Tired Tropes

What is a trope? A trope is a commonly used theme or literary device. Genre fiction is built on tropes. And while tropes tend to get a bad rap, in genre fiction, they are often essential in building trust and lasting relationships with genre readers. Every genre has its own hallmark tropes. 

Yet while tropes are important to writing genre fiction, please keep in mind that mishandled tropes can easily become cliches. And then there are tropes that are so beyond cliche they need to be retired. Below, we’ve highlighted some of the romance tropes we could do without.


Kidnapping isn’t cute, it’s a felony. Victims of kidnappings typically experience long-term psychological and emotional trauma. Can a captive woman truly consent to sleeping with her captor when she doesn’t have freedom or autonomy? How can two characters genuinely fall in love with each other when one is exhibiting power over the other? They can’t. There is simply nothing romantic about being held hostage. There are healthier and more creative ways you can bring disparate characters together. It’s 2021, let’s say goodbye to heroines falling in love with their captors.

Falling in Love with Your Step-Sibling

In this week’s podcast, Sarah likened falling for your BFF’s sibling to incest (Sarah’s editing note: following Rigney likening your BFF’s mom to your own mom! I stand by my argument. Carry on). I will respectfully disagree. However, falling in love with your step-sibling sure is incestuous. Yes, step-siblings are not technically related by blood. However, they are still related and the dynamics of blended families can be complicated and difficult without throwing in a relationship between step-siblings. While initially pretty niche, step-sibling romances have taken off in recent years and are frequently advertised as being taboo. Listen, I’m not here to kink shame anyone. I love Clueless as much as anyone, but you have to admit it is weird that Cher and Josh’s parents were married at one time. If you’re considering writing a step-sibling romance, please don’t. You can still produce a complex, emotionally fraught romance without making the protagonists related by blood or marriage. 

Secret baby/kid

I’m just going to come out and say it, but I really hate it in books when the heroine knows she’s pregnant, but refuses to tell the hero and then some time later he’s shocked that he has a kid. He then has this moment of, “well I guess I have to be a parent now.” Sometimes there can be very valid reasons for not telling your partner that you are expecting their child. However, in romance, it’s almost always for romance reasons: a misunderstanding, an argument that led to a breakup, etc. None of which are great. Especially when the hero and the heroine end up together in a pseudo Parent Trap ending, and NEVER talk about how much the heroine hurt the hero by cutting him out of his child’s life for however much time. I’m just saying, this trope is pretty messy. If you really want to go there, proceed with caution.


Billionaire romances are the modern day fairytale. And when they’re written well, billionaire romances are some of the most enjoyable romance novels out there. However, it’s getting harder for me to read a romance about a billionaire and not have the real world intrude. Questions about how the hero built his empire and if he exhibits ethical conduct are never far from the surface. We live in a capitalistic society where people like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are engaged in a perpetual ping pong match over the title for World’s Wealthiest Man. They’re also, arguably, the two of the worst men on the planet. Wealth generally doesn’t make you nice, or likable, or even interesting. It just makes you rich and at this point, I want more from protagonists than the contents of their bank account. 

If you’re planning on writing a romance, do your research on the various tropes and what is out there in the market. There’s a chance your take on a billionaire romance is revolutionary. It’s also possible that by tweaking your story and using a different trope entirely, your book will stand out, which is the goal, right? Also, sound off in the comments below: what are your favorite tropes? What are your least favorite tropes? Which ones did we miss? We’d love to hear!