Romantic Plot Devices in Novels

Last week, we talked about the types of romance in novels: Friend Turned Lover, Enemy Turned Lover, and “Love at First Sight”. Today, we’re getting more specific and studying romantic plot devices: Damsel in Distress, Heroine Captured by Hero, Love Triangle, Trapped in Marriage, and Forbidden Love.


Damsel in Distress

The heroine is stuck in some sort of situation that only the hero can get her out of. Or the hero’s main job is to keep the heroine out of danger. This has the potential to be a very fun plot device if the heroine is headstrong and has a penchant for getting into things. But this plot device also has a tendency to be cliché. Oftentimes, the hero in these stories is the Protector hero type.


Ehvah After

David is an Australian bodyguard who protects Ehvah. He has to save her on multiple occasions.



In this dystopian twist on little red riding hood, Scarlet’s grandma has been kidnapped by an evil organization. The only person who can help is a street fighter named Wolf. Coincidence?



Jacin is Princess Winter’s bodyguard, and oftentimes he has to protect her from herself. Winter has decided not to use her inherent telepathic abilities, because she doesn’t like manipulating people. Unfortunately, neglecting your telepathic gift results in hallucinations.


Blue Enchantress

Blue Enchantress opens with Hope being auctioned off to the highest bidder. Nathaniel buys her by paying with one of his merchant ships. He used to be completely in love with her, but after continually being snubbed, his affection has waned, and now he helps her simply out of a sense of compassion and duty.


Heroine Captured by Hero

This has to be one of my favorites. As you can imagine, this is often an Enemy Turned Lover style of romance. They love to hate each other in the beginning, providing plenty of sparks and romantic tension, and end up loving each other by the end.


Lady at Arms

Lizanne mistakes the hero, Ranulf, as the brigand who nearly tarnished her reputation. She takes him prisoner, but in a sudden turn of events, he escapes and takes her prisoner. Throughout the book, Lizanne is trying to get him to admit who he “truly” is, while Ranulf is trying to avoid falling for her. Lizanne’s capture ratchets the tension as she tries to escape, while Ranulf tries to keep her as his captive. Their goals clash for nearly the entire book. We don’t just see sparks fly between these two; we see fireworks.


The Raven Saint

Grace is kidnapped by the French mercenary, Rafe, who plans to auction her off to a Spanish Don. As you can imagine, they clash repeatedly as Grace tries to escape and Rafe tries to resist falling for her.


Love Triangle

This is another type of romance that tends to veer towards the cliché. As you already know, a love triangle is where typically the heroine has to choose between two guys.

Note: When writing, don’t use them to add superficial conflict. That’s often what makes love triangles unbearably annoying. See what you can do to make the love triangle inherent to the plot.


The Selection

When the prince of the country is ready to get married, the Selection is created. Thirty-fix girls are chosen to live at the palace, so the prince can see which one he’s compatible with. America never intended to be one of the Selected. She only entered to please her mother and boyfriend, who wanted her to have the best life possible. At first, the romance is between her and Aspen, her boyfriend, but then she warms up to Maxon, the prince, but then her boyfriend is promoted to palace guard, and she has an opportunity to reunite with him. Who do you think she should be with? And who do you think she chooses (if you haven’t read the series)?


Trapped in Marriage

The hero and heroine are trapped into a marriage that, in most cases, neither want. The marriage could be for money, protection, or transportation. The story usually begins with the hero and heroine at odds with each other and ends with them glad to be engaged or married.


The Last Broken Promise

In order to secure passage aboard Captain Finn’s ship, Jessamine binds herself to Finn in a courtship, claiming her reputation is ruined, since they spent a night together in a cell. The last thing Finn wants is to drag a tiny, feisty nun to London. Jessamine’s goal is to get to London, while Finn’s goal is to not take her aboard his ship. This provides a little extra clash that ramps up the romantic tension throughout the book.


Diamond of the Rockies (The Rose Legacy, Sweet Boundless, The Tender Vine)


The first book ends with Carina and Quillan getting married to protect Carina, so she doesn’t have to marry an evil man. This could also fall under Damsel in Distress, given the circumstances.


Charity’s Cross

After jumping from a ship and being rescued from drowning by Elias, Charity claims to be his wife in order to avoid certain death for killing her abusive husband. Elias is confused, because he clearly knows that they aren’t married, but goes along with the ruse in hopes of helping her.


Blue Enchantress


At one point in the story, Nathaniel claims to be Hope’s husband in order to save her from being ravished by pirates.


Forbidden Love

This is a classic. Forbidden love could mean crossing classes, a family feud (Romeo and Juliet, anyone?), or simply an unusual and unexpected match. In romances, sometimes I find that beyond shallow misunderstandings, there’s no real conflict. Forbidden Love solves this problem.



Winter is a princess, while Jacin is simply a bodyguard. Though they’re often close to each other, at least physically, their different stations keep them apart.


Mercy’s Heart

Mercy is the baseborn daughter of the king. She was promised to another man years ago, but when she is given as a prize to Titus the Norseman, her previous engagement is forgotten. Until after her wedding, when her former betrothed, who’s also Titus’ enemy, claims her as his own. I promise this has a happy ending—without anyone resorting to infidelity.



In Perfected, Ella is seen as nothing more than a genetically modified pet, though she’s a human. She eventually falls in love with Penn, her owner’s son.



Cinder is a mechanic, while Kai is the prince. What else needs to be said?


Of these, which is your favorite romantic plot device? Which are cliché? Which romantic plot devices did I miss?




Recent Comments

  • (screams) Its her!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    August 20, 2016 - 7:39 pm · Reply

    (phantom of the opera music in the background)
    (wicked music in the background)
    (Frozen music in the background)

  • Hannah
    August 22, 2016 - 7:39 pm · Reply

    Great, comprehensive post! I love how you used the books you have reviewed as examples.

    One plot device I see a lot is the “Childhood Best Friend” one, which is often mixed with the love triangle. The hero and heroine have known each other forever and are best friends, often so close they feel almost like siblings. There isn’t any romantic attraction. However, one of them leaves temporarily and they fall out of touch for a while. When they meet up again as adults, one suddenly realizes how romantically desirable the other one is, while the other is still quite happy just being friends.

    Usually, another romantic interest is involved, making this one related to a love triangle. For example, the heroine will leave for a while but come back home eventually with a boyfriend or fiance. The best friend falls in love with her, but she just wants to preserve the friendship. Often she will be torn between her new flame and her old faithful companion.

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