Romance Tropes that Get a Hard Pass
Updated: Feb 4
With tomorrow ushering in February, we figured it wouldn't hurt to kick off our Valentine's content at the start of this week!
We're going in a little salty with this list of romance tropes that get a hard pass. These overused TV and book tropes never fail to bring on the cringe and headaches when handled as poorly as they often are.
Onward to our river of salt!
Mostly encountered in television shows but easily leaked into romance books, this is a trope that can go die in a hole as far as I'm concerned. I can think of maybe two scenarios where this makes sense, and one equals a tragic book while the other lends itself better to comedy.
Romance, though? (Sorry to anyone who loved Sparks' The Vow. Not my thing).
The most commonly-encountered amnesia romance plot is the main character pretending to be the amnesiac's S/O for . . . reasons? Again, a comedy could pull this off, but romance? We're kicking off the relationship with one giant, non-consensual lie here. This is fake dating (see below) on a more sinister level, and it's not my cup of tea. Drama will ensue, the main character will (rightfully) be called out as a manipulative ass, but oh it's all right because they fell in love along the way. Thanks memory loss!
The other common scenario involves a couple torn apart due to magic-induced memory loss. It would be one thing to see the couple work together to beat this obstacle, because clearly they were in love at some point. Obviously this other character is devoted to them and getting their memory back.
But no, that never happens. The relationship is tossed aside with the amnesiac's memory, which will be a wedge between them for the majority of the plot.
Let's be real, Once Upon A Time would've ben ten times better without the fifty instances of amnesia-induced drama.
To clarify, I'm not against the fake dating trope. It has its place in rom-com for good reason. But the logistics behind fake dating are sometimes flimsy or downright stupid.
#1 being a character taking advantage of another having amnesia. No . . . just no.
The second most frustrating fake dating plot is lying to save face. Sure, it happens. People do that. But how on earth does a convoluted fake relationship evolve from one character fibbing about being in one? Why does it go on so long? Why can't the main character admit they're solo?
I'm not talking "I need to fake wed to save my kingdom" here. I mean "oh, my best friend/family thinks I'm dating this hottie, and I somehow found a hottie to pretend we're in a relationship" for the entire book.
Hon, just own being single. It's not the end of the world.
FRIENDZONE TO LOVERS
There's a difference between "wow, I've fallen for my best friend over the years and I'm stressing about how to tell them" versus the trope wherein a character rejects their best friend for a hot jerk, only to fall back on their friend once they realize their crush was indeed a jerk.
This is just sad, and it's hard to root for the main character's happiness with this person—or vise versa if the main character is that person.
At this point, it's a pity win and not at all the deep connection readers crave in a romance. Why go for that when we can read a steamy enemies-to-lovers with all the delicious tension from the beginning?
TOGETHER BECAUSE WE HAVE TO BE / INSTA-LOVE
I'm a sucker for "soul mates" or "meant to be" type romances. Is it realistic? Nah, but I enjoy the adorable and/or tragic fairytale aspect, as do many readers.
However, I do see some pitfalls to this trope—the main one being where the characters find out early into the plot they're fated and simply fall in line because the universe wills it. It takes all the guesswork, all the discovery, all the sweetness out of falling in love when they already know they're destined. It feels like one big, shrugging romance cop-out.
If they find out early on they're soul mates and struggle to come to grips and actually fall in love, that's one thing. That's a well-earned payoff I can get behind. But using it as an excuse for insta-love?
Falling for one another immediately with no buildup, no progression in emotion is always a bummer because it gives the reader no chance to root for something that's clearly set from the beginning.
Nah, chief, not for me.
Love these types of posts? Drop us a comment on Twitter @bookish_witches or let us know what your least favorite romance tropes are below! For more like this, check out YA Romance Tropes to Avoid Part 1 and Part 2 or Cringey YA Book Moments.
Until next time, witches!