Romance Tropes in Jane Austen, by Amanda Kai

Romance Tropes in Jane Austen, by Amanda Kai

When the words “Regency Romance” are used, the first author that comes to most people’s minds is Jane Austen. We could spend all day arguing about whether or not Jane Austen’s books should be classified as “romance books”. Some would say, hands-down, they are, while others would argue that they are social commentaries, women’s fiction, or something else entirely. Whichever way you flop on that debate, there’s no denying that Austen’s books have set the pattern for the last 200 years of romance books that followed. In fact, some of the best-loved romance tropes of today’s books can be found in the romantic pairings that Jane has given us. While there are many more tropes that could be applied to each of these books, here are some of the most prominent romance tropes that can be found: 


“Enemies to Lovers”- Pride and Prejudice

Whenever I find posts online from readers looking for suggestions on great enemies-to-lovers historical romance, I always ask them, “have you read Pride and Prejudice yet”? Elizabeth and Darcy’s passionate relationship is the quintessential enemies to lovers story, in my opinion. While one might argue that Darcy fell for Elizabeth early on, Elizabeth makes no secret of her antipathy for Darcy, and she is equally convinced of his dislike of her for most of the novel, all of which makes the revelation of their mutual love for one another all the more satisfying when it comes to fruition.


“Friends to Lovers” or the “Boy Next Door”- Emma. 

Emma and Mr. Knightley from Emma 2009Friends to lovers, as you might guess, is almost the opposite of the enemies to lovers trope, usually centering on a couple who has known each other for a long time (Mr. Knightley has known Emma since she was born), but for whatever reason, they have never moved past friendship to make their relationship a romantic one. Emma also nicely encompasses the “boy next door” trope, in which the heroine falls for the typical “nice guy” neighbor, often somebody who has grown up alongside her.


“Second-chance”- Persuasion.

Second-chance romances are about couples that were together in the past, but something caused them to break up. When the couple is inevitably thrown together in a social situation some years down the road, this leads to many awkward encounters between them until they finally realize they still have feelings for one another and resolve whatever had kept them apart in the past. Anne and Wentworth fit this pattern to a T, keeping the tension and awkwardness high until the satisfying resolution with what is arguably one of literature’s most romantic letters from a hero to a heroine. 


“Slow Burn” and “Unrequited Love”- Sense and Sensibility.

Sense and Sensibility 1995 weddingElinor and Edward have what I would classify as a “slow burn” romance. They both develop feelings for one another early on, but because Edward is already engaged, they are unable to act on their feelings or even confess them to one another, stringing out the tension between them until the very end. Marriane and Colonel Brandon have a different sort of slow burn– one that is one-sided, on Colonel Brandon’s part, making it an “unrequited love”. The colonel’s patient love for Marianne throughout the story, even while having to suffer watching her fall for Willoughby and get her heart broken, is just one of the reasons we swoon for him. Luckily for Colonel Brandon, his story gets a happy ending when Marianne finally realizes her feelings for him.


“Unrequited Love”- Mansfield Park. 

Fanny Price and Edmund Bertram in Mansfield Park 1999Fanny and Edmund’s story is similar in many ways to Colonel Brandon and Marianne’s, except in this case, it is Fanny who is stuck in the “friend-zone” due to her unrequited love for Edmund, who seems to view her like a sister.  It must have been very painful for Fanny to watch Edmund fall head over heels for the sexy newcomer Mary Crawford, when she’s been in love with him for years. Thankfully, he came to his senses and realized that the real jewel had been living right alongside him all along.


“Holiday Romance”- Northanger Abbey.

You know you’ve read this one before: girl goes on an exciting and exotic vacation to a place she’s never been before. Meets a super cute and nice guy. They fall in love. Misunderstandings happen. The trip ends, and she doesn’t know if they will ever have a future beyond that nice little vacation. That’s basically what happens to Catherine Moreland when she meets Mr.Tilney on her trip to Bath. Her excitement continues when the Tilney’s invite her to come to their gothic-castle home, Northanger Abbey. Then, Catherine’s wild imagination gets her into trouble and causes some misunderstandings between her and Mr. Tilney. He seems to forgive her, but then his dad throws her out after finding out that she wasn’t as rich as he thought she was. Fortunately for Catherine, Mr. Tilney isn’t so concerned with money, and he pursues Catherine at her home where he confesses his love, so Catherine gets a nice ending to her vacation after all.


What romance tropes do you enjoy reading the most?  Are there some other ones you’ve spotted in Jane’s books that you’d like to discuss? Which tropes would you love to see acted out by some of the characters that didn’t occur in the course of the novel? Would the outcome of the novel have been changed at all?  I would love to hear your thoughts!


While you’re thinking about romance tropes, here are some of the ones that can be found in my books:

“Secret Admirers”- Elizabeth’s Secret Admirer. A twist on the enemies to lovers in which the secret admirers turn out to be enemies, a la “You’ve Got Mail”. Get this subscriber-exclusive story for FREE when you sign up for my email list!

“Marriage of Convenience”- Marriage and Ministry. The marriage of convenience trope is one of my favorites, which is why I featured it in my Charlotte and Mr. Collins story. Check it out here!

“Forced Marriage”- Unconventional: an Austentatious Comedy that Defies Expectations. In this short story, Darcy is forced to marry Caroline Bingley when he’s really in love with Elizabeth. A comedy episode, not to be taken seriously by anyone!  Read it for laughs here.


Until next time,

Amanda Kai

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Mirta Ines Trupp
October 24, 2021 1:12 PM

Great post! I think I’d have to say that my favorite trope is “Second Chances.” (So hard to choose!)

Caryl Kane
Caryl Kane
October 18, 2021 8:38 PM

Fabulous post Amanda! Friends to more is my favorite trope.

October 17, 2021 2:56 PM

I love a lot of tropes but my favorite is probably forced marriage and marriage of convenience ones.

Rebecca L McBrayer
Rebecca L McBrayer
October 17, 2021 7:52 AM

I also think that Elinor and Edward have a forbidden love because of his engagement. She, being honorable, cannot allow herself to love him after Lucy’s reveal.

We also must mention the secret love of Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill in Emma.

October 17, 2021 7:12 AM

My favourite romance tropes are Darcy and Elizabeth stories! (No surprise there!) I’m not usually a fan of either being involved with someone else, although I have read a few. In the stories I now read I do tend to feel for Darcy’s suffering and actually prefer them to be a loving couple taking on the world! I suppose this is a little restrictive???? But you did ask!

J. W. Garrett
J. W. Garrett
October 15, 2021 8:50 PM

I think Kirstin said it best that Austen struck a nice balance between ODC. Many times I’ve read where that pendulum swung too far and gave us a bad Darcy to the point I wanted to smash him. Then it went in the other direction and gave us a bad Elizabeth where I wanted to smash her. In both cases I wanted to yell… run… run far and run fast. You don’t want a piece of that. LOL! It is a fine balance indeed. JAFF branches out in many directions. There are more and more paranormal stories coming forth. Then we have the trope where someone falls and or is injured in some fashion and may or may not have amnesia. I love the titled stories where someone on either side is or becomes titled. Yeah, those are fun. Thank you for this interesting post.

Kirstin Odegaard
October 15, 2021 1:02 PM

Enemies to lovers is my favorite, too! But sometimes I’ve noticed the guy is too much of a jerk in the beginning, and it’s hard to believe the woman would forgive all that to the point where she’d fall in love with him. Austen really strikes a nice balance where we can still forgive Darcy.
Great post!

cindie snyder
cindie snyder
October 15, 2021 8:04 AM

Great post! I like all but probably like the enemies to friends best.

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