I spend a lot of time over at Books Rock My World bashing on tropes. And yes, they do deserve a bashing. Overused or done with a heavy hand, tropes smother and choke a story.
Poking holes in them doesn’t mean that I dislike tropes, however! They are classic for a reason. Having that feeling of familiarity is comforting, and helps me invest with the characters as they go through their story. To me, tropes are both the foundation of the dish, and the seasoning. You start with a good, basic cliché like “fish out of water” and then spice it up with a unique take on the situation. Possibly add dashes of some other tropes like “underdog” or “second chance at love” and voilà, a beautifully cooked book.
Truthfully, I really love a trope done well. Instead of taking the mickey out of them, for this post I’m going to list my absolute favorites. Along with a few notes about why they are so awesome. Chime in with your own thoughts in the comments, I want to hear which ones you love!
1. Enemies to Lovers
Starting off with the best. This one is my hands-down, insta-buy, best loved trope. Friends to lovers is fine, sure, but to me it’s missing the sizzle that only comes from a bit of back and forth. Having our lovers be enemies first adds legit tension and a genuine obstacle to overcome. And that resolution! So satisfying.
Favorite books with this trope: Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) Much Ado About Nothing (Shakespeare) Dark Skye (Kresley Cole) and The Hating Game (Sally Thorne).
2. Misfit Finds Their Niche
This one has traces of the underdog plot, as well as a fish out of water element. Really, the ways to tweak it are endless. The best bit is when the other characters finally realize what a gem the misfit was the whole time. And I love making it through all of the hardships to the moment when our underdog reaches their happy ending. Either by finding their niche, or creating their own. Happily ever after never felt so good!
Favorite books with this trope: Harry Potter (JK Rowling) The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson-Burnett) The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) Graceling (Kristin Cashore) Unseen Academicals (Terry Pratchett) The Blue Sword (Robin McKinley).
3. Second Chance Romance
Again, this is a fabulous way to add some very real tension. Something in the past separated our lovers, whether it was outside forces or their own mistakes. They have some changing to do, misunderstandings to overcome, maybe even some old, deep-seated hurt to soothe. When it’s done right this trope makes my heart and soul so satisfied!
Favorite books with this trope: Persuasion (Jane Austen) Face the Fire (Nora Roberts) Unforgiven (Mary Balogh)
4. Mail Order Bride/Marriage of Convenience
Something about the forced proximity keeps me reading. Will they seek out the little things about each other that are worth loving? Will they spend the precious time needed to understand each other? Or will they keep it at convenience and go their separate ways inside the same house? Plus the added element of sexual tension, because dayum can it get tense in a marriage of convenience! For me, this one works best in historical novels, and only when the couple finds out that the person they married was perfect for them all along. (Not realistic in ANY way, I know, but I read these for a happy fantasy world, not for real life!)
Favorite books with this trope: Slightly Married (Mary Balogh) Devil in Winter (Lisa Kleypas) The Temporary Wife (Mary Balogh) I haven’t read Roomies by Christina Lauren yet, but I hear it does this trope well, plus it’s modern? I need to track it down and give it a try.
5. Opposites Attract
This one revolves around the mystery to be solved. Why do these two love each other when they’re so different? And how are they going to make it work anyway? The conflict is built in. And the resolution can be found in so many ways, all unique, and all their own kind of fun. Maybe underneath the surface these two aren’t as different as they thought. Maybe when they reach a middle ground they find the best type of balance. The way they choose to make this kind of love work takes trust, work, and sometimes a surprise twist.
Favorite books with this trope: Slightly Dangerous (Mary Balogh) Pretty much anything by Nora Roberts, this trope is her milieu, but I especially love Courting Catherine, Playing the Odds, One Man’s Art, and the entire MacKade Brothers series.