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Bullet Proof Tropes

bullet proof tropes

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!

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Kaetrin
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 04:54:43

    I love the rescue trope (like Nancy – I’m so checking out that Harmon book), friends to lovers, second chance at love, marriage of convenience, and I’m also partial to a rock star book.

    I do not like the Big Misunderstanding (I posted a rant about this recently, I dislike it so much) and I’m not a big fan of the secret baby trope either. Also don’t like “the alpha and the doormat”.

    The bulletproof one for me is the rescue though. Absolutely. Although my preference is where the heroine rescues the hero “right back” (or vice versa) – a la Pretty Woman. It sucks me in every time.

  2. Ellie
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 04:57:53

    I love the guy-chases trope. When I read that a book is about a hero who falls in love first and convinces the heroine, I must have the book. Much like the hero must have her!

  3. Jen
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 05:41:16

    I love a good heroine-has-a-stalker/serial killer story, if its done without making the heroine a complete doormat. If she has a little spunk but is still being stalked, I’m in. I am starting to enjoy marriage of convenience more too, and I like enemies to lovers and also friends to lovers.

    I CANNOT stand heroines pretending to be guys–I’m not sure that I’ve ever finished one of those actually. (What a horrible lie to start your relationship with? In real life I can see no coming back after that gets revealed.) Cannot stand secret babies or accidental pregnancies between the hero and heroine that end up throwing them together or convincing them to marry before they would have otherwise. (In fact I usually try to avoid kids in romances all together. Plot moppets–ugh.) I rarely enjoy billionaires at all, and for some reason plain heroines bother me too. (I think because I always imagine that’s shorthand for “not model-gorgeous”, or “looks like a real person.”)

  4. Angela
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 06:18:49

    I love friends-to-lovers, sister and her-brother’s-best-friend, and fairy-tale re-tellings. I’ll grab these every time if I see that’s what they are. And I’m not really sure if this is a “trope” per se, but I LOVE treasure hunts – particularly when the hero and heroine either have to team up and/or after competing against each other. I can only think of a couple of these though, which is probably why I’m always looking for them. (Recommendations highly appreciated.) These are my bullet-proof ones. I may not always end up loving them, but usually have to add a disclaimer in my rec’s on them, too.

    I can’t stand secret baby, big misunderstandings, and huge deceptions. Though the latter slightly less so, if there’s a good reason for it. The secret baby I just can’t reconcile in my mind. I can’t understand the reasoning of keeping a father in the secret about his kid, and then somehow reconciling to an HEA. Also, I always kind of feel like the “HEA” is because of the kid.

  5. Sarah Frantz
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 06:54:16

    I’ve recently discovered how much I like mutual unrequited love. If they’re both pining for each other at the same time, trying to figure out what the other feels–that just melts me. Gay For You is a shameful secret pleasure, when done right. And I just realized those two often go together. Huh.

  6. Patricia Eimer
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 07:11:27

    I’m a diehard for the heroine has a stalker trope in rom-suspense and opposites attract everywhere else.

  7. Sirius
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 07:17:21

    So agree – while I will read many books of different kinds I absolutely adore ” from enemies to lovers” in all its reincarnations and as a reviewer also try to think as to whether I am just swooning over how much the trope works for me or the book is really that good. I have no other likes or dislikes of tropes – but definitely love this one.

  8. Tara
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 07:23:32

    I’m a sucker for older woman, younger man stories, or anything with a male or masculine (in ff romance) sex worker falling in love with a client.

  9. Eliza Evans
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 07:23:58

    I’m a huge sucker for a reunited marriage story. My favorite is Sherry Thomas’ Not Quite a Husband. I just think there’s so much more room for deep conflict when two people have hurt one another badly and have to fight to come back from that.

  10. Anna
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 07:32:01

    Based on your recommendation, I did read Teller of Tales and it was GREAT! Thanks so much.

  11. Krista
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 07:33:57

    Definitely single mother on the run/hiding a big secret (aka every Super Romance book). If the hero is in law enforcement in that scenario, so much the better. I also like military heroes overcoming obstacles, and for some reason am REALLY into books where the heroine is a widow and has to marry her brother-in-law, who has secretly loved her forever. Go figure right?

  12. Eileen
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 07:47:25

    I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I love the trope where the heroine is blackmailed into being the hero’s mistress/lover/wife because of some sort of financial malfeasance on the part of her brother/father who works for the hero’s company. Sometimes the brother/father works for some other company and the heroine has to go to the hero to get the money to pay back and he blackmails her that way. It almost always is a male relative doing these financial misdeeds! This used to be really popular in HPs. I read a ton of them in 90s and still can’t resist them.

  13. Sylvie
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 07:48:43

    It took me years to recognize my trope trigger. But once I did, reading became more satisfying. I love, love, friends to lovers – as much as I dislike insta-love. I also like a good stranding story – although I haven’t read one in years. Gosh, there was one I loved from the 1990s where the characters were stranded in a cabin together. Some Temptation. I’ll have to look it up. I’d love a good rec for that. I will also take any flavor of beta hero.

    Not a fan of marriage of convenience, alpha billionaires, alphaholes, or heroines who get a makeover and therefore love.

    Anyone got a good stranded rec??? I haven’t read one in years.

  14. Sylvie
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 07:50:49

    @Jen: I love heroines pretending to be guys. I read one a few years ago where the hero had to come to terms with possibly being gay, he loved the heroine that much. Loved that one.

  15. Bookworm1858
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 08:03:38

    Similar to the rock star, I love books with princes and will read anything promising royalty. I also tend to hate separation plots as I don’t think I’ve ever read one where I thought it felt legit-it always seemed contrived. I alternate between preferring the P&P misunderstanding vs friends to lovers-really will depend on the personalities and writing.

  16. Kate L
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 08:15:27

    Okay I’ll admit my guilty pleasure: I love beauty and the beast stories, and the related versions where the innocent, sometimes-but-not-necessarily virginal, heroine winds up in the clutches of a world-weary, cynical, alpha male, and he starts the book believing he has the upper hand until he finds he’s completely fallen for her. But, I’m with you Kaetrin, she’s got to have her own backbone too. So, rescue themes for me are a bullet-proof tropes. But, only as long as the male is not a complete alphahole, controlling jerk.

    Lisa Kleypas’s The Devil in Winter is a classic
    Cherrie Lynn’s Rock Me
    Beth Kery has some titles in this vein
    Kristen Ashley’s Colorado Mountain Men series (although some of her men go too far into alpha-ness for me)

  17. Stephanie Doyle
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 08:17:10


    Sylvie, is that Temptation the one where she has the newborn baby, then breaks her arm as they walk through the snow to get to the cabin. I’m totally blanking on the author, but I know that’s on my keeper shelf.

    My trope weakness boss/secretary stories.

  18. Tina
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 08:50:39

    My favorites are:

    – The big family secret that comes to light out of the blue
    – The outsider who comes in and shakes up the status quo
    – Unrequited love. Esp when it is a friends to lovers thing where one has been in love with the other for a long time while the other one is oblivious.

    Interestingly, Barbara Delinsky springs immediately to mind with the first two. I just re-read Family Tree about a white couple who, surprise, have a baby with clearly African American traits so some family skeletons come tumbling out of the closet

    Also, her Passions of Chelsea Kane conflates both. Adopted child looking for her birth parents, stumbles into a small town full of secrets and starts to turn things on it’s head.

    Sarah Mayberry’s Her Best Friend is an awesome example of the third.

    My absolute worst hated trope is The Big Misunderstanding. It always seems like a flimsy premise to base a conflict on given that all they need to do most times is have a 10 minute conversation.

    I also dislike
    – stalkers
    -People on the run

  19. Lil
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 08:51:04

    I know I’m supposed to scorn these, but I love amnesia stories. (Blame it on seeing Ronald Colman in Random Harvest when I was 12.)
    But like many others, I’m a sucker for marriage of convenience stories and adventure plots, the wilder the better. A sense of humor on the part of the H or h or both required.
    What I really dislike is all-sex-no-story books. No fun.

  20. Julia Gabriel
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 09:23:47

    I love reunion romances — they start out with so much fun baggage.

  21. Gwen Hayes
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 09:29:06

    Big brother’s best friend, bad boy-good girl, and forced proximity/pretend relationship are my bulletproof tropes.

    Basically, if you write a book where the heroine’s brother’s best friend rides into town on a Harley and they go on the run pretending to be married, I’ll read it. Especially if he kidnaps her from her own wedding to Mr Wrong. I’ll blame Days of our Lives for that one.

    I also like amnesia. I think it’s fascinating to explore who we are if we don’t know who we are, I guess.

  22. cleo
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 09:46:58

    I like the rescue trope (and I didn’t know it had a name) – especially when they rescue each right back and help each other come to terms with their families and/or their past. I realized awhile ago that almost all of my DIKs have some version of this trope (from Bet Me to Summer to Remember by Mary Balough to Love in the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas to Between Sinners and Saints by Marie Sexton, etc, etc.). I’ll have to check out the Harmon book.

    I also really like books where the h/h have to work to figure out how to have a good relationship, and especially how to have good sex together. JAK and Eloisa James both write this trope a lot. I will forgive a lot of plot WTFry if this trope is done well (see Eloisa James).

    @Angela: A good treasure hunt book is The Bride and the Buccaneer by Darlene Marshall – an historical set mostly in early 19th C Florida. The h/h are left a pirate treasure map and alternately work together/against each other to get the treasure. It’s more of a romp than her later books and it’s great fun.

    @Sylvie – a good stranded story is Castaway Dreams by Darlene Marshall. It’s a shipwrecked story – I particularly liked that the romance builds slowly and believably. And you made me realize that I also go for a good stranded story – it seems like I read a lot of trad regencies with stranded characters many years ago.

    @Tina – Family Tree sounds fascinating.

  23. cleo
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 10:08:15

    This is such a fun thread. Thinking about it, I realize that since I like books where the h/h have to work for their hea (by having to figure out how to work together), I tend to go for books with MCs that are “damaged” in some way, because I want to see how they make it work. I’ve been on a bit of a PTSD kick lately (which just sounds weird but there you have it) and I impulsively pre-ordered a book by a new to me author mostly because the hero has bipolar disorder.

    I dislike/actively avoid asshole heroes, vampires and serial killers, especially if there are passages from the killer’s pov. I don’t like vampires and serial killers in my romance for the same reason – combining sex and sensuality with death and violence icks me out at a visceral level (although I get why it works for other readers).

  24. leslie
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 10:09:59

    In Historicals I love the bluestocking heroine/rake and sister/best friend tropes.
    In contemporary novels I like a romance of equals, like in Julie James’ romances.
    I also like the the eccentric family trope in a series, Mary Balogh is good with this as is Lisa Klepas.
    Just before battle tropes on the eve of Waterloo and after in Brussels are bullet proof tropes for me. Mary Jo Putney, Barbara Metzger, Georgette Heyer have written some good ones.

  25. CD
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 10:20:11


    Me too!! Gimme any amnesia story combined with ‘enemies to lovers’ and/or ‘reunion’ romance and I will read it, no matter how badly it’s been reviewed. I also lap up ‘unrequited love’ and stories where the h/h are initially indifferent/hostile to each other (and not in a mutual lust way). So I was giddy with joy at Thomas’ RAVISHING THE HEIRESS…

    I love RANDOM HARVEST as well. Oh, the angst and the restraint….

  26. Kelly
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 10:47:32

    Smartass heroine vs. uptight hero gets me every time. I just hand over my money and my brain.

    – It Happened One Autumn by Lisa Kleypas (good lord, I love this book)
    – Then Came You by Lisa Kleypas
    – Lord Perfect by Loretta Chase
    – The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn
    – Her Best Worst Mistake by Sarah Mayberry
    – Unraveled by Courtney Milan
    – An Accomplished Woman by Jude Morgan
    – My Dearest Enemy by Connie Brockway
    – To Love a Thief by Julie Anne Long

    But there’s always a danger of smartass becoming “hoyden” and uptight becoming “asshole.”

    I also have a weakness for lunkheaded but loyal heroes like Rupert Carsington in Chase’s Mr. Impossible (not really a lunkhead) and Al in JL Merrow’s Muscling Through.

  27. Angela
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 10:53:20

    @cleo: Thanks cleo! I’m going to check that one out :)

  28. Praxidike
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 11:14:16

    I love the virgin hero trope, especially if the first love scene is told primarily from his POV. Of course, those are very few and far between. I also love the somewhat innocent virgin who reforms the world-weary, cynical rake (Kleypas’s Devil in Winter comes to mind).

    Things I dislike? Alphaholes, children (any children. anywhere. ever.), the Big Misunderstanding or any other kind of issue that could be resolved by the H/h just talking to each other, and billionaires.

  29. Janine
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 11:25:04

    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’.”

    This is a tricky one for me. If the hero freaks out it can make him look homophobic and turn me off. If he’s more just lovably confused, it is much more appealing. I think Laura Kinsale pulled this trope off best, in The Dream Hunter.

  30. Janine
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 11:36:47

    Some of my favorite tropes are:

    Marriage of convenience
    Amensia (yes, I know)
    Enemies working together toward a common goal
    Friends to Lovers

    However, I firmly believe that a strong writer can make something wonderful out of a trope I dislike and even more so that a weak writer can fumble even the best tropes.

    Cecilia Grant took the “conceiving a fraudulent heir” trope, which has to be one of my least favorites, and came up with A Lady Awakened, which I loved.

    This is why I try not to rely on tropes alone to tempt me into purchasing a book — there has to also be good word of mouth or a strong and equally tempting excerpt.

  31. Ros
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 11:42:06

    @Kelly: It’s Rupert Carsington in Mr Impossible. I like him because he’s not stupid at all. How do you feel about Bertie Trent?

  32. Annabeth
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 11:47:36

    I am a sucker for may/december in all its various combinations–m/f, m/m. Suzanne Brockmann’s The Admiral’s Bride (she’s the queen of this trope in various combos–older woman, older male). KA Mitchell’s Bad Company stands out in m/m.

    My money also flies out of my wallet for any sort of wounded hero. Emotional wounds. Physical wounds. Missing limbs. Evil scars. I especially love when the hero is convinced no woman (or man) will ever want to do him again. Elizabeth Hoyt’s Beguiling the Beast is my gold standard of that trope. M. Jules Aedin’s Paper Planes masterfully combines emotionally wounded hero with hero who happens to be amputee (it doesn’t really overwhelm the plot–which is awesome).

    I really, really love nerd heroes and well-done beta heroes. And stranded romances are a huge guilty pleasure of mine. Brother’s best friend also gets me so hard especially when he’s fighting it super hard (Suz Brockmann’s Taylor’s Temptation, KA Mitchell’s Diving in Deep).

    My hates: Secret Baby. Marriage of Convenience in contemporaries (I like in Regencies. Go figure). Any sort of blackmailing the heroine (or hero) into sex/affair/marriage. I find reunion romances to be a bit of a mixed bag–there are some I love, but that trope often falls short for me. Boss/Secretary(or underling) has to be very well done w/ a twist to work for me.

  33. Kelly
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 11:48:31

    @Ros: Whoops, thanks – I fixed it. I forgot all about Bertie – always trying to do the right thing and never quite succeeding. I need to read him again!

  34. library addict
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 11:49:21

    I’m not sure I have any true bulletproof tropes. I do gravitate to friends-to-lovers, amnesia, and troubled marriage tropes, but I can’t say I have to read them all.

    I dislike the secret baby trope. And twins/look-alike cousins impersonating one another. I’m also not a fan of the spouse-dies/dumps-the-h/h-and-they-end-up-with-the-former-spouse’s-brother/sister trope. But I have numerous books with these tropes on my keeper shelf. It’s just when a book contains a trope I dislike (or have read too many bad books with said trope), the book starts in the negative so I have to really like it to overcome that. Usually these types of books have to be by a favorite author or have some other hook to entice me to read them.

  35. Annabeth
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 11:57:40

    @Janine: I so agree with Janine. When hero comes off as homophobic w/ the dressing-as-a-dude thing, it doesn’t work for me. I’m trying to remember the name of a regency where the hero actually goes so far as to visit a brothel/mistress to remind himself that he’s straight. Also if the hero goes more than half the book without figuring out the secret, his level of denseness is suspect to me. BUT I love that trope when hero is actually in on the deception and is all nervous that heroine is about to be found out–Tessa Dare has used that version and I liked it.

  36. Lindsay
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 12:05:23

    That is a whole lot of vest for that dog to grow into! Reminds me of Scent of the Missing, which I just finished, and is going to send me right into The Possibility Dogs.

    Talk about tropes — non-fiction or fiction, if there are good animal tales, I am right there. I’ll forgive just about anything if they have dogs or horses with real personality, and it’s why I still (maybe embarrassingly) read Mercedes Lackey’s magical white talking horse adventures over and over.

    There are authors I like that will play with all the various tropes and I’ll keep reading them, I think I need to look at why — I was reading a brother’s best friend with surprise babyandofcoursemultiples and that’s completely not what I enjoy, but I was willing to stick it out and did like some of it because I trust that author and they’ve really hit my catnip in other books, and even if it’s a trope I actively dislike they can usually make some sense of it.

    I also really like books that don’t end at marriage and assume it’s HEA with maybe an epilogue tacked on — some of my favourites have had the marriage happen at 30%, and the rest of the book is about how to make that ever-after happy.

  37. Janine
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 12:09:05

    @Annabeth: You might like Carlyn Jewel’s Indiscreet — the hero is in on the deception there and nervous for the heroine. Also Laura Kinsale’s The Dream Hunter, which I mentioned before, has the hero figuring out the truth before the halfway point. There is no homophobia in either book.

  38. Sandra Schwab
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 12:09:29

    I LOVE Secret Babies. Combine this trope with 2nd Chance at Love, and I will buy the book, no questions asked. *g* I’m also extremely fond of wounded heroes and, in connection with that, Beauty & the Beast stories.

    Reformed Rakes are not my particular favourites, but they can be fun, too. The best examples are Lisa Kleypas’s “The Devil in Winter” and Gaelen Foley’s “Lord of Fire”.

  39. Ros
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 12:14:42

    @Sandra Schwab: Oh, I love a good reformed rake. Any kind of bad boy come good will do it for me.

    Also marriage of convenience, especially in contemporary if the author can make it plausible. Plain Janes who don’t have any kind of makeover. The geek and the cool kid (either way round). Anyone who gets loved for the person that they are, not changed into the person the other one wants.

  40. CK
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 12:52:17

    @Annabeth: Yes! Your favs are my favs :) Love the may/dec, b&b, wounded/scarred hero (or heroine), etc.

    I absolutely love the bad girl/boy scout combo (I blame fanfiction for that).

    I have to say that although those are bullet proof for me, it also has to be written the ‘right-way’ for me to really swoon. I’ve been burned when I go head first into the trope only to get a TSTL heroine or Big Mis that could be solved with one 5min conversation. Still, I guess what makes them bullet-proof is that despite the bad apples, I keep going back to them. :)

  41. Gen Turner
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 12:56:48

    I am an absolute sucker for Too Poor to Marry. (And I just wrote a blog post on that very trope!)
    Courtney Milan’s novella, This Wicked Gift, is a great example, and on the recommendation of Miss Bates, I just finished Morning Glory, which was so, so good.

  42. Ducky
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 13:08:09

    I have a thing for male prostitute heroes – like Laura Leone’s “Fallen From Grace”.

  43. Sylvie
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 13:26:06

    @Stephanie Doyle: OMG. That’s the one. It’s somewhere in the bowels of my house!

  44. Sylvie
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 13:28:30

    @Tina: I want to see your GR shelf. Barbara Delinsky and Sarah Mayberry are totally my go to authors for these tropes and are all on my keeper shelf. I still think Anything for You is one of the best friends to lovers book EVAH. I hate to reread books, and I’ve reread that one a few times.

  45. Sylvie
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 13:35:10

    @Annabeth: I’m reading the Ruthie Knox book with the stuttering hero and it vaguely reminded of some Hqn Temptation/Blaze I read ages ago where the hero had a missing limb. I loved that book. I wish there were more damaged heroes in romance. (ok, that sounds fetishy, but there it is).

  46. Ducky
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 13:49:50


    Oh, do you remember the author and title of this book?

  47. Lori
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 13:54:31

    Secret baby = too stupid to be a good mother. Sorry, I hate that trope.

    Love marriage of convenience and the slow falling in love. I also really like stories that take place in Hollywood. And books with chefs: give me a foodie romance and I’m so happy.

    Early Harlequins really made me hate innocent heroines and any form of alpha-holes. I like feisty heroines and cynical heroes. That’s why my go-to books usually are old Cruisie’s like Welcome to Temptation and Crazy For You where the women have an agenda and the men drag reluctantly (but sexily) along.

  48. Lauren
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 13:55:59

    I have a soft spot for enemies to lovers (especially if it’s more accurately enemies to friends to lovers), friends to lovers, amnesia, arranged marriages/marriages of convenience, wounded (emotionally or physically) protagonists, and–actually, there are very few tropes that don’t hit some sort of emotional button for me, if they’re done well, but enemies-to-friends-to-lovers would probably be the best, especially if coupled with amnesia, like CD noted above.

    I never liked secret babies and while I don’t know how to phrase it, I don’t like it when the love story is supposedly bolstered by how it makes the characters act horribly to others. This doesn’t show up that much in romance, thankfully (normally the romantic love increases their appreciation of other types of love, as well) but I’ve come across it a few times. If the hero becomes, say, brutally dismissive of a previous (and perfectly nice) girlfriend after he gets attached to the heroine, well, I won’t say I’ll throw the book across the room, not if it’s got something else going for it, but it’s a definite turn-off.

  49. Isobel Carr
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 14:09:08

    I don’t think I have any tropes that can make a book for me, or make it better than another book (except maybe that I prefer second chance at love stories). I do have tropes I don’t care for (the feisty virgin tames the rake comes to mind, as well as amnesia). But I’ll read anything if a favorite author writes it. Miranda Neville has managed to make me love things I normally hate on several occasions!

  50. Julie Cross
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 15:51:53

    Sports themed books is one of my top bullet proof tropes! I can forgive so much if sports is a main plot element. BUT if the author fools me into thinking it’s about sports and then barely gives it any attention, then I can shift into “hate it even if there’s good stuff” mode. I don’t mean to, it’s just hard to have those expectations and then be let down. I also prefer to be in the athletes head, not the girlfriend/boyfriend of the athlete’s head but I could potentially enjoy both set ups.

    Celebrity/movie star/reality show plots are my guilty pleasure trope. I also love to find the rock star stories but have read some bad ones. And like with the sports themed, I’ll pretty much buy all of them.

    I love plots that revolve around humorous yet emotional family drama. Give me the book version of RAIN MAN or LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE any day and I’ll read it reincarnated over and over again.

  51. Miss Bates
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 15:53:55

    @Gen Turner:
    Greetings from Miss Bates! She’s so so happy you enjoyed MORNING GLORY.

  52. Miss Bates
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 16:02:43

    I love marriage-of-convenience, am a sucker for friends-to-lovers, and adore re-united lovers. I love spinster, blue-stocking, and governess heroines, brooding heroes, and damaged ones. I also quite like a soon-to-be-reformed dissipated hero. The other literary aspect that often catches my attention is a nicely glowering setting, anything like JANE’s Thornfield.

  53. Paula
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 16:11:55

    I love a good Beauty and the Beast story! I even love some bad ones ;) I like stranded- type stories whether there’s a romance or not :D or my inner survivalist likes them….

    Let’s see – does “virgin hero trying desperately to hold back romantic impulses” count as a trope? I can’t think where I’ve seen that outside of a Beauty and the Beast plot.

    Strangely, the sexually-experienced hero (or heroine, for that matter) is just a bit squicky for me, even if only mentioned in passing. It just stops me and I start wondering why this needs to be brought up, if she cared about him as a person she’d find him sexy without “experience,” must _everything_ require a resume? etc. But so many romances have this element that I try to overlook it.

  54. Shanna Swendson
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 16:28:22

    I’m afraid I’m a bit the opposite — instead of having bulletproof tropes, I have high expectations tropes. I have favorite kinds of stories that I’m a sucker for, but then instead of unconditional love for books that have them, I have possibly unrealistic expectations for them and am easily disappointed. If I’m reading a trope I love (like friends to lovers or the fairly rare subset of neighbors to friends to lovers) and I feel like the author is Doing it Wrong, I’ll dislike the book more than I might dislike a book involving a non-favorite trope that manages to pleasantly surprise me. That doesn’t mean I don’t give books with favorite tropes a shot or that I don’t go for those first, but I don’t give any kind of pass to a poorly executed book that’s full of things I love. Instead, my disappointment will be even more bitter if it fails me.

  55. Sheri Cobb South
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 16:49:30

    I don’t like secret babies, or babies of any kind, really, because I’ve had two of my own (non-secret) and know what a deterrent to romance they really are!

    I like marriages of convenience in Regencies, but they’re hard to make believable in contemporaries.

    I have a theory that every author has one amnesia story to get out of her system, so it’s a good thing I enjoy them.

    I’m also a sucker for cross-class Regencies, particularly when the hero is of a lower class than the heroine (as anyone who looks at my backlist can tell!).

  56. Cassandra Curtis
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 16:57:37

    Hey Gwen, I love the kidnapped bride/runaway bride trope, too! Well, within limits. If the kidnapper is the hero and he grabs her before she marries Mr. Wrong, I’m all in. But if the kidnapper hero is really some stalker type or comes across creepy, then no way.

    Hi Stephanie, I’m a big fan of office romance, too. Especially when the boss is the woman and the secretary/PA is the guy. I don’t see that often. My own take on office romance is a short novella called Compulsion. It’s erotic rom, though, so it may not suit you.

    My bulletproof tropes are hot man candy in kilt historical, time travel, and haunted romances. Give the historical a couple of paranormal tweaks (Stardust of Yesterday by Lynn Kurland; Outlander by Diana Gabaldon) and you’re on my auto-buy list forever. :)

    My biggest dislikes are secret baby, billionaire heroes (millionaire is good enough for me), cowboy/cowgirl anything, and marriage of convenience. Just not my cuppa tea.

    If anyone has suggestions you think I may like, especially for time travel romances, I have an empty space on my Goodreads for currently reading and would love to fill ‘er up. :D

  57. Lada
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 17:08:30

    Nothing is really bullet proof but there are books I’ll gravitate towards because of a favorite trope (MOC, enemies-to-lovers, second chance especially in marriage) vs books I’ll avoid because of tropes I don’t care for (unrequited love, billionaires & virgins, almost anything with babies – secret or otherwise). But a talented author can entice me to try almost anything!

    @Gen Turner: I’ve never considered “too poor to marry” as a trope but if Morning Glory is an example, count me in for that one, too!

  58. JenM
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 17:25:45

    I always find it funny to see how different we all are in our likes and dislikes. I adore scarred/damaged heroes or heroines, beauty/beast, etc. Also love older women/younger men, geeky heroes, virgin heroes (but dislike virgin heroines), and heroes who have to chase their chosen partner. Secret babies are also a guilty pleasure. In historicals. in addition to the above, I also love MOCs and class/social differences.

    On the other hand, I’m not a huge fan of heroines with a crush on their older brother’s friend. In historicals, I dislike highwaymen, pirates, Vikings, and Highlanders, which is really a help when I’m trying to rule books out, LOL. My other big dislike is time travel romance. I just can’t turn my brain off on those and suspend disbelief (go figure, considering that I have no trouble at all with werewolves, vampires, etc.).

  59. Maggie
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 17:40:49

    Where do I go to get a diagnosis of my trope?

    I legitimately don’t know what “does” it for me…well, lately it’s been Kristen Ashley…can she be a trope of her own?

  60. Elyssa Patrick
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 17:57:27

    I’m a sucker for Beauty and the Beast retellings, governesses, werewolves, rock stars (no surprise there, lol), marriage of convenience (especially LOVE when it’s contemporary), fake relationship/engagements, cold hero/lively heroine pairing, and I love a makeover story done right.

    I’ll gobble any book up though, especially if it’s good.

  61. MrsJoseph
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 17:59:34

    @Tina: OMG! The Passions of Chelsea Kane is one of my favorite contemporary romance books! I’ve never met another person who has read it before.

  62. Susan
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 18:01:15

    Man, oh man, is that Schipperke cute. Especially in his vest! I want him. I’d even want him in a book. I’m a sucker for animals in books.

    I like friends or enemies to lovers stories. Cinderella stories–the oddball/inappropriate heroine with the straightlaced/”perfect” hero. “Damaged” heroes–including ones with past sexual damage. Reunited/reconciled lovers. Governesses. MOCs. Houses–where the house is almost a character itself (like Mary Stewart’s Thornyhold). Cross-dressing. I like heroines who overcome terrible hardship without getting all “woe is me” and pathetic about it. Heroine as breadwinner/financial caretaker for her family.

    HATE stalkers–whether it’s the bad guy or the overly-possessive hero. Don’t like the heroine pretending someone else’s baby is hers. Heck, not real big on babies at all. Don’t like the boss/secretary (doctor/nurse, vet/tech, whatev) thing–my HEA would be if the secretary filed a lawsuit. Loathe the billionaire’s virgin mistress kind of stories with a passion.

    There are probably more tropes I like that ones I don’t. But, ultimately, it all comes down to the individual book. An author can take a trope I normally love and just ruin it, or one I normally hate and produce a winner.

  63. Annabeth
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 18:23:50

    @Sylvie: A few other wounded heroes for you: KA Mitchell’s Improper Holiday (m/m historical, missing an arm and reunited young love trope). Lorelei James Shoulda Been a Cowboy (m/f sheriff amputee hero & friends-t0-lovers). Marie Sexton Never a Hero (m/m recluse hero missing arm). Suzanne Brockmann Frisco’s Kid (m/f Navy Seal hero w/ multiple injuries). Pamela Clare Skin Deep (m/f severely burned hero & sweetest love story ever)

  64. Raven Ames
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 19:06:44

    @Cassandra Curtis: Hi Cassandra – one of my favorite time travels is Linda Howard’s Killing Time – it’s a time travel in reverse, as in the heroine comes from the future to the present. I’ve listened to it and read it multiple times – the world building is executed so well with a lovely romance to boot:)

  65. Raven Ames
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 19:11:04

    I love that doggy in the picture and if that was a cover of a book, count me in, since I also love animals with personalities done well – one of Iris Johansen’s older books, Fatal Tide, features a pair of dolphins that I still think about. However, if an author kills off the dog/cat/horse/guinea pig/etc I will NEVER read them again (and I refer to them as the Michael Vick of authors).
    Enemies-to-lovers works for me every time, especially if there is lots of verbal sparring. Male Dominant/female submissive love stories a la Joey Hill – can’t get enough of them. Foodie romances are always a favorite, too. Is there such a trope as “wine romances” and if there are, any recommendations?
    I don’t know if this counts, but I’m mostly a romantic suspense reader and if the killer is a woman – that just does it for me! The serial killer going after the heroine who with the help of the hero survives trope is always a favorite. And the deeply wounded/damaged h/h trope also works. Cynthia Eden writes some great damaged characters who help each other heal and stop the villain books.
    Virgins and babies/children are just no! I can’t see anything romantic about either. Also, unprotected sex is just so yucky and quite frankly stupid – suspending disbelief of STD’s? Can’t do it in a contemporary. Insta-love and insta-sex are pretty much no-no’s – the chase is the best part of the romance!

  66. TerryS
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 19:11:25

    First, what I don’t like. Vampires (sucking blood does not equate romance in my world), Dragons (I really tried but the image of a My Little Pony commercial kept popping into my head, interfering with the whole romance thing in Dragon Bound), no stalker novels, no billionaires and no cross dressing.

    My favorite type of story can show up in the guise of many different tropes. I like a romance that has the hero and heroine, on paper at least, very mismatched. It’s perfect, for me, when the hero is in some way the heroine’s inferior, and he must work all the harder to prove he is the man for her. An author that can make me believe that these two belong together has me in the palm of her/his hand.

    Examples: The hero is the heroine’s social inferior as in Carla Kelly’s, THE LADY’S COMPANION. (Across the Tracks Trope).

    The hero has money but he is the heroine’s social inferior as in Rose Lerner’s, IN FOR A PENNY and Shari Cobb South’s, THE WEAVER TAKES A WIFE. (Arranged Marriage/Marriage of Convenience Trope)

    The heroine has more life experience than the hero as in ON THE ISLAND by Tracey Garvis-Graves and RED’s HOT HONKEY-TONK BAR by Pamela Morsi. (Older woman, younger man Trope).

    The hero is the intellectual and social inferior to heroine as in Catherine Anderson’s, CHERISHED where you have an illiterate half-breed ex gunslinger and an innocent, intelligent church going heroine. (Opposites Attract Trope.)

    I also love a well-done “secret baby” trope. (I hear the groans, but I really do love a good one – hanging my head in shame.) All that angst as family members come to terms with the news – as in Robyn Carr’s ANGEL’s PEAK and Heidi McLaughlin’s FOREVER MY GIRL.

    I agree with Gwen Hayes’s take on Amnesia stories, “I think it’s fascinating to explore who we are if we don’t know who we are” Liane Moriarty’s book, WHAT ALICE FORGOT, comes to mind as a good example of this type of book.

  67. Jordan R.
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 19:24:26

    I adore a well-done barbarian/captivity story. I’m sucked into trying those every time, although there seem to be a lot of duds out there. I love how the heroine enacts change from the inside. I love the crazy that can come from the cultural confusion. Pretty much, I want Dani’s story in GoT. (Yes, KA’s Golden Dynasty is often a reread for me!) I also like the Warlord series by Elizabeth Vaughn. It definitely works in a fantasy setting, but I love a good historical with this trope as well.

    I also love a nerdy/bookworm/genius hero, especially when they are shy. Watching them come out of the shell is fabulous. I think The Seduction Hypothesis is a great example of this since the main guy is geeky but still definitely alpha!

    One trope that doesn’t really do it for me is the gay-for-you/into-bdsm-for-you/into-______-for-you thing. It never seems to convince me by the end.

    This is such a great post – definitely bookmarking it for future exploration when I’m in the mood for something specific.

  68. Tina
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 19:42:31

    @MrsJoseph: Yup. Passions of Chelsea Kane is five-star read for me.

    @Cleo – Family Tree was soapy goodness. Although I think the story got a bit overwrought in places, I thought she brought to light some provocative ideas. I liked where she finally went with the story.

    @Sylvie – Another great friends-to-lovers by Mayberry is Best Laid Plans. That book was actually my Mayberry gateway drug.

  69. Ellen
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 20:07:21

    Dislikes: Time Travel; billionaire; secret babies; big MIS.

    Loves: Sibling BFF; friends to lovers; humor, any trope.
    ETA: Any story were the heroine is not a perfect size 2 with legs that go all the way to the stars and shampoo commercial-perfect hair BUT the hero is physical perfection, much like Bet Me, the one book I can reread and relisten to until the end of time.
    I love threads like this where older books are mentioned so I can use up those PBS credits.

  70. cleo
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 20:19:30

    @Raven Ames: Julie James has a wine romance – the heroine owns a high end wine shop. It’s the second in her fbi/us attorney series.

    @ros – amen to anyone who gets loved for who they are and not changed. That’s almost more of a requirement than a trope for me.

    @Shanna Swendson – I’m kind of like that. I will forgive a lot in a book that gets one of my fave tropes right but will judge it extremely harshly if they get it wrong (at least imo).

  71. Nancy B
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 20:24:04

    @Annabeth: Georgette Heyer’s Masqueraders has a hero who is afraid the crossdressing heroine will be found out

    I love guardian/ward books. A favorite is Heyer’s These Old Shades. I also love revenge plotlines, where either the hero or heroine uses the other for their revenge, as in What I Did for a Duke by Julie Anne Long. Best friend’s sister is another favorite for me. I like the coerced mistress but I’m picky about its execution and I only enjoy the reformed rake trope when the hero is an actual rake and not just called a rake because the plot says so.

    In contemps, I like books where a matchmaker falls for the client. I’d love any recs on this one since there aren’t many matchmaker stories out there.

    Recently, I realized marriage of convenience doesn’t work for me. It’s such a common trope that I’ve read tons but even a great marriage of convenience book will leave me feeling blah. I also hate amnesia and secret baby.

  72. library addict
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 20:28:15

    @Raven Ames:

    Is there such a trope as “wine romances” and if there are, any recommendations?

    I’ll second Julie James’ A Lot Like Love

    Also, Meg Benjamin’s Long Time Gone. It’s part of her Konigsburg series but could easily be read as a stand-alone.

    And Nora Roberts’ The Villa

  73. cleo
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 20:34:50

    @Nancy B: Match Me If You Can by SEP is the only fall in love with your matchmaker romance that I’ve read and I really liked it.

  74. Susanna Fraser
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 20:39:35

    Bulletproof: Cross-class romance, especially when the hero is the lower-ranking half of the pair. Marriage of convenience in a historical. Intellectual/bluestocking heroines. Beta heroes when the hero is what I call a Badass Beta–someone strong, tough, and brave, but who doesn’t need to be in command at all times. (Think Ivan Vorpatril or maybe Richard Castle.) Historicals with a lot of history in them. City settings in a contemporary.

    For every trope I dislike, I’m sure there’s at least one book that does it so well I’d love it anyway, whether I’ve discovered it yet or not. That said, virgin widows, small-town contemporaries, and history-lite historicals all have an uphill battle to win my regard.

  75. Sheri Cobb South
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 20:41:01

    @TerryS, thanks for the shout-out for THE WEAVER TAKES A WIFE–which ties in with…
    @ros and @cleo, I agree totally with someone not having to change who they are in order to be loved. In fact, when I wrote TWTAW, it was with the idea of “polishing” Mr. Brundy as the book went along, so he would be a suitable husband for Lady Helen by the end. But by the time I finished the dinner party scene, I’d gotten so attached to that man, I couldn’t bear to change him! And more importantly, I realized that HE didn’t need to change; SHE did! She needed to fall in love with him JUST THE WAY HE WAS. I think it made for a much stronger book.

    Oh, and on the subject of tropes, a good fairy-tale adaptation will get me every time. In fact, TWTAW is loosely based on an obscure fairy tale called “King Thrushbeard.”

  76. Raven Ames
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 20:49:12

    @cleo: Just checked Julie James A Lot Like Love out – wine and romantic suspense??? Sold! Thank you:)

  77. Fiona McGier
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 20:58:06


    You need to check out last year’s EPIC winner in the paranormal romance category:
    Static, by L.A. Witt. You’ll love it!

  78. GirlyNerd
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 20:58:51

    That’s all I need in the book description.

  79. Raven Ames
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 21:02:43

    @library addict: Checked out Long Time Gone and The Villa – and well, sold! This is going to be a fun reading week. Thank you:)

  80. Fiona McGier
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 21:19:52

    I love to read actual history and anthropology, but I hate historical romances. My Mom and aunts used to scare me with stories of pre-birth control sex, and how afraid they all were to be “ruined”. So any romance that is set before contemporary is out for me. I hate virgin heroines who “capture” a rake because any man can impress a woman who has no way to compare what he’s like in bed. I also hate alpha males, because in real life they are always alpha-holes, and I don’t see how you can make one bearable in a romance without him being over-bearing. I will drop-kick any book across the room that features violence against a woman, or even belittling or humiliation. No thanks. And sorry Dad, but because me faither was from Glesga, and I grew up listening to the real Scottish accent, I just can’t stop giggling at the tortured attempts to make the hero’s words sound realistically Gaelic…not to mention, Scottish man in kilt = Dad…definitely NOT sexy to me!

    To make me happy, give me a heroine who’s been around the block and knows what she likes, and a hero who joins her in insta-lust, then realizes she’s the woman he wants to be with for the rest of his life. He has to spend the rest of the book convincing her. I’m there. I’ll enjoy every tickle/massage/wild monkey sex episode he treats her to, as he insinuates himself into her life to convince her that he’s the only man for her! And I write what I like to read, because you have to read your own work so many times before it gets published that you have to like it or you’ll go nuts!

  81. Megaera
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 21:40:17

    Friends to lovers and stranding. I didn’t know that’s what the shipwrecked/snowbound/etc., books were called, but I adore them. I suspect that’s why I like time travel romances, too. Inadvertent time travel has to be the ultimate in getting stranded.

    Also nerdy heroes and the occasional shapeshifter, but no vampires, please. Someone said upstream that blood-sucking/=romantic, and I agree with that in spades.

  82. Laurie Evans
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 21:44:13

    Don’t care for: Billionaires, marriage of convenience, secret babies, most enemy to lover stories.

    LOVE: friends (or neighbors) to lovers, almost any kind of reunion love, beta males. I love beta males, but they’re hard to find. I’ll admit, I’m new to romance (2 years), so there’s a lot I just haven’t discovered yet…

    Love this site and all the great suggestions here!

  83. MaryK
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 22:12:38

    I love Beauty & the Beast retellings, the closer they stick to the fairytale the better. I came across a SFR novella version recently by Christine Pope. It’s pretty good; I liked it well enough that I’m going to try one of her novels.

    I also really like marriage of convenience and forced proximity. And I like hero in disguise, a la the Scarlet Pimpernel, but those aren’t as easy to find.

  84. Nikki
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 22:22:41

    I really love books where the heroine rescues the hero. It might not be physically but it could be emotional. This probably goes along with the fact that I love a tortured/damaged hero. I also love arranged/semi-arranged marriages where it turns out they fall in love with each other or were in love beforehand. That is how I went on a Helen Bianchin spree but she also has this completely crazy ex tool that she uses. I know someone else mentioned this but I love the marriage in trouble trope – that is how Laura Florand and Lorelei James got me hooked.

    My biggest pet peeve recently is the trope of the abused/stalked woman. It can be well-written but a lot of the books I am seeing it in the heroine lacks any form of agency. So, useless damsel in distress annoys me. It is especially annoying when it is used in a menage novel because I always think to myself – she was on the lam from a guy, how is she going to fall into the arms of some dude much more two who she doesn’t know?

    I have a love/hate relationship with secret baby stories. Some of them are great… but I get so annoyed with the Present’s heroes who find out she was pregnant or they had a child and are like she is horrible, evil, blah blah. I feel like it argues that he is not intelligent enough to hire a private investigator to follow-up or he is such a a**hat that he refused to listen when she tried to tell him. In the same vein, the heroine who refuses to use money he gives her and is living some miserable martyr of a life because at that point she is also an idiot. However, if other people causes problems, I can give some leeway.

    The more I think about this, the more I realize there are some tropes that I just fall over for far too easily. This likely explains my yearly expenditure.

  85. Tina
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 22:26:11


    I also really like marriage of convenience and forced proximity. And I like hero in disguise, a la the Scarlet Pimpernel, but those aren’t as easy to find.

    You might want to try out Desire in Disguise by Rebecca Brandewyne, it hits both your tropes.. It takes place during the French Revolution and both the hero and the heroine are Pimpernel-like figures. They are married (MOC) and she pretends to be sickly, he pretends to be super busy with his estates. Their pretense gives them plausible reasons for not being around each other much so they both go on their merry way swashbuckling. They cross paths as their alter egos a lot, but each have no idea who the other one really is.

  86. Heather Massey
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 22:46:14


    I just bought it. Thanks for the rec!

  87. MaryK
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 23:03:35


    I LOVE treasure hunts – particularly when the hero and heroine either have to team up and/or after competing against each other. I can only think of a couple of these though, which is probably why I’m always looking for them.

    How about Playing Games and Wicked Games by Jill Myles? I haven’t read them, but they sound similar to what you’re talking about.

  88. MaryK
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 23:18:30

    I also like enemies to lovers but I’m fuzzy on the details of that one. :) I don’t like hate/hate/hate/instalove. I want some kind of gradual transition (where they learn about and fall for each other – similar to forced proximity) or a situation where circumstances make them enemies not personal feelings.

  89. Julie
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 23:55:01

    @Cassandra Curtis: I’m assuming you’ve covered The Time Traveler’s Wife already? That’s a beautiful romance inside a more literary type novel (though I’m not a fan of the word literary as a genre label, that’s what people call TTW). I have a time travel romance series but it’s YA and the love story isn’t completely a front and center romance.

  90. JenM
    Jun 26, 2013 @ 01:51:37

    @NancyB – Have you read Heartstrings and Diamond Rings by Jane Graves? It features a guy who takes over his grandmother’s matchmaker business and falls for his first client. You also might want to try Heather Webber’s Lucy Valentine series, starting with Truly, Madly. The lead character runs a matchmaking business, although she doesn’t fall for any of her clients.

    @MaryK – There’s a Kerrelyn Sparks novel on sale right now called The Forbidden Lady that is set during the Revolutionary War and features a Scarlet Pimpernel type hero. Also, have you tried His At Night, by Sherry Thomas? It features a secret agent who acts like a simpleton so that everyone discounts him and he’s able to gather secrets.

  91. Kari S.
    Jun 26, 2013 @ 01:52:18

    A treasure hunting romance I really love is River of Eden by Glenna McReynolds (at least 10 years old, author AKA Tara Janzen.) It features the hero and heroine on a hunt for a rare (perhaps mythical) orchid in the South America jungles. Both are botanists. Includes a sex-while-sleeping scene (which can really happen)!

    Tara, the first older heroine/younger hero I can think if is an old series Romance by Gina Wilkins, featuring a 33-year-old heroine and a 28-year-old hero. (It’s truly embarrassing to the heroine, who babysat the hero and his sister as a teen. (Title is A Perfect Stranger, since the hero is unrecognizable to the hero, while he remembered her immediatly. Harlequin Temptation #353, 1991.)

  92. Cassandra Curtis
    Jun 26, 2013 @ 02:48:05

    @Raven Ames – Enjoyed Linda Howard’s Killing Time. Certainly a different spin (TT) on a suspense/thriller/murder mystery. Also loved that she went back in time to what was our present.

    @Julie – Loved The Time Traveler’s Wife! It’s one of my favorite (TT) books. I don’t normally read YA, But if it’s a TT, I probably will. :) Would love to read a NA TT. Hope somebody writes one soon, so I don’t have to, to get my fix. lol. I have enough deadlines on my schedule.

  93. Sylvie
    Jun 26, 2013 @ 03:59:39

    @Ducky: UGH, I’m not home for the summer. Let me think about it a bit. I do think the missing limb may be combined with the 1/8 native American thing, if that offends. I overlooked it for the story.

    I just added three books to the Kindle when it was supposed to be on lockdown. Thanks for the recs!

  94. Jennifer Lohmann
    Jun 26, 2013 @ 05:12:17

    I saw one person mention it, but I’m a sucker for the damaged hero. Penelope Williamson’s The Outsider is my all-time favorite. That book is full of so much wonderful crazy. Also Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair or The Serpent Print by Elizabeth Hoyt. It doesn’t have to be emotionally damaged. Simply Love by Mary Balogh and The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt fall into the category for me.

    I think the emotionally damaged hero is often the bad boy, another trope I like. Truly Madly Yours by Rachel Gibson and Too Good to be True by Kristan Higgins (thought O’Shea’s not really a bad boy–but it’s close enough).

    Like Shanna Swendson said, if the trope misses, I’m more angry that the book than I would have been otherwise and often can’t finish those.

  95. Maili
    Jun 26, 2013 @ 07:07:57

    How did I manage to miss this post and its thread?

    Favourites: rivals-turn-lovers, scholar type, treasure hunt, love through conversations or letters, marriage of convenience (preferably when h/h don’t like or aren’t interested in each other at first) and sometimes, unrequited love.

    Least favourites: the Make-over (if a sexy dress with glasses off is all heroine needs to attract hero’s usually elusive attention, he’s not worth rooting for), Secret Baby, TBM, Amnesia, Virgin Anything, Secret/Lost Heir (historical), the Unsolicited Rescuer (“You have a disability? I must save/educate you!”) and the most least favourite: the Self-Appointed Saviour of the Poor.


    And I’m not really sure if this is a “trope” per se, but I LOVE treasure hunts – particularly when the hero and heroine either have to team up and/or after competing against each other. I can only think of a couple of these though, which is probably why I’m always looking for them.

    That’s one of my favourites, too. Peggy Nicholson’s Superromance romance The Light Fantastic was the first to introduce me to the idea. I have no idea if this book can stand the test of time now, but I credit it for making a treasure-hunt addict out of me. Since then, I read Linda Howard’s Heart of Fire, Glenna McReynolds’s River of Eden, Elizabeth Lowell’s Midnight in the Bayou (some of Lowell’s books – under Elizabeth Lowell and Ann Maxwell – revolve around a treasure hunt as well), etc. Historical romances as well, but I’m blanking on authors and titles at the moment. What have you read so far?

  96. alicet
    Jun 26, 2013 @ 09:32:33

    Thank you for this post- so many book recommendations that it would probably take me several days to digest and track books! I have a fondness for second chance at love/reunion romance, troubled marriage romances, twins, sibling’s best friend, marriage of convenience and particularly mail-order brides in westerns. I hate books where there is a looming big misunderstanding that could have been sorted out easily and sheik or royalty romance. But my guilty pleasure- and a trope that makes me read even weakly written books-is a trope I designate “all in the family” such as romances involving step-siblings or in-laws related though marriage. I think I like this trope because of the illicitness of the romance- it would be quite scandalous for this to happen in most cases. I can’t think of really good examples except Jennifer Crusie’s Crazy for You, Lori Wilde’s A Cowboy for Christmas and Katherine Gilles Seidel’s Summer’s End. So I would appreciate more recommendations.

  97. Zara Keane
    Jun 26, 2013 @ 10:13:25

    @Maili: @Angela: Have you read Elisabeth Naughton’s Stolen series? They’re contemporary adventure romances, not historicals, but they feature treasure hunters and archaeologists. I enjoyed them.

  98. Jamie Michele
    Jun 26, 2013 @ 11:56:48

    @Maili, @Angela, we’re talking about MacGuffin books, I think, when we’re talking about treasure hunts. I love ’em! That’s where everybody is chasing after some object (the treasure) that doesn’t necessarily mean anything in and of itself, but rather provides the characters with a reason to run around the globe.

    Like, every Indiana Jones movie.

    Certainly the object should matter — the plots aren’t very compelling if they don’t — but the excitement of the hunt is the real story.

    Zoe Archer’s Blades of the Rose books are exactly this, if you’re into romantic historicals with a touch of paranormal.

  99. Shanna Swendson
    Jun 26, 2013 @ 13:23:15

    I guess this is semi-related to the treasure hunt, but I’m a sucker for road trip/journey/quest stories, something along the lines of the movie It Happened One Night. It’s something I find a lot in fantasy or science fiction (space voyage instead of road trip), but I can’t think of too many romances off the top of my head. I think I like it because it lends itself to the friends-to-lovers story, as strangers or near-strangers are forced into a situation where they have to get to know each other and bond as they deal with shared difficulties. I like that sense of “the two of us against the world” that these stories tend to develop along the way.

    I can’t deal with the insta-lust, and that’s a big reason why my romance reading has dwindled in the past few years. If the hero does anything even verging on rape in the opening, like groping or kissing the heroine without her consent, the book gets tossed across the room. If he only considers her physical attributes in terms of sex, like only noticing her boobs, butt and thighs or only thinking of her mouth in terms of what it would be like on various portions of his body, the book gets put down. Geez, at least notice her pretty eyes (and not about how much better they’d look if her pupils were dilated with desire). And if all he can think about when meeting her is wanting to have sex with her, with no thought about any other aspect of her and not even considering the possibility that she might have a mind, personality or feelings, the book gets dropped. I like to think there’s at least a little more to the relationship than that — if you cut out the sex scenes, would I still believe that this couple is really in love by the end of the book?

  100. MaryK
    Jun 26, 2013 @ 13:35:02

    @Shanna Swendson: All About Romance has a bunch of “Special Title Listings” that list books containing particular themes. I’m pretty sure they have one called “Road Trip.”

  101. Lia
    Jun 27, 2013 @ 21:53:06

    Weighing in on this late — I was kinda sorta really busy June 25. :)

    I will always adore the enemy-to-lovers trope, especially if the author later reveals that the asshole Alpha or snippy heroine is doing something magnanimous and selfless in secret, e.g., funding orphanages or taking care of a dying parent. I guess this sort of goes along the lines of “opposites attract.” That always gets to me. I also kinda like the “weirdly matched”, e.g., she’s a concert pianist, he’s a tattoo artist.

    Cannot abide the secret baby trope or any trope that inserts an “oops” pregnancy, or a pregnancy/family that is not planned for by a couple who have been together for a long time. There are no hit or miss books in this category. In fact, there’s an excellent chance they will hit the wall and I won’t miss reading them the next night.

  102. Rachel
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 10:56:57

    I’m not at all original, looking at everyone’s responses above – I’m a sucker for marriage of convenience, spinster heroines (especially if she doesn’t want/doesn’t catch the attraction), smartass heroines, and laidback joker heroes.

  103. JenM
    Jun 29, 2013 @ 09:16:50

    For all of you who love the “dating his brother’s ex-wife” trope, I’m currently reading a book called A Basic Renovation by Sandra Antonelli that fits the bill. I picked it up because it features lead characters in their 40’s (another one of my favorites, although I wouldn’t call that a trope LOL). It’s smart, sexy, funny, and apparently the author’s first published book, as she doesn’t appear to have a back list. It’s also only $1.99.

  104. Denise
    Jun 29, 2013 @ 16:55:57

    No bullet-proof tropes for me. I have preferences, such as damaged hero and Beauty and the Beast retellings. However, these can sometimes be combined with elements I don’t like, and that dislike overwhelms my trope preference. For instance, if you put damaged hero in a sports romance I won’t read it. The one or two sports romances I tried bored me to tears, and it’s a premise I’ve just never warmed to, even when I recognize that the writing is solid.

    Trope I can’t stand – insta-lust. Hate it with an insta-passion.

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