The Ultimate Guide to the Romance Genre and Romance Tropes

This guide to the romance genre and romance tropes is designed to help you learn more and clarify any questions you may have about the romance genre.

This guide will give you a general outline that describes:

  • What is the romance genre?
  • What are the romance sub-genres?
  • What are romance tropes?

By the end of this post, you’ll have a firm understanding of what the romance genre is all about and the types of stories and plotlines that you can find in this wide and diverse form of literature.

Within each romance sub-genre and trope below you’ll find links to book lists that will give you recommendations of the best books worth reading within that category.

They will help you can get reading right away in whatever sub-genre or trope you like best.

Plus, after learning about all the categories in romance and romance tropes, you can take a fun quiz to determine what type of romance book you’d be based on your personality!

Find the ultimate guide to the romance genre and romance book tropes from romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books.

What is the Romance Genre?

The romance genre is defined by two aspects that can be found in every romance book or novel:

  • a central love story between characters
  • an emotionally satisfying, happy ending

As the Romance Book Writers of America states, romance books can “have any tone or style, be set in any place or time, and have varying levels of sensuality – ranging from sweet to extremely hot.”

Regardless of the story or setting, as long as the book is centered around a love story and ends with a happy ending, you’ve got a romance book!

What Are the Romance Sub-Genres?

Within the romance genre, there are several sub-genres that organize romance books by specific categories.

These romance sub-genres give an overarching categorization to the romance book and include the following:

Contemporary Romance

Contemporary romance is a romance book that is contemporary with the time of the writing of the book.

Erotic Romance

Erotic romance is the category of romance book in which the intimacy between characters is central to the main characters growth and relationship. Without this intimacy, the storyline to the romance book would be damaged.

Fantasy Romance

Fantasy is a romance subgenre that includes fantastical, magical, supernatural and/or science fiction elements that are integral to the story, setting, plot and characters.

These elements could include witches, warlocks, fairies, or include fantastical plotline elements such as time travel.

The setting of fantasy romance books typically takes place in a different world or alternative universe though some fantasy romance books also take place in our contemporary world as well.

Historical Romance

The historical romance sub-genre includes romance novels where the timeframe of the novel takes place sometime before the 1950s. Historical romance book time periods may include:

  • Medieval Period
  • Viking Age
  • 17th Century Scottish Highlands
  • Colonial America
  • Regency England
  • Victorian England
  • American Civil War
  • American Western Expansion
  • Early 20th Century

LGBTQ+ Romance

Romance books that include main characters who identify as LGBTQ+ fit this romance sub-genre. It includes MM romance books and gay romance novels, FF lesbian/sapphic romance books, and others.

New Adult Romance

The new adult romance sub-genre includes romance books written about characters in the 18-30 age bracket.

This relatively new romance sub-genre was created to fill the gap between young adult romance and adult romantic fiction. It often focuses on adults in the college years but not exclusively.

#OwnVoices Romance

OwnVoices romance books feature characters who represent the same marginalized identities as their author.

Paranormal Romance

Paranormal romance books are centered around paranormal phenomena and paranormal characters. These paranormal creatures could include vampires, ghosts, shapeshifters, psychics, werewolves, aliens, demons or zombies.

Romantic Comedy

The romantic comedy sub-genre includes romance books where humor is central to the progression of the storyline as well as the romantic connection and happily-ever-after ending.

Romantic Suspense

The romantic suspense sub-genre includes romance books where there is a plotline of suspense or mystery to be solved within the plotline in addition to the overarching love story.

Sports Romance

The sports romance sub-genre includes romance books that have a central theme of some aspect of the sports world. Usually, main characters in this sub-genre are athletes, coaches, owners, agents, etc.

Young Adult Romance

The young adult romance sub-genre fits into the young adult fiction that categories these books as those written for readers age 12-18.

Though young adult romance books are often written about teen characters set in high school, some of these romance books are intended for a more mature audience.

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Find the ultimate guide to the romance genre and romance book tropes from romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books.
Discover everything the romance genre has to offer and uncover the most popular romance tropes.

What are Romance Tropes?

In addition to romance books organized by categories by these sub-genres, they may also fit a specific romance trope.

A romance trope is a plot device or theme used within a romance novel giving a recognizable starting point to the story that a reader can recognize.

Though many romance books can use one common romance trope, it is their storylines and characters that differentiate each book using this common plot device.

Romance authors can use more than one romance trope within a novel and these romance tropes can be found within any romance sub-genre.

The most common romance tropes include:

Age Gap Romance

The age gap romance trope features a love story between a hero and heroine who have a large age gap between them. These romances often also fit the forbidden romance trope.

Alien Romance

The alien romance trope includes romance books where at least one of the main characters is an alien. These books may also fall into the fantasy or paranormal romance book categories.

Alpha Male

The alpha male romance trope features romance heroes who are the epitome of an alpha male. They show characteristics of being strong, possessive, confident, and dominant among others.

BDSM Romance

This romance trope features romance books where the main characters practice BDSM in their relationship or the setting of the romance book is a BDSM club.

Best Friend’s Brother/Sister or Brother/Sister’s Best Friend

This romance trope features a romance between a best friend’s sibling and the hero or heroine. The alternate to this is the relationship between the sister or brother’s best friend and the hero or heroine.

Billionaire Romance/Secret Billionaire

This romance trope focuses on a billionaire as one of the main characters. Billionaires can be male heroes in the story or there are romance books about female billionaires.

The secret billionaire romance trope is where the billionaire’s status is unknown to his or her love interest or other central characters in the story.

Bodyguard Romance

The bodyguard romance trope features a romance between a bodyguard and the person he/she is tasked to protect. These often fall into the office romance trope or even forbidden romance trope as well.

Enemies to Lovers

The enemies to lovers romance trope skims the line between love and hate. The main characters may start out as enemies with either extreme hate or dislike actually hiding love and affection, but they end up overcoming that hate and falling in love.

Fake Relationship

This romance trope centers around the main characters agreeing to carry on a fake relationship for beneficial reasons to one or both sides. In the process of faking their relationship in public, they end up falling in love.

Forbidden Romance

The forbidden romance trope centers on a love connection between characters that in the eyes of others should not be together. Examples could be doctor-patient, priest-layperson, older person-younger love interest, teacher-student, etc.

Forced Proximity

The forced proximity romance trope is when the two main characters find themselves forced to spend time around one another, often because they are stuck in one location either willingly or unwillingly.

Friends to Lovers

The friends to lovers romance trope is exactly as it sounds. Two characters who have already established a friendship, either since childhood or later in life, and then cross the line between friends and lovers and fall in love.

Check out sample pages from the paperback and hardcover Romance Book Reading Journal.

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Love Triangle

The love triangle romance trope explores a central character falling in love with two other people and the choice they make between the two.

Mafia Romance

The mafia romance trope includes those books where one of the main characters is tied to or involved with the mafia. It may overlap with the dark romance trope or romantic suspense.

Marriage of Convenience

The marriage of convenience romance trope is when the main characters enter into marriage before falling in love. It is similar to the fake relationship romance trope in that both characters enter the marriage to achieve a goal rather than because they love their partner.

Nanny Romance

The nanny romance trope focuses a love story between a nanny and her employer. This romance trope blends with the forbidden and office romance tropes.

Neighbors to Lovers

This romance trope focuses on a love story between characters who are neighbors who then fall in love with one another. It is closely related to the forced proximity romance trope.

Office Romance

The office romance trope involves two main characters who share a connection in the workplace be it sharing the same office or working together in the same company or on a similar project.

If the office romance is between boss and employee, it can also fall within the forbidden romance trope.

Relationship Coach Romance

The relationship coach romance trope centers on two characters who become intimate in an effort for one to teach or “coach” the other on some aspect of seduction or intimacy.

As a result of their coaching sessions, they end up falling in love with each other. This trope can also align with the friends to lovers trope and the virgin trope.

Reverse Harem Romance

The reverse harem romance trope centers on polyamorous relationships that involve one woman and at least three or more men.

Rock Star Romance

The rock star romance trope focuses on a rock star as one of the main characters.

Roommates to Lovers

As this romance trope suggests, the main characters in this romance start out as roommates who gradually become lovers and fall in love. It has many similarities to the forced proximity romance trope.

Royal Romance

The royal romance trope typically includes one member of a royal family as the main character or some aspect of the royal kingdom as its focus.

Runaway Bride/Jilted Bride

The runaway bride trope centers on a heroine who runs away from her wedding only to fall in love with the hero of the story.

The jilted bride trope centers on a heroine who is left at the altar only to fall in love with someone related to or close to the groom or another hero in the story.

Second Chance Romance

The second chance romance trope centers on the reunion of two main characters who were once in a relationship that fell apart but who find love again with each other.

Secret Baby

This romance trope centers on a hero finding out that the heroine of the story had his baby.

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Shapeshifter Romance

The shapeshifter romance trope includes characters who are humans that can shift into animals. Shapeshifters can be werewolves, bears, mountain lions or other animals.

Single Parent Romance

This romance trope centers on at least one of the main characters being a single parent and often juggling romance with parenthood.

Slow Burn Romance

The slow burn romance trope is when the love connection between the two main characters develops in a slow and gradual manner.

Small Town Romance

The small town romance trope centers on a small town and its inhabitants playing central roles in the story and relationship of the main characters.

Surprise Pregnancy

The surprise pregnancy trope focuses one two main characters who find out that they are going to have a baby and end up falling in love during or after the pregnancy.

Teacher Student Romance

The teacher student romance trope centers on a love affair or relationship developing between a teacher and his/her student. This trope has similarities to the forbidden romance trope.

The Dare/The Bet

The dare romance trope includes a storyline where the main characters come to know each other and fall in love as a result of a dare that brought them together.

The bet romance trope is very similar in that the main characters come to know each other and fall in love as a result of a bet.

Time Travel Romance

In the time travel romance trope, the aspect of time travel is a central component to the love story and how the two main characters meet and fall in love.

Vampire Romance

The vampire romance trope features romance books with at least one vampire as the main character. These romance books are part of the paranormal romance book category but can have a contemporary or fantastical story setting.

Virgin Romance

The virgin romance trope centers on at least one of the main characters being a virgin and often entering a relationship and falling in love with the other main character in an effort to end their virginity.

Werewolf Romance

The werewolf romance trope features romance books with at least one werewolf as a main character. This romance book trope falls into the paranormal romance book category. Werewolf romance books also fit the shapeshifter romance trope.

Witch Romance

The witch romance trope features romance books with a witch as the main character. Witch romance books may fall into the paranormal romance category but an increasing number of witch romance books are contemporary romance books.

Where to Go From Here

New Readers to the Romance Genre

If you’re new to the romance genre and looking for book recommendations to get you started, check out my Romance Book Starter List which outlines several titles for new readers to the genre.

Check Out My Book Lists

Looking for something in particular? Use the search icon in the menu bar to search for a specific sub-genre or romance trope, or check out one of my many book lists.

Discover My Favorites

If you want to go straight to the best of the romance genre, then you’ll not want to miss my book list of the best romance novels of all time.

You may also want to check out the favorite romance books of my fellow romance book bloggers!

Take the Quiz!

Now that you have an idea of the various categories in romance and romance tropes in the genre, why not take a quiz to find out what type of romance book YOU’D be?!

Get Books Delivered to Your Door!

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Each box gives you one or more romance books and fantastic book swag. Check out all of your romance book subscription options or consider one of my favorites, The Bookworm Box, which gives back to charity with every purchase.

Take the book quiz to discover who you ideal book boyfriend is and get the perfect book recommendation for you from She Reads Romance Books.

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