This is the third ‘A Second Chance at Love’ post in our series about tropes in romance literature
by Alyssa J Montgomery
Katy Perry sings In another life, I would make you stay so I don’t have to say, You were the one that got away, and as we’re singing along to this upbeat song, there’s something that pulls at our emotions at the thought of losing such an intense love.
Life doesn’t always go according to plan and, being human, we screw up. Part of the appeal of the very popular ‘second chance of love’ trope is the recognition of human imperfection, which to me can make the trope more believable.
As a true romantic at heart, it also appeals because I like to think that true love can win through and that people can be forgiven for their mistakes and find their way back to each other. Rachael Johns uses this trope in her wonderful novel, Jilted. It’s also the trope that dominates Jake and Amanda’s story in Echoes of the Heart.
When a couple have already been lovers, sparks fly instantly because they’ve already shared a deep connection – and, in Jake and Amanda’s case, an explosive chemistry. Because it ended the first time with a bang that left them both emotionally wounded, the risks seem higher the second time around. Conflict abounds as the plot zigzags and the reader is asking will they or won’t they, and how can they possibly?
There are many challenges for the author in writing this trope. Firstly, why will this couple end up together now when they didn’t earlier? This becomes even harder if the backstory isn’t merely a drifting away or missed opportunity but some emotionally explosive circumstance that has opened up an incredibly wide chasm between them. Another challenge is to make the characters worthy of having that second chance.
I think the story can be more satisfying if the author is able to bring the reader to a point of disbelief initially – to make it seem impossible that the couple can ever resolve their differences and move forward from the heart-rending circumstances that tore them apart – but then to show the character growth and the changes made so the resolution and happily-ever-after ending is believable.
I find the HEA ending deeply satisfying after having suffered alongside the hero and heroine on their harrowing emotional journey – their remembered love but painful memories of separation; their inner conflict and agonising recriminations, bitter accusations, and all the tension and drama of their former relationship as it flows into their present circumstances and must be overcome.
Jake has never forgotten Amanda, nor forgiven her for leaving him and marrying a much older man, and believes she has always been a gold digger. As soon as she’s free, he finds it impossible not to pursue her and tells himself he wants the chance to have her again as his lover so he can achieve the closure on their relationship that was denied him. There’s so much angst and bitterness in him that he’s harsh and unforgiving initially when they’re alone, even though he can’t help but be heroic and stand by her publicly when she needs his defence. He tells himself he wants revenge, yet very quickly, he rediscovers all there was that had him falling in love with her in the first place. He has a lot to deal with because he’s built such barriers around his heart because of their initial break-up, so he not only has to learn to open up to loving her again, but has to learn how to get back to being the same loving guy he once was.
Even though the passionate sexual chemistry is still at hazardous high-octane levels, there’s much inner conflict and tension as each struggles to recognise and come to terms with feelings that have never been extinguished. They must find the courage to communicate, to trust and to expose their hearts again. After the rough ride, the resolution in Echoes of the Heart becomes sigh-worthy and, happily, Amanda and Jake don’t join the ranks of ‘the one that got away!’