Romance novel tropes, archetypes and subgenres

I initially wrote on this subject in 2017.  Now it’s 2021 and time for a revisit.

A trope is ‘a significant or recurrent theme’.  I’m not sure that all of what I’m going to share below fits in that definition.  Some of them are definitely tropes, but some are not.  Some might be archetypes (‘a very typical example of a certain person or thing’).  Some are subgenres and I guess others are just…  I don’t know.  Help me out if you can think of the right word.

Anyway, here’s my list.  There are literally hundreds (thousands?) of possible tropes, archetypes and subgenres.  I’m only commenting on ones that I have opinions about.  I would have separated them into tropes, archetypes and subgenres, but I wasn’t 100% certain about which category some of them fell into!  So they’re all muddled up.   

The anti-hero – There’s a lot of information out there about the archetypal anti-hero, and there are entire blog posts on it, so I will just keep this short.  The anti-hero has qualities that you don’t expect from a hero – they may lie or cheat, they may be selfish, they may do or have done ‘bad’ things.  Popular examples of anti-heroes are Wolverine, Deadpool and Captain Jack Sparrow.  I feel like I’ve always had a thing for the anti-hero or ‘bad guy’.  Ever since I was in school really.  Yes, my husband was probably considered an anti-hero when I met him.  He drank too much, did drugs, drove too fast and could be selfish and inconsiderate (especially when it came to his loud music).  But he also had some amazing qualities, and he was very young and had a lot of growing up to do.  As did I.  And we did that growing up together.  But yes, anyway.  I definitely go for the reformed bad guy, or the anti-hero.  Wolverine is my favourite Marvel character by the way.  

Great books with anti-heroes:
Angels’ Blood by Nalini Singh
How to Vex a Vampire by Alice Winters
Darkness Dawns by Dianne Duvall
Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale

Athletes – There are loads of romance novels featuring athletes.  For the most part, I hate them.  In most cases, the athletes play ice hockey or American football, two sports that I do not know well or understand.  I have read one which featured a New Zealand rugby player, and I did enjoy that, so it may be the sports themselves rather than the athletes that bother me.  Perhaps more research into the subject is required… but I’m not sure how many romance novels are out there that feature sports I’m familiar with.

Great books with athletes:
The All For The Game series by Nora Sakavic
Crossing the Touchline by Jay Hogan
Family Camp by Eli Easton
Rebound by L A Witt
Dare by Allie Juliette Mousseau
Name From a Hat Trick by L A Witt

Tortured hero(ine) – This trope has so many names.  Heroine in danger, rescue, etc.  Eventually I settled on ‘tortured hero(ine)’.  I do like books where the hero or heroine is in danger, and I do like books where one comes to the rescue of the other, but ultimately, for whatever perverse reason, I like it when the characters are a little bit tortured.  Metaphorically or literally.  And sometimes they’re a lot tortured.  But I do insist on a happy ending, so while Terry Goodkind was a master of torturing his characters (and a brilliant writer), his books were not for me.  I need that reassurance that whatever the character goes through, he or she still gets their happy ending.  I think I enjoy these stories because it reinforces to me that no matter how shit life gets, there’ll be a happy ending.  Even though I know real life doesn’t actually always work that way.  But also, maybe I just like them.  

Great books with tortured hero(in)es:
Auctioned by Cara Dee
Let It Go by Mercy Celeste
Dra’Kaedan’s Coven by Jessamyn Kingley
Precariously Mated by Jessamyn Kingley
Captive by Jex Lane
The All For The Game series by Nora Sakavic
Whispers in the Dark by Maya Banks
Drawn In by Barbara Elsborg
A Mended Man by Jaime Reese
The Captive Prince trilogy by C S Pacat
Give Yourself Away by Barbara Eslborg
Aftermath by Cara Dee

Second chances – These are books where the couple were together, then something happened and they separated, and then they get a second chance for their happily ever after together.  Usually these books start at the beginning of the second chance, but occasionally they cover the whole relationship (as Resurrection of the Fallen by Jessamyn Kingley does).  As a general rule, I hate these books.  I’m not sure why.  Possibly if I was separated from my husband or had been through this situation myself where I wanted or needed a second chance with someone, I’d be more open to them.  But I’m not.  I stubbornly feel that if it didn’t work out the first time, it wasn’t meant to be.  And I see a LOT of these books out there.  Generally, if they say clearly that they’re a second chance romance, I avoid them.  Just not interested.  But sometimes the book is part of a series that I’m reading (as is the case with most of the books I’ve listed below) and sometimes it just works.

Great books where the characters get a second chance together:
Burn by Allie Juliette Mousseau
Resurrection of the Fallen by Jessamyn Kingley
Edge of Dawn by Lara Adrian
Safe At Last by Maya Banks
Twice Baked by Andrew Grey
The First Sentinel by Jessamyn Kingley

Bending or breaking gender stereotypes – This is a huge category, and I could have listed so many more books for this one.  When I first started reading romances, this category would have been called ‘girl disguised as a boy’.  Because that was as close as I came to books that bent gender stereotypes.  And Morganna by Jackie Ivie and Ridiculous by D L Carter are exactly those kinds of books – where the female character dresses as a male.  One of the things I particularly liked about Morganna (which was originally titled Lady of the Knight) was that the hero fell for her while he thought she was a man.  He didn’t immediately see through her disguise, he didn’t assume that because he found her attractive she must be a female (seen that oh so many times!) and he didn’t suddenly find her attractive after her gender was revealed (seen that loads of times too).  He fell for her while he thought she was a male, and had some serious identity struggles over it, having to reconcile his sexuality…in medieval Scotland.  But now there are so many more twists on gender conformity.  There are guys who dress up in feminine clothing or perhaps just wear makeup, there are gender fluid characters and non-binary characters and trans characters, and a whole host of ways that authors can move away from the gender stereotypes that a man must be masculine and a girl must be feminine. These books (listed below) are far from the only books I’ve read and enjoyed that explore gender stereotypes, and I could have included so many more, but these were my favourites, even if they’re not at the limits of what can be done.  If I can only recommend one of them though, it has to be Static by L A Witt. That is the most unique take on gender stereotypes that I’ve ever read, and a powerful message about trans and gender-fluid people.

Great books that bend or break gender stereotypes:
Static by L A Witt
Morganna by Jackie Ivie
Ridiculous by D L Carter
Enemies Like You by Annika Martin and Joanna Chambers
Ollie on the Out by Nicky James
Duchess by Night by Eloisa James

Instalove – When you read a romance novel, you’re expecting to read the story of two people falling in love with each other, overcoming the obstacles in their paths, and obtaining their happy ever after (or perhaps their ‘happy for now’).  Instalove kind of derails that.  If two people fall in love instantly, the moment they meet, what’s the point in reading the book?  I feel like the author has cheated us out of all the best parts of the book!  And honestly, it feels rather like lazy writing too.  They just magically love each other?  Blergh.  Do the hard yards and show us the real thing.  But occasionally, it can be done well, and I seriously loved A Sorceress of His Own by Dianne Duvall, so don’t let the one-sided instalove put you off.  It’s worth the read.

Great books with instalove:
A Sorceress of His Own by Dianne Duvall
The Retrieval Duet by Aly Martinez

Fated mates – Fated mates sometimes equals instalove, but not always, and it seems that more and more these days, authors are realising that they can have fated mates and even insta-attraction, but still avoid the instalove trap.  The characters might recognise that the other is their fated mate, but they may not know them, may be resistant to the idea of a mate at all, or may dislike them at the start.  Their journey to their happily ever after may be predestined, but they still have to travel it.  And when you’re accustomed to reading romance novels that generally promise a happily ever after, you’re after that journey, that’s, like, literally the entire point of the book, right?  Although in real life it would suck, in books, I like that the two people (or more than two, which happens sometimes) know that they’re meant to be together, but they don’t like each other or they don’t believe it would work for whatever reasons.  Yeah, I don’t know why that works for me, it just does.  I think it’s a bit like the forced proximity thing, where two people are stuck together in a cabin during a blizzard, or forced to share a hotel room, or whatever, but that trope has been seriously overdone.  This is still a ‘forced together’ kind of thing, but without that overdone forced proximity thing.

Great books with fated mates:
D’Vaire series by Jessamyn Kingley
Kinkaid Pack series by Kiki Clark
Rebuilding Hope by Jessie G
Dear to My Hart by Whit Valentine

If only they’d talked – This one winds me up so much.  If the only thing stopping all the conflict and tension is one decent conversation, then the author hasn’t done a good enough job of creating real conflict and issues that need to be overcome.  Yes, sometimes it can be done well (see the list below) but on the whole, I think this is a weakness in a plot.  Unfortunately, you usually can’t identify these books from the blurb and just have to discover them as you read.

Great books where the characters desperately need to talk to each other:
Tall, Tatted and Tempting by Tammy Falkner
Ruin by Rachel Van Dyken
Toxic by Rachel Van Dyken
In Safe Arms by Ann Grech
Shattered Dreams by Laura Landon

Characters on the autism spectrum – The first books I read with heroes who were on the autism spectrum were historical romances (Song for Sophia by Moriah Densley and The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley).  They were fantastic books.  The heroes were unique, the way they approached issues and the way the relationships developed were unique, and it was a fascinating insight into something I’m not familiar with.  I’ve since read some modern ones that I’ve enjoyed just as much. 

Great books with characters on the autism spectrum:
Song for Sophia by Moriah Densley
Aftermath by Cara Dee
The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Characters with mental health disorders – This is such a huge topic.  There are heroes and heroines who have anxiety, depression or PTSD, who live with phobias and addictions, and who are recovering from traumatic brain injuries or strokes.  There are also heroes and heroines who live with personality disorders, Tourette Symdrome, ADHD, OCD, and more.  They make for unique, often memorable characters who are dealing with real-world issues.  In the best books, their mental health disorders aren’t the cause of the conflict, just part of the person that therefore becomes part of the story in the same way that all of a character’s personality aspects and quirks become part of the story.  Sometimes there are stories where it is hard for the character to move beyond their mental health disorder, such as the characters with severe phobias, and it’s fascinating to see their story unfold.  I guess, with those severe ones, where they’re afraid of human touch or sunlight or time passing (check out the Trials of Fear series by Nicky James) or suicidal from depression, it’s similar to the tortured hero(ine) thing.  These are people who are tormented and can’t see a future for themselves, let alone a happily ever after relationship with another person.

Great books with characters with mental health disorders:
Complementary Colors by Adrienne Wilder
Misfits by Garrett Leigh
The All For The Game series by Nora Sakavic
A Long Way Back by Barbara Elsborg
Riven by Roan Parrish
The World As He Sees It by A M Arthur
Glitterland by Alexis Hall
Trials of Fear series by Nicky James
Ollie on the Out by Nicky James
Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale
Hiatus by L A Witt
The Heart As He Hears It by A M Arthur
The Harder He Falls by Lynda Aicher

Characters with physical disabilities – Again, this covers a huge range.  I have read books with blind and deaf characters, characters with amputated limbs or who require the use of crutches or wheelchairs, and more.  Like some of the above categories, these disabilities can lead to unique situations or interesting developments that might not arise otherwise.  The characters often have to deal with prejudice and judgement, especially in historical settings, but even in modern ones.  Seeing the world from their perspective is a chance to ‘walk in someone else’s shoes’ and that goes for the two categories above as well.

Great books with characters with physical disabilities:
Senses series by Andrew Grey
Never Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks
The Mating of Michael by Eli Easton
The Arrangement by Mary Balogh
Shattered Dreams by Laura Landon
Seer’s Hope by Maree Anderson
Tall, Tatted and Tempting by Tammy Falkner
Fighting Silence by Aly Martinez
Signs of Attraction by Laura Brown

Consanguinity – I’m well aware that fiction is just fiction, and that just because you enjoy reading about something doesn’t mean that you’d do it in real life.  No one who reads murder mysteries is accused of wanting to murder people in real life, no one who reads horror is accused of wanting to do horrific things in real life…  And I understand that people who enjoy reading about incest don’t want to sleep with their own relatives.  But for me, it’s a no-go.  I just feel yucky thinking about it.  It’s a taboo, I guess, that I don’t enjoy reading about, even in a fictionalised format.  There are loads of books out there where the author makes the relationship a non-blood one, such as step-siblings or a step-parent with a step-child, to make it more palatable, but I don’t even like those.  And I know that there are many menage books featuring siblings where the siblings themselves don’t interact sexually but they’re both in a relationship with the other person, often all in bed at the same time.  Just nope.  An author that I enjoy reading, Cara Dee, released a book recently where twin brothers enter a menage relationship…but the twin brothers were already involved sexually with each other prior to the third person entering the relationship.  I enjoy her writing, but I couldn’t bring myself to read that one.  I just…nope.  And there was another one I came across recently which was an uncle and nephew, and then the father got involved and it became a menage relationship.  I couldn’t bring myself to read that one either.  This is just a subject that makes me feel icky and gross.  I don’t judge those who enjoy reading them.  I don’t think they have a burning desire to be in bed with their siblings anymore than me reading a erotic novel about wolf shifters means I have any interest in bestiality (which I assure you, I don’t).  They’re just not for me. 

Great books with consanguinity:
My Dragon Masters by Krystal Shannan

Cinderella – I suspect the appeal of the Cinderella trope is the same as the appeal of buying lottery tickets.  I adore my husband, but yes, it’s a shame he was super rich so I could live in the lap of luxury.  Ha ha!  This trope is pure fantasy.  The Husband Gambit by L A Witt is probably the best Cinderella story I’ve ever read.  It felt so real.  Hayden thinks and says things that I know from experience are things that poor people think and say.  I’ve been there.  I’ve clipped coupons to save a few cents, I’ve panicked that the electricity or phone would be cut off because we couldn’t afford to pay the bills, I’ve called in sick to work because I’ve run out of petrol to get there (which is a double edged sword, because if you can’t work, you can’t make money to buy more petrol!), I’ve gone without food because there were more important things to spend money on.  This book took all of that, added a wicked sense of humour and gave Hayden a Cinderella story that was pretty epic.  And yeah, these books will probably always draw me in.  At least until I win the lottery or marry a rich man of my own.  

Great Cinderella books:
The Husband Gambit by L A Witt
A Taste for Scandal by Erin Knightley
Faking Ms Right by Claire Kingsley
Rebound by L A Witt
Cinder-Ugly by Laura Strickland
Illuminate by Lisa Oliver
How to Bang a Billionaire by Alexis Hall
Brooklynaire by Sarina Bowen

Beauty and the beast – Beauty and the beast is another trope that is quite interesting.  Sometimes a character is scarred, sometimes they’re just unattractive.  Often the trope is used to describe beastly personalities (especially in historical romances) but I’ve tried to avoid those ones in my list below.  I’m not a pretty girl, and I think that’s why I like these.  It’s also why I like reading about hero(in)es who are curvy.  Which is the marketing term for overweight.  lol  I like these characters because I identify with them on some level.  I was never the girl that the popular pretty boys took a second glance at, and I never will be.  But that’s okay, because there’s still a perfect happy ending for those of us who are less than perfect.  And no, I’m not comparing myself to all of these characters.  Some of these are dealing with things I can’t even imagine.  It’s just the whole ‘You don’t have to be beautiful to get your happy ending’ thing that I like.

Great beauty and the beast books:
Cinder-Ugly by Laura Strickland
Kept in the Dark by H L Day
Don’t Make Me Beautiful by Elle Casey
Taming the Highlander by May McGoldrick
Next to You by Julia Gabriel

Secret baby – This one bugs me a lot.  I’ve been pregnant and I’ve had newborn babies.  And while, yes, you can form a true and lasting bond with a child from any age (as many parents who adopt babies do), there is something magical about the pregnancy and newborn stages.  Yes, even as much as I hated being pregnant!  Yes, even as much as newborns are exhausting.  I just…  I don’t feel like it’s fair to deprive another person of that time with their child.  If it’s unavoidable, sure.  But not because you choose not to tell them.  I just don’t like the whole concept.  And that’s probably best evidenced by the fact that I couldn’t find a single book that uses this trope to recommend to you.  

Friends to lovers – A classic!  This one is pretty simple, I think.  And probably it appeals to me a lot because I’m demisexual.  That means I need to form a connection with a person before I find them sexually attractive.  Being friends first gives me that connection.  And yes, my husband and I were friends first.  These stories are usually quite sweet and slow-burn.

Great friends to lovers books:
Fighting Silence by Aly Martinez
In Safe Arms by Ann Grech
Unscripted by J R Gray
Proving Paul’s Promise by Tammy Falkner
Tracking You by Kelly Moran
Switched by N R Walker

Enemies to lovers – This is the exact opposite of the above category, and I can’t explain why I enjoy them, I just do.  Being enemies first provides a lot of conflict, which can make the story exciting, and there is just something about watching (reading!) the resentment and aggression slowly turn to love.  By the way, if you like historical romance and enemies to lovers (and yes, tortured heroes too) then you should definitely read the Captive Prince trilogy by C S Pacat.  On the flip side, if you like fantasy, I can’t recommend the Kingmaker Chronicles by Amanda Bouchet highly enough.

Great enemies to lovers books:
Enemies Like You by Annika Martin and Joanna Chambers
The All For The Game series by Nora Sakavic
The Captive Prince trilogy by C S Pacat
The Kingmaker Chronicles by Amanda Bouchet
How to Vex a Vampire by Alice Winters
Kingdom of Exiles by Maxym M Martineau
Angel’s Blood by Nalini Singh

Roleplay – By this, I mean characters who roleplay as daddies (or mommies but I haven’t come across any of them), babies, children or teenagers, but also characters who roleplay as animals.  Not judging – you do you, but it’s not my thing.  I don’t understand the appeal, either to the ‘adult’ or the one regressing/being the animal.  I just…  I can’t enjoy these stories.

BDSM – Having said that, I can enjoy BDSM books, even though I don’t personally want to experience those things.  It’s no different to enjoying reading about tortured hero(in)es and I don’t want to experience their hardships either!  Some of it is hard for me to understand, particularly the sadism/masochism side of things, and those who want to be submissive 24/7 outside of scenes, but I’ve read enough of them to know that if they’re written well, I can enjoy them.  Generally speaking, I prefer the ones where the characters do scenes and leave it at that, but there is a whole BDSM spectrum and sometimes an author surprises you.

Great books featuring BDSM:
For Real by Alexis Hall
The Harder He Falls by Lynda Aicher
Axel’s Pup by Kim Dare
The Deeper He Hurts by Lynda Aicher
With or Without Him by Barbara Elsborg

Shifters – There are so many shifter novels out there, and so many variations on a theme.  I’ve read a lot of wolf shifters, but also cat shifters, dragon shifters and more.  Nalini Singh has rat shifter characters in her world, I believe, and others have bird shifters.  There’s no limit to what creature a shifter could transform into, but wolves, cats and dragons are the most common.  I admit that I’m not overly keen on marine-based shifters, such as sharks, mermen and mermaids, those sorts of things.  I don’t know why, they just don’t appeal as much.  Which is weird, because I love the ocean and I love to swim.  But these things don’t always make sense, huh?

Great books with shifters:
Wolfsong by T J Klune
Big Bad Wolf series by Charlie Adhara
Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
Written in Red by Anne Bishop
Axel’s Pup by Kim Dare
Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh
How We Survive by Michele Notaro
Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews
Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison

Demons and devils – I don’t know what it is about demons and devils that gets me.  Maybe it’s a hangup from the days when I was religious, maybe it’s one of those things like how I don’t like marine shifters.  *shrugs*  Who knows?  But I’m not a fan of demons and devils.  I don’t see the appeal.  Genuinely – if you get it, explain it to me?

Great books with demons or devils:
Vengeance From The Dark by Jessamyn Kingley
Demon Possession by Kiersten Fay
Shadow’s Seduction by Kresley Cole

Psychics – I love reading books where characters have psychic powers. Some of them are ones I’d love to have (hell yeah I’d be an X-Men character!) and some suck (like those who live psychically through other people’s trauma and deaths).  I have read characters who can see the future, characters with psychometry (can read the past by touching items), characters with telekinesis (can move things with their mind) and more.  As you can see by my recommendation list below, Maya Banks likes to play with this idea.  Whispers in the Dark was one of the first contemporary books I read with a psychic in it, and I was hooked from then on.

Great books with psychics:
Tuesday’s Child by Dale Mayer
Whispers in the Dark by Maya Banks
Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh
Keep Me Safe by Maya Banks
Safe At Last by Maya Banks
The Missing by Shiloh Walker

Ghosts – I guess it’s because they’re dead.  How can they live happily ever after if they’re dead?  But it can’t only be that.  In Jessamyn Kingley’s D’Vaire series there are ‘undead’ characters who are raised from the dead and now live eternally as a resurrected species (but not as human) and I’m fine with those.  Maybe it’s just that I find ghosts as creepy as I find demons and devils.  Maybe it really is a hangup from my religious past.  I don’t know.  I just don’t like them.

Great books with ghosts:
Phantom Embrace by Dianne Duvall

Professionals in the sex industry – Okay, I admit that this one is weird.  I actually have no idea why these characters appeal to me.  In a logical sense, they shouldn’t.  I’m not a fan of promiscuity.  I have no desire to work in the sex industry or to sleep with anyone who does.  I have had friends who were strippers, but no friends who literally slept with people for money, so it’s not like I’m familiar with the industry.  I came across some books with characters in the industry and enjoyed them, and went from there.  Some are porn stars, some are prostitutes, some are homeless and literally trying to earn a crust to eat, and then there’s people like Michael in The Mating of Michael by Eli Easton who works with disabled people who might otherwise struggle to get the physical attention they need.  Yeah, I don’t know why they appeal.  Some are hot, for sure, like the two series at the bottom of the list below.  Others aren’t hot at all because those characters don’t have much choice in their situation (these more accurately fit into the tortured hero(in)es category) and some are just books where the character’s profession doesn’t matter much. 

Great books with professional in the sex industry:
The Mating of Michael by Eli Easton
The World As He Sees It by A M Arthur
Mackerel Sky by S Jade Castleton
Price of a Kiss by Linda Kage
The Heart As He Hears It by A M Arthur
Blue Boy series by Garrett Leigh
Ballsy Boys series by K M Neuhold and Nora Phoenix

Healers – This is similar to the psychics category.  These are not doctors and nurses (although I’ve read a lot of those books too), these are people who can magically heal.  When I first started reading romance, these characters were only found in Scottish historical novels, but now they’re in all sorts of subgenres.  It’s definitely easier for authors to get away with putting them in historical novels though, I think.  Firstly, so many more people would have died from simple injuries and illnesses in those days, and secondly, I think it’s easier to believe that magic existed in a world that is so different from our modern world.  It’s harder to imagine it in a modern world because we know it doesn’t exist here.  But to believe it died out over time or it fits in some fictional world, that’s easier.  Anyway, I do enjoy reading them.

Great books with healers:
Touch of Power by Maria V Snyder
A Sorceress of His Own by Dianne Duvall
Darkness Dawns by Dianne Duvall
Highland Healer by Willa Blair
Pure Healing by Aja James

Science fiction – I got into science fiction books when I was in my teens, and I adored Anne McCaffrey’s books then.  Especially the Talent series.  My favourite book for a long, long time was The Rowan.  I also really liked her Brainship series.  I went away from science fiction when I started reading romance, because there didn’t seem to be a lot of good romance / sci fi crossover books.  But these days there are so many more books available that it’s easier to find those niche categories.  Some of the books on the list below would be sci fi with romance as a subgenre whereas some are the other way around, but it doesn’t bother me.  The romance is as much for the happy ending as anything.  If the relationship takes precedence or happens in the background, it doesn’t matter to me.  And yeah, a bad sci fi romance is worse than just about anything else.  Oh, hot alien guy probed me!  Blergh! Ha ha! But when they’re done well, they can be fascinating.

Great science fiction books:
Don’t Speak by Vanessa Heath
The Segonian by Dianne Duvall
Demon Possession by Kiersten Fay
Sin Brothers series by Rebecca Zanetti
The Talent series by Anne McCaffrey
A Paradox of Fates by Rebecca Hefner

Scottish historical – I’ve been reading Scottish historical romances for damn near twenty years now.  Oh shit, no, probably just over twenty years.  I started reading them when I was about 20 I think, and I turn 41 this month.  I’m so oooooold!  Ha ha!  So yeah, there’s a lot to love about Scottish historicals.  It’s not about the kilts (it’s really not) but I can’t deny that when the accent is done well (Hannah Howell does it well, in my humble opinion), that’s good.  But I think it’s partly because Scotland was less inhabited than England, certainly less formal, and it was more about survival than pomp and circumstance.  The Scots weren’t afraid to believe in magic or fate either (their national animal is literally a unicorn!), so there was a lot of scope for authors to play with things.  And yeah, I loved visiting Scotland (I’ve been twice – in 2014 and 2018) and seeing in real life some of the places I’d read about.  Honestly, Scotland reminds me a lot of New Zealand, except it gets MUCH colder and they have less sunshine.

Great Scottish historical books:
Never Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks
Morganna by Jackie Ivie
Devil of the Highlands by Lynsay Sands
Rescued by a Highlander by Keira Montclair
MacLean’s Passion by Sharon Cullen
Moon Craving by Lucy Monroe
The Warrior King series by Donna Fletcher

American historical – Considering that the majority of the contemporary books I read are set in America, you’d think I’d read American historicals, but I just don’t like them.  I like cowboys just fine (read some great m/m cowboy books – why didn’t I make that a category?) but not the historical frontier.  Maybe it’s because I dislike the anti-British thread that sometimes runs through them (you get that in some contemporaries too, because America is the land of the free and brave and all that propaganda shit that Americans seem to still believe) or maybe it’s just…  You know what?  I have no idea what it is.  In theory, it should work like the Scottish historical ones because there was a lot of space, less formality, all that jazz…  And considering I read English historicals and most of the settlers were from England, you’d think it would translate, but it doesn’t.  I just don’t like them.  And no, I couldn’t think of a single one I’d enjoyed enough to recommend to you, sorry.

English historical – English historical romances are full of pomp and circumstance.  It’s rare for them to be set outside of the upper class world.  Even if they involve lower class characters, those characters are usually working as servants to the nobility.  I think the draw for these novels is similar to the draw to the Cinderella novels.  This is a lifestyle that I will never know, never experience.  And no, it’s not like that in modern London, but it is like that, to some extent, for our royal family.  There is still enough pomp and circumstance there for us to believe in these books, these characters.  And while I think the idea of someone ruling over others due to the circumstance of their birth is archaic and wrong, I love the glamour of the royal family, and overall, I think I’m a royalist.  I don’t believe they should rule us, because they have not earnt that right through their own hard work (although you could argue that the Queen has worked damn hard for a bloody long time and has earned that right by now) but I find them fascinating and enchanting.

Great English historical books:
Ridiculous by D L Carter
The Arrangement by Mary Balogh
Song for Sophia by Moriah Densley
A Taste for Scandal by Erin Knightley
Burning Bright by Melissa McShane
Shattered Dreams by Laura Landon
Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale
A Sorceress of His Own by Dianne Duvall

Cheating – This one is a big no-no for me.  Even bigger than the role-play, the American historical, the demons and devils and the ghosts.  When I ask for requests in book forums, I always specify no cheating.  I’m a firm believer that you should be able to end one relationship before starting another.  I’m not naïve enough to think that relationships don’t end, even happy ones, but I do believe that the only thing stopping you from ending one before you start another is your own cowardice.  Do the right thing, tell the other person, then move on.  It’s very simple as far as I’m concerned.  And yeah, maybe that’s naivety, but that’s how I feel.  And yet, I did find two books that feature cheating that were good.  Both by the same author, and no, she’s not afraid to push the boundaries.  Aftermath didn’t feel like cheating, even though it was, but If We Could Go Back was definitely 100% cheating.  I didn’t know that it would be when I started reading, and once I was partway through, I couldn’t stop.  If it hadn’t had cheating in it, I would have given it five stars, because it was really well written and a great read, but the cheating bothered me enough that I knocked it back to four stars.  I gave Aftermath five stars because, for whatever reason, I wasn’t bothered by the cheating in that one.  *shrugs*  It’s still my biggest ‘hell no’ when it comes to books.

Great books where one of the protagonists cheats on a partner:
Aftermath by Cara Dee
If We Could Go Back by Cara Dee

Gamers – My husband is a gamer.  He plays Escape from Tarkhov and Path of Exile.  My son is a gamer.  He plays League of Legends.  My daughter is a gamer.  She plays Genshin Impact.  I am not a gamer.  The last games I played were Civ III and ADOM.  And I like Tetris.  Do those games date me?  Hell yes they do!  I owned Civ III on CD Rom!  I will admit that I sometimes play games on my phone, mostly to help my brain calm down.  I play Pokemon Go and Dream Piano on my phone mostly.  But yeah, not a gamer.  So why the appeal of gamer characters?  I don’t know.  Actually, that seems to be a recurring theme in this post, doesn’t it?  Obviously I just like what I like, with or without reason.  But I particularly liked the streaming aspect to Strong Signal by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell, and I think too that it’s easy for characters to be someone else behind a keyboard.  I’ve read a number of novels where characters who are shy or who have social anxiety or similar connect with others from behind a keyboard.  And we all know this happens in real life, just as we know there are assholes who transform into keyboard warriors when they’re cowards in real life.  It makes for interesting dynamics when those people meet up in real life.  And maybe it appeals too because I’ve made some amazing friends online, most of which I’ve never met in real life.  And while I’m not looking for a romance with any of them, I do want to believe that our friendship will move beyond the internet into real life.

Great books with gamers:
More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer
Strong Signal by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell
Hard Wired by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell

So there you go.  Probably far too much stuff you never wanted to know about the types of books I read.  No, I didn’t separate m/m books out from the rest.  I don’t do that.  M/M is not a category of its own.  There are romance sci fi novels with gay characters, there are English historical romances with gay characters, etc.  Yes, I did create a category for books that push the gender boundaries, and I do think that gender fluid and trans characters can (and do) fit comfortably into any of the other categories, but I was looking broader with that one, not just at LGBTQ+ characters, but at straight characters who push the gender boundaries too.  Anyway, there you have it.  I hope that some of these categories appeal to you and you can find a book you like in my lists of recommendations.


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