Hello gentle reader. As you may have noticed, I do quite like a good romance novel. I’m more of a historical romance reader than anything else, but I do sometimes stray into contemporary and to a lesser extent paranormal. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about why some books linger on the to-read pile and it’s led to me contemplating what my favourite and least favourite tropes are in the romance genre. Once you’ve figured out what you like and what you don’t like, it makes it much easier to wade through a genre where there are so many books to chose from. And it also makes it easier to work out what you might like when you’re trying a different type of romance from the ones you usually read.
Lets start with my pet hates…
Accidental Pregnancies/Secret pregnancies
Oof. I think this is my absolute least favourite. If an author that I adore writes one of these, I’ll probably read it, but apart from that I give these a wide birth. I think this is probably all bound up in my own fear of accidental pregnancy, but these do absolutely nothing for me except make me want to scream with rage. Accidental secret pregnancy plots will have me hurling a book across the room if I happen to encounter them.
Following on from the pregnancy problem, I like secret children only slightly better. It has to be really good for me to be able to get past the fact that you’ve stopped the child’s father from being a part of their life for x years. And given that the whole idea of the plot is usually that the heroine will reunite with the father, then the reason’s for the secret tend to be a bit lame/spurious. And as far as contemporary romances go, in the days of the internet and social media it’s easier than ever to keep in touch with people and harder than ever to keep this sort of secret…
Just no. Luckily you don’t find it very often any more (although there is a bit in one of my favourite author’s latest novels, but it’s a late on twist so I just about coped with it) because people have (thankfully) realised that Amnesia is rare, and if you’ve got it, you may well have other stuff going wrong too which is harder to fix. I can’t think of a single romance with amnesia as a main plot point that I’ve read and enjoyed. And I’ve been down lists of amnesia romances on Goodreads and it hasn’t jogged my memory either. I understand there’s a pregnant-with-amnesia sub-genre, which sounds like my idea of hell, although Smart Bitches, Trashy Books have a very witty review of the hilariously titled Pregnesia.
Girls dressed up as boys
Twelfth Night has been my favourite Shakespeare play since we studied it when I was 11 (side note: check out the amazing Globe production of it with Oscar Winner (squee) Mark Rylance as Lady Olivia – clip below!) and I love plots with girls dressed up as boys. From Leonie in These Old Shades, through Harriet in Duchess by Night, Callie in Nine Rules to Break when Romancing a Rake (and that other Sarah MacLean one which not a traditional “breeches” role and is a massive spoiler if you haven’t read the rest of the series) and many more besides, it’s a plot device that will often get me to pick up a new author. It’s usually only found in Historical Romance although if you know of any good contemporary ones, please put them in the comments!
This is one has to be deployed cleverly, because breaking an engagement would ruin the heroine socially so she’d have to have a good reason to do it, but it’s popular device in more recently written historicals, there’s something I love about couples who enter into these for nerfarious reasons of their own and get more than they bargain for. Because of the above social consequences, it’s not a plot often employed by my beloved Georgette Heyer – I can only think of one fake engagement in her books and that’s False Colours, which almost doesn’t count because Kit is pretending to be his twin brother throughout in a lovely twist. Julia Quinn’s The Duke and I is a great example
Marriages of convenience
Following on from those fake engagements, I do love a marriage of convenience plot, although conversely I think my least favourite Georgette Heyer is A Civil Contract – but she does have some crackers too like April Lady and Friday’s Child (my mum’s favourite). When cleverly executed they can be wonderful fun – Eloisa James’s The Ugly Duchess, Mary Balogh’s At Last Comes Love and Quinn’s To Sir Philip with Love is a fun twist on the idea. To be honest, it’s fairly hard to mess up a marriage of convenience – there are lots of ways a lady can accidentally get compromised – and there’s lots of reasons why people might enter into one (keep lands, escape an evil guardian, get an inheritance etc).
I do read other stuff of course – I like house parties, rake-y heros, beta heros, guardians and wards (but only the sort who don’t do anything about it until the wards are of age), friends to lovers, best friend’s sibling and much much more. To be honest, beyond my pet hates above there’s not much I won’t give at least one try (except the Tragic Lives aisle of the bookshop). All recommendations for things that might tick any of my boxes are gratefully received – in the comments below please!