Amnesia, kidnapping and Cinderella stories: Romance Tropes We Love & Hate #amreading #gayromance

a518246007f3659f7abe15dda670d583I’m going to confess something to you today: I would rather re-read The Hunt for Red October than just about anything on the romance best-seller lists. (It’s why you’ll often find a action/mystery/suspense element in my stories.)

Since I write gay romance for a living, it may surprise you to hear (or read) that I never really liked reading romances. While my friends were all devouring their Harlequins and bodice rippers, I was drawn to stories of espionage, whodunits, action/adventure, and the typical Book of the Month. My parents were voracious readers and my dad was a huge fan of spies and mysteries, so I tended to pull books off the shelves in our “library” – the basement had floor-to-ceiling built-in bookcases that were overflowing.

I didn’t much enjoy the few romances I read and generally looked down on the entire genre. The only romances I read were the ones written by Karen Harper because she was my high-school English teacher. We all read them for the smutty parts so we could see what we thought Mrs. Harper liked. (BTW, this is one reason I won’t write female sex scenes!)

I particularly love his name: McMullet. Very appropriate.

But looking back as a writer, I realize it wasn’t the stories I didn’t like, it was the characters. I simply couldn’t identify with most of the heroines. It wasn’t until a friend turned me on to gay romances, that I started enjoying them. While I might not identify with either main character, I could enjoy reading about their attempts to find love.

Of course, there are certain types of stories I enjoy more than others. There have been discussions about how m/f romances differ from m/m romances, and I’m not going to enter that discussion directly. But looking at lists of the most popular romance tropes, there are some that we don’t often see in stories with gay characters.

But as times are changing, the marriage-of-convenience stories will start to feel more realistic. I happen to love that trope. I enjoy anything that throws people together, especially when they don’t like each other or they are opposites in many ways (affluence, job type, etc.).


This was my high-school English teacher’s first novel. We all read it!

Enemies-to-lovers gets my attention far more quickly than friends-to-lovers, as a reader and as a writer. It’s fun for me to create characters who might belong together at an emotional level, but external forces make them enemies or adversaries. Peeling away the layers to get to the heart and soul is a delicate process, bur rewarding for the characters, and me as a reader or writer.

I also adore kidnapping stories like pirates or harems. If you can rec me some good ones, I’d be very happy!

Reflecting on these issues made me curious about what tropes you enjoy reading in gay romance.

I realized that I’ve actually combined several into one book, without any conscious decision to do so!

Snow Job is geek+jock and stranded together (at Christmas!)

Hostile Takeover is friends to lovers to enemies to lovers, and business rivals

Rarer Than Rubies is enemies-to-lovers with some mistaken identity (plus action and suspense!)

Out of the Gate has job differences and out for you.

And for fans of childhood-friends to lovers and reunions you’ll love Lighting the Way Home, which I co-wrote with Shira Anthony!

I know there are more from my own titles, but those leap out at me.

Your Turn


  • Vote in the polls
  • Comment about which tropes you would like to see more in gay romances
  • Rec me a good m/m kidnapping/pirate/harem story
  • I’ll give away an e-book from my backlist to a randomly selected commenter on Friday 5 September.

Which tropes do you least enjoy?


12 thoughts on “Amnesia, kidnapping and Cinderella stories: Romance Tropes We Love & Hate #amreading #gayromance

  1. I also did not read much romance before starting to write one, which I did because romances are the largest fiction genre–I wanted to maximize my chances of success. I read Georgette Heyer and that was about it. So I’m attracted to traditional Regency tropes, I suppose.

    I don’t read much gay romance but the ones I like are simila to other books I read and like–they will have a strong paranormal/fantasy element.


    • I’ve tried writing subjects/genres I don’t read and it’s so difficult. But I liked gay romance stories, so it was easy to write stories I would have liked to read by others.

      I missed your reading the other night. How did it go? Somehow I spaced on the dates, with the holiday weekend.


  2. Like you I grew up loving mysteries/suspense but when love stories were mixed in they were even better. I loved Mary Stewart books as a kid. Now that I am addicted to the MM genre I always jump at one that includes mystery or spy or police, etc.


    • Now you know why you’ll often see some mystery element in my books, even if it’s a smaller sub-plot.
      I didn’t include it here, because mystery is what’s considered a genre, while a trope is a storyline, theme or circumstance that drives the story. Here’s a list of some mystery tropes… so you can see what those would look like. It is certainly possible to combine tropes from different genres! If I thought carefully, I could probably spot some in my own work. I rarely ever start with the idea of a trope to write about.


  3. I enjoy enemies to lovers, since I’m not a fan of insta-love. You might like some of Neil S. Plakcy’s bodyguard series, esp.Olives for the Stranger.


    • Thanks for the rec, Susan.
      I don’t care for insta-love either, and it’s one reason I particularly love enemies-to-lovers.It’s so much more fun to take two guys who don’t like each other and get them together!


  4. What a fun poll! I love voting… I always fill out those silly comment cards at restaurants. My family say I’m too opinionated. 😀

    About the only thing that will really turn me off in a book is infidelity. Everything else, well… it depends on my mood. I’m a fan of character driven stories, so if a writer takes a simple concept and makes me care about the characters, that’s all I really need.

    (Although, I am partial to at least a bit of excitement and yumminess is always a plus!)


  5. I am kind of amused that the one I like the least (gay-but-only-for-you) is the one that seems to be the popular favorite, at least at the time I wrote this comment. (It has 13 and nothing else has more than 12, so it is close).

    Well, we are all different. Although I admit not all GFY books are the same, and I am not including gay-but-wearing-blinders-and-lying-to-self as GFY.

    I am also not a fan of MM books where every female character is portrayed in a negative light.


    • Hi Jean!
      I was surprised that GFY is so popular (at the moment). Based on discussions with a lot of gay friends, there is little to none of that in RL. They all pretty much knew, even those who were married and have kids–and a lot of gay men over 40 did have straight marriages with kids, but they all knew. So “out for you” is a lot more realistic.

      Then again, many readers want to immerse themselves in a fantasy world while reading, so maybe reality doesn’t matter. Paranormal books are so popular, and we know that’s not realistic!

      It was a feature of fanfic to have bitchy women who get in the way of the two men who belong together. I have a few myself in my earliest published books, and I’ve tried not to fall into that habit again. I’m pleased that some readers even said they liked the women in Out of the Gate, because they were actually supportive and helpful to the men. The villains were other men in that one.


  6. Like you I never picked up a romance novel when I was younger. In fact I’ve never read a Mills and Boon (or Harlequin) book in all of my years reading. The closest I ever got to romance was Judith Krantz. As a tomboy I prefered spy and adventure stories, and I moved on to detective novels of all types; cozy English, gritty noirs, police procedural. It shocked me as much as anyone that when I finally started to write it was in romance. Of course being a contrary sort I had to write gay romance but, hey, we write what we’re inspired to.


  7. I love friends-to-lovers. There is something about two people who already have a close connection discovering that there’s more to it than that. I also love soulmate stories, but I don’t like insta-love. I want the guys to have to work for it, actually talk about things instead of just banging each other and riding off into the proverbial sunset. May/December relationships are a new favorite of mine. I would have never thought I would like that, but I do, lol.

    One trope I struggle with is “gay for you.” I like the concept, but I hate the terminology. Hearts, not parts. It may not be all that common but it does happen, and it can make beautiful stories.


  8. I’m pretty open to any kind of book. As a child I was a fan of mysteries and fantasy with a little SciFi in there too. I still like all of those, but I’m willing to read almost anything now. I don’t mind tropes, there’s still plenty of room to create within them.

    I wish I had a good recommendation for you, but surprisingly I haven’t read any m/m kidnapping/pirate/harem stories yet. I think I might need to rectify that. 🙂


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