Yeah. I want to talk about this because I’ve mentioned it in a couple of book reviews already and I recently spotted a wonderful cover designer on Facebook lamenting the lack of variety in the commissions she receives.
First Up, What Is A Trope?
There are two definitions of the word, but I’m focused on the one that refers to clichéd or over used plot devices and/or ideas. Something specific to a genre or creature that comes up over and over again and is so commonly seen that it is almost a prop or crutch. It’s almost expected by veterans of the genre and can cause surprise when they aren’t there.
There are tonnes of different tropes and I’m going to talk about one a week until I get bored (or find something else cooler to talk about). Hope you enjoy the ride!
The Millionaire/Billionaire/Super-Rich Alpha Male Trope
*sigh* Part of me wants to blame E. L. James for this, but I saw this trope come up dozens of times before I’d ever heard of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey‘ and I was late to that party. If you look back over my indie book reviews last year, three of those have this super-rich alpha male character as the romantic lead.
I want to say these men come in all shapes and sizes, but that would be a lie. At least in my experience. These men seem to come in two distinct flavours and neither of them particularly tickle my taste buds, if you take my meaning.
The ‘Super-Rich “Bad Guy” Who Learns His Lesson’ Trope
This is the classic bad boy. The womaniser. The man with more money than he knows how to spend. When he does spend it, the £££ (or $$$?) tends to go on cars, alcohol and women who could easily grace the cover of a magazine and not feel awkward about it.
This man starts off trying to woe the romantic heroine with his buckets of tasty moollah and gradually comes to learn that 1) this isn’t the way to win his woman’s heart and 2) he must change his womanising ways in order to prove himself worthy of the romantic heroine.
The ‘Super-Rich Do-Gooder Who Doesn’t Really Want His Money And Tries To Hide It’ Trope
This one is a little more interesting. These men, though powerful and well to-do, often try to hide their money. They refuse to use the cash sitting in their trust funds curtsey of rich parents or lucrative deals on the stock market. These men work with their hands and are far more ‘of the earth’ than their ‘bad boy counterparts.’
They like to make their own way rather than depending on the cash they feel they don’t deserve (and yet they still manage to own beautiful homes/boats/cars/bikes/*insert expensive objects here* and get away without doing any real work like the average Joe Bloggs pulling double shifts at Maccy D’s).
Invariably when these men meet the romantic heroine, they aren’t good enough for her in some way, or they distance themselves when said heroine finds out how rich they are (totally by accident of course!) because that makes them feel that they have nothing in common and that the match is a mistake.
But They Can’t All Be The Same, Right?
Well . . . maybe I’ve been reading the wrong books. I don’t review every single book I read, here or anywhere else. 1) I read A LOT of books and don’t always have the time to review the way I’d like and 2) I don’t always have anything favourable to say. In those scenarios, rather than be spiteful, I choose to keep my opinion to myself. In light of that, it’s difficult to use my reviews on this blog as a guide. However, as I think back over recent reads, I’m afraid, yes, actually, they are. In my experience, the men who fall into this trope tick most, if not all of these boxes:
- Mega rich (as in, probably owns several homes and/or well established and successful businesses)
- White (sorry, I just haven’t seen male lead following this trope of any other race)
- Aged anywhere between 25 and 37 (for some reason, beyond that seems to lead to an utterly different sort of story)
- Veteran of three if not more ‘intense but ultimately failed relationships’
- Uneasy/volatile relationship with siblings and/or parents
- Has at least one ‘best buddy’ character who ‘brings them back to earth’ or ‘gives them a reality check’ when it’s most needed by the plot
- Is incredibly skilled in something traditionally romantic like playing piano or violin, or painting landscapes/portraits
- Is stupidly good looking: all tight abs, pinch-able arses and darkish/longish hair (no flabby sods with love handles around here!)
- Has stunning women falling all over them that they just ‘don’t notice’ when the romantic heroine is around
- Has previously dated stunning women and proceeds to fall for the plain, but beautiful romantic heroine because she is ‘just so different’
These aren’t bad things. Let me get that point across right now. Nor do I feel that this is a trope that needs to be banished. I merely observe that this is something I see a great deal and I wonder why that is?
Does this mean that there are hundreds of women out there who dream of a rich, good-looking stud who will fall madly in love with their plain, ordinary looks? I’m sure it does. Hell, I’m nothing fancy to look at; I’d certainly feel good about some loaded beefcake wanting to sweep me off my feet (the Funk Master wouldn’t mind, right?).
I just think that the fantasy needs shaking up a little bit. It needs variety and fresh flavour or else we’re just going to end up with a bunch of stories featuring the same dude with slightly different features (blond vs black haired, likes cars vs boats, prefers boobs to arse) and isn’t that just a little bit boring?