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Top Tropes of Romance Literature: Friends-to-Lovers Edition

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • February 17, 2022

From the friend-zone dilemma to lessons in love, friend-to-lover romances feature some standard (yet sexy!) tropes. And for some of us, these irresistible scenarios are exactly what brings us back for more. Here are some of our favorite tropes from the genre. (And if you like an enemies-to-lovers romance check out our recent post featuring these fiery relationships.)

Stuck in the Friend-Zone

It's hard to recover from being friend-zoned. In some cases, like in Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren, the feeling is mutual. Polar opposites Josh and Hazel have been friends since college, but they've never considered dating. Ten years later, they both find themselves single and spending a lot of time together—not dating!

In other stories, one character harbors a secret crush, afraid that revealing it will ruin the friendship. This is the case in Just Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane. Eve, Justin, Susie, and Ed have been friends since they were teenagers. Now in their thirties, Eve is still secretly in love with Ed. Will she ever have the courage to tell him how she feels?

Lyssa Kay Adams's Crazy Stupid Bromance offers a twist on the trope. When Alexis asks her best friend Noah for help investigating a stranger claiming to be her sister, he wonders if this might be the opportunity for him to reveal his undying love for her.

Friends to Enemies to Lovers

In other stories, like People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry, the only way to get out of the friend zone is to stop being friends. Best friends since college, Poppy and Alex have taken a cherished annual vacation together for a decade. Until two years ago, when it all went wrong. Now Poppy has convinced her friend to take one last vacation—a chance to make things right.

Willow Aster's 5,331 Miles presents the story of childhood friends Jaxson and Mirabelle. As kids growing up in their small town they dreamed up a list of the things they would do together like climb the Eiffel Tower and visit every zoo in the world, but it all turned to dust. Now Jaxson's back and trying to breathe life back into their dreams. But can Mirabelle overcome her heartbreak to trust him again?

Impossible Relationships

Sometimes falling in love involves getting past some mental and emotional blocks. Inconvenient Wife by Natasha Boyd is the story of Gwen, who has been in love with her best friend, Beau, for as long as she can remember. But knowing she'd never fit in with his high society family, she's kept it to herself. For his part, Beau has never been interested in marriage, until it means he might lose his inheritance. When he tells Gwen he needs to find someone to marry, she decides to nominate herself.

In Hot Head by Damon Suede, Brooklyn firefighter Griff Muir has wrestled with impossible feelings for his best friend and partner at Ladder 181, Dante Anastagio. Unfortunately, Dante is strictly a ladies' man, and the FDNY isn't exactly gay-friendly. But then Dante pitches a provocative proposal.

In another intriguing workplace scenario, a showrunner and her assistant set the tabloids ablaze when, at a red carpet event, they inadvertently give the appearance of being a couple. Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner is the story of a rumor that takes on a life of its own. Could there be something behind it?

Lessons In Love

Some of these romances hinge on a storyline about a shy or awkward character who just needs a little help learning how to flirt. Christina Lauren's Beautiful Player centers on bookish Hanna who receives an assignment from her older brother to get out, make friends, start dating. And who better to help than her brother's gorgeous best friend? Playboy Will is a bit skeptical about this challenge at first, but when his innocently seductive pupil puts his tutorial into action he sees her in a new light.

What happens when an almost thirty-year-old virgin agrees to let her Scottish footballer best friend give her some lessons in seduction? This is the question in Blindsided by Amy Daws. The answer: lots of banter, awkwardness, jealousy, and heat.

In His Grumpy Childhood Friend by Jackie Lau, cranky, introverted Charlotte is trying to get back out there five years after a traumatic breakup. Step one: Enlist Mike, her childhood best friend, to take her out on a few practice dates. But falling for Mike was never part of the plan.


Players gotta play, right? Some people just aren't interested in settling down. But all of that can change when the right person comes along.

When security guard Zaf convinces career-obsessed PhD student Dani to play along with a fake relationship, she sees an opportunity to seduce the brawny former rugby player. What she doesn't expect is true romance. Take a Hint, Dani Brown is the second in Talia Hibbert's winning Brown Sisters series.

Marriage on Madison Avenue by Lauren Layne asks the question: Can guys and girls ever be just friends? Clarke is the charming playboy Audrey can always count on and vice versa. When Clarke asks Audrey to play along with a fake engagement to dodge his matchmaking mother, what starts out as a playful game between best friends turns into something infinitely more complicated.

This is the third in our series on common romantic tropes. Check out our past installments on regency and mafia tropes and look for our last installment next week, featuring one final delicious flavor of romance.

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Read more by Ashly Moore Sheldon

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