Trope Denied! NOT Running from an Arranged Marriage

When the heroine is forced to marry an anti-hero, but instead of hatching an elaborate but doomed escape plan, she recognizes running is not an option

The heroine Aria, in Cora Reilly’s Bound by Honor, is betrothed to the son of an Italian mob boss at the age of fifteen, but she doesn’t try to escape before the wedding, though she has the impulse multiple times.

Thank goodness. An important discernment in genre fiction is the decision to use tropes or not to use tropes. And while sometimes rejecting formula seems like an author doth protest too much, the denial in Bound by Honor works to define the heroine, emphasizes the power structure, and allows the true plot of the romance to flourish.

There are elements in this book that would make some women very unhappy, such as the emphasis on the heroine’s virginity and (omitting spoilers) hurtful actions by the hero. And there’s the argument to be made that not fighting back, like her sister Gianna, makes Aria seem like a weak character. Deciding not to run is as much a decision of bravery and intelligence, in Aria’s situation, as the escape attempt is in other books. Besides, Aria isn’t without defiance or disobedience. She picks her battles.

This isn’t to say I dislike the trope in which a heroine runs from an arranged marriage. Most tropes I don’t dislike in and of themselves, but I am critical of how they are used or not used. The escape attempt trope is often used, in part because it’s one possibility of divergence.

The romance plot is like a pendulum, the characters swinging apart and back back together.

Sometimes the separation is emotional, sometimes physical (such as the threat of death).

At one point Luca does commit an act that makes Aria flee, though she returns to his apartment after licking her wounds. Even though she didn’t run before the wedding, it was important that she get away from him at some point in order to fulfill the necessary oscillation of romance development, in which the hero or the heroine have to diverge in order to come back together.

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