Romance tropes (and tropes in general) permeate various aspects of literature and entertainment, from the works of Shakespeare and Austen to everyday language and beloved TV shows. These tropes represent familiar situations within narratives that provide a framework for storytelling. Despite some negative connotations associated with the term trope, implying unoriginality, they remain fundamental elements of every story.

It’s also not uncommon for multiple tropes to coexist within a single narrative. Let’s take Nick Cassavetes’ The Notebook, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks, which features multiple romance tropes, including Forbidden Love, Second Chance, Love At First Sight, Summer Romance, Love Conquers All, and an Emotional Reunion. Yet they all weave together to make The Notebook an emotional and dramatic film that’s beloved by many and a very memorable romance.

Romance tropes are recurring themes, plot devices, or character archetypes commonly found in romantic stories. Whether they’re in the form of books, films, TV shows or even video games, tropes often serve as narrative conventions that help create familiarity and engage the audience’s expectations and desires. While tropes can sometimes feel predictable or cliché, they can also be used creatively and subverted to add depth and complexity to a romantic story.

Many readers have favourite romance tropes that they actively seek out when looking for new reading fodder. My personal favourite has always been the enemies to lovers trope, since long before I knew the word ‘trope’ existed when I was a young teen. Which tropes you like will be down to personal preference, but understanding what romance tropes are and how they work is a great way to gain a deeper understanding of your favourite literature and characters, find new books you will love, and write compelling stories of your own.

What Are The Most Popular Romance Tropes?

There are some romance tropes that are more popular than others. Just remember, tropes can be a little marmite, with some adored by certain readers while disdained by others. Additionally, the popularity of tropes tends to fluctuate over time. For instance, the trope involving a virgin falling for an assertive Arab Sheikh who forces himself on her was once wildly popular, but has currently lost its appeal.

Likewise, other tropes have really stood the test of time – many are shocked to discover enemies to lovers in classics like Pride and Prejudice, but we can go all the way back to the Bard himself and find it running amok in Much Ado About Nothing between Beatrice and Benedick (to name but one example in Shakespeare’s work).

So, what are the most popular romance tropes?

Why Romance Tropes Can Be Problematic

Romance tropes can go wrong when they are poorly executed or perpetuate harmful or unrealistic ideas about love and relationships. Some romance tropes portray idealised and unrealistic versions of love and relationships. They often depict love at first sight, soulmates, or the idea that true love conquers all. While these can be entertaining in fiction, they can create unrealistic expectations for real-life relationships, leading to disappointment or dissatisfaction.

Consent can also be an issue with tropes – there’s a reason we don’t like the image of the Arab Sheikh forcing himself on an unsuspecting virgin anymore. Tropes that involve one character persistently pursuing or pressuring another can normalise unhealthy relationship dynamics. It is essential to emphasise the importance of consent and mutual respect in all relationships. Romanticising behaviours like stalking, manipulation, or emotional coercion can be harmful and perpetuate harmful stereotypes.

The Cullen Factor

A great romance with a compelling book boyfriend or girlfriend can make some fairly destructive and even disturbing behaviour seem sexy and alluring. And while it’s fine on the page when you have a character who balances out all that bad behaviour with redeeming qualities and growth, reality is very different. There’s a real danger of romanticising abuse – look at Twilight and the bizarre behaviour of Edward Cullen as he stalks Belle, literally watching her sleep and being incredibly possessive over her.

How many teens grew up thinking that was the ideal to look for in a man? That it was romantic? Some romance tropes romanticise abusive or unhealthy relationships. For example, the Bad Boy trope often depicts a troubled, brooding character who is emotionally unavailable or even abusive. These portrayals can normalise and romanticise harmful behaviours, leading to misconceptions about what constitutes a healthy relationship.

Lack Of Agency And Diversity

Likewise, characters can lack agency when tropes are employed. In some tropes, particularly those centred around the damsel in distress or knight in shining armour, one character may lack agency or be overly dependent on another for their happiness. This can undermine the importance of individuality and personal growth within a relationship.

Romance tropes can also lack diversity, with a tendency to focus on heterosexual, cisgender relationships with characters who fit into conventional beauty standards. This lack of diversity can exclude and marginalise individuals who do not fit these narrow portrayals, reinforcing harmful stereotypes and limiting representation.

Miscommunication or lack of communication is another common trope in romance stories. While misunderstandings can add tension and drama, relying too heavily on this trope can perpetuate the idea that love requires secrets or a lack of honest communication, which can be damaging to real-life relationships.

When handled poorly, romance tropes sometimes feature characters that are one-dimensional and lack depth beyond their romantic roles. This can lead to shallow character development and limit the complexity and nuance of relationships portrayed in the story.

Using Romance Tropes Effectively

To create well-rounded and engaging romance stories, it’s important to challenge and subvert these tropes when necessary, and strive for authentic, diverse, and healthy portrayals of love and relationships.

When romance tropes are overly relied upon, they can become difficult to enjoy. For instance, if the “friends to lovers” trope is used without establishing a solid foundation for their friendship or exploring what makes their relationship work, simply labelling them as “friends” and then having them randomly make out while drunk won’t be satisfying. Their connection should extend beyond the superficiality of a trope.

Similarly, if a story continuously teases the possibility of a romantic relationship between characters without actually progressing it, readers are likely to become increasingly frustrated.

Some writers may employ tropes they don’t fully understand, which can lead to poor storytelling but can also lead to some genuinely concerning characters. Following the massive success of Fifty Shades Of Grey, the market was flooded with stories featuring the trope of a wealthy, dominant alpha male and a submissive virgin female. While I didn’t personally enjoy Fifty Shades as a book, I was more troubled by the fundamental misunderstanding of BDSM and the extent to which these books and others that followed perpetuated some very damaging stereotypes and representations of the world of BDSM.

Romance Tropes

Okay, folks, here’s the main event. I’ve listed all the Romance tropes I can think of; I’ll add more as and when I come across them. I’ll also be adding full posts exploring each, and listing a load of examples of books you’ll find them in, so click through for more info on those with links, and bookmark the page so you can come back later for more. I’ll be adding new ones each month until they’re all done!

Age Gap

All Grown Up

Altar Diplomacy


Arranged Marriage


Beauty And The Beast

Best Friend’s Ex

Best Friend’s Lover

Best Friend’s Sibling




Blind Date

Blind To Love


Break Up To Save Them

Bully Turns Nice Guy

But We Can’t Be Together

Caught In The Rain


Childhood Crush

Childhood Sweetheart

Class Divide

Commitment Issues


Damaged Goods

Damsel In Distress

Dark Past

Dark Secret


Emotional Scars

Enemies To Lovers

Everyone Loves A Bad Boy

Everyone Sees It, But You

Fairytale Retelling

Fake Relationship

Falling For The Wrong Person

Fish Out Of Water

Fling / One-Night Stand

Forbidden Love

Forced Proximity

Friends To Lovers

I Hate Everyone But You

If I Can’t Have You, Nobody Can

It Will Never Work

Jilted Bride


Last Minute Epiphany

Last To Know

Long Distance

Lost Heir

Love At First Sight / Insta Love

Love Potion

Love Triangle


Loveable Rogue

Lovers In Denial

Marriage Before Romance

Marriage Pact


Matchmaker Gone Wrong

Men In Uniform

Mistaken Identity

Not Good Enough

Not Good Enough

Oblivious To Love

Office Romance

Old Enemies

On The Rocks

One True Love

Opposites Attract

Opposites Attract


Pen Pals


Physically Opposite





Rags To Riches


Return To Hometown




Road Trip

Rock Star

Romantic Rain


Runaway Bride

Second Chance

Secret Admirer

Secret Baby

Secret Billionaire / Boss / Royal

Sibling’s Ex

Sleeps With Everyone But You

Snowed In

Sorry, I’m Taken

Soul Mates

Star-Crossed Lovers

Step Parent

Step Siblings


Stuck Together

Sworn Off Relationships

The Nanny / Teacher / Carer

The One That Got Away

Three’s A Crowd

Time Travel

Too Dumb To Live

Touch Her And Die

Trapped In An Elevator

Trauma Bonding

Ugly Duckling


Undercover Love

Unexpected Baby

Unrequited Love

Vegas Wedding / Drunk Wedding



We Want Different Things

Widow / Widower

Will They Or Won’t They

Working With The Ex

Here you have it, a comprehensive list of one hundred and twenty-seven romance tropes for you to explore. I’m curious to know which romance tropes are your personal favourites? Did I overlook any that you particularly enjoy? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments with me below, or find me on Instagram and TikTok!