Romance is full of repeated tropes from the marriage of convenience to the secret baby plot. The repetition comes from positive reception. Why does the Billionaire Virgin’s Captivity appear in so many stories? Because so many people respond to them positively. I’ve discovered recently that I’m a sucker for the rock star story. I thought I hated those but ever since reading Olivia Cunning and Samantha Towle, I find myself snapping up every one of them, both good and bad (and there are a lot more bad out there than good).
As a reviewer, I try to be extremely sensitive to my trope preferences because oftentimes I’ll end up feeling good about a book with a lot of flaws when I like a particular trope. When I recommend those books to others, I will tell them outright that I have a thing for a certain type of book and therefore my good feelings about a book might be somewhat colored by my own personal trope bias. Reading this trope piece really opened my eyes to my own preferences. It can also illuminate why some books sell and sell and sell and others do not.
It works the other way too. There are certain tropes I just can’t stand, such as the secret baby trope, and it takes a lot for me to overcome my dislike of the trope in order for the book to work for me. Some people have no trope preferences (or can’t recognize their own preferences well enough to articulate that to others). But many readers admit to gravitating toward a particular story because of a trope.
I remember a couple of years ago, Sarah Wendell and I did a cover workshop at RomCon. With help of a couple of publishers, we showed the audience elements of the cover, beginning with the cover image and then layering on the text from the tagline to the cover quotes to the author and title. Many readers admitted that the tagline was more enticing than most of the other elements. The tagline for the book revealed it was a marriage of convenience story and you could hear the “oohhs” from the audience on that reveal.
Earlier this year, I stayed up almost all night sharing favorite book stories with a couple of reader friends. One of them asked about a bullet proof trope – one book hook that you can’t stay away from. We covered everything from the guardian-ward and barbarian captive stories to the poor orphan.
On the Dear Author facebook page, readers shared their favorite tropes. Evangeline Holland loves the strait-laced guy and the bad girl. Sarah Castille loves the enemies to lovers trope. Amber said that she loves the younger sister + best friend, which is one of my favorites. I recommended she pick up the novella by Red Garnier, Claimed by Him. Shalini loves the marriage of convenience story and one of my favorites with that theme is Madeline Hunter’s Rules of Seduction. Nancy likes when the heroine has a problem, either physical or emotional, that she needs to work through and a sexy alpha helps her. She also likes the reverse:
My all time favorite? Wicked At Heart by Danelle Harmon. The hero suffers from panic attacks and childhood abuse by his mother. The heroine saves him. GREAT romance.
Lizabeth Tucker enjoys plain heroines in historicals and bonus, a smart and plain heroine. For this trope, she recommended Compromised by Kate Noble, Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase, and early Amanda Quick books (Scandal, for sure). Likewise, Tori aka Smexy’s Sidekick, enjoys the “gorgeous hero falls in love with unattractive heroine.” I also like reunited lovers IF the reason for their separation is legit. Carin agrees that marriage of convenience books are magnets for her but so too is the Beauty and the Beast trope as well as fairytale retellings.
Anna shared that she enjoys the heroine dresses as a man and particularly enjoys it if the hero freaks out “and thinks he has ‘THE ABOMINATION OF THE GREEKS’.” That one makes me think of the Teller of Tales by Laurel Ames, my favorite chick in pants book. Lynn likes it when “the girl & guy don’t like each other-usually over a misunderstanding or misjudgment in character- then fall in love. Nothing like angst! Think “Pride & Prejudice” or the movie “Romancing the Stone”.” Lindsay prefers the Friends to Lovers stories.
The preference for a particular trope is as varied as there are readers. Do you have a bullet proof trope? A trope you will always want to read, no matter what? Do you have tropes you like and dislike? Do you recognize your own preferences? If you are a longtime commenter, you may want to check and see if you still love the same trope that you did back in 2010!