It’s Top Ten Tuesday! We’re listing the ten plots, tropes, and other elements that make us instantly want to read a book. As usual, we’re limiting this list to romance.
It’s Top Ten Tuesday, where we post a list of 10 of our best/favorite/most important book-ish-related items, depending on the theme of the week. Thank you to That Artsy Reader Girl for providing us with this feature and creative ideas.
“Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.”
This Week’s Theme
As avid readers, we all know the feeling of getting lost in a great book, the kind you can’t put down. Regarding romance novels, certain aspects instantly grab my attention and make me want to pick up a book.
For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday list, let’s explore the tropes, plots, and other elements that make a book an instant must-read romance.
Top Ten Things That Make Me Instantly Want to Read a Book
1. It’s a Bonafide Bodice Ripper
Although their heyday was the 1970s to the early 1980s, many historical romance novels written between 1972 and 1995 were bodice rippers.
Originally called “sensual historicals,” this romance sub-genre features a forceful hero who often engages in non-consensual sex with the heroine. Or he may kidnap her or pursues her with ferocity. There is an emphasis on sexual tension and the battle of wills between the hero and heroine.
Disturbing to some, but to us, there is something undeniably captivating about the raw passion and intensity of these stories. If we’re in the mood for a steamy, no-holds-barred read, then a bonafide bodice ripper will surely hit the spot.
2. Vintage/ Retro Harlequin Presents (1973 to 1999)
For those of us who grew up in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, Harlequin Presents was the go-to for romance novels. These books were compact, easy to read, and always featured a happily ever after. The stories often centered around a wealthy hero and a down-on-her-luck heroine, making for a perfect escape from reality.
Authors like Charlotte Lamb, Miranda Lee, Robyn Donald, Emma Darcy, Sally Wentworth, Lynne Graham, and Violet Winspear wrote compelling stories that packed a massive punch for such short reads.
If we’re feeling nostalgic and in the mood for a vintage Romance read, then a Harlequin Presents is sure to do the trick for us.
3. The Cover Art
As the saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but let’s be honest; we do!
Cover art can make or break a book. There have been some truly stunning works of art in the romance genre over the years.
Elaine Duillo, Pino Daeni, H. Tom Hall, Robert McGinnis, and many others have created some of the most gorgeous painted cover art of the 20th century. If a book catches our eye with its stunning cover art, then it’s worth checking out.
4. Blond Hero (Especially When Paired with a Dark-Haired Heroine)
There’s something undeniably attractive about a blond hero! I adore them. Especially when he’s paired with a dark-haired heroine. The difference creates an exciting dynamic and often leads to some serious sexual tension.
Whether it’s the contrast in their looks or the way they play off each other’s personalities, a blond hero and dark-haired heroine pairing is sure to make for a captivating read for us
5. The Heroine in Pursuit Plot
The “Heroine in Pursuit” plot is a romance trope that never gets old. It’s great when the heroine takes control of her own destiny and goes after the hero. There’s something incredibly appealing about a determined heroine willing to go after what she wants, even if it means facing tremendous odds and pursuing a man who initially seems uninterested.
When the hero is the dour and severe type, he is initially reluctant or even resistant to her advances, adding a layer of tension and making the eventual payoff all the more satisfying.
6. Kidnapping/Captor & Captive Plot
While some readers may find the idea of a kidnapping plot “problematic,” there’s no denying that it makes for a thrilling read. The power dynamic between the captor and the captive can create some serious sexual tension, leading to an intense and often erotic storyline. It can also be fascinating to see the abductors’ motives and watch as they develop a connection with their hostages.
There’s just something about a tormenter becoming enamored with someone he should despise and vice versa that’s riveting.
The kidnapping or captor/captive plot can be tricky to navigate, but it can be an incredibly satisfying read when done well. If we’re in the mood for a darker romance read, then a kidnapping or captor and captive plot is just what we’re looking for.
7. Historical Romance Set in France, Spain, Italy, Russia, or South America
We love English settings in romance, but there’s more to history than the British Empire. There’s something about a historical set in a different country that makes the story feel even more exotic and enticing.
From the elegance of France, the passion of Spain, the romance of Italy, the grandeur of Russia, or the mystery of South America, a well-written historical romance set in a foreign land can transport us to another time and place.
Whether it’s Stranger in My Arms by Louisa Rawlings, The Silver Devil and The Flesh and the Devil by Teresa Denys, Midnight Fires by Penelope Neri, or Seized by Love by Susan Johnson, we can’t get enough of these love stories from other parts of the world.
8. Historical Romance Set During Medieval Era
Romances set during the medieval era used to be hugely popular. It’s so disappointing to see the glut of Regencies, Victorians, and Georgians that dominate historical romance. Authors like Roberta Gellis, Johanna Lindsey, Julie Garwood, Jude Deveraux, Rexanne Becnel, and Claire Delacroix were just a few who wrote many engaging love stories set in the Middle Ages.
From the so-called “Dark Ages” to the Dawn of the Age of Exploration, it is a period full of drama, intrigue, and passion. There were chivalrous knights in shining armor and fierce, bold warriors who took what they fought for. The heroines typically had more fortitude and grit than the “damsels in distress” they’re stereotyped as being.
It’s an era full of iconic characters and situations that make for compelling reading. Plus, the historical detail and research that goes into these types of books are often impressive, making us learn while we read our smut!
9. Great Reviews From Friends With Similar Tastes
There’s nothing like a recommendation from a friend to get you excited about a new book. When a friend with similar tastes recommends a book they love, it’s a good sign that you’ll enjoy it too.
Plus, it’s always fun to have someone to discuss the book with once you’ve finished.
10. Wild Card or X Factor Value
The tenth thing that makes us want to read a book is the “wild card” or X-factor value. This could be anything from a really unique premise or setting to an exciting author to a book that’s just received a lot of buzz.
Sometimes the unexpected elements make a book truly special and memorable.
To Sum It Up
There are many must-read tropes and irresistible elements that make us instantly want to read a book, particularly when it comes to romance novels. From the classic bodice ripper to the “heroine in pursuit” plot to the allure of a medieval setting, there’s much to love.
Whether it’s the cover art, the recommendations of friends, or a wild card factor, the romance genre is full of books that can capture our hearts and imaginations.
What do you think of our picks for the top ten list? Are you surprised by any of our reasons? What makes a book a must-read for you?
As always, please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance!