I’m back for another look at the various tropes found in romance and/or urban fantasy. These tropes are the underlying theme of a novel, such as “enemies to lovers” or “fated mates.” Some are beloved standards in the industry. Others are a hard line drawn in the sand. All draw different reactions from different readers (and sometimes from the same reader at different times in their lives). I’ll provide links to my favorites.
Standard disclaimer! I’m not saying these tropes are bad (okay, one or two kinda are, but they’re not in this post), these are just my personal preferences. If you like something I dislike, and a lot of folks do, that’s okay! If you dislike something I love, again a lot of folks do, that’s also okay! If we all read/liked the same books, libraries would be small and boring.
So, with that out of the way, let’s dive right in.
Like: Fairytale Retellings
I love a good fairytale all grown up. To see the stories of my youth become the stories of my present, a little changed, a little sexier, but with the same narrative beats and more hope for a happy ending. My favorite retellings are of Beauty and the Beast. The cranky, reclusive, damaged hero and the feisty beauty who sees through to the heart beneath the hideous exterior. I adore Phantom of the Opera, have both read the book and seen the musical more than is probably healthy, but always in the hope that just this once she’ll choose Erik over Raoul. Thank goodness for fanfiction!
Unsurprisingly enough, my favorite modern retellings also center around Beauty and the Beast. Here are a few I highly recommend.
Entreat Me by Grace Draven. No one does fantasy romance like Grace Draven. In Entreat Me, we have a pair of sisters who live with their aging father. The youngest is a beauty, wanted by an unscrupulous local creditor. The eldest is a widow, kindly considered sharp-tempered and shrewish. When Cinnia runs away with the noble Gavin, Louvaen follows her to prevent her ruin and stumbles upon a castle frozen in time and cursed by hatred.
Ballard of Ketach Tor, disfigured by his wife’s deathbed curse, seeks only to protect his son from his mother’s spite. No one expected a woman like Louvaen.
Reagan Through the Looking Glass and The Hatter and the Hare by Allyson Lindt. This duology comprises the Hacking Wonderland series, a modern take on Alice in Wonderland. Reagan is this book’s Alice and Wonderland is the world of cyber security. It’s geeky and sexy and suspenseful as Reagan attempts to track down the Jabberwock before more people die.
Helping her are the Hatter and the Hare, two men who tempt and seduce her, but which one controls the Jabberwock and the bounty he’s placed on her?
Indexing by Seanan McGuire. Note: NOT A ROMANCE! Indexing tackles the question of “what if fairy tales were real” and makes it slightly horrifying. Consider the Sleeping Beauty trope and then consider its effects on the sleeper and those around her. Without medical intervention, a Sleeping Beauty and those around her would slowly starve, planes would fall from the sky when the pilots fell asleep, and cars crash…
What about a Pied Piper? A Red Riding Hood? Get the picture? All the fairy tales are treated as things to prevent, and if someone’s narrative goes active that’s when the ATI Management Bureau steps in.
Indexing was original published in serial format, so it may come across as choppy in places.
Dislike: Gay/Straight for You
No. Just, no. That’s not a romance trope, that’s a PORN trope. Bisexuality is a thing. Pansexuality is a thing. I’m not in the community but my daughter is. Tropes like this are hurtful and continues a trend of bi-erasure. If a character identifies as gay (or straight) but starts to fall for the love interest and there’s not a whole lot of examination of sexuality as a spectrum and not a hard label, then I’m out. Believing you’re one thing and discovering you’re another is different from “I’m a guy totally into dudes but this chick has the magic pussy that makes my dick hard” is just… so, so gross. Stop it, folks. Let your characters be questioning or proud bi/pansexuals, but don’t perpetuate this trope. I’m begging you.
I’ll be back next month (I hope…I keep forgetting about this site) to tackle another pair of tropes. See ya then!