Second chance romances are wonderful because of that second chance. They are also very challenging, because we take two people who were in love and did not stay together, and we expect our reader to believe they should still be together¬–even if the couple does not think so! That being said, I love a good second chance romance, because my ooey-gooey heart wants to believe that they never stopped loving each other and that they belong together. We just have to make it believable. Not too challenging, huh? Well, here are five questions I ask myself when I set up a second chance romance.
1) How did your characters fall in love in the first place?
There has to be some intense connection initially. In a second chance book this is usually part of the story. Whether you start with the initial incident, or flash back to it, it’s more than just back story.
Maybe they crushed on each other in high school, getting together right before going away to college. Maybe they had one spectacular hook-up night, like Rhiannon and Samson in Alisha Rai’s The Right Swipe. Or maybe they were young and in love and one of them bolted without much explanation as Ria did to Vikram in Sonali Dev’s The Bollywood Bride. In any case, the connection is intense enough that both parties continue to think about the other, long after the break-up, in spite of angry feelings and the façade of moving on.
2) What breaks them apart?
The reasons here can be many. A fear of not being able to stay committed, or of staying and hurting (or being hurt by) the other party. In Mia Sheridan’s Kyland, Kyland breaks up with Tenleigh so she won’t know what he has sacrificed for her, and so that she’ll leave their small mountain town and have a better life. When Ria breaks Vikram’s heart in The Bollywood Bride, she believes she’s doing what’s best for them both. She still loves him, but she wants him to move on.
Basically, we have to hurt our characters. Like, REALLY hurt them. This is the hardest thing for me, but without this, your book is going nowhere. The initial connection has to be strong enough, and the emotions surrounding the break-up have to be real and consistent with the character, if they are to be believable.
For example, Rhiannon, in The Right Swipe, simply wants a night of sex when she hooks up with Samson. She has rules that include not giving her real name, and not seeing him again, ever. No hints of a relationship at all. They have an incredible night together with an undeniable connection, but she needs to stick to her rules. Samson wants to see her again, and somehow convinces her to meet him again the next day, against her better judgement. So when he doesn’t show, she feels foolish and hurt and angry. She rebuilds her wall higher and stronger than before. When she sees him again six months later, the fact that she refuses to talk to him or listen to his explanation is consistent with her character, and we get it. We (the reader) don’t want his explanation either.
Particularly in contemporary romance, you want to hurt each party enough that this conflict cannot be resolved with a simple conversation. The break-up has to be the result of something so bad, both parties can’t/won’t/don’t want to talk to the other, either from anger, fear, sadness. They would have to make themselves vulnerable, and that is something they cannot, or will not do.
3) What brings them back together?
They’ve broken up, mended their broken hearts and moved on. They may be in new relationships. Why would they revisit their past and the person that hurt them so badly? Obviously, you have to get them in the same space, but if it’s to be believable, it has to be consistent with their characters.
If you did your job well in breaking them up, you might not even know how they’re going to get back together. Apparently, this is a good thing. Because if you don’t know, your reader won’t either, so they’ll keep reading to find out how you figured this out. But it sucks. I’ve been stuck right here for weeks, asking myself how I was going to get these two love birds back in the same space together.
In The Right Swipe, Rhiannon runs into Samson when he steps up to be the face of the company she wants to buy. Her career is her life, and she’s not about to back down from acquiring this company just because he’s the face of it. Ms. Rai also adds in the fake relationship trope (my personal fave), by putting Rhiannon and Sampson in a situation where a fake relationship benefits them both.
Ria, in The Bollywood Bride, must return home to attend her cousin’s wedding. And of course Vikram is there, too. In my debut, Then, Now Always, I force Sam and Maya together by using a secret baby.
These situations force your main characters to interact with one another, adding delicious tension, and bringing them closer together.
4) How do they overcome their differences?
This is where character arcs come in. Each character has to grow. They must come to terms with their own demons before they are emotionally healthy enough to deal with another person.
Sometimes, this means learning why one of them left. Sometimes, it means one has to be strong enough, vulnerable enough to ask the tough questions, and be able to listen to the answers. Sometimes it means your character has to face their own fears/insecurities.
Even if your characters admit to themselves that they love the other person, they have to be strong enough to share that love as well as strong enough to receive love. For them to truly be together, they have to be willing to be vulnerable.
Ms. Rai does this quite well with Rhiannon and Samson. They are definitely attracted to each other, and they have real feelings, but until they are honest with themselves, and vulnerable to one another, they can’t really move forward.
5) Why do they fall in love again?
Here is where my swoony, romantic side takes over. They fall in love again because love conquers all. They truly loved each other (or had an amazing connection) once and those feelings cannot be denied. They belong together.
All of their growth and vulnerability was because they loved each other. The power of that emotion is incredible and healing. They fall in love again because even though they messed up, and still may have growing to do, they have learned to accept themselves as they are, and are finally able to give that love to another person.
Second chance romances are just that, a second chance to fulfil that love. I am particularly drawn to them because of the angst and longing that is satisfied once the couple finds themselves together again. Time may have been lost, but now they can move forward–together.
Happily Ever After. The End.
Mona Shroff is obsessed with everything romantic, so she writes romantic stories by night, even though she’s an optometrist by day. If she’s not writing, she’s making chocolate truffles, riding her bike, or reading, and is just as likely to be drinking wine or gin & tonic with friends and family. She’s blessed with an amazing daughter and loving son who have both gone to college. Mona lives in Maryland with her romance-loving husband. Visit her website or connect with her on Facebook.