It’s about time I finally dug into the gold mines: tropes. There’s so many good ones out there, and even though we see them time and again, we KEEP COMING BACK because they’re just that good.
Here are a few of my personal favorites, though, complete with recommendations for books that use them (because it would be irresponsible of me not to hand you books that scratch the exact itch I’m describing)! I can’t say they’re ranked in any particular order, but I can say that they’re the best of the best, at least in my eyes, and I can’t get enough of them.
The Eternal “We Use Only Last Names or Titles Until the Other is in Danger and Then it’s First Name Basis, Baby!” Trope!
Listen, a slow-burn romance is a good thing when done right, but this? This is the cherry on top, the expensive edible glitter, the cute sprinkles shaped like stars and hearts and all that jazz.
It’s also the calm before the storm, because I guarantee you that this trope is reserve for making you have FEELINGS about a ship right before something truly terrible happens to at least one of the characters. And given my love of some top tier angst? More, please. 😈
For that sweet, sweet first name drop, try: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Oh No, There’s Only One Bed!
An eternal classic, the staple of fanfics everywhere, bed-sharing is tried and true. And it usually amounts to no small amount of mutual embarrassment coupled with mutual pining and a hint of “oh geez, will we even talk about this later?”, which I definitely crave.
It’s pretty much the trope for characters realizing they’ve caught FEELINGS, and I love watching it play out. Bonus points for accidental gentle spooning, intentional “I’m not touching you I swear,” OR A is a blanket hog and B is committed to suffering without the covers because of their pride.
For only one bed (and really only for a moment, but a satisfying moment), try: The Astonishing Color of After by Emily XR Pan
What If…We Kissed…And We Were Rivals/Enemies? 😳
Another eternal classic! Personally, I’m a bigger fan of rivals to lovers compared to enemies to lovers, but that’s only because I find rivals to lovers doesn’t have an unsettling power imbalance between characters as often.
Power balances aside (or including them, if you like this trope to explore that!), this is such a good one for characters whose arcs shift from total independence to learning to trust in and rely on each other. Hit me with that mutual support and growth!
For characters butting heads but falling in loooooove, try: The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie
Bodyguard Meets Royalty Meets Secret Romance
Ah, yes. When forbidden romance meets royal romance meets peak levels of Soft™. I love and adore this trope because I’ve yet to find an example that makes me doing anything less than turn into a living case of the heart eyes emoji. You have two characters, one who would protect the other through anything, the other who has the power to protect the protector in non-physical ways, and you also have the lingering worry of getting caught or failing expectations or losing approval. And when you get the happy ending, when you overcome those obstacles?
I need to go read some of this NOW to satisfy my need for it. It’s that good.
For a bodyguard and a queen gettin’ cozy (also they’re queer!), try: The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
Technically, They Did Stay in the Car…
Okay, as much as I love the good romance tropes, I’d be betraying both you AND myself if I didn’t get in at least a couple non-romance tropes. And this one? This one is the PINNACLE of comedy. You don’t have to have a car necessarily, but you do have to have a character smart enough to follow the instructions they’ve been given but also to intervene and save the day. Tell them to stay in the car, okay, fine! They’ll stay in the car, but they’ll also run the big bad over with said car! No sweat!
It’s that simple, and it’s got me cackling every time!
For car-related shenanigans and rules lawyering your way around it, try: Brooklyn Nine-Nine
(It may not be a book rec, but there’s one episode in particular I can think of that does this SO WELL.)
I Didn’t Ask to be the Chosen One!
Nothing sets up future character growth like a character who doesn’t actually want to be the hero. Nothing.
Okay, well maybe some things do. But this trope in particular is one of my favorites, because there are so many reasons a character can evolve from refusing their new destiny to embracing it (or even circumventing it). Some characters do it to protect others. Other characters lean into it for their own sakes, for happier futures. No matter the reason behind the arc, though, I love it because it so readily invites massive character development.
And maybe because I love a hero who didn’t ask to be one, a hero who’s got to find a way to live up to expectations even if they’re not ready to believe in themself yet. Best of all, though, I love a hero who ends up being themself at the end of the day, and not anyone else’s idea of a hero.
For some reluctant hero reading (and some anti-heroics), try: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
There you are! A package of some of my absolute favorite tropes, plus some recs on where to find them in the wild. I can’t get enough of these, and hopefully you feel similarly.
Whether you and I come from the same hive mind, though, tell me: what are your top tropes?