We're talking about our favorite tropes at the PHS this month. From marriages of convenience to pregnancy storylines; what's your preference?
Elisabeth Hobbes - I Heart Marriages of Convenience
‘Joanna bunched her fists to stop her hands trembling and forced a smile she did not feel in the slightest.
‘Master Danby, I will be your wife.’
And with these words my heroine agrees to throw herself into one of my favourite tropes: the marriage of convenience.
I love this trope because it offers so many possibilities. There are so many reasons the couple could tie the knot and none of them have anything to do with love. The protagonists could be trying to take revenge or trying to save their family name. They might be in dire financial circumstances or desperate for protection and left with a lack of other choices (such as my heroine Joanna in The Blacksmith’s Wife). They’re often out to improve their social standing, or for other personal advancement (like Joanna’s hero Hal, who sees the opportunity to make a few professional connections) or any combination of the above. With the crossover in the Great Trope Venn Diagram with forced marriage or arranged marriage (often with a side serving of a rake to reform, enemies to lovers or unrequited love) the list of variations is pretty much endless.
What I love most is that these aren’t starry-eyed lovers searching for their one true love. They’re practical, sometimes cold-hearted people looking to better their lives in one way and who end up finding something they weren’t looking for in the process. Whether or not they achieve their original goal or decide they no longer care about succeeding is something that adds to the trope’s appeal.
For a writer of historical romance there are obvious advantages for creating tension. In most cultures and periods, sex before marriage was prohibited or at least frowned upon so writing realistically intimate scenes is hard without contriving them. A woman with any sense would keep her virginity intact if she didn’t want to risk ruining her reputation. Often the marriages in contemporary MOC stories come with a get out clause or agreed time limit but in the past marriage was for life so the stakes are higher. Most romance stories finish with the Happily Ever After followed by the I Do, but this trope starts at the point in a relationship where a book normally closes and works backward so we get to see the wedding night with all the heat (or otherwise) and the post-honeymoon period where the couple have to learn to negotiate life with a stranger.
Of course this just means that when the characters eventually do have their epiphany and realize the person they’ve been staring at over the breakfast table for weeks or months is the one of their dreams it makes the moment so much sweeter.
Elisabeth's marriage of convenience novel, The Blacksmith's Wife, is out now. For more information about her and her writing check out her website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
Fiona Harper - I Heart Time Travel
Why do we find time travel so fascinating? It’s been a well-known staple of science fiction for more than a century, but in recent years the craze has been sweeping women’s fiction and romance too. From The Time Traveller’s Wife to the Outlander series, we just can’t seem to get enough of it!
I think one of the attractions, for both readers and writers, is the ‘fish out of water’ scenario. I love flinging a character into a new world and seeing them operate outside their comfort zone. Time travel takes this concept to a whole new level. It’s not just a different job or town, but a different society, a whole different life! And then there’s that curiosity too… Wouldn’t we all love to step into the pages of a history book and see what it was really like?
When I first came up with the idea for my latest book, The Other Us, it wasn’t going to be a time travel book, more an alternate reality kind of story. I wanted to follow my heroine, Maggie, as she lived out her life with three very different men, to see if the grass really was greener on the other side of the fence. However, a ‘fish out of water’ idea for an opening scene, where Maggie realises she’s back in her twenty-one-year-old body was just so juicy I couldn’t resist it, and so it became a time travel book too!
How many of us wonder, “What if…?” I know I do. Wouldn’t we love the chance to time travel within our own lifetimes (shout out to Dr Sam Beckett and Quantum Leap here!), to go back and right our mistakes, take a new path if we really wanted to. But can we really take charge of our destiny in that way, or is fate going to trip us up at every turn? This was exactly what I wanted to explore as I took Maggie on her journey of discovery.
Sadly, no one has invented a time machine yet, so we can’t do it for real. However, in fiction we have a chance to do just that if we want to – and all from the comfort of our armchair - and that’s why I think a good time travel tale is always going to suck us in.
Fiona's time travel novel, The Other Us, is out now. For more information about her and her writing check out her website, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.
Leah Ashton - I Heart Heiress Heroines
I never set out to write heiress heroines. My first heiress (Ivy Molyneux in Nine Month Countdown) came from me deciding I wanted to write a billionaire heroine, rather than a billionaire hero, and so I made Ivy the heiress of Australia’s largest mining company. Then, I gave her two sisters, who I never intended to write books about – until I did So, suddenly, I’ve written three heiress heroines – which is kind of weird, given I’d never really liked the heiress heroine trope all that much!
The type of heroines I like to read – and that I like to write – have agency. They are strong and independent, and definitely aren’t sitting around waiting for a hero to save them. So a heiress, on face value, doesn’t really seem to fit – until I started to realise that (of course!) heiresses are people, and have their own complications beyond counting all that money
So now I love writing and reading heiresses, because every heiress handles her situation differently. Is she driven to grow her family fortune (like Ivy Molyneux), or does she eschew every cent that she’s entitled to, determined to make it on her own (like Mila Molyneux, in The Billionaire from her Past) – or is she that glamourous, pampered socialite heiress that hasn’t worked a day in her life (like April Molyneux, from Behind the Billionaire’s Guarded Heart).
Also, as lovely as a fortune would be, it rarely comes without strings attached – so a heiress heroine is dealing with expectations, assumptions and a lot of trust issues – after all, how can a heiress really believe that someone loves them for themselves, and not their mountain of money? It all makes for delicious complications!
But, I think my favourite thing about a heiress heroine, is the hero she attracts. She neutralises the billionaire hero. So what if he has money, pfft! A heiress’ hero needs to be something special, and when it comes down to it, that what I’m reading romance for: a strong, sexy, authentic hero, who loves the heroine for who she truly is.
Leah's latest heiress heroine can be found in Behind the Billionaire's Guarded Heart, out now. For more information about her and her writing check out her website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
Mira Lyn Kelly - I Heart Virgins
Hey guys, what a treat to be back over at the Pink Heart Society. Thanks so much for having me! For those of you I haven’t met yet, I’m Mira Lyn Kelly…write-at-home-mom to four and author of a bunch of dirty good fun books.
Okay, so we’re talking about the Virgin Trope today. And let me tell you, this is one of my favorites. I love writing and reading it! But what’s the appeal?
In my mind the answer is simple…High stakes.
You only get one FIRST time, and whether you’ve been waiting for the man you want to spend forever with or, like Sarah from my new book The Wedding Date Bargain (which released yesterday, YAY!!!), you just want to get it over with, lol… that first time is intimidating!!
Come on, you are inviting some dude to literally break into your body. And that involves a level of emotional and physical vulnerability we just don’t encounter every day. But because we’re bringing romantic heroes in to do the job—we know, these guys are going to take the responsibility seriously.
Our hero is going to be compelled to make it good. He’s going to build the tension, foster the need. Take each new inch claimed and use it to get his heroine past the point of begging, to where her next breath depends on him taking her completely.
That’s the good stuff!
Of course not every hero is ready for that kind of responsibility right off the bat. My latest hero, Max, for example has a clear and defined understanding about what a first time should be like…especially for the girl who got away eight years ago. But she’s got her own ideas…which made Max and Sarah’s story ooohhh so much fun to write!!
Mira's latest virgin heroine can be found in The Wedding Date Bargain, out now. For more information about her and her writing check out her website, and follow her on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.
Liz Fielding - I Heart Dating the Boss
Marrying the boss is a trope as old as romance. The nurse and her doctor, the secretary and the tycoon, the nanny and the brooding widower (or in Mr Rochester’s case, brooding potential bigamist), the tycoon and his daily (I used that one in Wild Fire). And these days, when there are few careers that are not open to women there’s absolutely no reason why the woman shouldn’t be the boss.
The appeal is the familiar.
All of us, at some time in our lives, have been in the workplace and, bored out of our lives working for some balding, overweight tyrant, have fantasised about working for a swoon-worthy tycoon whose well-cut suit enhances his broad shoulders. About loosening his tie, his buttons, his belt and putting his desk to something more interesting than stock reports. Instead of changing his bed… No? That was just me, then. 😊
The office is such a fabulous crucible. The opportunities for the cute meet are endless. Men and women are confined together for eight hours a day. Meeting at the water cooler, the coffee machine, across the road in the sandwich bar.
There’s the night our heroine works deep into the night with a boss blind to anything but the need to get a vital proposal finished and when they’re done the buses have topped running and she’s stranded. Will he realise and take her home? Or is he so focussed on work that he’s sees nothing until he spots her walking down the road (in the rain – it’s got to be raining!) and, jerked out of his single-minded focus on the project stops to give her a lift. And is forced to actually talk to her. See her for the first time as a person. An exhausted woman who’s worked for twelve hours non-stop.
And there’s always the possibility of a business trip. I had so much fun with that one in The Temp and the Tycoon.
It’s all there. There are those moments of tension over looming deadlines that can so easily flare-up into passion. The celebrations down the pub and the dangers of the office Christmas party that can lead to all kinds of sticky situations. 😊
Sexy or sweet, the office romance is plot candy. A gift to the writer and fun for the reader.
Liz's latest dating the boss romance, Her Pregnancy Bombshell, is out now. For more information about her and her writing check out her website, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
Christy McKellen - I Heart Amnesia
I do love a good trope (or two) in a romance, don’t you?
I actually have a list of them that I scan through whilst thinking about the next story I’d like to write, both to inspire me and to make sure I’m not repeating myself! Last year, whilst looking down the list, I realised I’d not tackled the amnesia trope and decided it was high time that I did. I’d not picked it out before thinking it would be one of the harder tropes to make work (what with having to remember what the amnesiac hero/heroine does and doesn’t know/remember and how that impacts not only the way they react/interact with the hero/heroine, but the plot too!
I knew I had my work cut out, but I was up for the challenge. And it was a challenge, but I absolutely loved it. It provided a really interesting dynamic to the story, with the hero becoming an unreliable narrator because of his confusion and only having his very recent experience with the heroine to rely on. In my hero’s case he couldn’t remember the reasons why he’d rejected my heroine and all her attempts to make peace between them all those years ago (or that he’d even rejected her at all at first!). The amnesia made my strong alpha hero emotionally vulnerable and my heroine had to be careful not to make things worse between them by saying or doing the wrong thing. Tricky when she was still in love with him and fighting her own feelings!
These challenges all added an element of excitement to the writing that I thoroughly enjoyed and, I hope, an extra level of tension to the story for the reader. What would happen when he got his memory back? How would his more recent experiences with the heroine impact on the way he dealt with her and his feelings for her after that? I love a good mystery!
I’d love to write another amnesia story again at some point, there are so many fascinating elements to employ and I have to say, it gets my vote for most compelling trope!
Christy's latest amnesia romance, The Unforgettable Spanish Tycoon, is out now. For more information about her and her writing check out her website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
Avril Tremayne - I Heart Opposites Attract
Is there anything better in a romance than when the hero and heroine have nothing in common…and yet can’t fight their feelings for each other? I’m saying a resounding no! Of all the romance tropes out there, this is my absolute favourite. So, reasons:
- There’s an inbuilt conflict and it’s all about characterisation rather than plot – a rake and a prude; a party animal and a workaholic; a sophisticate and a wide-eyed innocent.
- It speaks so beautifully to love being beyond our ability to control, and there’s nothing more romantic than that.
- It’s F.U.N. fun to see the hero and heroine completely bewildered at the attraction – the whole ‘who is this person and why can’t I resist them when they make me so furious?’ thing.
- The happily-ever-after is all the sweeter because they’ve usually been dragged kicking and screaming to it.
My first book, Here Comes the Bridesmaid, is an opposites attract tale – a free-spirited fashionista shoe designer who’s been raised by hippie parents has to work with a grumpy control freak celebrity chef to plan her friend’s wedding to the chef’s brother. Leo Quartermaine can’t work out how Sunshine Smart manages to get him to abandon all his own ideas in favour of doing everything she wants exactly the way she wants it. It baffles and infuriates him in turn, and yet he can’t seem to get enough of her.
I have another two opposites attract books in my to-be-written pile, including my third book for the new Harlequin DARE line, which I’ll be starting in the months ahead. I’m already seeing some of their hilarious conversations in my head for that book. Cannot wait!
In truth, I think the majority of romance novels have a touch of opposites attract in them, but the most satisfying romances I’ve read have more than a touch. And if you’re a romantic comedy fan, like I am, the potential for screwball is almost endless when the hero and heroine are at opposite ends of the personality spectrum.
Some books to check out to see this trope at its very best: The Devil in Winter (Lisa Kleypas), Nobody’s Baby But Mine (Susan Elizabeth Phillips), Open Season (Linda Howard), About Last Night (Ruthie Knox).
Avril's original opposites attract novel, Here Comes the Bridesmaid, is out now. For more information about her and her writing check out her website, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.
Joss Wood - I Heart Pregnant Heroines
In my recent series for Harlequin Desire, there seem to be a lot of babies. I really didn’t plan that the Ballantyne’s would be overrun with babies, but it just worked out that way. Jaeger (His Ex’s Well Kept Secret) discovers he is a father and Linc (The CEO’s Nanny Affair) is the father of a four year old and adopts Ellie, a ten month baby. Beck’s book (Reunited and Pregnant) and Sage’s book (Little Secrets: Unexpectedly Pregnant) are both pregnancy stories.
I find it interesting that I’ve been immersed in the world of babies and pregnancy lately since it is, as the mother of teenagers, a million miles from my current reality. That being said, I am still hugely connected to that time in my life when I was either struggling to fall pregnant and then, when I finally did, dealing with the reality of being responsible for these two precious souls. Maybe it’s because my son is sixteen and six foot and my daughter is morphing from a girl to a woman that I’m feeling nostalgic for that time when they were cuddly and small and, well, controllable. The problem with raising independent free thinkers is that they are independent and, well free thinking. They don’t always agree with you. But I digress…
Pregnancy in romance is a popular trope but I don’t think it should be called the pregnancy trope. I really believe it should be called “future family” because, essentially, that is what the romance author is exploring: how will these two people build their nest and raise their chick? One can’t separate pregnancy from the idea of family and what it means to different people.
In Reunited…and Pregnant I took a chance by making my heroine Cady newly pregnant when she falls back into Beck’s life. I was conscious that some readers might have a problem with an already pregnant heroine being ready to fall into love but countered this by having Cady being on the verge of a break up and admitting that her relationship with her ex was more to alleviate loneliness than being about love. Beck, the hero, is also Cady’s first love and the man she hasn’t been able to forget.
I also wondered how readers would respond to the idea of Beck raising another man’s child. I wasn’t as concerned about this as the Ballantyne family isn’t a traditional “mom and dad, three kids and a picket fence” story. Throughout the Ballantyne series I explore the concept of family and I make a strong case for the idea that family is anything you want it to be and that love always, always trumps DNA.
In Little Secrets: Unexpectedly Pregnant (Sage’s story and available in January 2018) Beck’s sister Sage falls pregnant by Tyce and neither of them are interested in a relationship. Because Sage is wealthy enough to buy a third world country, she doesn’t need Tyce to support her financially (thank God because he is ever-so-slightly broke because he has spent tens of millions buying up Ballantyne International shares) so what does she need from him? How can two people who are terrified of love and loss be brave enough to commit to one another in order to raise the child they have created together?
Here’s hoping that Lachlyn’s story (the fifth Ballantyne sibling) won’t contain a pregnancy or a baby but I’m not making any promises!
Joss's latest pregnant heroine can be found in Reunited...and Pregnant, out now. For more information about her and her writing check out her website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.