CONTENT WARNING: illustrated depictions of gore, violence and body-horror.

Uncommon Romance Tropes Illustrated

16 March 2023
#2k22 #2k19 #cute #romance #article #monsterromance

Reading time: 7 min

My experience with books, films and games has always boiled down to which of the side characters are worth having a crush on. What’s so fun about the goody-two-shoe main character, eh?

As a result, my favourite ship dynamics are also of the uncommon kind. That miserable disaster who you can’t help but love-to-hate, the designated ‘horrible monster’ who may be a great ally but absolutely not a conventional romance choice. Or the cutest size-different couple happening in the background while no one’s watching.

I’m certain you’ve already heard of the majority of the mainstream pairings representing the below, so allow me to provide you with a few hidden gems to explore instead (at least, the ones I can find so far). I’ll revisit this article from time to time and add more suggestions!

Monster x human

I’m not sure how you could be on my blog without knowing this is what I’m all about.

A trope as old as time, and before I break into a cliche song from Beauty and the Beast, this is a theme which I am especially fussy about. Nowadays, the genre sports a huge variety of books (of the naughty sort) covering every possible type of monster, but I enjoy a bit more subtlety (in mood) and depth (in design or description).

While you can choose from mysterious biters to shaggy oversized violent dogs, for me to count as a ‘proper’ monster romance, the monster in question has to be pushing the envelope. They’re horrendous, eldritch, terrifying, hulking, unexplainable, bizarre or a mixture of the above. A pair of cute horns does not cut it!

So, here are some of my latest top picks for romantic monster stories that may surprise you pleasantly:

  • Suitor Armor by Purpah: in a medieval fantasy world, fae are all but wiped out, and one fairy-in-hiding falls for the living suit of armor tasked with being the royal guard and developing his own personality. An incredibly sweet webcomic but with a hard-hitting dark atmosphere between the cracks.

  • Barbarous by Johnny Wander: a comic still in progress, about a sorceress trying to connect with her magic again after dropping out of the academy, and a monster who was created to follow everyone else’s wishes, no matter how hard he tries to resist… (this also counts as a size-difference ship, see below!)

Monster x monster

Even though the monster x human combination provides that mesmerising perspective of adoring something more-than-human, surely, we’re familiar with it enough that we can relate to the main pair both being monstrous.

I wished I had examples for this one, but it’s proving to be a doozy to find!

Height difference

There’s just something amusing about the dynamic of a short and very tall couple trying to reconcile the meters between them. For this to count for me, it has to be more than a head’s length.

Stoop over for good fluff:

  • Teddy Bear (2012) film: this one’s a bit more of an atmospheric experience, about a body-builder, stuck with mother, trying to find love far, far away from the four walls of his small home.


A more recent acquisition in my favourite pairings. Romances are chock-full of questionable partnerships, but I struggle to find many where the tragedy is especially poignant (and not just cynical or over-exaggerated).

Have at thee some deliciously sharp besotten enemies:

  • Spades Slick and Snowman from Homestuck by Andrew Hussie: while I wouldn’t jump on this mammoth of a digital comic just for this one fleeting pairing, it was… something while it lasted.

  • The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht: in a miserable, dreary town in the midst of an industrial revolution, one frail, vengeful aristocrat plots the city’s downfall and employs the immortal spring-jack monster skulking the streets as body-guard and confidant. This pair-up is as macabre as it is gloriously tragic.

Sharp & Soft

Can you tell I like contrast? As the adage goes, ‘opposites attract’, although I’ve noticed they’re either terribly mismatched, or the difference is barely skin-deep that it feels more like a passing thought.

A storyteller who can commit to the bit and make two characters work well together while being nothing alike, by design or personality, is gold:

  • Izumi Curtis and Sig Curtis from Fullmetal Alchemist: while a side couple, they bowl you over as soon as they show up. A sharp teacher and a gentle giant. Sweet… and terrifying. As for the endless debate which version of the anime to watch: if you like a concise cast and tight symbolism, then watch the first series, but if you prefer a sprawling epic, then Brotherhood will be more your thing.

  • Long Exposure by Mars Heyward: the classic nerd & bully, wrapped up together in a supernatural accident and forced to work it out together, including their budding mutual attraction.


Skeleton’ focused stories are rare, full-stop. I can count them on one hand (Skulduggery Pleasant, Death from Terry Pratchett’s world), and just as few where romance is involved:

  • Grim Fandango: I’ll break my ‘avoid classics’ rule for this one, because it is just so sublime! Manuel Calavera, working as a grim reaper desperate for a promotion in order to travel to his final rest, ends up chasing his client across the land of the dead when the corruption at work prevents him from offering her rightfully earned train ticket.

  • Coco: while not the focus of the film, the great-grandparents’ wrought romance is worth an honorable mention as Miguel tries to get his family’s blessing in order to return to life… except they hate his passion of music. And the film is chock-full of delightful skeletons.

  • The Book of Life: In a similar veign, the Book of Life follows a musician into the underworld after being poisoned for trying to court the love of his life not intended for him. Although I probably find the dynamic between the two primary deities (a touch of the ‘stabby’ dynamic above) more enticing!

As a bonus, here’s a few older sketches expanding on the above themes.. and a few new ones:

If you have any recommendations or enjoy these exact tropes (why, hello, neighbour), then make sure to subscribe to my newsletter, and reply! I will likely cover all of these tropes at least once.

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