Popular Romance Novel Tropes

This is not an exhaustive list at all, but these are the twenty-five tropes I decided to include in my first survey for the The Trope Project, a ranking of romance tropes, by romance readers, to try and determine which tropes are more universally appealing. For science! And also fun.

If you are a writer looking for a list of popular romance novel tropes, you’ve come to the right place. What you won’t find on this list are job descriptions (billionaire romance or hockey romance might be trope-y, but it’s more like a sub-genre than a pure trope applicable across all of romance, and that’s what I was going for).

This list is sorted from most popular to least popular, as voted on by more than 1200 readers in March 2020.

Are you looking for trope definitions? You aren’t alone! We are taking submissions for definitions for the following list–all definitions will be credited to the person who contributed it! The definitions will be published on this website and nowhere else.

The Grumpy One is Soft for the Sunshiney One
Opposites Attract
Enemies to Lovers
Friends With Benefits
Fake Dating
Second Chance at Love
Forced proximity (“only one bed/room/house”)
Friends to Lovers
Forbidden Love
Fated Mates
Marriage of Convenience
Best friend’s sibling
First Love
Childhood Sweethearts
Next Door Neighbour
Single Parent
Accidental Pregnancy
Never Been Kissed
Unrequited Love
Instalove (“love at first sight”)
Age Gap (“may/december”)
Marriage in Trouble
Secret Baby
Love Triangle

Additionally, here are tropes I left off the ranked survey, but have been suggested since I launched this project:

Rise from the Ashes
Rags to Riches
Secret Identity / Undercover Lover *
Get it Out of Our Systems
Let’s Make a Sex Deal / Teach Me About Love *
Get the Band Back Together One Last Time
Starcrossed lovers (External Thwarting)

* I shelved these two tropes together, but they’re different! If you write one, do you like the other? This is something I’m going to think about for a while!