Last Updated on September 21, 2023 by Louisa
You may have heard the term “romance trope” mentioned a lot when reading book reviews and blogs. I know I refer to tropes a lot on this blog.
But if you’re not sure what I mean by a trope or what tropes mean, then you’ve come to the right place.
A romance trope is a buzzword used by romance readers and bloggers used to talk about a certain type or sub genre of romance book.
There are many different types of romance and romantic genres,
In this guide, I’ve detailed exactly what is a romance trope and listed 100 common tropes and their meanings.
By knowing what romance tropes are out there, you can see what tropes may be of interest to you and which ones you would avoid.
What Is A Romance Trope?
A romance trope is a word or phrase used to describe romantic genres and sub-genre in romance which is often characterized by specific plot points, character styles, themes or messages.
By understanding the characteristics of a romance trope, the reader can have some idea of what to expect of the story.
By understanding the romance trope meaning readers can decide which romance books are best suited to their interests, as some tropes are more smutty and erotic than others.
Many romance readers find comfort in certain tropes and know what to look for, whilst simultaneously avoiding others.
You may find that romance books feature more than one, often several, romance tropes at once.
The 100+ Most Common Romance Tropes List
If you’re not sure which romance trope is right for you, then here is a rundown of the most common romance tropes and what you can expect from each.
Age Gap Romance
This romance trope involves a significant age difference between the two main characters.
Expect a story that explores the challenges and excitement of dating someone much younger or older.
Read more: The Best Age Gap Romance Books
This romance trope involves a love story between a human and an alien from another planet.
Expect a story that explores the cultural differences, language barriers, and unique experiences between the two species.
Read more: The Best Alien Romance Books
Alpha Hero / Alpha Male
This romance trope involves a dominant and powerful male lead.
Expect a story that explores the hero’s strength, confidence, and dominant attributes.
Read more: The Best Alpha Male Romance Books
Amnesia/Mistaken Identity Romance
This romance trope involves a storyline where one or both characters have lost their memory or are mistaken for someone else.
Expect a story that explores mystery, danger and discovery.
This romance trope involves stories with intense emotions of fear, sadness, and uncertainty.
It primarily focuses on a romance that is budding slowly with lots of sexual tension, that the two lovers don’t act on it for a long period of time.
It usually has readers on the edge of their seat, expecting the fire to start sizzling any minute.
Expect a story that explores the healing process, growth and transformation.
Read more: The Best Angst Romance Books
Anti Hero Romance
This romance trope involves stories with a dark, brooding, or morally ambiguous male lead.
It’s also often referred to as a “villain romance” since the reader finds an attraction to the villain in the story.
The hero is usually a bit of a bully, or a bad boy, but has a vulnerability that makes him relatable and likable.
Expect a story that explores inner conflict and redemption.
This romance trope involves stories set in a post-apocalyptic world.
Expect a story that explores the struggle for survival and the power of love during tough times.
Read more: The Best Apocalyptic Romance Books
This romance trope involves a marriage that was agreed upon by the families or society, or even the pair involved.
It’s about marriage first, and falling in love second.
Expect a story that explores the cultural norms, expectations and challenges of arranged marriage.
Bad Boy Romance
This romance trope involves a male lead who is often the rebel, the troublemaker or the outcast.
Expect a story that explores the allure and excitement of dating a “bad boy.”
Read more: The Best Bad Boy Romance Books
This romance trope involves relationships that incorporate elements of bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism.
Expect a story that explores the power dynamic, trust, and intimacy.
They are usually very erotic and full of smut.
This romance trope involves a relationship that starts with a bet or a silly dare.
Expect a story that explores how the characters explore their feelings while dealing with the consequences.
Biker Romance / MC Romance (Motorcycle Club Romance)
This romance trope involves a storyline where the love interest is part of a biker gang.
It is also sometimes referred to as MC Romance, which stands for Motorcycle Club Romance.
Expect a story that explores the thrill and danger of living in that world.
Read more: The Best Biker Romance Books
This romance trope involves a story with a wealthy hero or heroine who falls in love with someone of a lower social class (and usually with less money).
Expect a story that explores the extravagance, power, and romance of the wealthy lifestyle.
Read more: The Best Billionaire Romance Books
This romance trope involves a love story between a bodyguard and their client.
Expect a story that explores the danger, trust, and intimacy between the two.
Read more: The Best Bodyguard Romance Books
British Lit involves stories set in the British Isles or written by British authors.
Expect a story that explores the rich cultural heritage, history and language of the region.
Brother’s Best Friend / Best Friend’s Sister
Brother’s Best Friend, or Best Friend’s Sister, is a trope that involves a relationship between a character and their best friend’s sibling.
They are usually forbidden relationships and so you can expect storylines to be slow and packed with angst.
Expect a story that explores the tension, loyalty, and attraction between the two.
Read more: The Best Brother’s Best Friend Romance Books
This romance trope involves a relationship between a bully and their victim.
Expect a story that explores the power dynamic, redemption, and healing.
It’s usually full of smut and may also have elements of BDSM.
BWWM (Black Woman, White Man)
The term BWWN is used to describe a relationship between a black woman and white man.
CEO Romances involve a love story between a CEO and their assistant or underling.
Expect a story that explores the power dynamic, professionalism, and attraction.
Read more: The Best CEO Romance Books
Childhood Friends to Lovers
This romance trope involves a relationship that starts in childhood and grows into a romantic connection later in life.
Expect a story that explores the nostalgia and history of the friendship.
This romantic genre involves stories with little to no explicit sexual content.
Expect a story that explores the emotional connection and clean romance between the two characters.
They may also have religious connotations or refer to spirituality in some way – though not always.
Read more: The Best Clean Romance Books
This romance trope involves a love story between a coach and their athlete.
Expect a story that explores mentorship, growth, and attraction.
College romances involve a love story set in a college or university.
Expect a story that explores the youthful spirit, freedom, and exploration of the college experience.
Read more: The Best College Romance Books
Contemporary Romance is used to describe a love story set in modern times with realistic characters dealing with relationship issues.
A story can be contemporary but is usually paired with another trope.
Expect a story that explores the real-life struggles, emotions, and desires of the characters.
This romance trope involves stories set in the Western frontier with a cowboy hero.
Expect a story that explores the traditional values, ruggedness, and romance of the cowboy lifestyle.
Read more: The Best Cowboy Romance Books
This romance genre involves stories with darker themes such as cruelty, violence, and obsession.
This is a romance trope that’s not for everyone. Some people may be excited by the level of cruelty whereas others find it disturbing or even triggering.
When a story is referred to as “dark romance” it usually means there is something in the story that may upset some people.
Expect a story that explores the forbidden and unconventional elements of romance.
Doctor Romance / Medical Romance
This romance trope involves a love story between a doctor and their patient or colleague.
Expect a story that explores the healing aspect of love and medicine.
Read more: The Best Doctor Romance Books
This storytelling technique that involves having two or more perspectives from the main character or characters.
This technique allows you to feel the emotions and understand the thought processes of each character individually.
You may also find these stories written in first person (I/me) or third person (they/them).
Expect a story that explores the complexity, depth and range of emotions.
Read more: The Best Dual POV Romance Books
This romance genre involves stories set in a dystopian society or a world that is in crisis. It is usually set a few hundred years in the future.
Expect a story that explores the fight for survival, resistance, and retribution.
Read more: The Best Dystopian Romance Books
The term “erotica” is used to describe a sub-genre that involves explicit sexual content and explores themes of passion, desire and sexual exploration.
Expect a story that explores sexual intimacy and provokes arousal.
Enemies to Lovers
Enemies to Lovers involves a love story between characters who initially dislike each other and then grow to love each other.
Expect a story that explores the development of the relationship as the characters learn to put aside their differences.
These stories tend to be slow and focus on relationship building over smutty scenes.
This romance trope involves characters who have gone through traumatic events and are struggling to heal.
Expect a story that explores the vulnerabilities, empathy and healing that come with finding love.
This romance genre involves stories with love interests who are fairies, sometimes referred to as fae, but who are mythical creatures.
Expect a story that explores the magical and fantastical side of love and romance. With fantasy romances, there are endless possibilities.
Read more: The Best Fae Romance Books
Friends to Lovers
Friends to Lovers is a trope that involves a love story between characters who start as friends and grow into something more.
Expect a story that explores the transition from friendship to romance and the new dynamic it presents.
Read more: The Best Friends to Lovers Romance Books
Fake Relationship / Fake Dating
This romance trope involves characters who pretend to be in a relationship for various reasons.
Expect a story that explores the authenticity and consequences of the fake relationship, and the possibility of true love.
Read more: The Best Fake Relationship Romance Books
FF refers to female + female, and refers to a LGBTQ relationship where both protagonists are female.
Expect a story that explores the complexities of same-sex relationships, the emotional depth, and the power of love to overcome society’s prejudices.
Fish out of water
Fish out of water refers to a sub-genre where characters find themselves in unfamiliar territories, surroundings or situations.
Whether they have started a new job, or have accidentally joined a gang – there are endless possibilities of how the characters may end up in these scenarios.
Expect a story that explores the sense of adventure, barriers of difference, and ultimately, finding common ground.
Found Family romances involve characters who find love and belonging in an unconventional way.
Usually, their blood family is not around for whatever reason – maybe they are orphaned or abandoned.
This leads them to find a new family in friendship or people around them – hence the name, found family.
Expect a story that explores the power of connection and the importance of unconditional love.
Read more: The Best Found Family Books
Forbidden Romance is one of the most popular tropes and involves a love story between characters who are not supposed to be together due to social, cultural, or ethical reasons.
Expect a story that explores the complexity of the relationship, the consequences of the forbidden love, and the internal conflict.
Read more: The Best Forbidden Romance Books
Forced Proximity involves characters who have to spend a lot of time together in close quarters.
Whether they are trapped in an elevator together, forced to survive a zombie apocalypse together, or are the two sole survivors of a plane crash – the two characters are pushed together in forced proximity meaning they have no choice but to bond and get to know one another.
Expect a story that explores the tension, attraction, and the possibility of developing feelings due to the forced proximity.
Grumpy Sunshine involves characters with contrasting personalities, where one is grumpy and the other is cheerful.
Usually the sunshine character brings out the best in the grumpy character throughout the story.
Expect a story that explores the balance, the differences and complementary nature of the two characters.
Read more: The Best Grumpy Sunshine Romance Books
Hate to Love
Hate to Love is another term used to describe enemies to lovers, and involves characters who initially loathe each other but eventually develop feelings.
Expect a story that explores the emotional journey and the transformation from hate to love.
Harlequin / Harlequin Kiss
Harlequin / Harlequin Kiss is a unique romance trope used to describe novels that are simple and describe a relationship between a man and a woman.
They follow a simple meet > fall in love > happily ever after and passion formula.
Expect a story that follows the traditional romance themes with a predictable and satisfying ending.
HEA / Happily Ever After
HEA or Happily Ever After are romance stories where the characters have overcome their struggles and will have a satisfying and happy ending.
Expect a story that provides the reader with the emotional payoff and a resolution.
High School Romance
High School Romance involves a love story set in high school. Expect a story that explores innocence, first love, and the issues that come with the teenage experience.
Historical Romance is a genre that involves stories set in the past, usually before the 20th century.
Expect a story that explores the cultural norms, societal expectations and historical events of the time period.
Holiday Romances are love stories set during holidays or special occasions.
Expect a story that explores the magic of the season, the joy of togetherness, and the warmth of the holidays.
HFN (Happy for Now)
The term HFN means “Happy For Now” and is used to describe a relationship that starts off well, and then becomes conflicted in some way later.
Impossible Love is used to describe characters who face seemingly insurmountable barriers to being together.
Expect a story that explores the hope, the sacrifice and the perseverance that comes with fighting for love.
Innocent cohabitation involves characters who are forced to live together, but there is no sexual relationship involved.
Expect a story that explores the platonic relationship, the friendship, and the possibility of romance.
InstaLove sounds like a romance that buds over Instagram, but it’s actually used to describe a romance where the characters fall in love at first sight.
Expect a story that explores the intense and immediate connection between the characters.
Jilted bride / Runaway bride
As you might guess, this trope involves a story where the bride runs away or is left at the altar.
Expect a story that explores heartbreak, second chances, and the power of love to heal.
Long distance relationship
Long distance relationship tropes involve characters who are in a relationship while living far apart.
Expect a story that explores the challenges, the compromises, and the emotional depth of a long-distance relationship.
Love Triangles involves a storyline where a character is torn between two love interests.
Expect a story that explores the internal conflict, the difficult choices, and the emotional consequences of the love triangle.
LCL (Love Comes Later)
LCL romance, or Love Comes Later romance, is a popular type of romance where the relationship comes first, and the feelings later.
It’s when a couple is put together through either a convenience setting, such as a fake relationship for a wedding, or even in darker circumstances such as through forced marriage, and then feelings grow later.
These types of books tend to have a slow burning storyline, with focus on the relationship growth over the heat.
Mafia Romance involves a storyline where one character is involved with the Mafia or organized crime.
Expect a story that explores the danger, loyalty, and sacrifices that come with being involved in that world.
Read more: The Best Dark Mafia Romance Books
Matchmaker Romance involves a love story where a third party or a matchmaker is involved in bringing two people together.
You might also find the matchmaker ends up falling in love with one of the matches instead of the original match, but not always.
Expect a story that explores the magic of matchmaking, the coincidences, and the possibility of true love.
Marriage of Convenience
The Marriage of Convenience trope involves a storyline where two characters decide to marry for practical reasons, rather than love.
Expect a story that explores the arrangement, the unexpected consequences, and the possibility of the love growing between them.
Meet-Cute Romance involves a story where the two main characters meet in a charming or humorous way.
Maybe they bump into each other at a coffee shop and spill coffee on each other, or they embarrass themselves in public. Either way, these romance stories tend to be humorous and comedic.
Expect a story that explores serendipity, the chemistry, and the possibility of love at first sight.
A menage romance trope is when three people fall in love and live happily together as a couple.
Rather than a love triangle, where the main protagonist choose one suitor, a menage is when all members of the triangle fall in love with each other and are happy to be together as a trio.
You can expect these stories to be steamy, have LGBTQ elements, and delve into the complexities of attraction and passion.
Mental Health Romance
This romance trope involves a love story where one or both characters are struggling with mental health issues.
Expect a story that explores the stigmatization, the healing, and the power of love in overcoming such issues.
This romance genre refers to Male + Female relationships and involves stories where the main characters are of opposite genders.
Expect a story that explores the dynamics of the opposite sexes, the physical attraction, and the emotional depth of the relationship.
This romance trope involves a love story between characters who are in the military or veterans.
Expect a story that explores the camaraderie, loyalty, and sacrifice that come with serving our country.
Read more: The Best Military Romance Books
MM Romance is a romance sub genre that involves stories where the main characters are both male.
Expect a story that explores the complexities of same-sex relationships, the emotional depth, and the power of love to overcome society’s prejudices.
Nanny Romances typically center around one character who is a nanny, babysitter or a caregiver to the other character’s child.
Expect a story that explores the bond between the caregiver, the child, and the parent, and the possibility of love blossoming between them.
Read more: The Best Nanny Romance Books
Neighbors to Lovers
The Neighbors to Lovers trope involves a love story where two characters who live near each other, eventually fall in love.
Expect a story that explores the familiarity, the convenience, and the possibility of finding love in unexpected places.
New Adult romances target readers between the ages of 18-30 and explores the challenges and experiences of transitioning into adulthood, such as college, first jobs, and entering the real world.
Expect a story that explores coming-of-age themes, such as self-discovery, identity, and exploration of sexuality.
Oblivious to love
This romantic genre involves a character who is unaware of their own feelings and of the affections of another person.
Expect a story that explores the oblivious character gradually realizing their own emotions and the other person’s affections.
Office Romance / Workplace Romance
Office Romance, or sometimes referred to as Workplace Romance, are romantic genres where characters fall in love while working together.
Expect a story that explores professional etiquette, the expectations, and the consequences of workplace romance.
Opposites Attract romances involve characters with very different personalities or backgrounds, but still develop feelings for each other.
Expect a story that explores the chemistry between characters with divergent worlds, and how they can learn from each other despite their differences.
Read more: The Best Opposites Attract Romance Books
Paranormal romances, sometimes called PNR, are one of the most diverse romantic genres as it pairs romance with fantasy.
This romance genre involves stories with supernatural elements such as vampires, werewolves and witches.
Expect a story that explores mythical creatures, magical powers, and unlikely love interests.
Read more: The Best Paranormal Romance Books
Pen Pal Romance
This romance trope involves characters who start off as pen pals or communicate via letters or email before meeting in person.
Expect a story that explores the anticipation, excitement and risks associated with communicating online before physically meeting someone.
Political Romance is a romance genre which involves stories with subplots involving politics or political themes.
Expect a story that delves into power struggles between characters with opposing values and ideologies, while exploring how they can come together despite these divisions.
Read more: The Best Political Romance Books
Pregnancy / Secret Pregnancy
The pregnancy trope involves a storyline where one character is pregnant or expecting to be pregnant at some point in the story.
Expect a story that explores the challenges of unexpected parenthood, family dynamics, pressures from society and the responsibility of taking care of another life.
Rags to Riches
Rags to Riches involves two characters who come from drastically different circumstances but end up falling in love In spite of this disparity.
Expect a story that explores how these two people connect despite their differences in background and upbringing.
Reality TV Show
This romance trope involves two characters who met on a reality television show where cameras follow them around 24/7.
Expect a story that explores the fantasy world, manipulation by producers, public scrutiny,and the possibility of an authentic connection amidst the chaos.
Regency romances Regency are stories that are set during the regency era (1795-1837) in England.
They tend to focus on customs and manners of upper class society during that time period.
Expect stories that explore the dress code, parties,formal dinners, etiquette, ballroom dancing, and love interests with different social backgrounds.
A retelling is a story that follows the format of another story but in a new way.
Most retellings tend to be a fairy tale such as Beauty and the Beast or Cinderella, or perhaps a work of classic fiction such as Pride and Prejudice, but set in modern day society or with a more fantastical element.
A retelling is a fresh take on an already known story, with different characters and dynamics, but following a plot that the reader will already know.
This romance trope involves a story with one female protagonist who has several male love interests.
Expect a story that explores the pitfalls of having to choose among different suitors and the possibility of forming mutually beneficial relationships.
What is unique about this romance genre is that the female protagonist does not choose one out of her male suitors. She is happy and content with having love interests with several men.
Read more: The Best Reverse Harem Romance Books
Rockstar Romance is a genre that involves stories where one character is a famous rockstar, singer or musician and the other character is an average person.
Expect a story that explores the power dynamics, stability issues and class differences between these two characters.
Read more: The Best Rock Star Romance Books
Rom Com stands for Romantic Comedy. It’s a common genre that involves humor and comedic elements, usually involving characters who have to work through their own flaws in order for them to be together.
Expect a story that includes light-hearted dialogue, quirky scenarios, and how humor can help bring two people closer together.
Roommates to Lovers
Roommates to Lovers is a romance trope that involves two characters who start as friends or roommates before eventually becoming lovers.
Expect a story that explores the familiarity, convenience, and comfortability of being around each other’s company before developing romantic feelings for each other.
Second Chance romances focus around characters who had been involved in the past but due to various circumstances like timing or obligations had to part ways at some point in time.
They may also have been hurt or damaged in the past by a former relationship, and are ready to give love a second chance.
Expect a story that explores why they decided to part ways, what made them come back together, or about how they overcome the pain of the past to move on in a new relationship.
Read more: The Best Second Chance Romance Books
This is a romance genre that describes characters who have to keep their real identity a secret for various reasons – either they are secret royals, or they are in a witness protection program.
You can expect to read about characters who learn to be themselves, learn to overcome social pressures, and understand that nobody is perfect.
Shifter Romances are all about main characters who can shift into another form, such as an animal. The most common is werewolf, however they may shift into any animal such as a dragon or bird.
These romances tend to focus on one shifter falling in love with a normal human being.
They explore themes of loving someone despite their differences, and finding a balance between human and animal instincts.
Read more: The Best Shifter Romance Books
Single Parent romances are all about a main character who is trying their best as a single parent, but eventually meets someone who is not only good for them but their kids too.
They can be single dads or single moms, and usually the focus is on giving love a second chance as opposed to why they are single in the first place.
Explore themes of giving love a second chance, family, and finding trust again.
Read more: The Best Single Parent Romance Books
Slow Burn Romance
Slow burn romances are stories where a love interest evolves slowly. Rather than two characters falling in love and starting a relationship quickly, the main characters need to get to know one another first.
Explore themes of understanding, intimacy, and learning to love.
Read more: The Best Slow Burn Romance Books
Small Town Romance
Small Town romances focus on one character who has moved to a small town, either back to their hometown or to a small town for another reason.
They meet someone in the small town who sparks their interest, but are conflicted in whether they can give up city life to live in a small town.
You can expect these stories to have all the challenges of living in a small, close-knit community and nosey neighbors.
Read more: The Best Small Town Romance Books
Smut is used to describe a book that has several sex scenes and erotic storylines. You may also see smut referred to as “spice” or “steam.”
Soul Mates / Destiny
This romance trope involves characters who are fated to be together and will find each other against all odds.
Expect a story that explores a deep connection between two characters and how they can brave any obstacle to be together.
This romance genre involves stories with subplots involving sports or athletic elements.
Expect a story that delves into the dedication, passion, and commitment involved in competitive sports as well as how two people can come together despite these divisions.
Read more: The Best Sports Romance Books
This romance trope involves two characters whose lives intersect but they are unable to be together due to some external force or circumstances outside of their control.
Expect a story that explores unexpected love, struggles of being apart from one another, and the possibility of being together again against all odds.
This romance trope involves two characters who are stuck in some remote place for an extended period of time and eventually develop feelings for each other during their stay.
It is another term used to describe “forced proximity.”
Expect a story that explores how relationships can develop in isolation away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and what it means to let go after the circumstance has passed.
This romance genre involves stories with supernatural elements such as angels, demons and gods.
Expect a story that includes fantastical creatures, mythical powers, forbidden love interests, and how seemingly impossible relationships can prevail despite incredible forces working against them.
This romance genre combines tension, danger risk while incorporating a romantic connection between two protagonists.
Expect a romance story that has mystery and intrigue, as well as decisions that may harm characters.
Teacher Student Romance
Teacher Student is used to describe a romantic relationship between a teacher and their student, usually in college or after the student has graduated college.
You can expect there to be an age difference, and themes of taboo and forbidden romances.
Time Travel Romance
Time travel romance involves a main character who has traveled in time, either forwards or backwards, and found a love interest in a new time period.
You can expect these stories to have themes of different cultural expectations and norms, and feature a love story where characters must learn each other’s generational differences.
Read more: The Best Time Travel Romance Books
Trapped in an elevator
Trapped in an elevator is another meaning for Forced Proximity, and is exactly what it says on the tin.
It’s a romance story about a couple who meet while being trapped in an elevator.
Unrequited love refers to a character who is in love, or has deep feelings for another character, but that feeling is not returned.
You can expect to read about a slow burning relationship, sometimes about a first love interest, where one character learns the true meaning of love and to accept that their feelings may not be reciprocated.
Vampire romances involve a relationship between a vampire and their mate – a human. Usually, “the mate” is aware that the vampire is a vampire, and agrees to be their mate.
The vampire may choose more than one mate, or even make their mate a vampire as well.
Read more: The Best Vampire Romance Books
Virgin romances are about one main character who is thinking of having sex for the first time.
They are usually coming of age romances where the virgin protagonist wants to receive intimacy before the sexual experience.
Like vampire romances, werewolf romances feature a werewolf main character falling in love with a non-werewolf (usually).
These romance stories often have themes of finding a balance between the human side and the animal instincts longing to take over.
Read more: The Best Werewolf Romance Books
Witch romances feature a main character who is a witch. In these stories, it’s common for the witch to fall in love with a human and have to disguise their magical powers, before revealing their true identity.
Witch romances are about finding acceptance with who you are.
Young Adult readers are usually aged between 12 and 18, and is also sometimes referred to as “Teen Fiction.”
Young Adult Romance, or YA Romance, tends to feature tame romance tales that have minimal smutty scenes, or have implied sex rather than graphic scenes.
Final Word on Romance / Love Tropes
So there you go, those are 100 different romance tropes and what you can expect from each.
There are so many book tropes out there that I know it can be confusing sometimes, so I hope this glossary of romance tropes helps you understand what to expect from each trope and what the acronyms and phrases mean.
If you have any other tropes you’re unsure about that I haven’t mentioned on this list, feel free to reach out to me in the comments and I can help you learn more about it.