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Writing the Second Chance Romance Trope

Certain tropes are synonymous with the romance genre. They're the ones you see over and over because readers love them so much.

Second chance romance is one of those tropes.

It's beloved by readers and authors alike.

Why do readers love the second chance romance trope?

Readers love it because it encourages character development, forcing the characters to overcome their past and work toward a shared future. And the process of overcoming their pasts allows them to heal each other's emotional wounds. Those wounds are usually:

-A wound caused by their breakup, or

-A wound caused by events that happened when the characters were apart (after the breakup)

Seeing your characters overcome their wounds makes readers feel hopeful, like they too can solve their problems. It plays into what so many romance readers want from their books: comfort and a reminder that the world can be a really awesome place.

Why do romance authors love the second chance romance trope?

Romance authors love the trope because of its versatility. Second chance romance works with every type of romance, regardless of sub-genre, niche, or level of conflict.

For example, in high angst romance, romance authors like you can use the second chance trope to create a crisis of confidence in the third act, when the main characters aren't sure they can ever really forget their past and start fresh. This keeps readers on tenterhooks as they turn the pages, wondering how the main characters will heal each other's wounds and find their happily ever after. And that's what you want—to make your story so delicious that readers can't help but devour it.

And in low angst romance, the second chance trope allows you to breeze over some of the "getting to know you" bits at the beginning of the book and head straight into the action, getting readers immediately invested in the main characters' relationship. This keeps the book's pacing swift, which is especially important when working in a niche where novellas are the norm, like instalove.

Romance authors like you should also love the second chance romance trope because it combines so well with other common romance tropes.

What are some of the best tropes to combine with second chance romance?

Secret baby, enemies to lovers, revenge, or a forbidden love trope such as best friend's brother, ex's brother, or brother's best friend are all great tropes to combine with second chance romance.

Secret baby works particularly well if you're writing higher angst romance; the secrecy inherent to the secret baby trope, combined with the emotional wounds essential to the second chance romance trope, makes for such a juicy story.

What are some of the best examples of the second chance romance trope?

Contemporary Romance: Much Ado About Nada by Uzma Jalaluddin

Beard Necessities by Penny Reid

Historical Romance: Breathless by Beverly Jenkins

The Duke Who Didn't by Courtney Milan

Paranormal Romance: Midnight's Kiss by Thea Harrison

Second Chance with the Demon by Chace Verity

What are the no-nos of the second chance romance trope?

The second chance trope only has two no-no's, and they're big ones:

-misusing the term second chance romance

-relying solely on external conflict to keep the hero and heroine apart

Second chance romance describes a romance between two or more people (because remember, romance can feature polyamorous relationships!) who were previously romantically intertwined. It's a second chance for those specific characters to make their love work.

Second chance romance is not when a character has lost a partner or experienced a crisis and is trying to find love and happiness generally or is experiencing what they think of as a "second chance" at life.

Using the term correctly is important because more than ever, readers buy books based on the tropes tagged in the title, subtitle, or blurb. And they want to see that trope explored to the fullest extent in the book. They don't want to open a juicy second chance romance only to find out that the characters have never met before (and they've really never met before; it's not just that one of them has amnesia like in T.S. Joyce's Cursed Bear). They'll feel misinformed, and justifiably miffed that your marketing copy doesn't reflect what's in your book.

The other rule of thumb with second chance romance, to avoid relying solely on external conflict to give the story tension and amp up the drama, exists because readers who love second chance romance want to see the characters develop. They want to see them change for the better, and that's difficult to show if you're only including external conflict.

Wondering what I mean when I say external conflict in the context of romance novels?

External conflict is a person or event—an ex or a hurricane, for example—that complicates the characters' path to their happily ever after. External conflict doesn't instigate character development, not unless it's connected in some way to the characters' inner conflict.

Taking the ex example—maybe a main character's ex comes back into the picture and wants to get back together, and this makes the character reflect on their relationship and realize that it's the wounds from that relationship that are holding them back from really going all-in with the main character.

For the hurricane example, maybe weathering (sorry for the pun, but it was right there!) the storm and being stuck inside for hours on end forces the characters to confront their feelings and talk about their issues. Maybe the hero, who previously didn't protect the heroine in some way, is incredibly attuned to her during the hurricane, and it makes her realize that he's changed and grown.

Every story needs at least some internal conflict to keep the story interesting and keep readers guessing how your characters are going to end up together.

So now that you know the second chance romance trope, how you can use it, and what readers expect from it, go forth and write your best second chance romance novel!


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