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Ready for romance? These top tropes will make your heart flutter

Romance books (and other media) are exploding in popularity, and many of them contain these iconic tropes. – Photo by freestocks / Unsplash

Summer's here, and it's time for summer loving, especially in popular culture. Between BookTok and the newest streaming series, there's truly been a romance renaissance.

But what helps make these new romances so beloved by fans? They all feature age-old tropes that will make even the most cynical of hearts flutter.

Friends to lovers

The friends-to-lovers trope is old as time and also seems to be the most desirable love story for viewers in their real life. “When Harry Met Sally” is the blueprint for this trope. The two spent decades as “just friends” before declaring their love for each other on New Year’s Eve in one of the most iconic New York City romance scenes in movie history.

“Friends,” as the series name conveniently implies, features one of the most revered friends-to-lovers couples: Monica and Chandler. After spending four seasons as only friends, this pair finally got together, and it was simultaneously hilarious and heartwarming to watch.

Both "Gilmore Girls" leads also engaged with this trope: Rory and Logan began their relationship in season five, and in one of the best kiss scenes to ever grace TV, Lorelai and Luke finally gave into their inevitability and kissed during the season four finale.

This trope is one of the sweetest, and often least drama-filled, as two friends realizing their feelings may go deeper is satisfying for any viewer. 

Fake dating

Next is the good old fake dating trope, in which two people realize they have to team up and pretend to be a couple for some reason — or else. Although usually predictable, when executed this trope will keep audiences on the edge of their seat.

No one did this fake dating better than the 90s, as seen in both “Pretty Woman” and “10 Things I Hate About You.” In the first, Julia Roberts plays a sex worker who is hired by a wealthy businessman to act as his girlfriend. The two eventually realize there may be more to their relationship than just business.

Although outdated at times, there's a reason it's hailed as the defining film of this genre. In the second, fake dating runs rampant in this modern retelling of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.”

This movie is laugh-out-loud funny, sexy and fashionable, but what blows it out of the water is Heath Ledger singing “I Love You Baby” to Julia Stiles on their high school bleachers. It's truly swoon-worthy.

More recently, both the “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” book series and Netflix movie series executed this trope gorgeously. Lara Jean, an introverted and sheltered high school good girl, suddenly found herself fake dating Peter Kavinsky, the school’s lacrosse star and golden boy. Their plan is to help save her reputation and make Peter’s ex-girlfriend jealous after Lara Jean’s secret love letters make their way around the school.

Their love story is charming, and their fake dating scenario builds suspense throughout the entire first book and movie, catching the hearts of a myriad of different audiences looking for romance.

Forced proximity 

It’s every girl’s nightmare to be stuck in an elevator with a handsome, chiseled investment banker who suddenly admits his overwhelming feelings for her ever since he saw her in the hallway once. Whatever will she do?

The forced proximity trope is the most convenient way for writers to stage a “will they or won’t they?” storyline, which is also the most fun trope to read.

Recent adult books have gained swarms of positive attention for their use of this trope that there's a whole trend on BookTok dedicated to them: “Beach Read” and “People We Meet on Vacation” by Emily Henry have both amassed a huge amount of buzz and both feature the forced proximity trope.

In "Beach Read," two writers who also happen to be neighbors find themselves confined to a writing challenge, which forces them to maintain constant contact.

In the second novel, two best friends who recently had a falling out embark on a vacation where they will have to spend the entire trip together. What's so great about this one is how Henry also mixes in the friends to lovers trope since the two were best friends for decades, making it extra enjoyable.

Finally, “The Hating Game” by Sally Thorne and “The Spanish Love Deception” by Elena Armas both follow relationships between co-workers, which is the perfect set-up for potential romance. Both books are also recent or upcoming films, so there's twice the amount of content.

Forbidden love  

From the moment Romeo and Juliet took their final breaths, the story of star-crossed lovers shattered the hearts of audiences and became my second-favorite romance trope.

The trope of forbidden love is often messy, heartbreaking and destructive, but it can be much more meaningful than fluffier tropes that always conclude with a happy ending.

First is the obvious: “Twilight.” Both the books and the movies are a guilty pleasure everyone deserves to indulge in as they follow Bella, a human, and Edward, a 100-year-old vampire, as they search for a way to be together despite their obvious differences.

There's also “Red, White & Royal Blue,” a book by Casey McQuiston that follows the son of the first female President of the U.S. falling in love with a British prince.

This forbidden love takes place over explicit emails and steamy hotel meetings all culminating in disaster, and it's set the souls of many book fans on fire. It’s witty, sexy and introspective — it's also so good many will find themselves reading it twice.

"It Ends with Us” by Colleen Hoover is another great pick, and Hoover has been crowned by some to be the queen of the 21st-century romance novel. This book follows a girl named Lily, whose forbidden love from her teenage years reappears when she's in her 20s and in an abusive relationship with another man. It’s best to get into this book without knowing much, but be certain it will crumble readers and then put them back together by the end.

Enemies to lovers

Lastly, is my favorite trope that never fails to make me — the opposite of a hopeless romantic — think maybe there is such a thing as true love and soulmates after all: enemies to lovers.

The enemies-to-lovers trope always features a build-up of emotions as the characters in question go from fiery hate to undying love over the course of their storyline.

We have Jane Austen to thank for this trope as one of the earliest and most famous introductions to the trope is in “Pride and Prejudice,” where main characters Elizabeth and Darcy would not dare so much as exchange three kind words with one other.

But by the end, they overcome their disdain and realize their love when Mr. Darcy admits Elizabeth has “bewitched (him) body and soul” — it gives me literal chills. More recently, but still in the category of historical drama, is the incomparable "Bridgerton" season two.

Anthony, a viscount, must find a wife. But when he meets Kate, a new arrival from India whose sister is set to marry the viscount, they immediately despise each other so much that Kate begs her sister not to accept his proposal. The course of their relationship is both a slow burn and plenty steamy. Audiences will not be able to turn off their TVs.

All romance tropes are tropes for a reason, as they continuously captivate audiences and shed light on the real-life desires of audience members, leaving them absolutely entranced by the story.


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