This is the second ‘A Second Chance at Love’ post in our series about tropes in romance literature
by Lily Malone
We always remember our first love.
He is usually the one we could never have; or the one who got away after we’d had him a few times. Or he might have been the one we threw away because we really knew better… but he’s still memorable and every now and then we cast our mind back and think about that bloke and wonder what he’s doing now…
In the real world, there were usually very good and practical reasons for breaking up with your first love. He wasn’t right for you. You weren’t right for him. The time wasn’t right. You caught him shagging his lady golf student in a sand bunker…
In the romance world the reasons are never quite so black and white. Often there’s a nasty third party who splits the couple apart with some well-placed lies; or the hero gets an attack of guilt at being about to steal his best friend’s sister’s virginity… and so he leaves and becomes a tycoon with an armada of yachts in the Mediterranean instead. One thing is for sure, neither ever forgets the other, or what might have been.
I love a good reunion (sometimes called second chance) romance. The previous history of a couple always creates a great tension and chemistry. You devour pages and pages just waiting for the characters to rip their clothes off and shag till they’re silly… but usually whatever it was that drove them apart years ago rears its ugly head yet again and must be resolved once and for all.
As with all tropes, there are sub-categories. In my new book, So Far Into You, I use this one to set up the second chance: Seth is with Remy, they split because of his truly awful mother and a jealous co-worker, and five years later, Seth and Remy meet again.
In Fairway To Heaven, I use this one: Brayden is friends with Jenn, but not lovers, because he is about to start a new job in the mining industry and doesn’t want her stuck in the life of a fly-in, fly-out partner. But the chemistry was always there—there was a previous tequila-flavoured kiss—and roughly seven years later Brayden and Jenn meet again, and their second chance is nigh.
Second chance/reunion romances make a perfect trope for authors like me who write small town/rural stories.
I was born and raised in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of town in the south-west corner of Western Australia. I got married and moved away from my birthplace for 12 years, before returning to my ‘roots’ in 2013.
And there were a few of those roots still in the area… so to speak.
For three years, I’ve managed to avoid running into blokes that knew me back then. Then just last month, my reunion cup overflowed.
In the checkout at Coles, I glanced over my shoulder, whereupon I spied a tall, dark (okay, a little on the grey side now) stranger. My brow furrowed… his brow furrowed… and there was this ping of recognition. My ping went along the lines of: “Oh no!”
From five metres and two checkouts apart, we were taken back more than 15 years in a whirlwind of slow-motion movie scenes… until my movie ended on the scene where he shagged his lady golf student in a sand bunker …
Meanwhile, I fumbled my Coles Fly Buy card and my credit card. I dropped my cauliflower. I got my PIN wrong and the machine beeped rudely at me.
I was through the checkout first and I had to decide. Do I wait, or do I walk?
We had a very sweet little chat outside the Coles where he enquired about my mum’s health; told me he was married now; told me he had fur babies but no children; and told me there were lots of snakes on his sheep and cattle farm… (I didn’t ask if he’d been playing any golf).
We bid each other a very civil farewell (aren’t you proud of me?) and he went home to his wife and his snakes, and I went home to my hubby and my kids and whatever I intended to cook for dinner.
THE VERY NEXT MORNING…
I was in the middle of my normal mad dash about the house getting my two boys ready for school, which always involves many shouts of “Get dressed”, “Have you cleaned your teeth?”, “Get your shoes on,” “Where’s your f&%king drink bottle?” while wrangling two school bags and two kids into the car.
There was a tradesman assessing some tradesman-style thing with my neighbour. I didn’t recognise him, but it DID occur to me that the bloke was staring at me funny. It made me wonder if I’d actually sworn about the drink bottles out loud, instead of just in my head…
Reversing out the driveway, changing gear up the street—and this tradie from next door is still staring at me! Then he smiled… my brow furrowed… and I got this ping of recognition that went along the lines of: “Oh no! Not again!”
I drove the kids to school with my heart beating faster than normal and a flush in my cheeks, not only because I am always last mum rushing through the school gates but because even though he’s lost most of his hair now, that tradie really was rather cute when he was 19…
So next time someone says: “That would only happen in the pages of a romance novel”, ask the name of the book so you can put it on your Reunion/Second Chance reading list. Then whack that person with a golf club for being narrow-bloody-minded.