This week Escape authors are looking at the perennial ‘friends to lovers’ trope in romance literature. Today Rhyll Biest breaks down the genre for us.
Ah, ‘friends to lovers’. The trope where one minute those two young crazy kids, our hero and heroine (or whatever combo appeals to you), are making sand castles and tree forts together, and the next they’re more curious about what’s in one another’s pants than a Tasmanian quarantine beagle scenting a banana in a jock strap.
How does it happen? What sees friendship bracelets traded in for fur-lined handcuffs?
I like to think there are five sub-tropes to the main ‘friends to lovers’. Well, maybe there are more than five, but RSI is a thing and I have televisions series to keep abreast of and umpteen packets of chocolate biscuits in my cupboard that need to be shown who’s boss. (Note that frenemies to lovers is an entirely different trope, and one outside my area of expertise.) These were my choices when writing Bret and Skye’s story.
1) The ugly duckling sub-trope. I wanted to call this one the ‘ugly duckling and the big, bad boner’ trope but then I realised that poultry and boners should never be used in the same sentence. Essentially, this trope is where one friend (male or female) gets a makeover of sorts (whether that’s a new haircut or seven years in the French Foreign Legion), which allows the other friend to see them in a new light. A new, horny, I-want-to-hold-your-hand-and-other-body-parts type of light.
2) So legal it’s hot. Underage sex is so squicky and illegal. That’s why real friends wait until the age of legal consent to jump one another’s bones.
3) Jealousy is a curse. Sometimes you don’t realise how much you love someone until someone else turns up wanting to nail them. Then you have to make sure that you nail them first.
4) Lost. Often, it’s not until you nearly lose or actually do lose something—whether that’s a watch, a ring or a friend—that you realise how hot they are and that you should have shagged them senseless while you had the chance. Wait, perhaps that doesn’t apply to the watch. Or the ring. Whatever. The point is that if a friend moves away, is injured or ill, or is angry with you, that’s when you’ll realise how much they mean to you. (Skye’s story falls into this category.)
5) In Sync. When our hero was ready settle down, our heroine was still partying with a different football team each night. Then she tires of slipped discs and mysterious rashes and is ready to settle when, wham, he ups and joins a bonobo nudist colony. But when he tires of the fickle bonobo ways, she’s still waiting at home (one rash has been quite persistent), and over a shared pot-luck they look at one another and think ‘Nude Twister. Hell, yeah’.
What’s your favourite ‘friends to lovers’ sub-trope?
They were friends, but now her girlhood infatuation has evolved into something much stronger and much more dangerous—an adult woman’s desire.