One of the most common complaints I hear against romance novels is that they’re all the same. If you’ve read one, you’ve read them all.
That’s true. Sort of.
Yes, romance novels are formulaic, but that’s one of the reasons why people love them! We know that, no matter what happens, the boy and the girl will have at least one pleasant moment—the happily ever after. I have no idea how the events in my life will play out, but I can always count on a romance novel to give me something to smile about.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t repeated plot lines though (this isn’t a uniquely romance-related issue, but that’s a topic for another blog). Not only do multiple authors write the same trope, most authors repeat their favorite tropes too (you kind of have to if you want to write more than a handful of books). And that’s okay! Changing the characters and location is a start. Add in the unique writing style of each author and there are plenty of ways to enjoy the same story line.
Here are some of my favorite tropes:
The Ugly Duckling: The heroine doesn’t fit the classic definition of beauty. In a quest for beauty, the heroine learns to value herself and discovers her true strength and beauty while still attracting the hero. A great recent example of this is At First Glance by Susan Tuttle.
Opposites Attract: Rich/poor. Boss/employee. Republican/Democrat. J’nell Ciesielski’s World War One novel, Among the Poppies, features a horse-loving soldier who thinks women should stay off the battlefield where it’s safe. It also features an independent, car-driving woman who finds her place on the front line.
Friends to Lovers: They grew up together. They’ve supported each other through everything. The only thing they haven’t done is date. Karen Witemeyer’s No Other Will Do brings lifelong friends Malachi and Emma together in a dangerous situation that bushes the boundaries of their friendship.
But my favorite is…
Marriage of Convenience: Thrust together by circumstances, the hero and the heroine say “I do” before they fall in love (but you know they always will). Two of my favorite MoC stories are Montana Rose by Mary Connealy and Short Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer. Those are both historical romances—most marriage of convenience stories are. Well, that was the case until recently.
Contemporary romance writers have been asking themselves what it would take to create a believable, modern-day MoC novel. That’s what I asked myself six years ago when I wrote Ashley and Russ’s story: what would it take for two people in the 2010s to decide to get married for practical reasons instead of love?
For me, the result was Practically Married, the story of a woman who accidentally inherits her deceased fiancé’s family farm house, complete with his bachelor cousin. Coming out in October 2019, it’s my contemporary take on the MoC trope.
Those are my favorite romance plots. What about you? Do you have a favorite trope? Which books show it the best?
Karin Beery – Writer. Editor. Novelist. Karin writes contemporary fiction with a healthy dose of romance. Represented by literary agent Steve Hutson at WordWise Media, her debut novel, Summer Plans and Other Disasters, released September 15, 2018.
When she’s not writing fiction, she’s editing through her business, Write Now Editing. And when she’s not doing either of those, she teaches Substantive Editing for Fiction and Romance Editing through the PEN Institute. Karin is also the Managing Editor for Guiding Light Women’s Fiction at Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, where they publish stories that entertain, encourage, inspire, and enlighten.