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Romance Novel Tropes

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A Walking Shirtless Scene poses with his redhead lady and her barely hanging on grand dress.

All the various tropes of the Romance Novel.

  • Altar Diplomacy: The hero and heroine are arranged to be married for politics, whether they like it or not.
  • All Men Are Rapists: In older romances; not so common now. It can be seen as a mark on Western culture as a whole that women are more comfortable reading about consensual sex than they were. Older romances, dating back to The '70s, tended to use rape as a way to give the heroine (and thus the reader) what they wanted while absolving her of the guilt of choosing it.
  • Anti-Hero: The types vary, but romance novel leads can tend towards bad boys (ready to be reformed) instead of a clean-cut, straitlaced fellow.
  • Arab Oil Sheikh: So popular as the male lead that you can buy 'sheikh' omnibuses. Tends to be common among certain categories of the category novels.
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  • Arranged Marriage: A common technique in historicals to force the hero and heroine to deal with each other.
  • Beautiful All Along
  • Broken Bird: Women love to see the healing power of love. Most have a side of Intimate Healing as well, but usually after the hero is a bit less screwed up.
  • But Not Too Foreign:
    • Despite the sheikh novels mentioned above, less "genre" romances often have heroes who are just one exotic (from a US perspective) quarter: Native American, Japanese, Arab or the like, but very rarely are full members of non-European ethnicities in ancestry and upbringing.
    • Heroines are even less likely to be exotic.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: In some novels, an extreme importance is placed on the act of uttering the words "I love you".
  • Costume Porn: If lady's outfits are described, they will be in detail.
  • Double In-Law Marriage: A common plot is for the heroine's sister and the hero's brother to have married, had a child, and then died; this forces the leads to interact on more or less hostile terms over custody, until the matter is resolved by their marriage.
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  • Extruded Book Product: Harlequin/Mills & Boon "category" romances
  • First Love
  • Fan Nickname: Many abbreviations for common terms among fans, including:
  • Flirty Stepsiblings: A common way to make the hero and heroine resent each other but be unable to avoid each other.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: And any past sexual relationships (usually with a conveniently deceased spouse) the heroine has had will be unsatisfying. And even if it was, it still hasn't been nearly as good as it is now. This can even apply to the heroes occasionally.
  • The Grovel
  • Happily Ever After:
    • Explicitly described by many readers and writers as an essential mark of the genre, distinguishing it from other love stories. Abbreviated HEA.
    • Sometimes subverted as a Happy For Now, where the characters are left in a situation which may succeed and may not. Abbreviated HFN.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: In which the male hero only hates women because of the actions of a bad woman, and will be cured in the end by the good heroine.
  • Honorable Marriage Proposal: Common in historical romances. May lead to Marriage Before Romance.
  • The Four Loves: Arguably the reason for the existence of the genre.
  • The Ingenue
  • Ladykiller in Love: The "rake" or chronically womanizing man is a popular hero character. He is almost universally guaranteed to no longer be interested in anyone but the heroine (a possible exception is, of all things, the ur-example of the character, Lord Damerel in Georgette Heyer's Venetia.) There is often a scene where a willing woman offers herself and he's quite surprised to not want to take her up on it.
  • Lovable Rogue: The male lead character is simultaneously desirable and off-putting or threatening.
  • Love Tropes: All of them.
  • Magical Nanny: Often in the Magical Stepmother form, though in that case, the marriage is not for real.
  • Magical Native American: Often, if historical.
  • Man in a Kilt: A popular male lead in historical settings is the rugged Highlander.
  • Marriage of Convenience: The couple have been thrown together into a marriage or partnership, bringing them together and immediately into a romantic environment.
  • Mills and Boon Prose: Ironically despite the Mills and Boon category romances being the Trope Namer, most romance novels avert this trope in favor of less Purple Prose-like sex scenes.
  • Nature Adores a Virgin
  • One-Hour Work Week
  • One True Love
  • Public Medium Ignorance:
    • Romance novels are full of Purple Prose, gratuitous sex and are basically thinly veiled porn for women, or "mommy porn". Right?
    • Despite the fact that Mills and Boon Prose is rare in the genre these days and the fact that most sex scenes in a Romance Novel are an important part of the emotional connection of the hero and heroine, no one seems to know this. Some people still think that romance novels are full of rape, even though that became rare at the start of The '80s, thirty years ago!
  • Reformed Rakes
  • Roll in the Hay: A couple on a farm will make love in a hay barrack.
  • Romance Cover Scene
  • Romantic Fake–Real Turn: One person pretends to love another, or two pretend to love each other, then they fall in love for real.
  • Romantic False Lead
  • Rule of Romantic
  • Star-Crossed Lovers
  • Too Dumb to Live: Far too many of the heroines.
    • Most common in romantic suspense genre as a way to have an otherwise intelligent heroine get captured by the villain so the hero can have a Storm the Castle rescue moment.
  • True Love Is a Kink: When romantic attraction and carnal attraction are one and the same.
  • They Do: Essential for the Happily Ever After.
  • Unexpected Virgin
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension
  • Virgin-Shaming
  • Will They or Won't They?: They Will.
  • Your Cheating Heart: If the woman is currently married, her husband may do this if he is the Romantic False Lead. Sometimes if the hero has a pre-established significant other, he can do this, too, though it will be made out to be for a good reason.


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