TGPUL #GiveawayMy Profile

    • So true, if the author can write it in a realistic way and make it believable is more important than the actual trope. The enemies to lovers one really does depend on why they are enemies. I think I like it more when it’s something real rather than having differences and often miscommunication.

      I read one historical romance with a marriage of convenience and I really liked how it was handled there. I think I would like that trope in general. It’s a bit like forced proximity in a sense.

      I agree secrets can be done well, but when just there for the sake of conflict or drama I often don’t care of rit.

      Yes second chance romances always just seems nice with how they get together after all and can right a wrong, good way to put it. I haven’t read a lot of long distance romances, but one of my favorite authors once wrote one and I loved that one.

  3. Forced Proximity is probably one of my favorites! I just love it. I don’t love second chance love tropes that much. I don’t hate them, but they aren’t my favorite.

    I sometimes like hate-to-love, when it’s done well. But it isn’t always done well, so I understand why it bothers you. I totally get you on the break up scenes, though! 🙂

    • Forced proximity can be so much fun to read about.

      I mostly have read books where the hate-to-love didn’t quite work for me, so in general I don’t like it. But maybe I just haven’t read the right book with it yet.

  4. My favorites are enemies to lovers. I like the antagonism in the beginning when one or the other doesn’t realize they are being mean because they are fighting their attraction to the other.

    My least favorite is surprise baby. Or I should say she’s kept the pregnancy from him and years later he finds out he has a kid.
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    • Maybe the books I read with that trope just weren’t ones I enjoyed, I am sure it can be done well.

      Yes it just feels sad to keep that a secret from someone.

  5. Fake dating/engagement is my all-time favorite trope! I loooove it! Yeah, lying is bad and annoying, but I just love this trope to death. Forced proximity would be my second favorite. It’s so fun!

    And I 100% agree on the break-up! I cannot stand this! Most of the time it feels really forced, and I have to roll my eyes. There doesn’t need to be a huge drama for them to realize that they need to be together.
    Angie recently posted…Review: Stepbrother Dearest by Penelope WardMy Profile

    • That trope usually just doesn’t work for me. But I do believe it really depends on the book, so maybe I just haven’t read enough ones that did it well.

      Exactly so often it feels forced instead of realistic. I have read some sort of break-ups that were well written and realistic, so obviously it can be done well. But most of the time it isn’t and it seems they need that big drama to realize they need to be together.

  6. I do love most romance book tropes to be honest, for me personally its more the way the author writes it than anything else. Sometimes I have picked up a good secret baby romance and other times awful second chance ones it just depends on how they write it. But I do have my favorites: Opposites attract, enemies to lovers (has to be written well ) second chance and fairy tale retellings.
    loverofromance recently posted…Book Review-Fighting Attraction by Sarah CastilleMy Profile

    • That’s definitely true, how an author writes it is more important than anything. If it’s an author whose writing style I like I will most likely pick up a book no matter what trope. These are just more general trends, tropes that I usually like or more easily enjoy. I actually read a good secret baby romance by two of my favorite romance authors last year and also read some bad second chance ones, I actually just DNF’d a book with a second chance romance.

  7. Honestly, I feel pretty apathetic toward most romance tropes. They don’t make me more interested, they don’t make me less interested, but I’ll enjoy the romance if it’s written well. But you already know that I do love slow burns and forced proximity. Slow burns are just more fun because of all the tension that builds. The anticipation is half the fun 😉 And forced proximity does lead to interesting situations and also tension. I think I just like tension, haha.

    Friends to lovers isn’t really something that makes me want a book more, but I do like it simply for the reason that it’s often more realistic than other types of romance. I don’t have anything against enemies to lovers though if it’s done well.

    I guess I don’t really like secrets in books either. I usually don’t even understand why they’re keeping the secret, and I’m just big on honesty, so it bothers me. And idk if I’ve ever read the obligatory breakup scene since I don’t usually read pure romance, but that would bother me too because I feel like they’re either being overdramatic or they broke up for a reason and probably shouldn’t get back together.
    Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight recently posted…Book Review: Gospel of the Forgotten (The Immortal Coil Book 3) by J. ArmandMy Profile

    • I do have my preferences most of the time, but it does really matter more how the romance is written than what the exact trope is. I feel that especially in some genres these tropes you see more often.

      Slow burn romances are the best, I love the waiting and the anticipation. And I agree the tension is forced proximity is fun to read about.

      I feel the same, often I don’t understand why they keep a secret and you just know in books the secret always will come to light. The obligatory break-up scene is pretty common in contemporary romances. You see it less in books where the romance is more sub plot line.

  8. I really like friends to lovers too – it makes the romance seem more realistic because they already know each other so well. I like second chance romances too – for the same reason AND because it’s nice to see people come back together and realize they DO love each other.

    I don’t mind enemies to lovers! I think it’s kind of nice to deal with the fine line between love and hate, but I can see how it might not work for some people. Part of it depends on how the author handles it too.

    I agree about not liking fake engagements too. It’s obvious and kind of annoying.

    Let’s Get Beyond Tolerance recently posted…Rainbow Roundup: Reviews, Book Look, and More!My Profile

    • Yes that’s what I like about the friends to lovers trope as well, they already know each other and the romance feels more realistic.

      Enemies to lovers is a trope that can easily go wrong for me, it just depends on how it is written. But I can remember very few books where the trope really worked for me. How the author handles is really matters. With all of these tropes that’s the case ofcourse.

  9. I don’t read romance per se but as far as romances in the books I read- I would say friends to lovers a slow build and second chances are all situations that I’ve enjoyed.

    Fake engagement I feel like I’ve just seen that in too many movies. 🙂 And enemies to lovers- it has to be pretty convincing for me to go along with that. I’m not usually a fan of instalove. But I guess it all depends on how it’s pulled off.
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    • Most of these tropes are more common in contemporary romances and such where romance is one of the main plot lines, but you see it in other genres too.

      Enemies to lovers needs to be very well written for me to go along with it. But you;re right it all really depends on how it’s pulled off.

  10. My favorite is definitely the slow burn, followed closely by a healthy dose of forced proximity 😉

    I’ll be honest, I have a weird guilty pleasure with pretend engagements that turn into a romance. It’s weird, and I don’t actually like BOOKS where that is the plot. But for whatever reason the trope itself doesn’t bother me.

    In general though, I don’t want the book to be ABOUT the romance (so, that’s obviously not my genre of preference). I like the book to be about the PLOT or the character development or something I can really dig my teeth into. And if romance does or does not happen, that’s great. That said, I don’t really have a preference on most of the tropes. Some get on my nerves more or less than others, but it’s rare that a choice in trope will make or break a book for me all on its own.
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    • Slow burn romances are so much fun! Maybe the fake engagement trope works better when the romance is a side plot, I only read books with it as main plot line so far I think.

      I like both romances and books where the romance is the side plot. In contemporary romances these tropes are quite common and I developed a bit of preference and dislike for some of them.

      The trope itself will rarely make or break a book for me, but it can influence my enjoyment at times, but mostly it depends how the romance is written and how the author pulls of the trope.

  11. I think all the tropes you mentioned would make my list of those I like with the exception of secrets and the break up scene. I don’t like those either. I also agree with you in that just because it’s a favorite trope doesn’t mean I’m going to love a book NOR does it mean I’ll dislike it if a less-than-favorite trope is used. I like it most when authors take a trope and put their own stamp on it…make it something a little different. And I must have a good story no matter what. 😀
    Great topic, Lola!
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    • Yes it’s the best when authors can make a trope their own and put their own twist on it. Even while the trope is the same, there are still so many direction it can go in.

  12. You didn’t mention love triangles!! (Takes notes). It’s a good thing that all the stuff you like, I like, pretty much. I think this is why you and I get along so well. 🙂 I’ve got another slow-burning romance coming up in my next sci-fi series. I think you’ll be pleased.
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    • I don’t dislike love triangles on principle, I just dislike them when they aren’t done well. When done well I think a love triangle can really work. I just want it to be realistic and feel like there really is a conflict, not just a second love interest that pops up to create some extra drama.

      It does sound like we like the same things when it comes to romance in books and I am pretty sure that’s why I always like your books and romances :). Oh I can’t wit for your next sci-fi series, really curious about that one and I am pleased to hear it will have a slow burning romance!

  13. I hate love triangles, love at first sight, second chance and anything too cliché (like we see on romantic comedies-dramas on TV).
    I love, love slow building, whether it’s friends to lovers or enemies to lovers.
    But I admit I wouldn’t automatically discard a book with a trope I don’t like, nor would I automatically pick it if it contained a trope I did. It all depends on the blurb.
    And oh dear…my new book is about fake boyfriend /girlfriend…they don’t pretend to be engaged and only see the deception as a game/convenience, but I now know I’ve lost big brownie points with you lol.

    • I don’t mind the cliché ones if the author can pull it off believable and make it feel realistic. But yeah they often do feel cliché.

      I love a well done slow building romance and friends of lovers usually works for me. But enemies to lovers can be really hit or miss for me. And just like you I don’t automatically discard or pick up a book containing a trope I hate or love. It really depends on the blurb and author as well.

      No you didn’t lose brownie points, I am pretty author loyal and if I like an author their writing style I will probably read their next books no matter what the trope. I am actually really curious about your new book :). I am pretty sure you will pull of that trope in a way I can enjoy as so far I have enjoyed your books and how you write your romances.
      Lola recently posted…My To-Be Read List #31: pollMy Profile

  14. I do enjoy all the ones you enjoy- but I also really like the hate-to-love too, IF it is done well. I don’t buy it if it is too fast, but if it is over the span of a significant chunk of time, I like it. I HATE the obligatory break up scene! That is THE WORST. My eyes roll every single time. I also hate the fake stuff, and the “big secret”. Blech. Another one I dislike is the miscommunication leading to angsty fighting. No, just no. But I do LOVE the ones you love- especially forbidden love and friends-to-lovers! And DEFINITELY slow building for sure! This is a fun post!
    Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight recently posted…Monthly Minutes at Midnight: February 2017My Profile

    • Maybe I just haven’t read a really good hate-to-love book yet, but often they just don’t work as well with me and that trope is the reason I don’t feel the romance. It definitely depends on how it is written and if it feels believable or not.

      I always do the eye roll when i read and obligatory break-up scene, it’s just so overdone. And yes I agree on the miscommunication and angsty fighting. I just wish characters would talk things through a bit more at times.

  15. Ani

    I agree with a lot of you favorites and least favorites. I especially do not like the obligatory break up scene, if only because it’s so predictable and overdone–but I agree that, if done correctly, it’s not so bad. I’ve read a book where the couple separate or have to break up for reasons beyond their own control, and it was emotional and wonderful when they get back together in the end.

    You make me think about some of my own favorite romance tropes, thought, to be honest, there aren’t too many that I don’t like. Some of my favorites include ones you have listed, except maybe the forbidden romance, though that one does have it’s appeal. Forced proximity is a wonderful trope!

    Great topic discussion!
    Ani recently posted…Monthly Reading Wrap Up — February 2017My Profile

    • It seems like authors often write the break-up scenes in the same way, I would like them to feel more realistic and not as predictable or overdone as usually. I’ve read a few well done break-up scenes. That does sound nice to have the break-up be for reasons beyond their control for a chance.

      I also like most tropes or are willing to give them a try, but there are some that just aren’t my favorite. I wills till pick up books with the, but noticed so far I usually enjoy those less and others I usually enjoy more.

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