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Thinks Like a Romance Novel

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"You don't want to be in love... you want to be in love in a movie."

At its core, this trope transpires when a character's logic and train of thought run on Romance Novel conventions.

In its most severe cases, one character is totally in love with another and the idea of confessing his/her feelings sends said character directly into full blown delusions of grandeur about returned affections. The character tends to think of romance in completely idealized terms, and their train of thought plays out like the summary of a category romance novel.

More innocuously, the inverse thoughts can lead to Oblivious to Love, because the Love Interest does not conform to the romance novel standard, it wasn't Love at First Sight, or any other failure.

Marks of this in animation include an Art Shift, a misty border if not a misty filter over the entire frame, symbolic surroundings (color background, roses, fireworks, etc), and a liberal coating of Bishie Sparkle for the characters to stare at one another adoringly through. Arguably it is much more fun to see characters thinking like romance novels in animation than anywhere else if for no other reason than these overblown delusions.


In Live Action works or Literature it is more common for the mental image to be implied while the character rambles soliloquizes about how the love scene will turn out, or for the other characters' actions to reveal their Romance Novel idealism.

Subtrope of Wrong Genre Savvy. See also Daydream Surprise for the delusion itself. Often overlaps with In Love with Love. Compare to Imagine Spot, Dream Sequence, and Gilligan Cut.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ranma ½: Rumiko Takahashi not only loves giving her characters overblown romantic fantasies, but also idealized visions of victory, etc.
    • Ryōga certainly thinks in these terms about half the times he dreams about confessing to Akane.
    • During the Gambling King arc, Ukyō makes a bet with Ranma that if he lost against the Big Bad, he would become her partner in a business venture... in the Siberian Tundra... where he would inevitably have a Love Epiphany, and midst the desolation of the landscape their love would blossom. If that's not a Category Romance fantasy, we don't know what is.
    • Tatewaki Kunō has these fantasies a lot... usually with two women throwing themselves at him (which, according to his Self-Serving Memory, puts his fantasies in the genre of Nonfiction).
    • Kodachi Kunō as well, though her fantasies appear to be a bit more intimate.
    • Happōsai's fantasies tend more towards erotic fanfiction than category romance, though he's had his moments.
    • Hikaru Gosunguki tends to daydream along the lines of Romance Sitcoms whenever he thinks about Akane.
  • Black Butler anime has Grelle Sutcliffe, who thinks like this about Sebastian. This has gone to the extent of Grelle yelling that she wants to have Sebastian's babies, complete with roses and sparkles (and a disgusted Sebastian). It's even used to get assistance from Grelle by promising her things such as an entire day to do whatever she likes with Sebastian, or an opportunity to take pictures of Sebastian in sexy poses.
  • In Black Cat, Kyoko has a scene like this where she imagines herself confessing her love to Train.
  • Kyouko from Skip Beat! lives and breathes this trope. She thinks straight out of classic fairy tales, though. Though there might be some overlap.
  • From D.N.Angel we have Daisuke who thinks this way about Risa Harada, and Risa Harada who thinks this way about Daisuke's Superpowered Alter Ego Dark.
  • From Flint the Time Detective, we have the Anne Rice Vampire wannabe Merlock, who has such fantasies about the female lead Sara. Kind of squicky when you take into account that she's about ten, his age as a Dhampyr is skewed, and during an episode where Sara was sized up without Magic Pants he saved her modesty by magicking up a Playboy Bunny costume for her. And took lots of pictures.
  • In Junjou Romantica it happens to a couple of characters. In Misaki's case, it involves Usami being a pervert (and then the exact thing happens), while in Nowaki's case, it was about Hiro-san being acting like a housewife (not a chance).
  • Midori Days: Ayase is very influenced by the shoujo manga she reads, to the point where whenever she imagines her romantic moments with Seiji, he's suddenly a Bishonen and harpsichord music plays.
  • One Piece:
    • In the anime, Boa Hancock does this for Luffy at the beginning of every episode while they're on the boat in transit from The Island of Women to Impel Down. Actually a Justified Trope: from age 12 to 16, Hancock (alongside her sisters) was subjected to a horrifying Break the Cutie ordeal that severely stunted her social skills.
    • Sanji does this at all times. Notably, during the Water 7 arc he imagines he and Robin dancing in a fairy tale-esque setting.
  • Ouran High School Host Club:
    • The hosts act the way they do because they know this is the way their clients think. Though, Tamaki seems rarely to think in a manner that isn't straight out of some category of Romance Novel.
    • On a related note, Renge seems to have trouble at first in grasping that the world doesn't act like a Dating Sim-Game.
  • In Sailor Moon, the eponymous character has a number of these fantasies about Tuxedo Mask, sometimes involving the arcade guy or the Moonlight Knight for good measure. She seems to slip into these fantasies at least once every couple of episodes in the first couple of seasons.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! Season 0 and the manga, Hiroto Honda (Tristan Taylor) goes into this trope in spades regarding Miho Nosaka. He goes off on a fantasy/rant about them together almost every time he talks about/to her.
  • A Durarara!! April Fools story reveals that Erika's inner-narrative, when it comes to the subject of Shizuo and Izaya, is written entirely in Mills and Boon Prose.
  • In one episode of My Wife Is a High School Girl , Asami simply walks into a store and has a marriage proposal a few minutes later. The shopkeeper certainly saw her in a favorable light—slightly blurry, with sparkles and roses all around.
  • In Fairy Tail, Juvia does this a lot in regards to Gray. Somewhat more understandable than other examples since she's also very naive in regards to social interaction.
  • Literature Girl from Daily Lives of High School Boys seems to think this way concerning her crush Hidenori — in fact, her crush with him is out of her desire to re-enact her love novel. Hidenori, meanwhile, doesn't want anything to do with her — in one skit he prefers Potty Failure to being seen by her!
  • Kiku in Genzo, whenever she daydreams of she and the titular Puppet Master together.
  • May Chang of Fullmetal Alchemist does this in regards to her incredibly exaggerated idea of what Edward Elric looks like. After she meets Ed in person and learns how obnoxious he can be, she shifts her affections (And imagination) to Al after hearing a slightly exaggerated description of his human body. When they meet again up north, Hilarity Ensues, especially when she meets Winry.
  • Ryoko constantly exhibits this thinking in the manga and OVA versions of Area 88.
  • Misa Amane of Death Note is a rather dark deconstruction of this, and it's rarely Played for Laughs after she manages to fall for the handsome, charming, clever Light Yagami... who is, in actuality, the Serial Killer Villain Protagonist in this Psychological Thriller, and who treats her like crap because he firmly believes Love Makes You Stupid and women are useless.
  • Sayaka Miki from Puella Magi Madoka Magica. She uses her wish to heal Kyosuke's arm, but it backfires - instead of the two of them getting together, Kyosuke goes back to devoting his attention to his music, and the more she learns about what she's let herself in for as a magical girl the less she feels able to pursue her feelings for him even when Hitomi delivers an ultimatum meant to urge Sayaka to make a love confession. It doesn't end well.
  • Hanano from Chihayafuru Thinks Like A Shoujo Manga, initially seeing herself as the Hollywood Homely romantic heroine, Taichi as her popular guy love interest, and Chihaya as the Rich Bitch rival. Unfortunately, this makes her Wrong Genre Savvy, as Chihayafuru is actually a Josei Game Manga, and Chihaya is the heroine.
  • In The Devil Is a Part-Timer!: High School, a scene where Ashiya and Emi argue is contrasted with Chiho's perspective of the same event. It is very different from reality.
  • Marika from Bokura no Hentai thinks like she is in an idealistic 70s shoujo manga. Unlucky for her she is not. For example, when Ryousuke grabs her hand and pulls her to a secluded area of the school she thinks it's romantic at first. This is until he threatens to kill her if she tells anyone his secret.
  • Jun of The Anthem of the Heart thought of the world as a fairytale when she was younger. This only set her up for psychological trauma when her parents got divorced.
  • In Comic Girls, the shojo artist Koyume has this mindset, to the point that her peers call her the "walking shojo manga."
  • Invoked in chapter 2 of Musashi-kun to Murayama-san wa Tsukiatte Mita. When she starts dating Musashi, Murayama tries reading through her collection of romance manga to figure out how romantic couples are supposed to act. Unfortunately, all the stories end with the confession, so she has no idea what comes next.
  • A flashback in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid featured a bandit who mentioned that her dream was to become a maid and hopefully fall in love with her master.
  • Rumi Asai of Mousou Shoujo Otakukei is in fact in a love story, but her only knowledge is from the wrong sub-genre: Boys' Love. So however much Abe says he loves her, she continues to believe that his real love is his best friend Chiba (and seeing them together, it can certainly look that way) and all his protestations of love to a girl are the phase before he accepts his homosexuality. Even when an actually gay boy becomes involved, he is very different from what Rumi imagines.
  • In Bloom Into You, Yuu tends to think about love along these lines, having gotten much of her understanding of it from love songs and shoujo manga. She imagines love to be some kind of overwhelming feeling, so when she doesn't feel anything after a guy confesses he has a crush on her, she ultimately decides to reject it. She does appear to be falling in love with her crush, Touko, but because her feelings don't match up with what she thinks love is, it takes her a while to realize it. While Yuu is genuinely brokenhearted after Touko seemingly rejects her Anguished Declaration of Love, Yuu wonders if she ever truly loved Touko, since she doesn't feel as overtly upset as her friend Akari was after Akari faced something similar.
  • The yuri pastiche The Lady is a Romcom Protagonist! has the main character become this, but she uses shonen manga for her fantasies instead of the typical shoujo. As a result, everyday encounters at her One-Gender School become wrought with made up scenarios straight out of the Ecchi and Harem Genre playbook.

    Comic Books 
  • The DCU character Flamebird appears to think this way: Themed Weapons + Costume + Vigilantism = Instant Relationship with Superhero Crush!
  • Harley Quinn exhibits this constantly, idealizing and thinking of her abusive, co-dependent relationship with The Joker as a storybook romance.
  • A bit character (the old lady parishioner) in the Immortal Hulk's 3rd issue has this affliction, so her parts of the story Art Shift into a romance comic colored fully pastel, with the villain as a Pretty Boy sparkles included, random flowers, and dramatic posing.

    Fan Works 
  • Bella, from the Twilight fanfic Luminosity, deduces that attraction between two vampires is always symmetrical, mutual and exclusive because vampirism has the odd quirk of conferring the hallmarks of romantic fiction to anyone afflicted by it. She realizes that if she chooses to become immortal then she will also be choosing to be inescapably in love with someone she doesn't even know or like.
  • For SpongeBob SquarePants there is this comic. Thinking like a romance novel at its best.
  • Ginny from A Very Potter Musical appears to think this way. A lot. She even has a song about it.
  • This trait is commonly assigned to Rarity in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfics.
  • Justified in A Teacher's Glory: Ino uses experience with romance novels to judge whether Tamaki is just a retainer, or on the way to becoming mistress of the manor. Judging by the lack of jewelry and gifts, Ino correctly deduces that Tamaki and Sasuke, the Uchiha Head are not sleeping together.
  • In Sanctuary (TLOZ), Malon thinks like a fairy-tale. However, when Malon finally realizes that Sheik is actually the princess Zelda, she mentions that "the storybook ended" and she has to go back to reality. This is subverted when Zelda comes back to her.

    Films — Animation 
  • Rayna and Rayla from Barbie: Mariposa. They want to marry the Prince and think his being locked away is romantic.
  • Princess Anna from Frozen thinks in conventions very similar to most early Disney Princesses: hitting it off with one person after a single night is enough to convince her that they're soulmates. Prince Hans, the guy in question, is anything BUT a good prince, and manipulates this way of thinking for all it's worth in a bid to get his hands on the throne of Arendelle for himself.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Princess Diaries, Anne Hathaway describes what her perfect first kiss will be like.
  • In Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Mrs. Lovett's entire scene for "By The Sea".
  • Hellboy appears to be a big ol' softie for a romantic storyline with his girlfriend like any Romance Novel addict. Arguably, since in the second movie she essentially condemned the world to save Hellboy, Liz Sherman has Romance Novel ideals in the form of "Love at any cost."
  • In High School Musical, Zeke appears to have something like this train of thought—he was true to himself, so of course the girl he likes will return his affections! If not, there's always other ways...
  • In a deleted scene from Serenity, Inara is having a conversation with another Companion School instructor, revealing that many apprentice companions believe Inara and Mal had quite a lemony love story going on.
  • Chet Keefer, in the film The Marrying Kind is annoyed by his wife's view on love and marriage, and thinks she is too influenced by romantic films.
  • In Sky High (2005), the main character has one of these moments when he first sees the Student Council President, that song plays and everything faces away. True love, no doubt about it.
  • Played with in Sleepless in Seattle. It was lampshaded with Rosie O'Donnell's line "You don't want to be in love. You want to be in love in a movie." However, little did she know, Sleepless In Seattle is itself a romantic comedy, so it turns out Meg Ryan's character was actually Right Genre Savvy.
  • Tom in (500) Days of Summer, who insists on imagining Summer as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl against all evidence to the contrary, and gets his heart broken as a result.
  • Giselle in Enchanted thinks like a Disney fairy tale romance is the most natural thing in the world. But then, she's literally from an animated fairy tale universe and has to spend most of the film adjusting to life in the cynical reality of New York. Said cynical relaity is still part of a greater Disney fairy tale, though, so it manages to work out.

  • Artemis Fowl: Artemis's alter ego, Orion seems to believe he's the hero of a Romance Novel.
  • Jane Austen's Emma is perhaps literature's best example, though her Romance Novel thoughts typically center around the people she's playing matchmaker for. Considering that the novel was a satire of thinking like a Romance Novel, it only makes sense.
  • From Inkheart, literal Arab Expy Farrid thinks this way about Meggie, even to the point of after their first kiss proclaiming they will get married. It doesn't work out. Really, Meggie?
  • One father in Judge Dee blames his daughter's reading of great love stories for her behavior, refusing to take a husband who isn't "just right."
  • Madame Bovary's title character is another classic example. She was raised in a convent where romance novels were passed around by the girls, and she believes love can only exist in the grandiose, sentimental way. She ruins her first marriage (and life) for this.
  • Discworld:
    • In the novel Mort by Terry Pratchett, there is Ysabel, who goes into the room with the books of life writing themselves to read all the real-life stories of tragic love that there are, and these stories form the basis of her understanding of romance.
    • While a lot of Pratchett's younger female characters have this problem, it's subverted in Unseen Academicals: Glenda secretly reads pulp romance novels as her only known form of recreation, but she's not convinced and ultimately doesn't let them mislead her in her own life or her advice to others.
    • Also subverted in Wintersmith: The Nac Mac Feegle provide Tiffany with a romance novel to help her with the wintersmith... and she thinks all the characters should just be more sensible.
  • Tomoya of How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend is easily moved to tears by romance stories, but Oblivious to Love in real life. After a "fateful encounter" with a girl in his class, he is convinced that she would make an ideal love interest, and ropes her into joining a team to create a Visual Novel with her as the heroine. He soon becomes frustrated that Megumi is a subdued and boring girl compared to the fictional characters he's used to, or even to the other girls on the development team, and the story goes through multiple revisions as he struggles to express why despite being boring, he still considers her his "ideal heroine". Naturally, Tomoya is the last person to figure out that it's because he's genuinely in love with her.
  • One R.L. Stine novel involves a heroine with... perhaps a tenuous grasp on reality, as she typically has fantasies about being more assertive and attractive than she is, and stealing her love interest away from his Rich Bitch girlfriend.
  • Mia from The Princess Diaries thinks about her love life (and other people's love lives) in this way a lot of the time. So does her friend, Tina.
  • Michael from the Knight and Rogue Series manages to do this while also being able to use normal logic (or as much of that as he usually could.) He thinks that his love for Rosamund will overcome the barriers between them, but when she falls for another traveler he decides to help her, figuring that when she sees what it's like outside her pampered home life she'll give up on him.
  • In Twilight, Bella always compares her situation to romance novels or theater, varying from book to book (Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights).
  • Deconstructed in A Song of Ice and Fire when Sheltered Aristocrat Sansa Stark is betrothed to Prince Joffrey. She expects everything to play out like a courtly romance, but then suffers a horrible Trauma Conga Line partly because of her idealism. She grows out of it.
    Petyr Baelish: Life is not a song, sweetling. Someday you may learn that, to your sorrow.
  • The Count in Pan Tadeusz wishes his "enemy" (it's largely in his head) had a beautiful daughter or wife for the Count to be Star-Crossed Lovers with. He's an artist. It's a thing.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Neal Caffrey from White Collar may be charming, intelligent, and sly, but he's also somewhat of a hopeless, diehard romantic. After all, this is the man that committed increasingly elaborate crimes to catch the attention of the woman he loved, went to prison because he walked straight into a trap to see her again, broke out of prison with three months left on his sentence to go after her, and countless other things, both for Kate and the women after her.
  • From Babylon 5 we have Marcus Cole, who out of idealism for love refused sex, and then fell in love with Susan Ivanova. Unfortunately, his Heroic Sacrifice and her bad timing is one of the reasons why All Love Is Unrequited.
  • The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. has a Historical Romance Novel right in the middle of the plot basically any time the eponymous Brisco interacts with his Love Interest Dixie Cousins. Whether this was the writers or characters thinking like romance novel plots is debatable.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • For a short period near the end of Season 6, Spike seems to believe that his relationship to Buffy is the plot of a Gothic Romance Novel. That whole attempted rape thing really puts a damper on their relationship at the beginning of Season 7.
    • And in Season 5 Spike follows the conventions of Courtly Love; justified given his past as a Victorian-era wannabe romantic poet.
    • And sixteen year-old Buffy with Angel.
      Angel: I'm just tryin' to protect you. This could get outta control.
      Buffy: Isn't that the way it's supposed to be?
      Angel: This isn't some fairy tale. When I kiss you, you don't wake up from a deep sleep and live happily ever after.
      Buffy: No. When you kiss me I want to die.
  • Kaylee from Firefly seems to think this way when it comes to Simon Tam — even trying Beautiful All Along (though it was more for her benefit), Through His Stomach (though she seems to cook for the whole crew a lot, and being his best friend (resting her legs on his lap).
  • In The Magnificent Seven TV series, the character Casey Wells is introduced as an injection of estrogen and love interest for upstart-youth J.D. Dunne. Her crush and idealism are so strong that she enlists the aid of Buck Wilmington, the group womanizer, for a Beautiful All Along gambit.
  • In Roswell, Liz had more than a few elaborate fantasies about her Love Interest Max coming on to her. They were very nice strawberries...
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Who Mourns for Adonais?" the eponymous Adonais has everything lined up to be the Marty Stu hero of his own Romance Novel, pretty little Yeoman and all. It doesn't work out.
  • In the reboot V (2009), it would seem that the heroine's son who's unknowingly dating Cthulhu's daughter seems to think that he's just in some cross-cultural successful love story.
  • On Gossip Girl Blair Waldorf Thinks Like A Romantic Movie, or more specifically romantic films of the golden age Hollywood variety. To the point where her ex-boyfriend thinks the most romantic thing he can do to win her back is give her an ultimatum a la An Affair to Remember.
  • In The Office (US), this is one of the main culprits of Michael's personal failures. He consistently tries to live up romantic tropes but ultimately this is doomed because This Is Reality. Until he marries Holly, anyway!
  • Subverted on Hot in Cleveland. In the first season, Melanie's ex-husband shows up and they go out for part of the episode. He decides to go back to his ex (whom he left Melanie for), and Melanie runs to the airport to catch him. An airport employee even lets her through and there's a lot of talk about the trope. She then proceeds to tell him off. Melanie, never swears.
  • Lorna Morello of Orange Is the New Black is obsessed with West Side Story, Twilight, and gossip magazines, and spends most of her time in prison planning her perfect wedding with her perfect fiance, Christopher. In reality, they went on one coffee date before he broke things off, and she's a delusional Stalker with a Crush who's in prison for threatening him and his actual girlfriend.
  • The point of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is how Rachel sees her life as a grand romance novel or film, not quite getting how incredibly crazy she comes off as her "romance" of her ex is just stalking.

  • Anytime "True" by Spandau Ballet plays, you can be sure that it's an indication of this.
  • "Love Story" by Taylor Swift is what Romeo and Juliet would be like if it were a YA Romance Novel instead of a cautionary tale. The more you know.
  • Psychostick's "It's Just A Movie, Stupid" features its lead singer discouraging his audience from following this line of thought in the bluntest, most vulgar way possible. It also acknowledges the typical gendered scenarios for the men and women who hope to invoke this trope in their love lives.
  • Gordon Lightfoot references this trope in 1970 Break Up Song "If You Could Read My Mind.
    If I could read your mind, love, what a tale your thoughts would tell
    Just like a paperback novel, the kind that drug stores sell
    When you reach the part where the heartache come, the hero would be me.
    Heroes often fail
    You won't read that book again because the ending's just too hard to take.


    Tabletop Games 
  • The villain Tenderheart from Dark Champions believes in the delusion that life works like a romance novel and her criminal career is based around the idea that a superhero will fall in love with her.

  • In The Man of Mode, Mrs. Loveit thinks this way, despite the fact that the man she's in love with, Dorimant, plays the field and is a trickster. Played for Laughs
  • Fiddler on the Roof toys with this in the song "Matchmaker".
  • In Reefer Madness, the musical, High School Sweethearts Mary and Jimmy have not yet finished their coursework for Romeo and Juliet. They believe that the two will get married, "have a baby, and make lots of friends!"

    Video Games 
  • Tsubaki Yayoi in BlazBlue, which makes the circumstances of her More Than Mind Control and Mind Rape induced Face–Heel Turn all the more tragic. This is clearest (and funniest) in Bang Shishigami's joke ending, when she ends up "helping" him propose to Litchi... via trying to stage a Shotgun Wedding, which makes Bang himself go all "WTF?!"
  • Granblue Fantasy: Korwa is obsessed with the idea of happy endings, and often tries to orchestrate melodramatic or cliched scenes into happening. This does have a more positive angle as well, however; she's the one, alongside Tweyen, who gently encourages Carren to get in touch with her parents and try to understand their position, because she knows that Carren permanently falling out of contact with her parents can only lead to regret later in Carren's life.
  • Elphelt Valentine in Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- never changes out of her stylized wedding gown and frequently launches into lengthy tirades about how wondrous married life with her defeated opponents (or their friends) would be.
  • One stage in Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2 has Christine Kamogawa, an actual romance novelist who draws inspiration from her wild Imagine Spots.
  • The Sims 3 has Sims with the "Hopeless Romantic" trait.
  • Lunar: Eternal Blue:
    Bar Wench: Right now, I'm just a lousy, stinking bar wench, but one day my knight in shining armor will ride through those doors and sweep me off to a new life with shimmering palaces and dazzling wealth...
    Ruby: Uh, I think you'd better lay off the romance novels for a while, sister... Fabio ain't comin' for ya, I'm sorry to say...

    Web Animation 
  • In Step 1 of There she is!!, Doki imagines Nabi in this way, and continues with the mindset throughout the series.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Web Comics 
  • Even the cynical, broken down Nostalgia Chick can think like this, admitting that she's compared every modern man to the Duke of Albany in Kate & Leopold and found none of them could measure up.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • An experiment in which one group of participants watched a romantic comedy and another group watched a drama found that the group watching a romantic comedy became more idealistic about love and romance.
  • A similar study by a University of Michigan doctoral student found that viewing such movies also distorted people's views on stalking behavior, given how frequently such behavior is portrayed as sexy and romantic.
  • Very few Romance Novel heroines actually think this way, as it would sort of defeat the black moment of the three-act structure. Their authors, however, are literally paid for this trope. Many, if you sit down and talk to them, are just as cynical about love as most people who don't read romance novels. It's all about selling the fantasy. In fact, contrary to their popular stereotype, cynicism actually allows romance writers to turn out such novels to a strict structure. They're very aware of what they're doing. Just because someone can enjoy a romance novel doesn't mean they can't tell the different between it and reality. Reality has way more single billionaire running around waiting to fall in love with the plain girl who doesn't bother with her appearance, but still has great hair and skin.


Example of: