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At its core, this trope transpires when a character's logic and train of thought run on Romance Novel conventions.

In its most severe cases, one character is totally in love with another and the idea of confessing his/her feelings sends said character directly into full blown delusions of grandeur about returned affections. The character tends to think of romance in completely idealized terms, and their train of thought plays out like the summary of a category romance novel.

Marks of this in animation include an Art Shift, a misty border if not a misty filter over the entire frame, symbolic surroundings (color background, roses, fireworks, etc), and a liberal coating of Bishie Sparkle for the characters to stare at one another adoringly through. Arguably it is much more fun to see characters thinking like romance novels in animation than anywhere else if for no other reason than these overblown delusions.

In Live Action works or Literature it is more common for the mental image to be implied while the character rambles soliloquizes about how the love scene will turn out, or for the other characters' actions to reveal their Romance Novel idealism.

See also Daydream Surprise for the delusion itself. Compare to Imagine Spot, Dream Sequence, and Gilligan Cut.

Examples of Thinks Like a Romance Novel include:


Anime and Manga

  • Ranma ½ - Rumiko Takahashi not only loves giving her characters overblown romantic fantasies, but also idealized visions of victory etc.
    • Ryoga certainly thinks in these terms about half the times he dreams about confessing to Akane.
    • During the Gambling King arc, Ukyo made a bet with Ranma that if he lost against the Big Bad, he would become her partner in a business venture... in the Siberian Tundra... where he would inevitably have a Love Epiphany, and midst the desolation of the landscape their love would blossom. If that's not a Category Romance fantasy, this troper does not know what is.
    • Tatewaki Kuno has these fantasies a lot... usually with two women throwing themselves at him (which, according to his Self-Serving Memory, puts his fantasies in the genre of Nonfiction).
    • Kodachi Kuno as well, though her fantasies appear to be a bit more intimate.
    • Happosai's fantasies tend more towards erotic fanfiction than category romance, though he's had his moments.
    • Hikaru Gosunguki tends to daydream along the lines of Romance Sitcoms whenever he thinks about Akane.
  • Black Butler has Grelle Sutcliffe, who thinks like this about Sebastian. This has gone to the extent of Grelle yelling that he wants to have Sebastian's babies, complete with roses and sparkles (and a disgusted Sebastian). It's even used to get assistance from Grelle by promising him things such as an entire day to do whatever he likes with Sebastian, or an opportunity to take pictures of Sebastian in sexy poses.
  • In Black Cat, Kyoko has a scene like this where she imagines herself confessing her love to Train.
  • Kyouko from Skip Beat lives and breathes this trope.
    • She thinks straight out of classic fairy tales, though. Though there might be some overlap.
  • From D.N.Angel we have Daisuke who thinks this way about Risa Harada, and Risa Harada who thinks this way about Daisuke's Alter Ego Dark.
  • From Flint the Time Detective, we have the Anne Rice Vampire wannabe Merlock, who has such fantasies about the female lead Sara. Kind of squicky when you take into account that she's about ten, his age as a Dhampyr is skewed, and during an episode where Sara was sized up without Magic Pants he saved her modesty by magicking up a Playboy Bunny costume for her. And took lots of pictures.
  • In Junjou Romantica it happens to a couple of characters. In Misaki's case, it involves Usami being a pervert (and then the exact thing happens), while in Nowaki's case, it was about Hiro-san being acting like a housewife (not a chance).
  • Midori Days: Ayase is very influenced by the shoujo manga she reads, to the point where whenever she imagines her romantic moments with Seiji, he's suddenly a Bishonen and harpsichord music plays.
  • In the One Piece anime, Boa Hancock does this for Luffy at the beginning of every episode while they're on the boat in transit from The Island of Women to Impel Down. Sanji also does this during the Water 7 arc when he imagines he and Robin dancing in a fairy tale-esque setting.
  • In Ouran High School Host Club, the hosts act the way they do because they know this is the way their clients think.
    • Though, Tamaki seems rarely to think in a manner that isn't straight out of some category of Romance Novel.
  • In Sailor Moon, the eponymous character has a number of these fantasies about Tuxedo Mask, sometimes involving the arcade guy or the Moonlight Knight for good measure. She seems to slip into these fantasies at least once every couple of episodes in the first couple of seasons.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! Season 0 and the manga, Hiroto Honda (Tristan Taylor) goes into this trope in spades regarding Miho Nosaka. He goes off on a fantasy/rant about them together almost EVERY TIME he talks about/to her.
  • A Durarara April Fools story reveals that Erika's inner-narrative, when it comes to the subject of Shizuo and Izaya, is written entirely in Mills and Boon Prose.
  • In one episode of My Wife Is a High School Girl, Asami simply walks into a store and has a marriage proposal a few minutes later. The shopkeeper certainly saw her in a favorable light--slightly blurry, with sparkles and roses all around.
  • In Fairy Tail, Juvia does this a lot in regards to Gray.
  • Literature Girl from Daily Lives of High School Boys seems to think this way concerning her crush Hidenori--in fact, her crush with him is out of her desire to re-enact her love novel. Hidenori, meanwhile, doesn't want anything to do with her; in one skit he prefers Potty Failure than being seen by her!

Comic Books

  • The DCU character Flamebird appears to think this way: Themed Weapons + Costume + Vigilantism = Instant Relationship with Superhero Crush!
  • Harley Quinn exhibits this constantly, idealizing and thinking of her abusive, co-dependent relationship with The Joker as a storybook romance.

Fan Works

  • Fans thinking this way about their respective ships is as good a reason as any that most fan fiction is heavily based on romantic plots/subplots.
  • Bella, from the Twilight fanfic Luminosity, deduces that attraction between two vampires is always symmetrical, mutual and exclusive because vampirism has the odd quirk of conferring the hallmarks of romantic fiction to anyone afflicted by it. She realizes that if she chooses to become immortal then she will also be choosing to be inescapably in love with someone she doesn't even know or like.
  • For SpongeBob SquarePants there is this comic. Thinking like a romance novel at its best.

Film

  • In The Princess Diaries, Anne Hathaway describes what her perfect first kiss will be like.
  • In Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Mrs. Lovett's entire scene for "By The Sea".
  • Hellboy appears to be a big ol' softie for a romantic storyline with his girlfriend like any Romance Novel addict.
    • Arguably, since in the second movie she essentially condemned the world to save Hellboy, Liz Sherman has Romance Novel ideals in the form of "Love at any cost."
  • In High School Musical, Zeke appears to have something like this train of thought--he was true to himself, so of course the girl he likes will return his affections! If not, there's always other ways...
  • In a deleted scene from Serenity, Inara is having a conversation with another Companion School instructor, revealing that many apprentice companions believe Inara and Mal had quite a lemony love story going on.
  • In Sky High, the main character has one of these moments when he first sees the Student Council President, that song plays and everything faces away. True love, no doubt about it.
  • Played with in Sleepless in Seattle. It was Lampshaded with Rosie O'Donnell's line "You don't want to be in love. You want to be in love in a movie." However, little did she know, Sleepless In Seattle is itself a romantic comedy, so it turns out Meg Ryan's character was actually Right Genre Savvy.

Literature

  • Emma is perhaps literature's best example, though her Romance Novel thoughts typically center around the people she's playing matchmaker for.
    • Considering that the novel was a satire of thinking like a Romance Novel, it only makes sense.
  • From Inkheart, literal Arab Expy Farrid thinks this way about Meggie, even to the point of after their first kiss proclaiming they will get married. It doesn't work out. Really, Meggie?
  • One father in Judge Dee blames his daughter's reading of great love stories for her behavior, refusing to take a husband who isn't "just right."
  • Emma Bovary is another classic example. The heroine was raised in a convent where romance novels were passed around by the girls, and she believes love can only exist in the grandiose, sentimental way. She ruins her first marriage (and life) for this.
  • In Mort by Terry Pratchett, there is Ysabel, who goes into the room with the books of life writing themselves to read all the real-life stories of tragic love that there are, and these stories form the basis of her understanding of romance.
  • One R.L. Stine novel involves a heroine with... perhaps a tenuous grasp on reality, as she typically has fantasies about being more assertive and attractive than she is, and stealing her love interest away from his Rich Bitch girlfriend.
  • Mia from The Princess Diaries thinks about her love life (and other people's love lives) in this way a lot of the time. So does her friend, Tina.
  • Too many PG Wodehouse characters to name.
  • Michael from the Knight and Rogue Series manages to do this while also being able to use normal logic (or as much of that as he usually could.) He thinks that his love for Rosamund will overcome the barriers between them, but when she falls for another traveler he decides to help her, figuring that when she sees what it's like outside her pampered home life she'll give up on him.
  • In Twilight, Bella always compares her situation to romance novels or theater, varying from book to book (Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights).

Live Action TV

  • From Babylon 5 we have Marcus Cole, who out of idealism for love defied A Man Is Not a Virgin, and then fell in love with Susan Ivanova. Unfortunately, his Heroic Sacrifice and her bad timing is one of the reasons why All Love Is Unrequited.
  • The Adventures of Brisco County Jr had a Historical Romance Novel right in the middle of the plot basically any time the eponymous Brisco interacted with his Love Interest Dixie Cousins. Whether this was the writers or characters thinking like romance novel plots is debatable.
  • For a short period near the end of Season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spike seems to believe that his relationship to Buffy is the plot of a Gothic Romance Novel. That whole attempted rape thing really puts a damper on their relationship at the beginning of Season 7.
  • Kaylee from Firefly seems to think this way when it comes to Simon Tam--even trying Beautiful All Along (though it was more for her benefit), Through His Stomach (though she seems to cook for the whole crew a lot, and being his best friend (resting her legs on his lap).
  • In The Magnificent Seven TV series, the character Casey Wells is introduced as an injection of estrogen and love interest for upstart-youth J.D. Dunne. Her crush and idealism are so strong that she enlists the aide of Buck Wilmington, the group womanizer, for a Beautiful All Along gambit.
  • In Roswell, Liz had more than a few elaborate fantasies about her Love Interest Max coming on to her. They were very nice strawberries...
  • In the Star Trek the Original Series episode "Who Mourns for Adonais?" the eponymous Adonais has everything lined up to be the Marty Stu hero of his own Romance Novel, pretty little Yeoman and all. It doesn't work out.
  • In the new reboot of V, it would seem that the heroine's son who's unknowingly dating Cthulu's daughter seems to think that he's just in some cross-cultural successful love story.
  • On Gossip Girl Blair Waldorf Thinks Like A Romantic Movie, or more specifically romantic films of the golden age Hollywood variety. To the point where her ex-boyfriend thinks the most romantic thing he can do to win her back is give her an ultimatum a la An Affair to Remember.
  • In The Office, this is one of the main culprits of Michael's personal failures. He consistently tries to live up romantic tropes but ultimately this is doomed because This Is Reality. Until he marries Holly, anyway!
  • The unsub of one Criminal minds episode thought like this. Or more accurately she thought like a fairy tale. (Cinderella, to be exact) And as for any guy who didn't meet her idealized image of Prince Charming, well, it didn't end well for them.

Theater

Video Games

Tabletop Games

  • The villain Tenderheart from Dark Champions believes has the delusion that life works like a romance novel and her criminal career is based around the idea that a superhero will fall in love with her.

Music

Webcomics

  • Tsukiko from The Order of the Stick has this mixed with two other tropes - Wrong Genre Savvy and Insane Troll Logic. First, she thinks that because Living Are Bastards, then the Undeads, as the antithesis of life, must be really good and just misunderstood. This makes her act like she lives in a romance novel with strong Twilight overtones, not in fantasy setting based on Dungeons and Dragons. Because of that she considers Xykon to be this perfect man who will finally fall in love with her, and sees Redcloak as nothing more but his cowardly loser sidekick who gets between them and who she can humilate without conequences. Finally Redcloak decides to prove to her that a) she is wrong about the undeads and b) underestimating him is a very bad idea.

Web Original

Western Animation

Real Life

  • An experiment in which one group of participants watched a romantic comedy and another group watched a drama found that the group watching a romantic comedy became more idealistic about love and romance.
  • Very few Romance Novel heroines think this way, as it would sort of defeat the black moment of the three-act structure. Their authors, however, are literally paid for this trope. Many, if you sit down and talk to them, are just as cynical about love as most people who don't read romance novels. It's all about selling the fantasy.
  • Many have theorized that Twilight is causing at least one generation of girls, if not two, to think in purely romance novel terms when it comes to relationships.
  • Younger girls may have little to no real-life experience in romance. It's only natural that you would accept what you see in fiction when you have no personal experience to compare it to.
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