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Beyond the Book: Friends to Lovers Trope by Margaret Rowe

Last week I floated the idea of discontinuing the First Sale feature and while there are fans of the feature, many others chimed in to say that they had First Sale fatigue, like me. Based upon the suggestion of FiaQ, I tossed out the idea to authors to write an “author’s cut” feature about a particular trope. I asked specifically for authors who were writing about the friends to lovers trope as it is one of my favorites. Maggie Robinson aka Margaret Rowe offered up the following:


Any Wicked Thing by Margaret Rowe

Many thanks to Jane (and the wonders of Twitter) for the opportunity to inaugurate a new Monday feature here at DA. I haven't felt so virginal since I was-sixteen.

Connection. Acceptance. They're what most of us search for all our lives. We want to belong somewhere, that when the tribe speaks, it says, "Sit down and relax. We love you just as you are." My friend Claudia gave me a poem decades ago, author unknown. The last stanza reads, "We turn to the friends who have stuck through the years, who echo our laughter and dry all our tears. They know every weakness and fault we possess, but somehow forget them in friendship's caress." Corny, but lovely just the same.

Who better to know and love us than our oldest friend, the guy next door? The kid who pulled our metaphorical pigtails, the boy who kept us conscious through that ghastly 8 A.M. class, the office mate who shared his Twix bar every day at the 4 P.M. sinking spell. The friends to lovers trope is a popular one in romance novels for a reason. It provides both writer and reader a shorthand connection, a shared history of two people who are close and grow closer still, the comfort of knowing that when the lust fades (in three years, according to some experts), the foundation of friendship will be there and stronger than ever.

Of course, the lust never fades in romance novels.   :)

Any Wicked Thing (AMZN link), which releases tomorrow from Berkley Heat, is chock-full of lust between two childhood friends-turned-lovers-turned-enemies-turned lovers again. (In the ten novels, novellas and short stories I've completed writing as Maggie Robinson and Margaret Rowe, five of them feature the reunion of childhood friends and/or lovers. I sense a trend here. I'm a sucker for getting people together and giving them second-‘or third-‘chances, not that I want to hook up with my high school boyfriend myself, LOL.)

AWT's hero, Sebastian Goddard, the Duke of Roxbury, has spent a decade being as decadent as he can. But when he finally comes home to settle scores and have afternoon tea, he finds Frederica Wells, more seductive than ever.

He had known [her] since she was in leading strings, a motherless girl brought to Roxbury Park when his own father hired hers. [His] best childhood memories involved Freddie. As he recalled, she'd trailed after him like a stubborn puppy and he'd tormented her as little boys from time immemorial tormented little girls. There had been the requisite spiders. Mud pies. He hoped none was on the menu today-

Where was the chubby chit he remembered? The girl who fenced and fished with him? Or even the girl crying crocodile tears? In her place was a curvaceous creature with gilt-streaked hair, her tongue licking a lucky wayward crumb from plump, pink lips. Whose plumper white breasts nearly spilled from a flimsy dress that was surely too low-cut for tea. He'd been without a woman too long if just the sight of his old friend caused him such stimulation. This was Freddie, whose pigtails he'd pulled, whose feet he'd tripped, who'd bedeviled him like a little leech until he went away to school.

Freddie's all grown up, and about to make Sebastian an offer he can't refuse. And because of their long-standing friendship, she's able to understand his troubled past and accede to his greatest need. They are connected beyond silken ropes and shared secrets, and her love cuts the knots of his own bondage to set him free.

Do you have a favorite friends to lovers book? I love Loretta Chase's Last Night's Scandal. I'm so glad she got Olivia and Peregrine to grow up to have their own romance. Don't Tempt Me, also by Chase, is wonderful too. There's nothing like a befuddled man really seeing a familiar face for the first time.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Keishon
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 08:06:47

    I love this trope as well! There was one book that is unfortunately out of print and the author’s only published book, Remember The Time by Annette Reynolds. It was awesome. Very intense, albeit a bit melodramatic about three best friends who grew up together and the girl marries the wrong one. I’m sure I’m blanking on other titles but that one sticks out the most. I have the Loretta Chase title and will def. give it a read. I went to look at AAR special title listings and didn’t see this trope listed. It must be under reunions or unrequited love, two other tropes that I love.

  2. Jane
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 08:40:33

    @Keishon: I haven’t ever heard of that book. Will go buy a used copy on Amazon.

    I love the trope but I don’t know why. I’m not sure if it is the familiar face thing or the idea, as Maggie puts forward, of falling in love with someone who knows you so well. Maybe it’s because you think that if you fall in love with your best friend, that relationship is bound to last, thus the HEA is more believable?

  3. Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 08:54:57

    Jane, thanks again for the opportunity to blog here!

    @Keishon, I think you’re right–a lot of these books fall into the reunion category, where the h/h get another chance to make things right, or they’ve changed enough to be in the proper emotional place for each other.As my writing shows, I am a total reunion story junkie, and I’m also a fan of the brotherly guy who discovers his friend is definitely NOT his little sister.

  4. Keishon
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 09:08:29

    @jane @MaggieRobinson: the allure for me is that the hero knows all your flaws, have seen you at your worst yet he still loves you for who you are no matter what. Along with what Maggie said, there’s a solid connection there, steadfast and strong. A bond that is hard to break. When the lust has subsided there’s still the friendship which should always be your strongest foundation to get through the challenges. That’s how I interpret this trope. I love it. I love reunion stories too. I think Judith Mcnaught did them well with Paradise (contemporary) and Almost Heaven (historical).

  5. Jane
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 09:12:51

    @Keishon: Oh, Deb Smith writes some of the BEST friends to lovers story. A Place to Call Home. Blue Willow (epic and heartbreaking). Stone Flower Garden (kind of a pale imitation to A Place to Call Home)

  6. Isabel Cooper
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 09:49:39

    I love this trope–partly because of the things that other people have mentioned, but also because I like signs of affection that can go two ways, stealth attraction, and teamwork. Friends-to-lovers has all of that.

    It’s also near to my heart RL: with a few exceptions, all the guys I’ve dated have been my friends beforehand, and most of them have stayed my friends afterwards.

  7. Elyssa Papa
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 10:26:22

    Hi, Maggie! Great blog, and I also love the friends to lovers trope. One of my favorites is Tessa Dare’s GODDESS OF THE HUNT, which is also a double win because of the friend angle and him falling for his friend’s younger sister. I think what I like about this trope is how the characters navigate from friends to lovers, and the realization that there is something a whole lot more between them.

  8. Susan Reader
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 10:45:11

    One of my favorites is Kathleen Gilles Seidel’s MAYBE THIS TIME.

  9. Lynn S.
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 11:24:02

    This is a wonderful way to start the week. Last Night’s Scandal is a great example although my favorite part of that book was the young lovers aspect. Sarah Mayberry’s Anything for You comes immediately to mind and has the added bonus of unrequited love going for it. There are others my brain won’t access right now.

    I’m easy on the tropes and themes. A good story, well told, and I’m happy. I do love the element of pursuit though.

    Maggie, good luck with the sales.

  10. Sunita
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 12:05:38

    Great post, Maggie! I love this trope so much. Sarah Morgan has a terrific Medical romance with a friends-to-lovers + unrequited love combo, The Doctor’s Christmas Bride. The H & h are on a mountain rescue team and have known each other forever. They are very close friends and the H is clueless about the h’s feelings. She begins to date and he hates it but can’t figure out why.

  11. Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 12:44:05

    Thanks for all the good wishes! I really love Sebastian and Freddie and hope readers will enjoy their sensual journey. I’m adding to the TBB list–just what I need, more books to distract me. *g*

  12. DM
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 13:25:21

    I love the idea of authors talking about tropes in this space. That said, this read like cheerleading for the book and the trope, and doesn’t really inspire me to discuss. I was hoping for real insight here. A glimpse into the thoughtful process that goes on when an author chooses a trope. Not just here’s why I love it! But here is why this is difficult to pull off and here are the things that do and don’t excite me about this trope. I want to know which scenes were difficult to write and why, what the pitfalls of friends to lovers can be and how you believe you avoided them. What are, in your opinion, are the best and worst books that use this trope, and why? How did they influence your writing, shape your approach? The readers of DA are impressively well read in and outside the genre, so a post on the friends to lovers trope that doesn’t reference a single title beyond the author’s upcoming release feels more like unpaid advertising than a catalyst for discussion.

  13. Jane
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 14:00:01

    @DM I have a great post in the hopper by Avon Editor Tessa Woodward regarding an April release, Secrets of a Proper Countess, that traces the book from submission to publication. I think that we are kind of experiencing growing pains and your input will be useful for authors going forward.

  14. Elyssa Papa
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 14:27:26

    @Jane: I really can’t wait to read the Tessa Woodward blog.

  15. Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 14:31:37

    @DM I worried if this seemed too promo-y, and I guess I now have the answer. :)

  16. DM
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 14:49:37


    That sounds like a great read! My comments aren’t meant to slam the site or this feature. You do an amazing job here.

    I felt compelled to respond to this post because I believe that romance deserves the same depth of discussion as other forms of entertainment, and it always makes me sad to see authors shy away from the opportunity to present themselves as serious artists, especially in forums like this one where the reviewers and readers treat them as such.

    One of the most incisive and revealing film commentaries I’ve ever listened to accompanies one of the most “popcorn” films of all time: The Mummy. Director Stephen Sommers and editor Bob Ducsay talk about their influences, the genre, and the obstacles they overcame to tell the best story they knew how. They didn’t feel obliged to pretend that the project was without problems, or that everything that made it into the film was golden, just because they were working in a genre that is popular and entertaining and sometimes seen by critics as inferior.

  17. DM
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 14:53:58


    Lol. Well, if you must know, I plan to buy the book now. So the promotional parts definitely worked!

  18. Tiffany Clare
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 15:29:24

    Waves madly to Maggie!

    Friends to lovers is an awesome trope! I love the added tension, the figuring out are we friends or are we more? When really, you do kind of want to marry your best friend. There is so much history that adds to the tension that makes this trope wonderful! And I might be a bit biased, but this book frickin’ rocks! I love Seb!

    There was this JQ book, that also falls under the I married by best friends girl trope, that had some of these friends to lovers themes. Wicked in the title. I can never remember titles!

  19. Anthea Lawson
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 15:49:53

    @ Tiffany, above: JQs WHEN HE WAS WICKED. A hot dark and deep read. I highly recommend this to people who aren’t necessarily fans of the “lighter” regencies. Plus, yes, a great friends-to-lovers journey chock full of issues and obstacles.

    I like where this Monday feature is going, Jane! Looking forward to seeing it evolve.

  20. Nalini Singh
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 16:02:17

    I love friends to lovers stories as well. I think the appeal, as Keishon said above, is that these two people know one another’s every flaw, and they love each other in spite of – perhaps because of – those flaws.

    There’s also a richness of history between two people who are friends, so the relationship is already in a deep emotional place from the very beginning.

    In terms of great friends-to-lovers books, I thought Karina Bliss’s recent release was fantastic.

  21. kate Pearce
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 16:33:22

    I also like this trope because, to be quite honest, as a writer it allows you to get your h/h into bed quicker and makes that physical connection more meaningful and believable. They have history, they have familiarity ,and sometimes they’ve even done it before, so from that arises excellent conflict and sexual tension. :)

  22. Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 16:45:36

    Kate, that’s my dirty little secret, too. ;)When I referred to “shorthand” above, it really helps if there is history between the h/h to get the story moving in the right direction. I found it especially useful in a novella I wrote. You have to pack a lot in a short amount of space, and having a relationship already established is a tremendous help.

    In life as well as in writing, I’ve discovered I’m a bit of a bulldog, never letting go of the bone. Turning a loving friendship into friendly loving is particularly satisfying.

  23. Lynn S.
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 16:59:39

    @DM: I also love the meaty discussions, but my brain appreciated the break this Monday after all the publishing industry drama of the past week. The light tone of this article was custom made, enough so that I brushed off the promotional light that was there. A balancing act for authors I am sure anytime they write articles or comment outside their own websites and blogs.

    This brings up an interesting issue to me. I’ve often wondered about the difficulties of maintaining a popular blog for a content hungry public. Especially one that is geared towards readers who, as we all know, if pressed, will read the back of a note pad. It says “100% recycled content. Made in U.S.A.” (flag and all).

    Another thought here. I wonder how often books with the friends to lovers trope also includes the element of unrequited love and curious as to the reasons behind that. Guess my brain is gearing up for Tuesday now.

    @Anthea Lawson: When He was Wicked, that’s one of the books I couldn’t access earlier. Only Quinn I thoroughly enjoyed. Great book and yep, unrequited love in this one too.

  24. Karina Bliss-
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 18:28:29

    Maggie, I like the bulldog comment – never letting go of the bone in terms of turning a loving friends into a satisfying friends loving story.
    What I enjoy about reading and writing this trope is the emotional honesty between two people who know each other well. And that intimate knowledge of each other is ammunition which can be used to either hurt or persuade.
    Plus there’s none of the protective ‘rose-tinted’ glasses stage of being (or pretending to be) perfect.
    And the stakes are high because if love doesn’t work out you also stand to lose your friend.
    The pitfalls I find in writing the trope is dealing with: ‘Well, if you’re soulmates what stopped you getting together earlier?’
    And unrequited love can tend toward masochism. I loved Sarah Mayberry’s Anything for You because she overcame that hurdle so very well.

  25. Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 18:44:28

    Really interesting points, Karina. I think the disillusionment that happens in new relationships is reduced some if you start as friends first. Your eyes are wide open.

  26. GrowlyCub
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 21:06:14

    @Keishon: I found a copy of it the other day at Booklegger in Huntsville. Forgot to tell you!

  27. Janine
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 23:32:11

    For me the friends-to-lovers trope is appealing on a couple of different levels. One is that I love the idea of the hero and heroine suddenly seeing each other in a new (romantic) light, even though they’ve known each other for ages.

    But what I love about it even more is that friendship speaks of loyalty. There’s the knowledge that the other person has been there for you through thick and thin, that you can’t scare them away as easily as you could a stranger. They know who you are and they still love you.

    The combination of these two things is really, really potent. For me anyway.

  28. Keishon
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 23:51:15

    @GrowlyCub: Awesome! Hope you like it!

  29. Lynn S.
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 15:20:54

    @Sunita: Missed your comment before. Glad to see you are still trying to take over the world, one medical romance at a time.

  30. SonomaLass
    Mar 02, 2011 @ 02:44:08

    I find I like “friends to lovers” more and more as I age. Many of the real-life relationships that I see lasting longest are in that category, for one thing. Also, when I have trouble accepting HEAs in romance, it’s usually because I’m not convinced that the couple really *like* each other in a way that will last, and when I know they were friends first, that helps. I’m also very fond of reunited/second chance stories (insert personal biography here), and often with friends stories, you get both.

    Maggie, this book sounds right up my alley. I will be buying it for sure. Thanks for putting yourself and your book out there for this new DA feature.

  31. Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe
    Mar 02, 2011 @ 08:17:18

    SonomaLass, thanks.I admit being in the romance cathedral was a little daunting. ;)

  32. Susan/DC
    Mar 02, 2011 @ 21:08:41

    One of my favorite friends-to-lovers stories is Mary Balogh’s “Irresistible”; she perfectly captures the moment when something sparks and the friendship ignites into a romance.

    A friends-to-antagonists-to-lovers story is Anne Mallory’s “For the Earl’s Pleasure”. The childhood friendship means that the adult antagonism is more poignant because the H/H know exactly what they have lost. It also helps to explain why, despite their stated dislike for each other, they each have a sixth sense for when the other is near. So even though the story has a paranormal aspect to it, the romance is very real and the HEA believable.

  33. Sunita
    Mar 02, 2011 @ 22:13:15

    @Lynn S.: Heh. I consider it my duty. Appreciate you saw through my clever plan … but I will not desist.

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