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Favorite Tropes

Tropes you secretly (or not so secretly) love. Check all that apply.

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I’m pretty much a sucker for the friends to lovers theme as well as the marriage of convenience one. I hate the virgin widow trope and generally dislike the secret baby one, but can let that one slide under the right circumstances. Oh, I also like the reunited lovers trope. Must add that to the poll.

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. Elizabeth
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 13:22:26

    I love friends to lovers. In very rare cases I will buy it no matter who’s selling it (one obvious exception is Dawson and Joey from Dawson’s Creek but that’s tv so doesn’t really count here).

    Secret baby is ok if done right but it’s not one that I seek out or react to with glee if I come across it in a book.

  2. Leah
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 13:27:49

    I also like the familiar chick-lit trope of “loses job and cheating boyfriend in same week/day/minute.” In romantic suspense, I like the hot tortured detective/cop chasing a serial killer.

  3. Jia
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 13:42:42

    I love friends to lovers, and the occasional revenge plot.

  4. Jill Myles
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 13:49:49

    I love Enemies to Lovers, Marriage Of Convenience (OMG especially Mail Order Brides) and shamefacedly confess that I love captor/captive romance. It’s so un-PC! It’s so wrong! It’s so like crack!

  5. Ann Bruce
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 13:49:58

    Tropes Jane forgot (but not ones I necessarily enjoy): blackmail, forced by final will and testament, helpless widower with baby… Must skim my HP titles for more tropes…

  6. Jane
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 13:51:23

    Oh lord, Blackmail trope! and the Will trope (i hate the will trope thus it is being expunged from my memory when possible).

  7. Moth
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 13:54:42

    I’m very partial to a reunited lovers story. Just finished reading Delicious by sherry Thomas. Good book.

    I think you forgot the Heroine/Hero with a Dark Secret trope, although I guess that usually falls under Big Mis. If the author does it right those can be pretty good too. (Recently read Your Scandlous Ways by Loretta Chase, for example. Brilliant book!)

  8. Dawn
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 13:57:59

    Love the Scarlet Pimpernal/Zorro trope – effeminate, useless upperclass whatever with a secret life as a masked badass helping the downtrodden. Made even better by everyone’s complete inability to recognize him due to a 3-inch swath of material.

  9. Laurie
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 14:01:25

    When’s the tropes we hate poll? Because I’m itching to check Reunited Lovers on that one.

    Marriage of convenience is my bulletproof kink, and friends to lovers is another fave.

  10. Bree
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 14:07:58

    I am deeply ashamed to admit it, but “She’s my best friend’s little sister/cousin” is my bulletproof kink. I am not proud, but I can not resist it. It’s like crack to me.

    Also I will buy anything at all that has a hot, broody alpha hero who is a techie. I don’t care if he’s hacking security systems to steal diamonds (HOT) or an NSA agent (Double Hot!) if he’s broody and brilliant, I will trip over myself to buy it. If he’s paranormal on top of that, I will throw money at you.

  11. JessicaMcG
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 14:24:58

    Jane, thanks. Fun post.

    Bree, I totally agree with the alpha hero techi and then add in paranormal, love it! Roarke (from the In Death series) comes to mind, of course with out the paranormal part. :)

  12. roslynholcomb
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 14:33:06

    I’m nuts for the rescue fantasy. I know they’ll burn my NOW card but I love it when the hero sweeps in a rescues the heroine from some low-life.

  13. Bev Stephans
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 14:35:44

    Under the right circumstances, with the right writer, any of these tropes can work. It really comes down to good writing to get the story across.

    The virgin widow is probably one of the dumbest tropes. How often are you going to have that situation in real life? If we are to believe some books, it happens all the time. GAAHHH!

  14. Victoria Janssen
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 14:48:38

    Roarke (from the In Death series) comes to mind, of course with out the paranormal part. :)

    Roarke ISN’T paranormal???

  15. Meriam
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 14:53:53

    I’m partial to the younger man/ older woman trope.

    Second, the reunited lovers. Third… maybe the enemies to lovers.

  16. Jaci Burton
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 14:59:21

    Friends to Lovers, Marriage of Convenience, Secret Baby, Reunited Lovers, Revenge Plot and Road Romance. Those are all my absolute favorites. Yummm.

    Fun poll!

  17. Cathy
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 15:08:59

    I’m secretly a fan of the “Forbidden because she’s meant for my friend/ overlord/ greatest enemy, but fortunately deus ex machina makes it all okay in the end” trope. Oh and the historical “secret affair because society prevents me from marrying you” trope.

    I can’t stand secret babies or virgin widows. Especially virgin widows with secret babies. ;)

  18. DS
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 15:12:59

    Ditto on younger man/older woman.

    I was going to click Enemies to Lovers but had a sudden flash of the heroine pounding her tiny little fists on the hero’s broad chest and screaming that she hates him before they fall into bed together. This I hate. However, I have enjoyed stories where the two protagonists were literally enemies– different sides of a war, different species in sff who may even have difficulty communicating due to their different hard-wiring. Then they have to come together to overcome some obstacle and they learn to appreciate and even love one another during this process.

  19. joanne
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 15:58:40

    I’m such a title tramp.
    Please don’t throw rotten fruit but I love ANY Millionaire, Billionaire, Tycoon, King in a Marriage of Convenience.

    ……. Prince, not so much.

  20. MoJo
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 16:10:25

    ……. Prince, not so much.

    It’s cause he’s an also-ran.

    I’ll admit it: I love ’em all, which means I’m easy AND cheap.

  21. Amy
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 16:39:15

    Oh lord, Blackmail trope! and the Will trope (i hate the will trope thus it is being expunged from my memory when possible).

    Even though I know it’s completely impossible, I still kinda like the will trope — I did choose the marriage of convenience option, after all!

    I used to love “plain jane/tomboy gets a makeover” stories when I was a teenager (a not-so-secret wish for my own makeover, most likely!) but I’ve gotten over them — now I like the plain janes/tomboys as they are instead of becoming Barbiefied.

  22. Anonymousie
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 16:57:58

    Recently, the romance group on LibraryThing had a discussion of the “tropes you just won’t read”, which is interesting in that it shares so many themes in common with this poll. (You can read the discussion here.) In particular the secret baby device.

  23. Ann Bruce
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 17:10:11

    Especially virgin widows with secret babies.

    Inspirational romance?

    Just joking!

    But if this is your thing, both Iris Johansen and Susan Napier have done virgins (not widows) with secret babies. Can’t recall the titles right now, though.

  24. Caty
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 17:20:09

    I’ll read pretty much any of them, if they are well done. My favourites are probably Friends to Lovers and Marriage of Convenience, with The Road and Reunited Lovers coming next on the list. I’m not very keen on Secret Baby or Revenge. Or on Big Misunderstandings, or cases of mistaken identity come to that. And although I don’t mind reading the occasional ‘Hideous Past’ story where one or other (or both) of the protagonists is recovering from rape, abuse, torture, kidnap, or some other horrible experience, I’m unlikely to seek those stories out.

  25. Bree
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 17:34:17

    Bree, I totally agree with the alpha hero techi and then add in paranormal, love it! Roarke (from the In Death series) comes to mind, of course with out the paranormal part. :)

    Haha, I still haven’t read the In Death series, but guess what just jumped to the top of my TBR pile. The person who told me I’d love it forgot to mention the magic words…

    I am waiting for the day when I find the book about the alpha techie werewolf hero who falls in love with his best friend’s little sister. LOL C’mon, it has to be out there…

  26. joanne
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 17:36:07

    Ann Bruce on November 13th, 2008 at 5:10 pm:
    Especially virgin widows with secret babies.
    Inspirational romance?
    Just joking!

    We were laughing (nicely) about the title:
    The Pregnant Virgin by Anne Eames – a Harlequin Desire
    and someone responded:
    That’s a Christmas book, right?”

  27. Ann Bruce
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 17:45:06

    The Pregnant Virgin by Anne Eames – a Harlequin Desire

    If it’s not about the Second Coming, in vitro fertilization, perhaps?

  28. Angelia Sparrow
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 18:12:31

    I’m a sucker for rescue plots.

    Closeted (self-loathing optional) guy gets swept away from narrow-minded family/town/country (willingly or un-) by big sexy man and learns to love himself because big guy loves him.

    My bulletproof kinks:

  29. vanessa jaye
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 18:23:01

    Friends to lovers, enemies to lovers, marriage of convenience, blackmail, revenge. Anything that’s a riff on Beauty & the Beast, and I’ll be all that.

    You forgot the secretary/boss thing that’s been the mainstay of Harl Presents since the year dot.

  30. Janine
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 18:36:22

    I checked all of them except the virgin widow and the big misunderstanding. But I have even enjoyed books with those.

    Jane, you must have fallen off your horse, hit your head on a rock and got amnesia. Or you wouldn’t have forgotten this trope!

  31. Ann Somerville
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 18:37:42

    I love friends to lovers. Enemies to lovers. Slaves to lovers (but only after they’re free.)

    I’m also a sucker for the virgin’s secret baby line, if the virgin is a guy :) (which is my way of saying I like mpreg, and this is going to confuse half of you and squick the rest of you!)

  32. Jill Sorenson
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 18:49:18

    Ooh, guilty pleasures! Here are some of mine:

    Heroes with missing limbs (I know this is weird)
    Heroines in boy disguise


    Cabin in the wilderness
    Forbidden love with brother’s widow
    Tortured widower
    Hero nursed back to health

    *This thread makes me feel all warm and cozy.

  33. GrowlyCub
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 19:08:34

    Friends to Lovers, Marriage of Convenience, Reunited Lovers. Add to that: younger man/older woman and vice versa.

    I’ve read pretty much every trope listed in the poll and I agree with those that say if it’s written right everything on that list can be made plausible.

    Probably my least favorite of the list is Enemies to Lovers.

  34. Julia
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 19:33:03

    Mail-order bride! sigh…

  35. Jinni
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 20:23:12

    @Jill – two of the best Temptations were heroes with missing limbs. Oddly very sexy.

    Friends to Lovers and secret babies are the best. Friends to lovers I’ll read any time – my most recent favorite Anything for You Sarah Mayberry — secret babies – only in the context of friends to lovers.

    These are like crack and are perfect for long weekends.

  36. BevQB
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 20:23:52

    Friends to Lovers, Marriage of Convenience, The Road Romance (except for the lame “There’s immediate danger all around us, let’s get it on” scenes), and I also picked Other. But I’m pretty sure my “Other” would be at or near the top of the “Tropes we are sick of” poll for a lot of readers: Fated Mates. Yes, I admit, I still enjoy the instant uncontrollable lust provided it is mutual. By that I mean that, even if one of them doesn’t understand why they are in instant lust, I don’t want to see the other inch their toes up to the Creepy Stalker line.

    Oh, and MY “Tropes we are sick of” poll would be topped with The Big Misunderstanding. GAH! That just makes me gnash my teeth!

  37. Jane
    Nov 13, 2008 @ 20:52:31

    @Janine: How could I forget that?

  38. Bookwormom
    Nov 14, 2008 @ 09:08:22

    Another favorite of mine is guardian-ward and governesses. As has already been mentioned though, any of these can be well done it’s just a question of finding the right books.

  39. Imogen Howson
    Nov 14, 2008 @ 11:30:35

    I like virgin widows and marriages of convenience and friends to lovers and sometimes reunited lovers. I also love “but she’s my best friend’s little sister” or anything where the hero goes from “she’s just a child” to “oh no she’s not–she’s a WOMAN”. And impossibly innocent, vulnerable virgin heroines, as long as the hero is reasonably nice to her. And I’m not a bit ashamed. :-)

  40. Noelle/Barbra E Noel
    Nov 14, 2008 @ 12:11:09

    I should say reunited lovers since that’s the trope of our Debut but I said other since I also really love all situations of Forced Confinement. Marriage of Convenience yes but also Stuck in a Barn/Hunting lodge/Cave during a Snow/Rain/Wind Storm. She/He is ill/hurt and can't leave till they are well, a good old civilized kidnapping for ransom, stuck on/in a ship/carriage/train. Etc etc etc!

  41. Kaley
    Nov 14, 2008 @ 13:32:06

    Has anyone said unrequited love? That theme always breaks my heart! Laura Kinsale’s The Shadow and the Star. Julia Quinn’s When He Was Wicked, or Romancing Mr. Bridgerton.

  42. BevQB
    Nov 14, 2008 @ 13:32:41

    Stuck in a Barn/Hunting lodge/Cave during a Snow/Rain/Wind Storm

    Oh wait, me too! I thought that was part of The Road Romance, but now I realize that wouldn’t always be true, would it?

  43. Ann Bruce
    Nov 14, 2008 @ 13:38:46

    Stuck in a Barn/Hunting lodge/Cave during a Snow/Rain/Wind Storm

    The above fall under cabin romance.

  44. Moth
    Nov 14, 2008 @ 15:09:01

    My bulletproof kinks:

    I second. Yes, please!

  45. Kimber An
    Nov 14, 2008 @ 19:09:33

    Babies, babies, babies! I love babies. More babies please! (Hmmm, sounds oddly similar to a recent conversation with my husband.) Why babies? Babies trigger a nurturing instinct in people which grows into selfless love. And selfless lovers are the best lovers of all. Bring on the babies!

    P.S. Karen Templeton is the best ‘secret baby’ author of all time. Well, she is in my opinion.

  46. willaful
    Nov 14, 2008 @ 20:37:34

    I seem to be the only person in the world who hates friend-to-lovers. Well, not invariably–the part I hate is the “I can’t do anything about it ’cause it’ll RUUUUUUUIN OUR MAAAAAGICAL FRIEEEENDSHIP” whine.

    I like reunion stories unless they’re so over the top as to be ludicrious–like they smiiled at each other back in ought six and haven’t been able to kiss anybody else since.

    My fav which isn’t mentioned is the “some impossible situation means he has to marry someone else.” Oh, the heartbreak! And I love the tension created by convenient marriages.

  47. CD
    Nov 14, 2008 @ 22:51:19

    Love the Scarlet Pimpernal/Zorro trope – effeminate, useless upperclass whatever with a secret life as a masked badass helping the downtrodden. Made even better by everyone's complete inability to recognize him due to a 3-inch swath of material.

    Oh yes. My favourite guilty pleasure. I mean, I loved the New Adventures of Superman and the only disguise that Dean Cain had on were his glasses…

    Friends to lovers are OK but prefer reunited lovers – almost as much as my Zorros. I also have a thing for books books where the hero is pretty dismissive of the heroine at the beginning – only to obviously do a complete 180. But my most secret love is reserved for … amnesia plotlines. Yep, I know I need to make an apppointment with those guys in white coats.

  48. Janine
    Nov 15, 2008 @ 00:16:14

    But my most secret love is reserved for … amnesia plotlines. Yep, I know I need to make an apppointment with those guys in white coats.

    Me too, me too (see my post at #30)! Maybe we can get the guys in white coats to visit both of us together.

  49. Alisha Rai
    Nov 15, 2008 @ 00:45:23

    There is a subset of the amnesia plotline that I feel is becoming more prevalant: The “Wha, we’ve had sex!!??” plots, where one of the H/H is too drunk/sick/you name it to remember their first sexin. Misunderstandings ensue. Lora Leigh just did this in one of her Nauti boys. It makes me laugh. And read.

  50. Miki
    Nov 15, 2008 @ 01:35:30

    What about the “wounded warrior”? I love ’em, either historical (To Rescue a Rogue, England’s Perfect Hero) or contemporary (Irresistible).

  51. Jane
    Nov 15, 2008 @ 01:38:14

    @Miki: Is that a trope or something else? I think I need to compile a list of all recognized tropes and then go through and retag all the posts to reflect the particular “trope” each book meets. I’ll run the “least favorite tropes” poll tomorrow but probably use the same thread. Or should I start a new thread?

  52. Miki
    Nov 15, 2008 @ 01:44:22

    Well…I’ve read more than once people complaining about wounded heroes, particularly from Regency romance. So I thought it was a trope for some.

    For me, it’s candy. ;-)

  53. SonomaLass
    Nov 15, 2008 @ 03:02:48

    Definitely the disguised heroine, particularly the cross-dressed one, is a trope worth mentioning. (And a big hit with me as a reader, but then it was the subject of the PhD dissertation back in the day, so I have an excuse.)

    Big thumbs (and whole man-hands) up to reunited lovers plots! Again, story of my life, so there’s an easy reason why, but I do find them particularly satisfying. And it gets me some slightly older characters, which I appreciate more the older I get.

    I didn’t check marriage of convenience because I only like it in historicals. Silly, maybe, but in contemporaries it usually feels artificial or TSTL that the heroine lets herself get gypped that way. In historicals, it is one of the few ways to get the h/h in bed together before the end of the book, and you get some good scenes that way.

  54. Jennifer Estep
    Nov 15, 2008 @ 18:15:47

    @Dawn: I love Scarlet Pimpernel/Zorro too. Which is probably one of the reasons I write about superheroes. :-)

  55. Least Favorite Trops | Dear Author: Romance Book Reviews, Author Interviews, and Commentary
    Nov 17, 2008 @ 22:58:58

    […] had a previous post and poll regarding our favorite tropes and now I wonder what your least favorite tropes […]

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