Why would a hero and heroine in a contemporary romance novel wed if they are not in love? There are a few tropes writers use to get the couple living as husband and wife. The close proximity allows the characters to learn about each other and work together before they fall in love and find their happily ever after.
But the romance story needs to keep the hero and heroine off-balanced, unsure about their situation, and hesitant to trust one another until the very end. That’s why authors will use the arranged, convenient or forced marriage tropes.
This trope is often found in historical romances and it allows the couple to live together before they fall in love. So why use this trope in contemporary romance novels? One reason is because it puts two strangers together in an intimate situation. Love is not part of the agreement and the characters have to struggle with their unexpected emotions.
The arranged marriage storyline is different from the marriage of convenience because an arranged marriage is expected to last. The arranged marriage is also not a forced marriage because there’s consent. Sure, there’s apprehension, reluctance and full-blown panic, but that’s what makes it fun.
Also, the arranged marriage is more than just an agreement between the husband and wife. There are social and political consequences if the marriage falls apart. (No pressure!) This is why readers will find this trope in romances about rich families, royalty or political dynasties.
Marriage of Convenience
With this trope, both the hero and heroine are gaining something through marriage. It could be any reason such as repairing a reputation, fulfilling a clause in a will or gaining custody of a child. Unlike an arranged marriage, the marriage of convenience is often expected to be temporary. Once their goals are achieved, there will be a divorce or an annulment.
Of course, the hero and heroine fall in love before the deadline is up. There’s often misunderstandings and miscommunication because the guidelines to this marriage are clear: it’s business only.
A character—usually the heroine—is blackmailed, tricked or forced into marriage by the groom. The heroine has no options and no one to turn to for help. Despite her vulnerability, she refuses to be a coward and she’s determined to find a way out of this situation. While she is powerless in the beginning, she gets everything she wants in the end.
The groom, by the way, is the romance hero but it takes almost the entire book for him to redeem himself.
The Forced Marriage trope is popular with readers because of the anti-hero groom, the unbalanced power and the drama. There is lots of drama because there has to be some high stakes for the heroine to enter into this union. The conflict between the hero and heroine is already built in. And when the heroine isn’t trying to find a way to escape, she’s dealing with an internal battle when she feels any kind of affection or alliance with the man.
The arranged, convenient and forced marriages in contemporary romance novels offer a slightly different experience for the reader, but they all share unwritten agreements between the hero and heroine, the high emotions of being in close quarters and the promise of falling in love.