Written by: Camryn Johnson
If you are a lover of love, a hopeless romantic, or even a hardened skeptic scoping out the enemy’s territory, you may be familiar with the pervasive tropes, wiles, and happily-ever-afters that are part and parcel to the modern romance novel. From Bridgerton, to The Notebook, to Twilight, romance both dark and whimsical has been a wildly successful genre of literature. And there is a reason for it. These literary orchestrators of love are not the verbose, metaphor profuse highbrow romances that we associate with Austen or the Bronte sisters. No, these are the guilty pleasures, the maybe don’t crack open in public, paperback reads that we find ourselves gravitating towards for a quick fix. In honor of Valentine’s Day, we will explore the ingredients for the perfect love story.
Popular Tropes, Classic Character Archetypes, and Textbook Conflicts
Romance tropes are probably the most universally known, even by those that don’t patronize the genre. We’re talking about friends-to-lovers, enemies-to-lovers, the forbidden romance, forced proximity (project partners, anyone?), and a litany of other plot devices. These tropes are the building blocks to the staple genre read and are often realized alongside your classic character archetypes: the out-of-your-league love interest, the brooding hero, or the sweeter-than-frosting heroine that you can’t help but love, even if you’ve sworn off the stuff forever.
The Juicy Subgenres
But what really makes or breaks the aforementioned tropes are the myriad of subgenres that keep things interesting. Always reading about a protagonist falling in love with their best friend who may or may not love them back may start to get boring (or hit too close to home), but what if the best friend was a vampire? A werewolf? From the future? The historical, the comedic, or the fantastical is usually just the right touch of intrigue that keeps the same story line new and exciting. Authors like Cassandra Claire of The Mortal Instruments series and Diana Gabaldon of the Outlander series have that formula down pat.
And of Course, the Quintessential Ending: Happily Ever After
What’s a good romance without a happily ever after? Unless it’s a duology, trilogy, or series, most readers of commercial romance fiction are expecting a feel good, sweep you off your feet, til-death-do-they-part ending by the time they turn the last page. For some of the crazy situations that these characters find themselves in, a walk off into the sunset doesn’t seem the
most logical (or healthy, let’s be real). But sometimes that’s exactly what you need. Every once in a while you need that hope against hope that everything is going to right itself in the end. That’s why you’re reading a novel and not the news, right? It’s the reminder that love in all its shapes, challenges, and embarrassing or heartwarming moments still exists out there, and that everyone is worthy of it. Who’s going to say no to that?
Happy Valentine’s Day!