Beyond the Book: Friends to Lovers Trope by Taryn Kincaid
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. Taryn Kincaid offered up her take on why she likes to write about this trope and why it may it appeal to readers:
Mr Knightley! Mr Knightley. I stopped you ungraciously just now and gave you pain. If you have any wish to speak to me about anything you have in contemplation, as your friend I cannot refuse you. Indeed, as your old friend, I will hear whatever it is you wish to tell me.
Emma! You want our friendship to remain the same as it has always been, but I cannot desire that.
But why? I know I make mistakes, but had you been here the last few days you would have seen how I have tried to change! Please tell me I am your friend.
I do not wish to call you my friend, because I hoped to call you something infinitely more dear.
You realize, of course, that we can never be friends.
What do you mean?
What I'm saying – and this is not a come-on in any way, shape or form – is that men and women can't be friends. The sex part always gets in the way.
Harry and Sally, Cher and Josh, Emma and Mr. Knightley. Friends to lovers all.
The trope is as tried and true as the characters are to each other (at least until some annoying third wheel attempts to come between them and threaten a relationship as old and comfortable as a faded sweatshirt). They know they have each other's backs. They know their "friend" will always be there for them-if only they can dispose of that aggressive/arrogant/pompous/bitchy (your adjective goes here) interloper over whom their oblivious pal seems to be making a cake of himself.
The conceit is particularly delicious for us, the reader or movie-goer, because we know something the hero and heroine don't: that while they are confiding in each other as friends, either bemoaning their lack of a sex life or dishing the deets of their relationship with someone else (someone obviously, hideously wrong) – they are absolutely, positively, awesomely right together. We are rooting for them both.
Yes, Harry, despite the sex part getting in the way. That just makes our little secret all the more delectable.
Admittedly, there are times when we want to shake our reluctant hero and heroine: Why can't you see you are made for each other? We do. But when those odd ripples of sexual tension start crackling between two old chums, we are ready to stand up cheer.
In a novella, there is not always enough time or space to build to the first sizzle of awareness and attraction between your heroine and that mysterious hunk of strange she just bumped into at Starbuck's (or engaged to lead a wagon train across treacherous country, or to transport precious spices into deep space twenty-nine, or gets a sudden yen to offer her neck to when the moon is full because he seems to be a little antsy and hairy and long in the tooth).
The "friends to lovers" trope helps shorthand the cute meet sometimes. The mysterious push-pull forces are still present, of course. Just-different. There's already history. There may be some unwieldy baggage. It's ideal.
In Healing Hearts, my Regency novella just released from Carina Press, my hero and heroine knew each other as youngsters. Until circumstances came between them, they were old family friends. Both Adam and Emma are surprised by the changes time has wrought, as well as the long-remembered characteristics left intact. Catching Emma spying on him from afar, Adam calls her out of hiding:
"You did not expect me to know you, Miss Whiteside? You've changed a great deal. But I'd know you anywhere."
One of the things that's so tantalizing and intriguing for us, the reader or viewer, about the "friends to lovers" premise is watching the way old friends go about discovering each other anew, in a more highly-charged way. We, of course, feel a little smug and superior because we knew it all along! Don't you think that's true? We delight in watching our hero and heroine fall back on the comfortable and familiar, the things they were in "like" with all the time- even as that same crooked smile is suddenly worthy of notice and sets them ablaze.
Luckily, their old pal can always be counted on to be there, fanning the flames.
So what do you think? What is it about friends-to-lovers that we all love much?
~ Taryn Kincaid
Taryn Kincaid lives in the historical, mystical Hudson Valley, just a throw of a pumpkin head from New York City. She is a member of RWA, Hudson Valley RWA and RWA's Beau Monde, and Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal chapters. She is the author of Healing Hearts, a Regency novella from Carina Press, and Sleepy Hollow Dreams, >an erotic paranormal from The Wild Rose Press. Visit Taryn at http://dreamvoyagers.blogspot.com or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and eHarlequinCommunity.com.