Sunday, June 17, 2012

Learning the Tropes

I cut my teeth on category books—I learned about romance from the huge, dusty box filled with Harlequin books my grandmother kept on her porch. I’d sit on the couch out there and read for hours. I’d begin on a Saturday morning, and by the time I finished, the sun was setting. And over the years my love affair with category books hasn’t waned.

strangers in the desertLast week I read a Harlequin Presents book Strangers in the Desert by Lynn Raye Harris. Now, I have been a major fan of Ms. Harris for a couple of years. I love her writing! It’s emotional, sensual and always satisfying. After closing a book by her, I always feel like I’ve been on a journey, a wonderful exotic journey of romance, strife and love conquering all. Strangers in the Desert didn’t let me down. But what really made the book for me was the trope. For the most part all category books surround a particular trope—y’know, best friends to lovers, millionaire falls for secretary, fake fiancé, intimate strangers. Well Lynn Raye Harris took two of the oldest tropes in romance history—amnesia and the secret baby—and did her own twist on them. And did it with imaginative flair that simply wow-ed me! She took a seemingly far-fetched idea and made it so believable that I never doubted the validity of the characters, story or plot! There was a secret baby, of course…but instead of the father not knowing about the infant, the mother didn’t! Why? Because she suffered from amnesia! I know, I know what you’re thinking! How in the hell…? But Ms. Harris, hats off! You did that! She handled it masterfully, and I absolutely loved how she took old tropes and twisted them within an inch of their long, tried-and-true lives to make the book brand new, fresh and so romantic I sighed—actually sighed—at the end.
 Secret baby
Well, the book got me thinking about other tropes I shamelessly enjoy. Call it guilty pleasure, and chuckle if you must, but I adore tropes. And there are certain ones that are drop-dead deal breakers for me. First, there’s the best friends to lovers. Reading how two people who have loved each other for years, have an intimacy forged in childhood by shared secrets and traumas, suddenly see each other in a new light is a wonder to me. I enjoy following their conflicted emotions as they discover that the one who knows them best is also the one who fulfills every desire they’ve dreamed about and hoped for. Sigh. See? I did it again! Then there’s the—you got it!—secret baby. Call me a sucker, but I am a fool for that trope. Especially when the father is a cynical, hard-hearted, confirmed bachelor who finds his heart melted by a baby’s guileless smile and innocent tug on his finger…tearing up here.

Also, ahem, I do love a good amnesia trope. I guess that’s why I enjoyed Strangers in the Desert so much. I am a product of the Catherine Chandler’s Young and the Restless amnesia age, so it’s a written in stone favorite. Discovering the trauma that caused the loss of memory in the first place, and then reading how the heroine/hero’s history unfolds for both them and me, is exciting and has such tear-jerker potential. But that moment when she/he remembers…gasp worthy! A black moment, triumph and resolution all rolled into one huge moment! Yeah…love it…

And what about the reunited lovers? Or the ugly duckling? Or the big-girl-who-loses-a-whole-bunch-of-weight-but-still-feels-like-a-big-girl-with-big-girl-insecurities-in-a-skinny-chick’s-body trope? Oh, that isn’t one? It should be!

What’s your favorite trope? Have you read any good books lately that has one? Do tell!

8 comments:

Chris Bailey said...

You have to love Meg Cabot's Size 12 Is Not Fat! I've never gotten tired of the handsome prince who rescues Cinderella from her dreary hearth scrubbing. But that's not at all PC. How about Cinderella wins the lottery and quits her day job to write full time in the modest island kingdom she buys for her loyal boyfriend?

JoAnn said...

Great post, Naima! I am a sucker for forced intimacy. :-)

Naima Simone said...

Hi, Chris! I haven't read Size 12 Is Not Fat but I'm going to look it up on my Nook! I love Cinderella tropes! Love, love, love! And I feel you on the lottery-modest-island-kingdom, but hey, I'm still waiting on my husband to tell me to quit scrubbing and washing dishes...he hasn't yet..but fairy tales do come true! Eventually...Snicker.

Naima Simone said...

Hi, JoAnn!
Thanks! And oh yeah, forced intimacy is a good one. Another favorite Lynn Raye Harris book of mine is The Prince's Royal Concubine. The hero and heroine are trapped together in a closet during a terrible storm! Such a good book!

Carla Swafford said...

I love stories with forced marriages (even contemporary).

There are a few more but when I typed them down, they started to sound like I enjoy to many *forced* themes and thought it best to leave it with the one. :-)

Naima Simone said...

LOL!! Carla, I ain't touching that one! Let me go 'head and list them then. I like forced intimacy, forced engagement, forced marriage, forced proximity...yeah, I see what you mean. This might say something about my psyche...

Paula said...

I'm a sucker for a redemption story, not where the love of a good woman saves a bad boy but where a man who's made a big, horrible mistake has to learn to forgive himself by making amends, even when he's convinced it'll never be enough. I eat that stuff up like chocolate.

I also like friends to lovers, partners to lovers and bickering people forced to work together to stay alive and learning that their first impressions about each other were erroneous.

Suzanne Johnson said...

Well, lately I seem to be hanging out with the "falls in love with her kidnapper who only did it for the noblest of reasons" trope, and the "falls in love with the guy who saves her from her kidnapper even though she's a major inconvenience" trope. Of course, at least one of them has to not be quite human.