Falling into Love

By Mary Jo

In honor of Valentine’s Week (the holiday isn’t over until the chocolate is all gone!) I thought I’d muse about some of the ways people fall in love in our stories  There are whole thoughtful, analytical books and articles written about romance tropes, but this is not one of them.  <G>

Romance can be as simple as seeing someone and thinking, Wow, my hormones have gone on high alert!  Can I introduce my hormones to your hormones?  Real life is often like this.  You meet an interesting person in a class or at church or on the jogging trail and start talking, and you continue talking for the next sixty years.  Romances often start when people meet and there’s a ZING!, but there needs to be more than that to make a good story. In particular, conflict is needed.

Enemies to Lovers is classic and has the advantage of creating lots of interesting tension.  I prefer the phrase “Antagonists to Lovers” because characters with dramatically different goals are easier to work with than people who want to kill each other–though that has been done and done well.

Often this kind of conflict boils down to “I despise you and the horse you rode in on, but wow, you’re HOT!”  The conflict must be powerful and the resolution difficult. To make the romance believable, there must be a meeting of goals as well as bodies.  Lots of ways to  work this out.  This is why reading romance is fun even though we have to have that happy ending! (Image of reaching hands by Farinni on Unsplash)

Another common, gentler trope is Friends to Lovers.”  Being long term buddies, hanging out and doing things together, is a foundation for true friendship, but the relationship can become fraught when one person starts looking at the other in a new way. “Whoa, I didn’t realize how little Susie next door is all grown up now!”

The challenge here is that the person whose view of the other has changed must convince the pal that more is wanted, and that may risk the friendship.  Often such a change can affect the families and friends of both characters in difficult ways. Many apple carts can be upset!

Reunion/Second Chance at Love stories are another category, one I’m fond of.  When two characters have a history, the past must impact the present and the future.  This can be a matter of “I fell in love with you when I was six years old and I’ve loved you ever since, but I knew we could never be together because our places in society are too far apart.”  Or it can be as intense as love at first sight followed by a catastrophic end to the relationship. The romance comes years later when one or both of the characters want to recapture what was lost, but first there must be a painful reckoning about what went wrong before. (Picture of lovers on the beach by Edgar Chapparo on Unsplash.)

The Marriage of Convenience, fondly known as an MOC to romance fans, works particularly well in historicals because arranged marriages were still a thing, and there can be all sorts of practical reasons for marrying: for property, inheritance, family pressures, a ruined girl’s reputation with marriage the only way to repair the damage. (Very common in Regency romances!)

The trope is so popular that contemporary writers will sometimes use it, but it’s most powerful in an era where divorce was virtually impossible. When a woman married a man, she was giving him her body, her property, and her future children.  A historical marriage of convenience has two virtual strangers locked together in a binding relationship and they must learn how to live together.  In a good romance, they build convincing and satisfying lives. This is no easy task, which is why it’s so popular to read how about how characters do it. (Picture of lovers on the right by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash)

Then there’s Falling into Each Other, which isn’t a trope, but for me, it describes a story where two characters are thrown together. They gradually realize how much they’re coming to care about each other until the time comes when making a commitment is a joyous inevitability.  That’s how I think of my Once a Laird, book 6 in my Rogue Redeemed series.  Ramsay and Signe have a history because she was the younger sister of his late and much lamented first love.  When he returns to their island of Thorsay after years away, they must work together and at first there is a lot of tension between them, but gradually they become essential to each other. (That’s the romance part–there is plenty of action around them!)

Are some of these tropes favorites of yours?  Or would you like to suggest something different that you love to read? I’d love to hear!

Mary Jo

13 thoughts on “Falling into Love”

  1. I’m a fan of the Marriage Of Convenience trope, where the couple has often come together as virtual strangers, and now must work it out. A spin-off of that is the mail-order bride, which I also enjoy reading. But although I generally think of that as a historical trope, in fact these days it’s also quite a feature of modern life, with people arranging brides from poor countries. I’m not sure that it’s so romantic, now I come to think of it — and perhaps it wasn’t all that romantic in history either.

  2. Mary Jo-

    Thanks for taking Valentine’s week to define the beloved tropes of the romance genre. Of course, it’s one thing for a genre to have tropes, and it’s another for the writers to have honed their craft and done the tropes-and the readers justice. You seem to have mastered the craft, as have the other wenches.

  3. I love historical romance and all of these tropes are good but it is the author who makes the story stand out. I love me a love story. And a good author can make any one of these tropes memorable and make it feel like it is the first one you have ever read.

  4. I am not picky – any or all of those tropes are fine with me. For me, the writing has to be deeper than a puddle on a sidewalk. No shallow unexplained events for me, please. The characters are most important to me. I have to believe that these two people actually look at one another and see something. There must be a spark for me.
    I am not really fond of all the recent heroines in historical novels who are written with a 21st century mind set. “Let’s lust for and jump in bed with this guy, ‘ cause it will feel good.” Whether we like it or not, history tells us that the rules were different in the past. Many women lived under strict rules. And those same women were not familiar with women’s lib. And those delicate flowers were interesting – think of Scarlet, think of Lady Hester, and I am sure there were more. Sorry, got off point….just keep writing so I have books to read, erase the rest from your memory banks.

    • LOL, Annette! Memory banks purged. Yes, depth of the characters and how authentic they feel is essential to a good, believable romance. There have always been strong women in history, but they are strong in ways that are true to their times. Casual fornication has always been dangerous for women, and the smart ones knew that.

  5. Perfect for Valentines week, Mary Jo – thanks! (But who’s got any chocolate left by now?) I enjoy all the tropes, but marriages of convenience appeal the most. I think that’s because they provide such an open door for character and relationship growth, but also for interesting back stories. But most important to me in any trope is the inclusion of some humor, because no relationship can survive without it.

  6. Thank you, Mary Jo. I don’t think that I necessarily favor one trope over another; I like any trope that is part of a good story. And I’m with Constance in that the inclusion of humor is much desired.

    What trope would best define two people who become drawn to each other through letters (or now texts)? I’ll admit to having a fondness for books with epistolary content.

    • Interesting question, Kareni. Epistolary novel can be a trope of its own, but it could also be considered to fit the “Falling into each other” category since they are collecting slowly and over time.

    • Molly, lots of other readers share your preference! I would classify this as a subset of “friends to lovers” since feeling change toward a person that is already part of one’s circle. But the happy ending requires work!


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