I don’t tend to like overbearing romance in books. I’m very picky with my romance, a result of reading too much fanfiction, which applies these tropes liberally. So I’ve developed a bunch of romance tropes that I’m drawn to.
Really, slow burn is a requirement for everything else on this list – it’s my favourite trope. I love seeing a relationship develop over the course of a novel, or even several books – gradual, an easing in, and then eventually, a realization. If I’m not screeching into my pillow every time they’re near each other because I just want them to kiss already, it’s not slow enough. I like my slow burn absolutely glacial.
Kit and Ty, for example, have already been three years in the making. I bookmarked all the places where Kit/Ty scenes made me scream internally. The burn was already slow when Lord of Shadows came out, and I honestly expected them to get together in Queen of Air and Darkness. Those of you who have read it know what happens and why I’m in agony now. And I have to wait another three years. I know I complain, but I kind of love this torture. I really do.
Friends to Lovers
Friends to lovers is just so pure. There’s something lovely about seeing friends develop into a relationship–especially if it’s a longstanding friendship, and the two parties already love each other as friends. This is the softest trope in existence, honestly–it’s so sweet to read about.
Percy Jackson and Annabeth Chase are a prime example of this trope. It takes four books for them to kiss, but even from the first book, The Lightning Thief, they were the ultimate power couple. Seaweed Brain and Wise Girl were such great friends and an amazing team before they even admitted their feelings for each other, and now they’re in love and adorable about it and even more of a power couple.
Enemies to Lovers
If friends to lovers is pure, enemies to lovers is tense. I love how charged enemies and lovers can be. There’s something really exciting about seeing two people hate yet love each other simultaneously, and then learn to overcome the “hate” part. It’s especially fun when two parties are grudgingly forced to work together and the “love” comes on gradually, without anyone noticing it.
Jude and Cardan are one of my favourite examples of this trope. I wasn’t expecting to love them as much as I did, but when I read The Cruel Prince, my heart was racing because of how well-written the enemies-to-lovers was. I read a lot of enemies to lovers fanfiction, and Jude and Cardan are absolutely on that level–the churning mix of hate and love, the absolute confusion of both parties, and sarcastic remarks through gritted teeth.
Enemies to Friends to Lovers
This is galaxy brain level trope – all the tension of enemies to lovers and all the sweetness of friends to lovers. I also feel like, in a way, it’s more natural and makes more sense than enemies to lovers is–I like it when my ships are friends before becoming couples, even when they’re enemies before they’re friends. It takes so much character growth for this trope to happen, and I love how character-focused this trope usually is.
I really loved Laurent and Damen in The Captive Prince. They start out as kings of opposing nations, as master and slave, but learn how to understand and work with and eventually love each other. Even though I felt like the first book of the series was a bit of a rocky start to their relationship, the way Laurent and Damen began to connect with each other despite their different backgrounds and the history of their countries was so heartwarming.
The fake dating trope is just so good — especially combined with other tropes on this list. I know this is more of a rom-com trope–I can’t think of an example of it in genre fiction–but it’s so fun. There are so many shenanigans that can happen with this trope in play. And I love it when their fake dates turn into both parties wanting them to be real dates, and the conflict that comes from ending the charade. Is it predictable? Maybe, but I love it.
Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a wonderful example. First of all, they’re absolutely an adorable couple, and there’s a good dose of mutual pining and slow burn in there as well. I love how Lara Jean and Peter build their relationship during their fake relationship and watching their feelings for each other sneak up on them.
Okay, you know the kind of pining where both parties are absolutely tortured by their feelings for each other but neither of them will deign to admit it? Yeah. That pining. I like it when people are sick with pining. I need my mutual pining angsty too. I need both characters to be distressed over each and every small touch and glance.
Kaz and Inej actually fit under this umbrella, and the tension between them had me in tears throughout Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom. They’re such a well-written example of the mutual pining trope, especially because their type of mutual pining is different than most types I’ve seen. Yes, at first the pining is because neither knows about the others’ feelings, but even when they figure it out the pining persists because both of them struggle so much with touch-based PTSD triggers. It’s still the mutual pining trope, but in a clever disguise.
Slow Burn Fake Dating Mutual Pining Enemies to Friends to Lovers
JUST KILL ME RIGHT NOW, MURDER ME THIS INSTANT. I’ve read several fanfictions with these elements, but I can’t think of a single published book right now. If anyone knows, please lead me to it. I may expose some more of the fanfictions I read, but right now I’m going to link a Les Mis fic, World Ain’t Ready, and avoid embarrassing myself.
What are your favourite romance tropes? Do you usually like romance?