I just hate that word. I'm not sure why. To me, trope sounds like some kind of teenage slang. *shakes fist* “Get off my lawn, you pesky kids.”
Webster's Dictionary basically tells me that a trope is a cliché. I know. I know. Maybe that's why I have a problem with the word. Trope, by its very definition, implies both overuse and unoriginality. (Gasp. The horror!)
You know what's pretty awesome, though? Among the many synonyms for trope and cliché, you'll find the word truism–and that, my fellow writers and readers, is why we love tropes, especially in short and category-length romance. A universal truth. An undoubted truth. Some situation we identify with and/or intrinsically know.
Some examples of romance tropes include, but aren't limited to: boss/employee, makeovers, amnesia, secret baby, accidental pregnancy, blackmail or revenge, marriage of convenience, fake engagement, etc.
If it helps, you can think of your trope as the hook of your story, the idea that attracts readers. And just because an author uses a trope, or several, doesn't mean a book will be predictable, boring or lacking in excitement and creativity. It's all in what you do with your plot, characters and conflict.
Readers love certain types of stories. I will devour a marriage of convenience or fake engagement story in one sitting. I've read hundreds of them. Maybe even thousands. But I never get tired of that trope, and other readers who are fans of certain types of stories, won't get tired either…as long as the writing is strong and original.
Think of it this way. Two nights per week my family eats chicken for dinner, and I'm in charge of the cooking. What if I all I did was grill some chicken breast and leave it at that? That chicken's pretty good the first night. Okay the second night. By week four, I can guarantee you my family, and my own taste buds, are rebelling. That's why I change it up. We have stir-fry, fajitas, pasta, burgers, gumbo and anything else I feel like cooking. We're still eating chicken, but I've changed the other ingredients.
Everyone's full, happy and looking forward to more. Isn't that exactly what we writers and readers want?