The Top 5 Best Romance Tropes in Books

"The Top 5 Romance Tropes in Books." Cursive text over a background of hearts

It’s no secret that I’m not the biggest fan of books that focus purely on romance. However, even I have some romance-related tropes that I regularly fall for.

In honor of Valentine’s Day coming up in a few days, I thought now would be a good time to talk about some of them, why I like them, and maybe give a couple of recommendations for books/series that feature those tropes, in case you like them too. Let’s get started!

1. Friends to Lovers

This is probably my all-time favorite romance trope, mainly because it’s how I would prefer to fall in love in my real life if possible. I love watching characters go from being friends, to best friends, and then finally to something more. It feels like such a natural progression, certainly much more natural than some other romance tropes out there.

Obviously, this trope can take place in a single book, but I tend to prefer it when it’s in a series. Series let the author explore the stages of the relationship without making you feel like you’re jumping forward too quickly.

If you love the friends to lovers trope, too, here are a couple of books/series that feature it. I won’t be mentioning specific character names in an effort to make this as spoiler-free as possible. However, if you’re very sensitive to spoilers, you may want to scroll to the next trope.

2. Enemies to Lovers

On the other side of the spectrum, you’ve got enemies to lovers. Two characters who, at the beginning of their story, absolutely can’t stand each other, but over time, usually through being forced to work together, they come to understand each other better. Then it essentially becomes friends to lovers, at least in my favorite versions of the trope.

I guess you could say that the two tropes have a fair amount in common, though you wouldn’t think so from the outset. I definitely have a type.

Anyway, these are some of the books and series I’ve read that do a pretty good job with this trope:

  • Skyward by Brandon Sanderson (kind of—it’s very subtle)
  • The Folk of the Air trilogy by Holly Black (in the first book, at least)

3. Slow Burn

By now, you can probably tell by looking at the first two examples that my favorite romance tropes tend to be the ones that take time to develop. Both friends to lovers and enemies to lovers are at their best, in my opinion, when they’re also slow burn.

Part of the reason why I like romance like this goes back to the fact that I’m not a fan of stories where the primary focus is the budding relationship. When the romance beats are slow and spread apart, there is plenty of room in the story for other plot beats to happen. That way, the relationship building can be more of a subplot that doesn’t come up too often.

With that being said, here are some of my favorite examples of slow burn in books:

4. Established/Committed Relationships

I didn’t care about it much when I was younger, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown tired of romance that burns bright but doesn’t last. A lot of YA books show romance in a light that’s a little unhealthy. In the real world, relationships last because the people involved commit to active communication and joint problem-solving.

That kind of relationship is important to show in books, especially books for teenagers, which is why I enjoy it when it shows up. I don’t see it much because it’s uncommon in YA, but I do have a few books to recommend nonetheless:

5. Forbidden Love

I have to admit that I don’t like every book that contains this trope, or any of the others on this list. In fact, for most of these tropes, there’s a good chance I’ll still dislike it if it’s done poorly.

However, when an author does the trope right, I eat it up. It’s one of my guilty pleasures.

Here are a couple of recommendations for books featuring forbidden love:

What are your favorite romance tropes? I’m always looking for more recommendations, so if you have any great books that feature one of these five tropes, let me know down in the comments!

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