Ah, tropes, those time-tested story elements that keep popping up over and over again. You know, like the much-discussed love triangle. Some people love them. Some people hate them. But, they’re definitely not going away anytime soon, and that’s fine by me.
Tropes are a little like favorite foods, every reader has ones that make their mouth water, but they’re different for everyone. Find someone who loves a particular trope, and you’re bound to find another who doesn’t like it, or who avoids it entirely.
I’m of the opinion that the only “bad” tropes are the ones that perpetuate harmful representation. Other than those, I’m here for all tropes, especially a trope done well, or done in a unique way. But, the ones I’ve listed below are my favorites. They’re the ones that will get me to one-click a book to my TBR or shopping cart every time.
- Masked balls —This is a tropey plot point that I’m all in for, no matter how corney and obvious it may be. If the hero and the heroine have to attend a masked ball, you can expect there will be fireworks and mistaken identity and yearning. I love it. One of my favorites is the one at the heart of The Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. It’s so delicious and angsty, featuring the perfect pair of star-crossed lovers.
- One last job, especially a heist — Getting the gang back together is one of my favorite tropes. I love a good ensemble cast, especially one with tensions from years of working together, and hopefully a good romance thrown in as well. I loved the movie Ocean’s Eight. I need to find more books like that. Especially ones with an all lady, or mostly lady, crew. Along those lines, I recently read and enjoyed Seafire by Natalie Parker. It features an all lady pirate crew out to destroy the awful tyrant in charge of their world. There’s also a nice enemies to lovers romance that starts sizzling when the Captain of the crew allows a boy onto her ship. Just beware of the cliffhanger ending. It’s the first in a series, and book two isn’t out, yet.
- Female spies and assassins — Think “female James Bond” or La Femme Nikita (specifically, the Luc Besson movie from 1991). If a novel features a female spy or assassin, my ears perk up and my fingers start clicking. Earlier this year, I heard mention of The Spymaster’s Lady by Joanna Bourne in a podcast and immediately borrowed it from my library. It’s so good. If this is your catnip, too, you should definitely check out that book and the rest of the series.
- Found family — Oh how I love a found family. This goes along with my love of a good ensemble cast. When it’s a rag-tag group of misfits thrown together on a spaceship or to embark on a fantasy quest, I can’t resist. A series that I finished recently and loved for this very reason is the Illuminae Files series. There are three books. Each one features a different setting and romantic pairing, all in the same world focused on different vantage points of an event that happens in the first book. In the last book, each pairing and their found family comes together to make for one big crew. It’s glorious. Just be sure to get it in paperback or hardcover because the interior layout is best viewed on paper, in my opinion.
- Dancers and men who can dance — I’m especially susceptible to any book featuring ballet and/or hip hop dancers (think Step Up vibes), but ballroom dancing is equally athletic and hot. Recently, I’ve been digging Alexis Daria’s “Dance Off” series, starting with Take the Lead. I’ve got the next book queued up in my library holds, and I’m very excited about it.
- Secret space alien pretending to be human — This isn’t strictly limited to space aliens. Other fantasy creatures pretending to be human are also catnip for me. But I’m a sucker for anything that gives me Rosewell vibes (specifically, the original TV show from the ‘90s…I’m still skeptical about this reboot thing…). One that I’ve been meaning to read for a while and have heard great things about is Obsidian by Jennifer Armentrout. Come to think of it, I may have to bump that up on my TBR…
- Suddenly royal — If a book has a hero or heroine who thinks they’re no big deal only to find out that they are actually royalty, I’m in. This also applies to a hero or heroine falling for royalty and becoming royal that way. Most recently, I’ve loved A Princess in Theory and A Duke by Default, both by Alyssa Cole.
- Jane Austen retellings — It doesn’t matter the genre, I can’t resist a Jane Austen retelling. It’s been a while since I’ve stumbled across one that I particularly enjoyed. There are several out right now that I have on my TBR, but the one I have my eye on most isn’t coming out until February 2020! That’s The Stars We Steal by Alexa Donne, and it’s being billed as “Jane Austen meets The Bachelor in space.” It sounds delightful.
- Elite military academy, especially if it’s in space — The fastest way to make me click “buy it now” is to tell me there’s a military space fleet academy involved. I blame this on my favorite, and criminally under-appreciated, Anne McCaffrey novel, Sassinak. It’s difficult to find books with this trope that also include a strong romance plot, but many of my favorites include romantic subplots, including the book I just finished reading, Light Years by Kass Morgan.
- Fake relationship — Oh how I love a good fake relationship. Especially when it’s between a pair who have sworn that they’ll hate each other forever only to fall madly in love when forced to spend time together. The recent Netflix adaptation of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han got me all excited about this trope and made me want to go read the book. This is also a trope I played with in my most recent novella, Vivian’s Promise. So, if you like fake relationships, you might want to check that out. 🙂
I hope I didn’t do too much damage to your TBR with all these recommendations! Feel free to return the favor and let me know your favorite examples of these tropes that I should definitely add to my wish list.
Happy holidays and happy reading!