If you read romance novels, chances are you have a favorite trope. You know what we’re talking about: Those plot elements like fake dating, grumpy/sunshine, second-chance romance, or enemies-to-lovers that turn a simple book into an absolute must-read. Whatever trope gets your heart beating, there’s a book for you. We’ve rounded up five of the most popular romance tropes, along with a few book recommendations for each that you’re guaranteed to fall in love with.
Romance trope #1: Enemies to lovers
There’s a thin line between love and hate, and, in romance novels, that line is incredibly tantalizing. Whether they’re clashing co-workers or competing best men at a wedding, we love characters whose chemistry is so hot they fight, then kiss, then maybe fight some more. If enemies-to-lovers is your favorite trope, here are three books to put on your to-be-read pile.
After she's left at the altar, wedding planner Carolina is forced to work with the one guy she can’t stand — her ex-fiance’s brother, Max — who had convinced Carolina’s groom-to-be to call off the wedding. But as Max and Carolina work towards their game-changing presentation, the forbidden sparks between them turn to passion, threatening not only their jobs, but also their hearts.
Since they’re both best men at an upcoming wedding, single dad Mark and sexy Asher need to work together. Which is why it’s unfortunate Mark sent a drunk text to his sister complaining — and also implying that he found Asher hot. Throw in a Miami guesthouse they both must share, and you’ve got the makings of a steamy enemies-to-lovers tale perfect for wedding, or any, season.
At a job interview, free-spirited cook Eve accidentally injures uptight bed-and-breakfast owner Jacob. This is just the beginning of a delicious romance between the two. Quirky Eve helps Jacob as he heals, wiggling into his heart all the while. You’ll love the way this book features both the enemies-to-lovers trope and opposites who attract, with grumpy Jacob falling for sunny Eve.
Romance trope #2: Friends to lovers
There’s something incredibly sweet about a friendship that blossoms into romance — and something seriously sexy, too. These characters already care for each other as friends, so when romantic feelings enter the picture, it’s often a surprise for one or both of them, and a delight to us readers. The friends-to-lovers books below include roommates and neighbors, which adds the sizzle of the forced proximity trope, another reader favorite.
Reeling from a bad breakup, college student Sydney finds solace in the guitar music of her gorgeous new neighbor, Ridge. As the music draws them together, friendship blooms between them, and, eventually, an unforgettable romance. In the hands of Hoover, a New York Times bestselling author, this is one friends-to-lovers tale that will hit you in the feels.
Charming and witty, this romance follows Tiffy and Leon, two strangers who have a living arrangement where they share the same flat — one of them living there during the day, one at night, due to their different work schedules. Without meeting, the two begin exchanging notes and growing closer. Then something unexpected happens: They fall in love.
Quirky Hazel and her best friend, Josh, are nothing alike. But when the two unlucky-in-love pals try to set each other up on a series of bad dates, they start to realize their chemistry may be more than just platonic. Christina Lauren is a favorite among romance readers looking for flirty, funny contemporary romance, and this standalone hits all those buttons and then some.
Romance trope #3: Best friend’s sibling
An older brother’s best friend was her teenage crush. She’s hot, but she’s off-limits because she’s a friend’s family member. Whatever the scenario, we’re ready to commit to this trope that’s like the love child of friends-to-lovers and forbidden romance. These characters are connected by someone close to each of them, so they likely share a history. But with big brother or sister in the picture, it’s also risky. Here are three romances where characters leap into love with their best friend’s sibling.
If Jane Austen retellings are your jam, add this Sonali Dev book to your list. When Yash, the Indian-American candidate for California governor, begins to experience anxiety after a hate crime, his sister’s best friend, India, comes to the rescue. As a stress management coach, India can help Yash cope. But can she cope with still having feelings for the politician a decade after they shared an intense night?
Thorne, author of The Hating Game, follows up her breakout book with this charmer about Darcy, who’s long had a crush on her twin brother’s best friend, Tom. When Tom shows up to help renovate her grandmother’s cottage, neither can deny the real feelings brewing between them. But with a long history and her brother’s claim to Tom, Darcy’s going to have to work for this happily-ever-after.
If you’ve watched Bridgerton on Netflix, you’re likely familiar with the Regency romance between Daphne Bridgerton and Simon, her brother’s friend — and a duke to boot. But it’s worth reading — or revisiting — this steamy story of how the couple fakes their way into real love, despite the challenges along the way. Brother’s best friend and fake dating? Sold.
Romance trope #4: Fake dating
Sadly, fake dating doesn’t happen much in real life. Which is why we romance readers are happy to discover that in our love stories, people are pretending to be in relationships — including engagements and marriages — all the time. Whether it’s because they need a public relations boost or want to make someone else jealous, we can’t get enough of characters pretending they’re into each other and then actually falling in love along the way. We’re not lying when we write that if you love this trope, you’re going to want to check out the books below.
Perfect for fans of royal romance, this novel features prince Johan, a wild royal who’s both infuriating and irresistible. To get media attention off his brother, the royal heir, Johan needs a fake engagement fast. Enter beautiful Nya, who agrees to the arrangement. But the more time the two spend together, the less their romance becomes a lie and the more it looks like true love.
The son of rock stars, Luc’s reputation could use a cleanup. That’s why he enlists his polar opposite, straight-laced lawyer Oliver, to pretend to be his boyfriend. In exchange, Oliver gets a date to an important event. But neither expect their ruse to go over so well; it’s like they’re really, truly, deeply in love. (Well, we expected it, but we love it all the same.)
Laurie is upset and embarrassed when news of her bad breakup, not to mention her ex’s now-pregnant girlfriend, spreads around the office. Meanwhile, her co-worker Jamie needs to impress their bosses. Is this a match made in fake romance heaven? You betcha, and with McFarlane’s wit, it’s one you’ll adore seeing unfold.
Romance trope #5: Second chances
Romance is never more emotional than when it’s between characters who share a long past. Whether one of them lets the other get away or their relationship crashed and burned, when they reunite again with all that baggage, you can’t help but be incredibly invested. Here are three second-chance romances — including one with a dash of magic — that feature couples whose paths cross again for another shot at happily-ever-after.
Margot and Olivia were first loves — until the relationship ended and they went their separate ways. Ten years later, they’re both thrown off course when it’s revealed that Olivia is the wedding planner of the nuptials where Margot is the Best Woman. As both women’s feelings are rekindled, they must figure out if the fates are aligned to give them another chance. Penned by a Lambda Literary Award-winning author, this title comes with serious swoon.
Second-chance romance can be difficult. Throw a curse into the mix, and it becomes even more complicated. Nine years ago, Vivienne’s heart was broken by Rhys. Now that he’s back in town, she realizes some regrettable words and magic have thrown Rhys’s life — and their Southern town — into disarray. Now Vivienne must help undo the curse — and determine if something is still brewing between her and the handsome man.
Over a decade ago, Michelle said goodbye to Gabriel, her best friend. But when Gabriel needs a marketing campaign for his celebrity gym, he enlists Michelle’s help. Will the buried feelings between these longtime friends and co-workers lead to more heartbreak — or a second chance at love? Mixing second-chance romance with friends-to-lovers and a bit of fake dating, this book is romance trope heaven.
About the Author: G.G. Andrew
G.G. is a freelance writer and author of romance and women's fiction, including the short story "Everything Left Unsaid" in the collection A Million Ways: Stories of Motherhood. A Texas transplant, she lives outside Houston with her husband and two sons, both of whom are on the autism spectrum. In her spare time, she enjoys browsing bookstores, yoga, paper crafts, cooking, genealogy, and anything related to Halloween. She's probably drinking tea right now.