Charlotte Stein on romance tropes and her new rom-com, When Grumpy Met Sunshine

"Even before I knew what romance tropes were, I loved them."

This post was written by Charlotte Stein, author of When Grumpy Met Sunshine.

For the love of Romance Tropes by Charlotte Stein

Even before I knew what romance tropes were, I loved them. I didn’t fully understand what it was that I was responding to, but that’s the thing with romance tropes: you don’t have to perceive them intellectually. You feel them. When they’re done right, they hit you hard in the heart and the guts.

And that was the way it was for me.

Every time a movie or show or book had a healthy dose of enemies to lovers or fake dating or forced proximity, I was left dazed. Seeing grumpy/sunshine and marriage of convenience and second chances made me kick my feet with glee. I’ve cheesed hard over all of them, in all kinds of different ways.

And few things will make me devour a piece of media faster.

Especially when so much media simply isn’t interested in going hard on that sort of deliciousness—despite how amazing it can be. And how much it can elevate something from great, to completely addictive. Take the TV show New Girl. Perfectly good sitcom, very funny, loveable characters.

Then the opposites attract beats start hitting, between Nick and Jess, and suddenly you’re buzzing. It becomes must watch TV.

And it’s the same thing in many other shows that seem on the surface to be no more than a comedy. But underneath are seething with those romantic tropes that get you right in the feels. There’s Abbott Elementary, with the yummy will-they-won’t-they of Janine and Gregory. Friends to lovers beats abound, and everybody on social media is screaming about them.

Just kiss becomes the battle cry.

And the satisfaction when they do is fantastic.


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Though of course that comes with pitfalls. What if you drag an audience in with your use of these tropes, but then don’t pay them off? Which of course was the case very recently, with Ted Lasso. Everybody and their dog was rooting for grumpy footballer Roy Kent and sunshiny PR maven Keeley Jones to finally and definitively just be together. And when the third season ended with them apart—well.

It was armageddon for the show’s audience.

Anyone invested in that relationship and those romance tropes declared the show a dismal failure, for that alone. Arguments raged between the people who wanted them to be together, and the people who didn’t. There were huge debates about how important it is to pay off what was set up, and insistence that nothing was set up at all. Loving romance, and romantic tropes—it can shape so much of how and why and what we value in media.

For me personally?

I felt the show stood perfectly fine on its own, without the happy ending for our grumpy/sunshine pair. But oh, what I wouldn’t have given for it to actually go there. I always want shows with wonderful romantic tropes and beats to go there, and stay for good.

It’s why I love Romance novels. Why I go to delicious books by Talia Hibbert, and Olivia Dade, and Suleikha Snyder, for what other media holds back.

And why I write it myself. In particular, it’s why I wrote When Grumpy Met Sunshine. Because when you do, you don’t have to anxiously wait to see if a trope is going to be taken to its most satisfying conclusion. You know it is. Not always perfectly, not always the way everyone might like.

But the promise is made.

And nothing goes back on it.

I love fake dating, so my central couple Mabel and Alfie find themselves having to pretend to be together for a public addicted to their love story. I adore grumpy/sunshine, and that’s just what Mabel and Alfie are. Alfie is a grouchy ex-footballer, much like Roy Kent. And Mabel is a curvy, loveable sunshiny ghostwriter. And then opposites attract and pretending-we-don’t-want-to-kiss-for- the-cameras shenanigans abound.

All of which was a blast for me to write.

It was blast for me just to dream up.

What can I say?

I love romance tropes.

And I’m not afraid to say it!

Get your copy of When Grumpy Met Sunshine by Charlotte Stein here.

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