Ranking the Worst Romance Tropes Inspired by Kate Cavanaugh

Because ranking tropes is fun! Using Kate Cavanaugh’s list of awful tropes, I’ve decided to rank the most godawful romance tropes! I tweaked it a little for the kind of books I read/rom coms I watch- but kept it basically the same. Let’s see if you swoon over my list 😉

Awful person transformed by true love– this is just Beauty and the Beast. I’ve no problem with this- provided the person is redeemable.

Surprise baby– I’m sorry I don’t mind this! It can be super cheesy- however I’m okay with it in general (unless the couple are awful, there’s abuse or the relationship should’ve ended for some reason). As long as it doesn’t have a name like Renesmee!

Chase scene (in airport)– I mean, this is great. I’ve no issue with it! GIVE ME ALL THE CHEESE! Yes, it’s getting a little tired, but I can live with it… most of the time.

Everyone must end in a couple– this doesn’t generally bother me, though I agree it can feel unearned. Also, it can be annoying cos it’s unrealistic. I also never understand why everyone has to pair up at the end of YA, because, *newsflash*, I’m going to assume some of those people will break up and some people will find their someone later. On second thoughts, this one does irk me a little.

Strong independent woman that don’t need no man… but inevitably ends up with someone. Sometimes I want a buffy scenario, okay?!

Instalove– I can’t buy into it and it’s lazy writing, but there’s so so much worse here.

Paranormal age gaps– magic doesn’t make a pervert less of a pervert.

Calling off the wedding at the altar– usually it’s the mc doing this at the beginning and it shows them up to be an *awful* character. They humiliate someone in front of all their family and friends and it’s just icky. But guess what? If this happens at the start of a movie, I’m quitting straight away. I can’t root for someone who could do this. And if it’s done to the main character, then it’s too awful and depressing and it leaves a sour taste in my mouth. (The only time this is okay is when some villain is forcing someone to get married and it gets stopped… but that’s what was meant by the trope).

On-off relationships– the worst thing is, this trope only comes about when the story had something good going for it. Then the wisecrack writer decides to ruin it. Rather than showing off a healthy couple, it devolves into a kind of nightmarish limbo of will-they-won’t-they-oh-they-will-oh-they-won’t-now. It’s just… exhausting. And it nearly always makes you fall out of love with the characters and their romance. I hate this and would be happy to never come across it again.

Miscommunication– I used to not mind this, now I hate it because it just makes the whole story seem redundant. Usually it’s two adults, who have easily resolved issues, but won’t communicate with each other about it. And just, WHY CAN’T THESE TWO HUMANS TALK TO EACH OTHER AND SAVE US ALL THE DRAMA? GAH!!  

The other man/woman is terrible– Kate C said the problem was with the person being awful makes you question the love interest’s taste. However, for me, the main issue is this nearly always leads to a cheating dynamic. Like, it’s okay to emotionally cheat or get really close to cheating, just as long as you think the other man/woman is a jerk. And that doesn’t fly with me. It’s also really annoying to be told the other person is rubbish- but sometimes I just don’t buy it! I often come away thinking that the mc is terrible and making excuses about the other person to justify their actions.

Love triangles– the only reason this isn’t as high on the list is because there are other things that are worse.

Stalking is cute– NOPE. It’s not. Don’t do it. Even in fiction.

Weird power dynamics (professor and student, psychologist and client) eww- I just can’t decide which of these two examples is worse.

Cheating– I mean, so many of the ones that came before this were high up the list BECAUSE they lead to cheating/are a form of cheating. So obviously, this has got to top the list. Lying, manipulating and being a crap person ruin romance. End of story.

That was surprisingly cathartic! Do you agree with me on any of these? What do you think is the worst romance trope? Let me know in the comments!

40 thoughts on “Ranking the Worst Romance Tropes Inspired by Kate Cavanaugh

  1. Fun to read this with a permission to be judgy! 🤗 My least favourite is the airport chase. I just can’t deal with any more of them!!!!
    And the miscommunication thing is really common in detective stories/mysteries, it can bug me a l-o-t! 😆 (Renesmee: nope!!)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. When the couple finally get together after obstacles/misunderstandings etc and it starts pouring with rain and it’s supposed to be sexy that they’re kissing in the rain. I don’t know if it’s a trope, I just don’t like it, LOL.

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  3. I agree with most of this, except for the Instalove. In real life, sometimes people just meet and hit it off right away. It’s a lot better than the fight-fuck-fight-fuck cycle of most romance. I write instalove and I’ll argue all day: It’s not lazy. I do it on purpose, because I like a healthy and sweet representation of love.
    If you look at which subgenres are really hopping in the commercial romance space, Instalove is up there. I’m not the only one who likes it.
    I know this post is just your opinion, but hey, here’s mine: more Instalove! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. No worries! Happy to hear a different opinion! And funnily enough, I’m a bit of a hypocrite, cos some of my favourite romances are instalove, it’s just that the other 95% of the time it doesn’t work for me… But there are exceptions to everything and anything can be done well! And of course lots of people like different things! I liked hearing your perspective! 💕

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  4. Excellent ranking! I feel like both “on-off relationship” and “miscommunication” are generally cheap tricks used to artificially prolong a story when the writer is more interested in length than quality…especially in TV shows that drag on and on.

    Also, I definitely agree that cheating pretty much instantly makes the character unsympathetic. It especially ticks me off when the author presents it as clever and roguish (looking at you, classic French authors).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! That’s very true! It’s especially frustrating, because the show/story, because the story is often about something else, so the characters could just get together and stay together, while they resolve the other things going on!

      And yes! Haha yeah not a fan of Madame Bovary etc. All the characters are much too unlikeable!

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  5. Miscommunication in books drives me bonkers! It always seems to be a main conflict in books! I agree/ It is so not that hard to be a freaking adult and communicate with each other to resolve issues! UGH It makes me so mad when someone can be solved by simply communicating but the characters don’t communicate with each other for ageeeeeeesssss. Great post!

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  6. Hm… I have thoughts since I read mostly romance. I hate to say it but going to have to disagree with “Everyone must end in a couple”. The definition of a romance novel is a Happily Ever After or a Happy for Now and since romances are about romance, that’s going to end in a couple. I guess I wouldn’t call that a trope but a foundation of romance. If a “romance” doesn’t have that, it’s not a romance novel.

    As for the tropes… I don’t mind a surprise baby. I’ve also read some great romances that started off as left at the alters (the Girl series by Tessa Bailey, Wanted Wed or Alive by Aster & Pavlov). Those didn’t necessarily paint the person as a bad person, just that the relationship wouldn’t have worked. People either seem to love or hate instant love. It can go either way for me. Sometimes it feels natural. Aurora Rose Reynolds is the queen of it for me and I usually love her books. On-off relationships depend on how they’re written for me because I know they happen IRL.

    I usually hate cheating, miscommunication, and love triangles in books.

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    1. Fair enough! yeah I totally get that- that’s why I ranked it near the bottom, cos I expect it for most couples in the book! (And obvs the main one) I just feel like it can get excessive- particularly in ya fantasy where there are huge casts and everyone at the end has found their soulmates…. It can be a bit much.

      I also don’t mind surprise baby- sometimes I even like it- so I’m surprised by how many people don’t like it! That’s interesting! I haven’t ever enjoyed it. I’ve read a lot of books that start with a breakup and I’m fine with that… It’s just the humiliation aspect I don’t like. I get that- and weirdly some of my favourite romances have instalove. But as a general rule I steer clear. That’s true.

      Yeah they’re the worst!

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  7. I gotta be honest, I don’t know much about romance. Even though I somehow lucked into getting married, and there was a time when I thought I knew everything despite having had zero (0) relationships with the opposite sex … so, quite a few of these tropes seem like they are generated by characters who are also immature and/or clueless about relationships. For example, on again/off again, love triangle, age gaps, calling off the wedding (I mean maybe they ought to have done it … but BEFORE they got to the church!), demonizing the ex as a way to justify their own behavior. The only difference is that IRL, all this bad behavior and/or confusion usually ends badly, whereas in a romance novel by definition it has to end in a happily ever after for at least one couple. So, are these things unrealistic in the sense that they are not a good plan for how to go about things? You bet. Are they realistic in the sense that people do them? Also yes. Should they be glorified? I guess not, but on the other hand, I do think we need to see couples having some conflicts on the way to the altar … I dunno. See, I am conflicted.

    The only thing I super don’t like is: fictional relationships that glorify abusive behavior (ahem Twilight ahem Lolita), AND (drum roll) the stupid misunderstanding that could be resolved with a 5-minute conversation. Yes, people do have misunderstandings. Yes, they can be insecure about getting into a conflict. But to keep it up for a whole book? Transparent plot device, usually.

    I love the airport chase scenes. And I like “everyone has to end in a couple” when it appears in Shakespeare.

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  8. Miscommunication is one of the worst ones for me. Or those, “Tell me if you love me, but don’t answer this letter and I know you don’t” scenarios–and then the letter gets lost. It just seems like lazy writing to have to concoct a whole plot around two adults not talking to each other like adults.

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  9. Oh, excellent list. I agree with most of them. Although I have to say, that I can’t quite agree with the Everybody has to end up a couple one. Isn’t that why we read romance books? Because they make us feel gooey and warm at the end? Then again, I don’t really read contemporary YA romance because I don’t really believe in the couple to be together forever either. I mean, they are just teenagers. They haven’t really grown yet. Although if it’s contemporary romance…let’s just say that one is tricky.
    Oh, wait. Did you actually mean that all the characters in the book are coupled up at the end? Because that is something else entirely…

    Love triangle in YA books annoys me too, because most times I would have picked the other person the mc ends up with. Damn.

    I’m sure I would have an opinion on each one of them but I can’t really think anymore right now and leave you to it. It’s a great post! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh yes, that’s why I ranked it near the bottom, cos it doesn’t generally irritate me (the reason it’s not at the very bottom is cos I actually like a couple of these tropes and it can irritate me in those big saga fantasy romances, with huge casts, where somehow everyone gets paired off at the end- I’ve read some where it’ll get a bit ridiculous, like the caretaker who had one line finds the love of his life in the last couple of pages or something 😅) yeah I meant all the characters in the book- I obvs expect the main characters (and some side characters) to be paired off by the end- just don’t need to hear that the bride’s third cousin is dating someone new too 😂

      Hahaha I get that! I’ve definitely felt that way too!

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Oh, yes to so many of these! Although like you, I don’t mind a good chase scene — they just make me laugh because they’re so ridiculous. The miscommunication trope is so awful and so overdone. Grown-ups should know how to talk to one another and not ruin an entire relationship that’s otherwise lovely. Sigh.

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  11. loool i had a lot of fun reading this post!! i think for me, the abnormal power dynamics and cheating is always a huge no-no. it makes me cringe thinking of how authors end up romanticizing these things, though from the comments anyway, it seems like a lot of other people feel the same way! i would put miscommunication up there too, but i don’t mind it as much as long as it isn’t driving the book from start to end, because that’s when we know the author’s truly lazy :”””(

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  12. Instalove, ‘everyone must end in a couple’ and miscommunication are three of my pet hates!

    I think my ultimate romance pet hate has to be when, in fantasy books, there’s an instant magic ‘soulmate connection’ the minute the couple meet one another. Where’s the incentive to emotionally invest in the couple if the universe explicitly dictates that they will get together? And, what gives the universe the right to dictate who people should end up with, anyway?

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