Despite our love for romance at Sweet Savage Flame, certain tropes frustrate us. Let’s discuss some of the most hated elements in romance novels.
Talking About Our Most Hated Romance Tropes
Let’s talk about tropes in romance. At Sweet Savage Flame, we enjoy discussing the ones we love and hate. There are some plot devices that we find overused and hope to never see again in romance novels. In fact, there are certain tropes that we can’t stand to read about.
Here is a list of some of the most hated tropes in romance novels.
1. Big Misunderstandings
It can be rather exasperating when the main characters in a romance do not engage in meaningful and clear discussions with each other. This lack of communication leads to a frustrating or annoying reading experience.
Imagine if only the hero and the heroine could communicate effectively with each other, using words and language like normal human beings. The story would be over by chapter four!
2. Adultery/ Cheating
Adultery and cheating are challenging subjects to address gracefully in fiction. Most romance readers consider adultery utterly unacceptable behavior that irreparably damages trust in a relationship. Stories centered around adultery often alienate audiences.
It’s an issue that needs to be handled thoughtfully, which is difficult for even the most talented authors.
3. Too Feisty Heroines
Some heroines have such willful, stubborn personalities that they refuse to listen to anyone’s counsel but their own. This one-dimensional immaturity may make them unlikable and frustrating to follow as main characters.
4. Olive Oyl Heroines, aka Damsels in Distress
In the “damsel in distress” trope, we encounter delicate, vulnerable heroines who persistently need protection as danger lurks everywhere. A female main character who is always rescued from the more capable male protagonist is as annoying as plucky heroines who need no man.
Unfortunately, this lack of agency and self-determination can render these characters one-dimensional and lackluster. It’s an aspect of storytelling that unquestionably warrants a reevaluation.
5. Abusive Heroes
Heroes who abuse or mistreat the heroine are unacceptable to most modern audiences. While we adore “bodice ripper” novels for their niche appeal, stories seen to promote or glamorize abusive dynamics understandably generate controversy and backlash.
Although he wasn’t the hero, the heroine’s husband in Rosalyn Alsobrook’s Runaway Bride was a secondary hero in a romantic love triangle. He was also an abuser who beat his pregnant wife black and blue. Bafflingly, he was depicted in a sympathetic light, which we couldn’t understand why.
6. Duke of Slut Heroes
The “rake” or “womanizer” trope centers around a promiscuous hero who seeks meaningless physical gratification. While some readers enjoy following charismatic bad boys, there is a line. We will lose sympathy for men who can’t control their lust—with women besides the heroine, that is!
For example, in the mostly riveting bodice ripper, Raven, by Shana Carrol, we were disappointed that the wonderful heroine didn’t get a steadfast partner, but instead an “Std-muffin” in “hero” Jason Brand.
7. Secret Babies
We said at #1 that we hate when couples don’t communicate. And keeping a baby secret from their father is worse; it’s lack of communication and lying combined!
Secret baby plotlines where one character discovers they unknowingly fathered a child years before can create dramatic reveals. However, in contemporary settings, reliable paternity tests eliminate the credibility of keeping a child’s parents secret.
8. Too Much Internal Angst
While some internal conflict can build character depth, pages of excessive angsting over inner turmoil can become tedious. Moderation and balance are essential for introspective passages to remain engaging.
9. Theme Before Plot & Plot Before Characters
Compelling fiction puts well-crafted, multidimensional characters first, then develops a compelling romance arc between them. The narrative itself should take precedence over promoting any particular theme or message. When agendas override storytelling, both characters and plots suffer greatly
10. Wallpaper Historicals/ Historical Fantasy Marked Historical Fiction
Historical fiction that pays little attention to accurately capturing the details and atmosphere of the portrayed era can feel hollow and inauthentic. To transport readers convincingly into the past, thorough research is essential. Moreover, the mindsets must be in line with the time period.
Characters should be portrayed with realistic motivations, and the plot should have a natural flow and continuity. Historical accuracy and authenticity should be a priority when writing historical fiction.
Final Thoughts on Our Most Hated Tropes in Romance
The beauty of romance novels lies in their ability to tug at our heartstrings, make us swoon, and transport us into a world of passion and love. However, certain overused tropes can detract from the overall reading experience. As readers, we yearn for engaging, well-developed characters and plots not overshadowed by clichéd narrative devices or agendas.
While some tropes have become staples in the genre, writers must approach them with creativity and originality. After all, the essence of romance lies not in the story’s predictability but in the characters’ journey towards love and happiness.
Now it’s your turn. We’d love to hear about the romance tropes you dislike and why. What elements in this beloved genre make you cringe or roll your eyes?
As always, please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance.