600-year-old vampire boyfriends and being not like other girls

Romance novel trends that need to go away in 2023.

I’m not ashamed to say that I love romance novels. As a genre, they’re deliciously formulaic, predictable and filled with tropes. That doesn’t make them bad – a trope done well adds, rather than detracts, from the reading experience. However, my extensive background with romance novel reads has led me to conclude that some tropes just need to fade out of existence. Not only are they done to death, but they’re just toxic and lazy.

Here are my top 5 tropes that need to go away in 2023:

Photo by Summit Entertainment | Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen

The Mayfly-December Romance:

Your boyfriend may look 23, but he is actually a 600-year-old vampire.

This trope is gross and is a way to romanticize age gaps while ostensibly making it “not weird” by having him appear to be the female lead’s age. Despite the fact that he is hundreds of years older than your grandmother, he somehow forms an emotional connection with a modern woman. 

Interestingly enough, this trope hardly ever touches upon the historical ramifications of this. These characters rarely have issues that you’d expect of someone born in the 1400s, like old-fashioned ideas of women’s roles or overt racist tendencies. If I had a 600-year-old vampire boyfriend, I’d really like to know what he was doing during the Civil Rights Movement. Where was he during the AIDS crisis? An immortal man who doesn’t use his immortality for the greater good is no boyfriend of mine. I’m looking at you, Edward from “Twilight.”

She was Born Sexy Yesterday:

This female character only entered this universe yesterday, but don’t worry! She may be a day old, but she looks like she is 23.

This is another sneaky attempt to make gigantic age gaps “not weird,” but fails miserably, more so than the Mayfly-December Romance trope. She knows nothing about anything, which is a lazy literary tool for explaining everything about the world. Despite the fact that she is literally new to existence and has a childlike curiosity about the world, she exudes overt sexuality. Common iterations of this include man-made entities (like AI or a robot) or a girl catapulted into an entirely new world (like stepping through a portal or being transported to the Feylands). I like female leads acting like actual adults with worldly experience and critical thinking skills.

Photo by Lionsgate | Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen

Babies Ever After:

The kingdom is saved, the curse is broken, and the two main leads are finally in love… and expecting a baby.

This trope is the easiest way to ruin a good book in the last 20 pages. As someone who isn’t interested in getting pregnant right now, this plot reveal always throws me for a loop. It isn’t sexy, it doesn’t move the plot along, and it just feels… tacked on. Unplanned pregnancy is stressful and not always a joyful experience. It’s especially icky when combined with a Mayfly-December Romance or a Born Sexy Yesterday scenario. Not all women dream of having babies and shoe-horning this in at the very end can feel like the female lead’s newfound power and independence is artificially cut short. I don’t want my romance novels to feel like they were written by Disney.

Love At First Sight:

The moment the two leads lay eyes on each other, they are instantly in love. No buildup, no awkward dating phase, and certainly no second thoughts.

This trope seems to conflate sexual attraction and romantic compatibility as the same thing. This is different but related to the Fated Mates trope, which is the idea that two people are destined to be together. For this one, there’s no justification as to why they’re in love, they just are. It’s also unrealistic, even for a romance novel. There are some things you discover in the process of dating that are so important for compatibility: Who did they vote for in 2020? Are they employed? Do they have a criminal record? Love At First Sight is a boring cop-out and a way for the author to avoid writing sexual tension and romantic exploration (which, in my opinion, is one of the best parts of a romance novel!).

Photo by HBO | Maisie Williams as Arya Stark

Not Like Other Girls:

All other women are misogynistic strawmen that only care about makeup, boys and being shallow. Luckily for the reader, the main female lead is an actual person with motivations, emotions and a personality.

No list of bad tropes would be complete without mentioning Not Like Other Girls. I think the popularity of this trope is primarily due to internalized misogyny. It’s a way to differentiate a female lead when she otherwise lacks a strong personal narrative. It’s also a lazy justification for why all the men in the universe are solely attracted to the female lead. The Not Like Other Girl is also known as the Pick Me Girl – she tends to enjoy activities that are stereotyped as masculine, such as sports, combat, getting dirty, and being emotionally cold. This trope sucks because other women are really cool, and distancing a female character from other women as a method to make her seem unique is just another way for the writer to show that they don’t see other women as people.

I like to think of myself as open-minded, but encountering one of these tropes in my current read means that I’m setting it down and moving on. There are other tropes that could have made this list, but these are the worst offenders because they are harmful, show lazy writing and perpetuate bad stereotypes. If I’m spending my precious free time reading, it’s gotta be worthwhile. Life is too short to waste your time reading bad books.