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Top Tropes of Romance Literature: Mafia Edition

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • February 10, 2022

From sensitive tough guys to feisty captives, mafia romances feature some standard (yet sexy!) tropes. And for some of us, these juicy scenarios are exactly what brings us back for more. Here are some of our favorite tropes from the genre.

Just When I Thought I Was Out…!

We all remember Michael Corleone's repeated attempts to exit the family business in The Godfather. This is similar to what happens in Vengeance Unleashed by Nancy Haviland. But when Gabriel is pulled back into action to protect his mentor's estranged daughter from the Russian mob, it may just lead to love.

Teenager Vince Luca is in a more complicated position. Gordon Korman's YA novel, Son of the Mob, offers the story of a high schooler trying to distance himself from his family's nefarious activities. But what happens when he falls for a girl whose father is the FBI agent trying to put his crime-boss dad away.

Falling for the Enemy

The heart wants what it wants, right? And sometimes you desire the very person you know you shouldn't. In Crow's Row by Julie Hockley, Emily is a college student kidnapped by a young crime boss after she witnesses a brutal killing. She knows her captor is dangerous, but at the same time, she is undeniably attracted to him.

Many potent love stories revolve around rival families or gangs, as in this notable tragedie of olde. From J. M. Darhower, comes By Any Other Name, about Genna and Matty, star-crossed lovers caught in the middle of a bitter feud between two powerful New York crime families. With These Violent Delights, Chloe Gong recreates the timeless story in 1920s Shanghai with Juliette and Roma, each the leader of one of two warring gangs.

Arranged Marriages

In literary organized crime worlds, powerful families often view their offspring as opportunities for alliances forged through matrimony. In Bound By Honor by Cora Reilly, eighteen-year-old Aria has been betrothed to Luca as a way to ensure peace between their families. Although she's attracted to him, she dreads her upcoming marriage because of his cutthroat reputation.

In another such story, Ruthless People by J. J. McAvoy, neither Melody nor Liam expect much from their union, beyond ending years of bloodshed between their Irish and Italian crime families. But, with rival bosses gunning for them, they find they must learn to work as one.

Opposites Attract

We all enjoy an unlikely love story between polar opposites. In Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles, nobody expects gang member Alex to fall for goody-two-shoes Brittany. But as the high school lab partners get to know each other, they discover the most surprising chemical reaction of all—love.

Tagan Shepard's LGBT romance Queen of Humboldt centers on two women living in different worlds. Threatened by shared enemy forces, Marisol, a Chicago crime boss, and Sabrina, the Governor of Illinois, must work as a team to fight for their lives. Can they overcome their differences (and their growing attraction) to find their way to freedom?

In The Sweetest Oblivion by Danielle Lori, Elena doesn't like anything Nicolas stands for, though that doesn't stop her heart from pattering like rain against glass when he's near. She may be sweet on the outside, but she's beginning to learn she has a taste for the darkness, for rough hands, cigarettes, and whiskey-colored eyes.

Retribution to Romance

Sometimes the ferocity of animosity leads the way to burning passion as in A Necessary Sin by Georgia Cates. Bleu has built her life around pursuing justice for a horrific incident from her childhood. This means forging a relationship with her enemy's son, Sinclair. But Sin becomes more than Bleu expected.

In The Kiss Thief, L. J. Shen offers a twist on this scenario with the story of Francesca, torn between her love for two men—bitter rivals of one another. Promised to Angelo, heir to another powerful Chicago family, she is forced into marriage with Wolfe, a senator, after he threatens to destroy her father.

This is the second in our series on common romantic tropes. Check out popular regency themes here and look forward to new installments, featuring more of the delicious flavors of romance.

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Read more by Ashly Moore Sheldon

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