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, for me, a hard line drawn in the sand. All generate different reactions from different readers (and sometimes from the same reader at different times in their lives). I’ll give a few examples of my favorites and provide links if they seem interesting..
Standard disclaimer! I’m not saying these tropes are bad (okay, one or two kinda are), 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 with a like and a dislike.
Like: Workplace Romance (formerly Boss/Secretary)
This one can be a delicate topic. Workplace sexual harassment is a very real problem in today’s society, and we shouldn’t glorify it in any way. But, there are ways to write a workplace romance that doesn’t cross any lines of the power differential. Each character could work in a different department, thus taking them out of the direct hierarchy. The one in power could hand all the control over to the subordinate. Easily done in fiction, not so easy in real life. There’s still the ethical issue of can this person really reject their boss’s advances and not be penalized. One could accept a position at a different company in order to maintain appearances of propriety. Ultimately, however, we have to remember these books are fiction and some creative license is often taken
This isn’t my favorite trope due to the problems it represents, but I’ve found a few which I thoroughly enjoy and would recommend to anyone who likes a good workplace romance.
Rock Hard by Nalini Singh. Second in the Rock Kiss series, this novel works as a standalone due to running concurrently with the first. Gabriel Bishop is a former rugby player whose career ending injury forced him down a new path. Now he takes over failing companies, brings them back from the edge of collapse, and moves on to the next.
Charlotte Baird is a painfully shy, mousy secretary type with horrific trauma in her past. Together they save the company and each other and it’s the best thing ever!
Nalini Singh isn’t known for contemporary romance, but there’s not a shifter, psy, or vampire in sight. Her trauma isn’t instantly ‘healed’ because of Gabriel, and neither is his because of Charlotte. They’re damaged, beautifully real people who find each other.
Random Encounter by Allyson Lindt. Another delightful novel by Allyson Lindt, Adrienne preps for her new job as a video game artist by attending a drawing class hosted by her friend. Instead of the elderly couple on the schedule, there’s a pair of smoking hot guys who feature in a lot of Adrienne’s fantasies… until she arrives at the office to discover they’re her coworkers.
The game pushes boundaries, both in adult ratings and number of in-game partners, and Adrienne needs help getting the artistic positions correct. Her coworkers offer to help out. It’s just research, right?
This is a menage book with no limit on who partners with whom.
Ink by Elizabeth Hunter. Emmie had plans that didn’t include keeping her grandmother’s old bookstore. She planned to clean it up, sell the building, and get on with her life. Miles Oxford was a tattoo artist kicked out of his ex-girlfriend’s parlor after a very public, screaming breakup. She decides to reopen the bookstore; he needs a workspace.
Both deal in ink. Combining the two seems a quirky yet logical business move. As long as emotions don’t get involved. Elizabeth Hunter is always an insta-purchase for me and this foray into contemporary is no different.
Dislike: Disability Porn (sometimes called SickLit)
This one isn’t limited to any one particular genre though there are some nationally best-selling authors who seem to love this trope. What I mean by Disability Porn is the use of differently abled people as props to inspire the hero/heroine. Someone with a terminal disease doesn’t exist to be “brave” or “inspiring.” Their deaths should mean more than just giving the hero/heroine the drive to do The Thing that’ll save everyone, after which they’re rarely if ever mentioned again. No one should be relegated to a mere prop or plot device, but to use someone’s disability in that way when they’re rarely portrayed any other way is nauseating. Replace them with an abled bodied individual and see if it works the same. If not, then perhaps rethink why the character is being used in this way.
I’ll be back next month (I hope…I keep forgetting about this site) to tackle another pair of tropes. See ya then!