Discussion: Second Chance Romances

Reflecting on My Love/Hate Relationship with Second Chance Romances

THE TROPE

Two individuals are in love but then something happens, leading them to break up.  For some reason or other, they’re back in each other’s lives. Time is especially pivotal here. What happened during the time apart? How has distance, emotionally and, often, physically, affected our leads such that romance is still possible? Eventually, one thing leads to another, feelings can no longer be ignored, and they’re back together. Maybe this time around, the ending will be a better one. Better yet, maybe there won’t be an ending because they’ll be together forever.


Second chance romances always leave me with twisted emotions, torn between anger (e.g. Don’t do it! He doesn’t deserve you! ) and swooning (e.g. He loves you! You still love him! Just kiss each other already!). After reading Priscilla Oliveras’s Anchored Hearts, I had a sudden revelation about why I always feel a slightly uncomfortable with second chance romances. (Light bulb moment!)

I hate second chance romances because of the vulnerability that comes with it–this is where the discomfort comes from.  Someone can always hurt you at any time, but the problem with second chance romances is often times one person has already hurt the other–someone hurt you or you hurt them. Now, you’re giving them an opportunity to do it again, but what’s worse is that you’re doing it with your eyes wide open–I guess this can be a good or a bad thing. It also feels like you’re giving them permission to do it again. I hate this feeling and it usually rears itself just about every second chance romance novel I read.

Yet, I continue to subject myself to this pain because I also can’t help loving the trope. A new beginning brings with it hope that the outcome will be different. Hopefully, time and distance has allowed each to grow, to mature. It’s not just knowing everything that went wrong or even right, but understanding what happened. Maybe, we will be smarter this time around. Past hurts can be overcome. Maybe happily ever after is possible with each other. But then there’s always this little fear in the back of my mind, whispering that hope can be a dangerous thing.

I’m a sucker for second chances, and I’m a sucker for hope even though it means restarting something that might lead to painful consequences. Then again, I’m usually reading this trope in a romance novel where HEA’s are guaranteed. (Thank goodness!) My favorite second chance romances are where there is growth and lots of groveling, especially on the part of the love interest. It helps to tamper that niggling discomfort that the lead is making themself too vulnerable and they’ll be hurt all over again.

Second Chance Romances

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Persuasion (1817)
by Jane Austen
ASN/ISBN: 9780192802637


**One of my favorite Austen novels where time has allowed for greater introspection by the offending party. **

Goodreads Summary
Twenty-seven-year old Anne Elliot is Austen’s most adult heroine. Eight years before the story proper begins, she is happily betrothed to a naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but she precipitously breaks off the engagement when persuaded by her friend Lady Russell that such a match is unworthy. The breakup produces in Anne a deep and long-lasting regret. When later Wentworth returns from sea a rich and successful captain, he finds Anne’s family on the brink of financial ruin and his own sister a tenant in Kellynch Hall, the Elliot estate. All the tension of the novel revolves around one question: Will Anne and Wentworth be reunited in their love?

Jane Austen once compared her writing to painting on a little bit of ivory, 2 inches square. Readers of Persuasion will discover that neither her skill for delicate, ironic observations on social custom, love, and marriage nor her ability to apply a sharp focus lens to English manners and morals has deserted her in her final finished work.

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The Good Luck Charm (2018)
by Helena Hunting
ASN/ISBN: 9781538760154


**Not nearly enough groveling for me but an ultimately satisfying read.**

Goodreads Summary
Lilah isn’t sure what hurt worse: the day Ethan left her to focus on his hockey career, or the day he came back eight years later. He might think they can pick up just where they left off, but she’s no longer that same girl and never wants to be again.

Ethan Kane wants his glory days back. And that includes having Lilah by his side. With her, he was magic. They were magic. All he has to do is make her see that.

Just when Lilah might finally be ready to let him in, though, she finds out their reunion has nothing to do with her and everything to do with his game. But Ethan’s already lost her once, and even if it costs him his career, he’ll do anything to keep from losing her again.

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Daring and the Duke (2020)
by Sarah MacLean
ASN/ISBN: 7980062691996


**Second Chance Romance/Lovers-to-Enemies-to-Lovers novel with so much groveling from the male love interest that I couldn’t help but love it. No discomfort here at all. Nearly perfect. My favorite read of the quarter so far (My Review)**

Goodreads Summary
Grace Condry has spent a lifetime running from her past. Betrayed as a child by her only love and raised on the streets, she now hides in plain sight as queen of London’s darkest corners. Grace has a sharp mind and a powerful right hook and has never met an enemy she could not best, until the man she once loved returns.

Single-minded and ruthless, Ewan, Duke of Marwick, has spent a decade searching for the woman he never stopped loving. A long-ago gamble may have lost her forever, but Ewan will go to any lengths to win Grace back… and make her his duchess.

Reconciliation is the last thing Grace desires. Unable to forgive the past, she vows to take her revenge. But revenge requires keeping Ewan close, and soon her enemy seems to be something else altogether—something she can’t resist, even as he threatens the world she’s built, the life she’s claimed…and the heart she swore he’d never steal again.

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In Case You Missed It (2020)
by Lindsey Kelk
ASN/ISBN: 9780008384654


**While it’s a bit slow and Ros isn’t the most interesting protagonist, I added it here because it provides a different perspective on second chance romances from the other books listed. The overall message of the novel resonated with me as well. (My Review)**

Goodreads Summary:
When Ros steps off a plane after four years away she’s in need of a job, a flat and a phone that actually works. And, possibly, her old life back. Because everyone at home has moved on, her parents have reignited their sex life, she’s sleeping in a converted shed and she’s got a bad case of nostalgia for the way things were.

Then her new phone begins to ping with messages from people she thought were deleted for good. Including one number she knows off by heart: her ex’s.

Sometimes we’d all like the chance to see what we’ve been missing…

AnchoredHearts_cover

Anchored Hearts (2021)
by Priscilla Oliveras
ASN/ISBN: 9781420150193
Publication: April 27, 2021


**The one that got me thinking about second chance romances. Alejandro’s light bulb moment happens on the pages, but I really wanted to smack Anamaria over the head and make sure she knew what she was doing because Alejandro is pretty selfish. (My Review)**


Goodreads Summary
Award-winning photographer Alejandro Miranda hasn’t been home to Key West in years–not since he left to explore broader horizons with his papi’s warning echoing in his ears. He wouldn’t be heading there now if it wasn’t for an injury requiring months of recuperation. The drama of a prodigal son returning to his familia is bad enough, but coming home to the island paradise also means coming face to face with the girl he left behind–the one who was supposed to be by his side all along…

Anamaría Navarro was shattered when Alejandro took off without her. Traveling the world was their plan, not just his. But after her father’s heart attack, there was no way she could leave–not even for the man she loved. Now ensconced in the family trade as a firefighter and paramedic, with a side hustle as a personal trainer, Anamaría is dismayed that just the sight of Alejandro is enough to rekindle the flame she’s worked years to put out. And as motherly meddling pushes them together, the heat of their attraction only climbs higher. Can they learn to trust again, before the Key West sun sets on their chance at happiness?


How do you feel about second chance romances?

ISO: Happily Ever After

At the end of July, I found that I had read over 60 novels since shelter-in-place was first instituted around March and continued reading even after things became more relaxed.  Interestingly, nearly half (26) have been in the past month alone.  There are two crazy things about this.  First, I haven’t read nearly this many books within a few months in probably never.  Second, the majority have been romance novels.  There’s nothing crazy about romance novels except that I have never consumed them in this quantity.  For the most part, they have always been scattered between fantasy novels, not one after the other or twice in a day.

This led me to wonder why I was reading romance novels in large doses.  I discovered that romance novels offered  me an escape from all the uncertainty in the world.  I was in search of a guaranteed happily ever after.  Who knew? Certainly not me! Most romance novels guarantee HEA/HFN (happily ever after/happy for now) endings—the keyword is most so please double-check reviews to make sure it does.  Any anxiety from the pandemic, and life in general, was muted because the endings were predictable.  I might not know what would happen tomorrow or even a few hours from now, but I did know there would be a rainbow at the end of what I was reading.

I also rediscovered how bad of a reputation romance novels have.  I hate the stigma surrounding romance novels and I’m ashamed to admit that I have—more than once—turned a cover over or shut down my reading app to avoid unsolicited assessments of my reading choices.  They don’t deserve this bad reputation.  Romance novels have proven to be therapeutic for me, reducing anxiety and providing introspection. The novels that have lingered long after the last page are those that allowed me to contemplate my life, my goals, my relationships, and a plethora of other things.  Here are three recommendations and just a glimpse of one of the many lasting impressions I pulled from each.

RECOMMENDATIONS

In Melt for You (2018; ISBN: 9781503902138), Joellen Bixby has been in love with her married boss for a long while. Things start looking up when she finds out he is in the middle of a divorce, and he suddenly starts showering her with attention. Because she is socially awkward and lacks dating experience, her new neighbor Cameron McGregor offers to help.  The beginning of the book is a bit slow but picks up quickly once the arrangement is made.  It sounds cookie-cutter but the appeal of this book comes from Cameron’s character.  Despite his ego, he is the most supportive and body-positive male lead I’ve met thus far.  I enjoyed the evolution of his relationship with Joellen and his influence on her because she goes from being insecure about her body to standing up for herself.

Hate to Want You (2017; ISBN: 978006256677) is full of longing, the kind that hurts in a sadistically good way. It’s a slow burn. The two main characters Livvy and Nicholas still love each other, but the bad blood that led to their break up has not relented even after a decade has passed. Since their break up, they’ve met up every year for her birthday–she sends coordinates and he goes, no matter where it is. The sex is passionate, it’s sensual, but, most of all, it is heartbreaking and the aftermath is worse because each time it’s supposed to be the last time, there just seems to always be that one time more…until there isn’t. Rai has become one of my go-to authors. I have come to appreciate the way she writes. In this particular novel, she doesn’t move onto the next scene until she’s wrenched all the emotion from the current one. If Rai is at the helm, I can also expect there will be diverse representation.

A Thousand Letters (2017; ISBN: 9781542772426) is part of Hart’s series inspired by Jane Austen novels.  A retelling of Persuasion, Elliot—like Anne Elliot–has regrets for not choosing to marry Wade—Captain Wentworth’s counterpart.  Neither have spoken for several years, but are forced to reunite when Wade’s father is suddenly diagnosed with brain cancer.  Because Elliot is very much part of the family, she’s best friends with Wade’s sister and Wade’s father was her mentor, they are unable to avoid one another. It is clear that neither has moved on from the other and neither is also willing to speak to one another about it.  Hart beautifully captures the longing between our leads and the impending loss of a parent.  The book brought me to tears on multiple occasions.  If you’re a fan of Persuasion, you will easily be able to identify plots from the original novel as well as what is all Hart. What I love about this retelling is that Elliot is portrayed as a lot stronger in character as compared to Anne Elliot in Austen’s original novel.  Hart does a good job of bringing Persuasion to the present day and making it her own. There is sex in the book but not nearly as explicit like in Hate to Want You and Melt for You.

Like any other genre, not every book is going to be great.  Romance novels will vary in plot as much as it will also maintain tropes.  Interestingly, I also discovered a trove of novels about athletes, billionaires, and all-around bad boys. This was newer to me on the book front but not so much when it came to Korean dramas (harharhar).  Romance novels vary in how explicit sex is as well.  It might be nothing at all—holding hands or a kiss—to erotica.  Take your pick! The beauty of this is that you get to choose what you’re comfortable with.  If you’ve never read a romance novel before, I’m urging you to give them a chance. My life is all the better because of them. And, if you have recommendations, please send them my way, whether romance novels or books that left deep impressions.