Top 10 Worst Tropes in Romance

Romance novels are the bee’s knees but sometimes the tropes featured in them make me want to whip the book into the sun. Let’s talk about them.

1. The Alpha-hole

Alpha-holes are the alpha assholes who think they’re the best when in reality they’re just human garbage dressed up in a hot body.

They are

  • Disrespectful
  • Pushy
  • Demanding
  • Mean

Usually, the only person the alpha-hole is nice to is the person they want to sleep with, and even then they’re still not very nice.

Example: All of the Immortals After Dark books by Kresley Cole. The general tactic of men in these books is to just wear down the heroine until she’s too exhausted to continue refusing. They’re ultra-super-MEN with testosterone up the wazoo who can’t be bothered to truly respect their partners.

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2. Romanticizing Abuse

What isn’t romantic?

  • Stalking
  • Possessiveness
  • Jealousy
  • Mistrust
  • Skewed power dynamics

Often these things are portrayed in a positive light and they’re just not part of healthy relationships.

Sometimes this trope even goes so far as to write sexual assault in a positive light. It’s not romantic for the “hero” to ignore the heroine’s protests or to force her. If it’s not enthusiastic consent, I don’t want it.

Example: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. Edward ticks every box on the list. He breaks into Bella’s house, he controls her in every way, he’s jealous and petty, he doesn’t trust her to make her own choices, he’s richer, older, and more powerful than her. It’s just a whole mess and it was the love story that fueled a generation.

3. Secret Baby

People you probably shouldn’t have a baby with:

  • Someone you’re afraid to notify of the pregnancy
  • Someone you don’t respect enough to tell them they have a child
  • Someone you don’t trust to be there for you with the pregnancy/child
  • Someone who doesn’t want kids

The rare exception that I’ll accept for this trope is if the couple loses touch before the pregnancy comes to light and the other party can’t be informed for whatever logical reason.

Example: Gilmore Girls (I know, it’s not a romance, roll with it anyway). Luke finds out he has a daughter, April, living nearby. Her mother just decided to never tell him about it because Luke didn’t want children at the time. Anna, April’s mother, is also not supportive of a relationship between father and daughter.

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4. Second Chance

This trope isn’t all bad. If the pair were separated due to circumstances outside of their control you can have a beautiful story of reconnection.

Reason to not have a Second Chance romance:

  • They broke up for a good reason
  • One or both characters hasn’t grown enough
  • The audience is going to miss out on part of the story

: Melanie and Jake in Sweet Home Alabama. They broke up for a very good reason. She didn’t want to stay living where she was and immediately settle down to have a family. They had different ideas about being parents. They had a highly dysfunctional relationship, we skipped the original romance, and they shouldn’t have gotten back together.

*I love this movie anyway

5. Pregnancy

Babies are work. They shouldn’t be treated a ball and chain or as a magic cure-all.

How pregnancy is used as a plot tool:

  • Trapping people in relationships
  • An excuse to “fix” a failing relationship
  • An excuse to turn a one-night stand into “real” relationship

Pregnancy and babies are way too stressful and exhausting to be used like this. Give the pregnant people a break!

Example: Knocked Up – starring Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen. Heigl’s character gets pregnant from a one-night-stand and the two enter into a relationship despite not even liking one another.

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10 Worst Tropes in Romance

6. Painful Virgin Sex

If sex is hurting you, something is wrong.

  • Why sex might be painful:
  • Not enough foreplay
  • Not enough lube
  • Sexual disorder or other physical condition
  • The character isn’t in the right headspace

None of these are reasons that should be pushed past. If sex is painful it needs to be addressed. It’s not supposed to hurt and we’re doing all the virgins of the world a massive disservice by pretending that it’s normal.

Example: Pretty much every historical romance written prior to the last couple of years.

7. Sex is Magic and Fixes Everything

Relationships can help people. I’m not disputing that. But a penis isn’t a magic wand. Popping one into a vagina won’t cure insecurity or anxiety or PTSD or whatever the character has going on. It doesn’t work in reverse after. A vagina isn’t a magical cave of wonders where all your problems can be solved. If characters are getting busy and suddenly their depression is cured, their skin is clear and their crops are watered, I’m gonna have to call shenanigans.

Example: Night Pleasures (Dark Hunters #2) by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Kyrian was crucified when he was a human and to solve his PTSD with it, Amanda ties him up for sex to help him get over it so he would associate the experience with her instead of the trauma.

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8. Creepily Early I Love You’s

Please don’t tell someone you just met that you love them. It’s a very large red flag. I would be afraid, not swooning.

Things that are okay early on:

  • Crushes
  • Insta-lust
  • Discussions of what characters want to make sure everyone is on the same page

Things are that not okay early on:

  • An “I love you” on the first date

Relationships take time to build and love takes time to develop. If characters are tossing around I love you’s after one date, I’m gonna have to back away slowly.

Example: Ted on How I Met Your Mother. He blurts out to Robin that he loves her on their first date and immediately ruins the evening.

9. Unrealistic/Confusing Sex Positions

Sometimes it seems like authors don’t understand how sex works or know anything about basic human anatomy.

Places to maybe not have sex:

  • On a running horse
  • On a floating island of seaweed
  • On a beach where sand is going to get…everywhere
  • Too many others to list

I’ve got a pretty good imagination, but sometimes I have no idea what the hell is going on in a scene. There is plenty of creativity that can be put into your sex scenes, but readers should be able to tell what’s going on and not be recoiling away from the page.

Example: I’m pretty sure I got all those examples out of Sasha Lord’s “Wild” books

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10. The Jealous Ex

Every single ex is an evil horrible monster. No relationship ever seems to end because they’re not compatible. Exes are real people too and not every single one in existence has to have cheated, abused, or otherwise ruined the life of the lead.

Let’s get a little more creative with this.

Example: Katherine Pierce from the Vampire Diaries. She enjoys showing up and screwing with Stefan and Damon for funsies and threatens Elena regularly.

Cal in Titanic completely loses his shit when he realizes Rose isn’t going to be with him and becomes unbearably awful and violent trying to get her back.

What are your most hated tropes in romance? Do you agree or disagree with my list? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

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