When Friends Fall in Love

by Robyn Rychards

For me, writing a romance about friends who fall in love and live happily ever after is hard, mostly because I’m more drawn to the mystery and romance of meeting someone you never knew and discovering they’re the person you want to spend the rest of your life with.

Maybe it’s because the idea of ‘love at first sight’ appeals to me so much! Therefore, it can be a real challenge to turn someone your characters view as a friend into someone with romantic appeal. The first time I saw this done, that I can remember, was in the made-for-TV mini-series version of The Thorn Birds. Maybe I remember it because it sparked the idea for my novel, Her Man From Shilo. It made me want to write a story where the hero and heroine meet when they’re young and are instantly drawn to each other, because when that happens at a young age, it’s not about sex, it’s all about the person. That germ of an idea grew and expanded in my head until, after twenty-some years, it became a full-length story that wouldn’t leave me alone until I put it in writing.

the thorn birds

There’s something so intrinsically romantic about connecting with someone as a child, becoming friends with them and that friendship turning into a bond that lasts a lifetime. I think most of us have people we connected with when we were young who we remember years, even decades, later as someone special no matter the length of time we spent with them. Some of us manage to maintain that friendship over many years, though most of those people have left our lives due to circumstance. So how special a relationship is it, when someone we connected with when we were young becomes the person we end up spending our whole lives with? It’s a bond of a lifetime that most of us would love to have and few find. No wonder it makes for such a terrific love story!

When Harry Met Sally

But that’s not the only kind of Friends to Lovers story out there. The classic film When Harry Met Sally uses a different take on the theme and makes the trope more challenging because you have two people who meet as adults but aren’t romantically interested in each other. Therefore the focus of the journey is more on what happens to make them see each other in a romantic light.

It can get even more complicated when the story line does something like the movie Life As We Know It. In that movie the hero and heroine start out hating each other, become friends when a tragedy throws them together, and end up falling in love because they are forced by circumstance to look at each other in a whole new way.

Life as we know it

All in all, though writing a book about friends becoming lovers is a real challenge, it can make for an epically romantic story if you handle it right!


Passion and tension erupt as these two finally resolve a lifetime of love.

Friends to Lovers: making the trope work

by Anna Clifton

Add one cup of friendship to two cups of simmering attraction and then stir…


My husband and I had something of a whirlwind start to our marriage. We met one December and were engaged by March. As a romance writer, I guess that makes me something of a minor expert on the ‘whirlwind courtship’ trope, if there is such a thing. But when it came to writing a slow-burn ‘friends to lovers’ trope for my third novel, New Year’s Promise, I wasn’t quite so comfortable in my creative space.

How could there be romance between two people who’d been sharing each other’s dreams, foibles and fears for years?

How could there be adventure, frisson, excitement when you’re falling for a friend?

But despite these doubts, I knew the ‘friends to lovers’ trope resonated with audiences in films and books such as When Harry Met Sally, Made of Honour and Emma. But I also knew that the ‘friends to lovers’ dynamic worked like a treat in real life too.

In a study released last year, Canadian economists Helliwell and Grover found compelling evidence across broad ranging databases that ‘well-being effects of marriage are about twice as large for those whose spouse is also their best friend’. And as journalist Hanna Kozlowska reported on the study, ‘happiness has less to do with your social status or financial stability, and more to do with sharing wedding bands with your BFF’.

So, marrying your BFF apparently gives you a cracking good start at long-term happiness. But could I write a ‘friends to lovers’ story where the blossoming romance would feel as fresh and exciting as it does in other tropes?

The answer hit me all at once, and I found it in the name of the trope itself: Friends to Lovers.

My new novel couldn’t just be about two friends deciding it would be a great idea to shack up together. The spotlight needed to be on the way they grow together as new lovers against the complex backdrop of a long friendship. I’d finally realized it’s the journey of friends to lovers, not the furniture they share, that’s the magic ingredient in the trope.

Armed with that revelation, I set to work on my new manuscript, stacking the odds against my ‘friends’ making it through their journey together.


In New Year’s Promise Ellie and Justin have known each other for twenty years, originally as part of an inseparable gang of six kids who shared their carefree childhood together. Ellie was the only girl in the gang, treasured and adored by her own three brothers and by their friends, Justin and Sam. But Ellie’s special bond with Sam will become the undertow in her growing love for his older brother many years later as Justin remains attentive to her, but steadfastly and heartbreakingly distant.

Sam’s mysterious and tragic disappearance from their lives at age twelve lies at the heart of Justin’s distance. But tangled up in his grief and shame over Sam is his conviction he can never give Ellie the one thing she will come to want more than anything else. Ellie is the light in his life; he will never risk their friendship by telling her how he feels. Until one fateful New Year he makes Ellie’s seriously ill brother a promise that will change his friendship with her forever…



They’ve been colleagues, allies and best friends forever, but he wants more — and he’s not above using the magic of the Christmas season to get it.


Leaving the Friend Zone

by M.A. Grant

Good stories come from good conflicts and tropes offer some of the best, most familiar conflicts out there. We’ve all got our favorites, but to me, a child of the ‘90s and all its high-school film incarnations, there is no greater emotional disaster than two people leaving the friend zone for parts unknown.

That’s right, the sound you just heard was Pandora’s box opening.

Feelings get admitted or denied, with varying results, which leads to emotional fallout, where the characters and readers both ask the same question:

A Cinderella Story

Then, if things progress, the risks exponentially rise.

When in Rome

And don’t get me started on the sex.

Is it good? Is it bad? Now that you’ve had sex, do you have it again, or do you decide that it has become the greatest taboo since putting ketchup on hot dogs?

Ketchup Hot Dog

If all that turmoil isn’t enough, you are now vulnerable to the one person who knows every single one of your buttons.

Clueless GIF

And because they’re your friend, they will push that button every damn time.

Inside Out Anger Button

From this point, when complications come up (as they always do), there’s nothing we can do as readers but read on, watching the dominos line up. And the second we hit that black moment we all saw coming, when the world falls apart at the seams, we’re left…well, destroyed, is probably the best adjective to describe it.

New Girl Crying GIF

I believe we’re not just mourning the loss of the love, but the loss of that safe friendship that had meant so much. Friends know how to flip each other inside out, so that dark moment—when the friendship is utterly, almost irretrievably broken—rips out your heart and stomps on it for a while.

But the joy of romance is that once you crawl back to your feet and wobble through those last few chapters, you’re rewarded with an emotional catharsis that leaves you a blubbering wreck, no matter your intentions of not crying at work/school/home/etc.

Rory Cool GIF

These brutal highs and lows are the reason I love writing this trope. I admit that most of the time I have no idea what my crazy kids are going to do next, so I’m typing from the edge of my seat while I wait for the next catastrophe to strike. It’s the unpredictability of this seemingly clear-cut plotline that makes it stand out to me, both as an author and a reader. I hope you see that come out in my newest release First, where Cat and Dallas are forced to leave the friend zone in their dust.


Best friends do everything together—including falling in love…

Friends to Lovers

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 its 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.

Feed Your Reader: first March releases

Released March 5…


One last Chieftain meets his match in the final book in Frances Housden’s best-selling, award-winning series…


Good fences make good neighbours, but in Dulili, it seems like barriers might instead be breaking down…

Book 2 in the new Dollar for a Dream rural romance series

Move to the country for $1 a week… 

Dulili is suffering a people drought. Over the years more people have moved away than have arrived to stay in this old New South Wales farming town, and now only a handful of young families and elderly residents are left. The locals put a plan into action to entice newcomers: offering the town’s empty houses to newcomers from anywhere in Australia.  Who could resist renting a beautiful homestead for a dollar a week?

A Heart Stuck on Hope

Honey Hill House

The Healing Season

A Fish Out of Water tale

by Maggie Gilbert

I have always had a soft spot for fish-out-of-water tales. I think it’s because it’s so easy to relate to someone in that uncomfortable, awkward position where they are completely out of their depth, and they know it, but they are initially helpless to do anything about it. It’s also quite confronting to read about someone experiencing that feeling, because it’s so painfully easy to empathise. Haven’t we all been there?

In This is Now the heroine, Jess, lives with that ‘out of water’ feeling every day. Everyone around her seems so at ease, so content with their way of living, and Jess absolutely feels like she doesn’t belong there. It makes her feel as though she is truly a fish out of water, suffocating in the same atmosphere everyone around her seems so at home in. She’s grown up in this environment, but she feels foreign to it. And worse, she’s no longer got that camouflage she used to have of being able to blend in and hide how much she feels she doesn’t belong there. 

Jess’s family and acquaintances are not very accepting of people who want to be different. Now that Jess isn’t as good at covering how much she’d rather be somewhere else, living some different life, she is getting a bit of grief from the neighbourhood about thinking she’s too good for everyone else.

I wrote this story because I wanted to answer a question, which was, ‘How can you know you want something else when you’ve never known anything else?’ I wondered what it was like to know you wanted something different to what you have, something more, but because you’ve led a very narrow existence, you don’t know how to figure out what that ‘other’ is. Jess doesn’t know much about any life other than her own; she works as a waitress in a better part of town and that has given her some narrow glimpses into what other types of careers and lives look like, but only from the outside. She has no intimate knowledge. Then she meets Sebastien and everything changes.

celloSebastien is a classically trained musician, a gifted cellist with a bright future as a soloist ahead of him. He comes from a family with money, who live in an architect-designed house in an exclusive suburb. Sebastien has had to add hard work to his talent to get where he is, but he doesn’t understand the kind of struggle Jess has faced. But the incredible thing about Sebastien is that he doesn’t pigeon-hole Jess as some bad girl from a bad part of town. He seems to see straight through to who she is on the inside, that girl wanting a bigger and better life, and he encourages her to go after it. He doesn’t see what everyone else does, but it’s more than that; it’s as though he sees some future best version of Jess that she can only guess at.

Jess meets Sebastien when she is feeling her absolute worst fish out of water, at a black-tie concert performance when she is dressed a bit down and dirty to go clubbing. That he seems to see straight past that and into her soul, at a moment in her life when she is feeling completely exposed and vulnerable, is possibly the very reason she lets him into her heart. In normal circumstance she tends to wear pretty thick emotional armour. So in that sense, that terrible fish-out-of-water moment is what connects Jess to Sebastien and precipitates everything that follows.

this is now

A gritty, urban New Adult Cinderella story where the princess can do her own rescuing — she just needs someone to believe in her.

Fish out of Water: Wandin Valley edition

by Lisa Ireland

When I read romance I find myself reaching for certain storylines over and over again. I love a good reunion story, and I’m a sucker for ‘best friends to lovers’, but my absolute favourite trope is ‘fish out of water’. Whether it’s a novel, a movie or a TV show, when the main character finds herself in unfamiliar territory—a stranger in a strange land, so to speak—I’m hooked.

If you grew up in Australia in the 1980s like I did, it’s a fair bet you’re familiar with the TV show A Country Practice. Molly Jones, the quirky city girl who moves to the country with her husband, is one of my favourite TV characters. Molly is a classic example of a fish out of water. Her romance was not with a man but with the town of Wandin Valley. She was in love with her new home, but the townsfolk were not in love with her—at least not at first! Molly’s antics got her into trouble at times, but eventually her big heart won over the people of Wandin Valley (and the rest us watching on at home!).


A Country Practice wasn’t the first fish out of water story I fell in love with. That honour would have to go to The Sound of Music. Who could possibly resist the story of a naïve almost-nun thrust into the world of a wealthy family? Maria might have been out of her depth at first, but we all knew the captain was falling for her despite her penchant for dressing his children in discarded curtains.

As a reader or viewer, I love these stories because I can often identify with the main character. Who hasn’t found themselves in the position of being the odd one out, struggling to fit in somewhere they didn’t belong? As a writer I find the fish out of water trope loads of fun. Putting a character in an unfamiliar setting provides instant conflict and also the opportunity to provide the reader with some comic relief from the drama unfolding.

In my debut novel, Breaking the Drought, city girl Jenna is a fish out of water, struggling to survive a week in a tiny country town. Poor Jenna, I really put her through the wringer in my story. She has to face some hard realities of country life (and she gets to reap some of the rewards too, of course!) Here’s a snippet of Jenna’s arrival in town, as seen through Luke Tanner’s eyes:

For the first time in his life he noticed a pair of women’s shoes. Bright orange platforms made their way out of the yellow Volkswagen as he approached. The shoes were fastened to the wearer’s feet by the tiniest of straps. Luke stared at them, wondering how anyone could manage to stand upright, let alone walk, in anything so impractical.

beakWhen the car’s occupant emerged, Luke found himself transfixed. The shoes belonged to the most extraordinary woman he had ever seen. She wore a tiny pair of shorts and some sort of fancy cape thing as a top, the likes of which Luke had never encountered. Her clothes certainly weren’t like anything he’d ever seen Maggie wearing, or any of the local women for that matter.

She pushed her large framed sunglasses on top of her head and stared back at him.

‘Can I help you?’ she asked.

Inexplicably his pulse quickened as she spoke. ‘I was just admiring your…shoes.’

‘Jimmy Choos.’

‘I’m sorry?’

‘I picked them up on my last visit to New York. Don’t think they make them in…’ her gaze shifted to his feet, ‘cowboy size.’

Inappropriate footwear is the least of Jenna’s problems as she struggles to reconcile her growing feelings for Luke with her reluctance to live in his hometown. Despite her head telling her it will never work, her heart has other ideas.

Because I love this trope so much I’ve just written another fish out of water book. Honey Hill House is part of a three-book series set in the fictional town of Dulili, New South Wales.

Despite being a city girl, Bea Elliott is confident of making a go of country life when she moves into Honey Hill House. Her neighbor Callum ‘Mitch’ Mitchell, is not convinced she has what it takes to survive small-town living.

Here’s a snippet of their first meeting.

Mitch nodded. ‘Yeah, it’s going to take a bit to fix this place up. Mum says you’re planning on turning it into a B&B.’

‘Yeah, something like that.’

Something like that? Didn’t she know? What was the committee thinking, giving Honey Hill House to a girl who looked like she’d be more at home on a commune than running a small business? Beatrice Elliott mightn’t look the way he’d expected but so far she’d done nothing to contradict his prediction that she wouldn’t last six months in Dulili.

This was such a fun book to write and I loved collaborating with fellow Escape authors, Jennie Jones and Catherine Evans, whose books, A Heart Stuck on Hope and The Healing Season, complete the series.

I’m always looking for a good fish out of water book to read so if you have a suggestion drop me a line in the comments.


Good fences make good neighbours, but in Dulili it seems like barriers might instead be breaking down…

Fish out of Water

This week’s romance trope is ‘Fish out of Water’; Ainslie Paton starts us off with a few classics of the genre.

A fish needs water like a human needs air, like spaghetti needs sauce. And a reader needs a story that intrigues and excites.

Or as the well-known industry pundit, Bookthingo says, “a romance has to gives all the feels”. (Source: Twitter, almost any time you care to check).

Well, yeah.

One way for an author to give good read is to dive into the ‘fish out of water’ trope, because by definition it’s designed to place a character in a situation where they’re very uncomfortable, which means there’s a lot of ways for a writer to twist the character’s journey to confound and delight a reader.

It’s pretty much the trope all reality TV is based on. Take some randomly selected (not really, but that’s the fiction) people, put them in an artificial world, and see how they cope when challenged with a specific task, be it losing weight, cooking a gourmet meal for ten, or living someone else’s life.

It might be one the oldest tropes around, but since the 1300s it’s kept on bringing the hits.

A monk when he is cloisterless,
Is like to a fish that is waterless.
Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales
(A really, really long time ago)


A 1980s teenager travels to the past and has to make sure his parents get together so he can be born.
Back to the Future
(1985, now we’re talking)

A mechanic is suckered into a ballroom dancing competition only to discover through fancy footwork, someone worth changing his life for.
Grease Money Jive
(So current it’s hot)

This is one of my favourite tropes because of the rich story potential and because it’s not obvious how the story will unfold. You can time shift, location switch, isolate, surround and generally push your characters into situations they’d never consider choosing for themselves, and are horrified to find themselves confronted with.

It can be dramatic or dangerous, heart wrenching or hysterically funny. It’s a staple of both suspense and romantic comedy.

But don’t worry, all this discomfort is good for a character. By definition the trope calls for some kind of quest, triumph or rebalancing; a way of getting back to the future or creating a new normal, and it’s a sure-fire way to force heroes and heroines to emerge. Your fish-out-of-water characters just can’t help themselves but paddle hard against whatever you throw at them.

I’ve written to the ‘fish out of water’ trope several times. A roadie in a relationship with a rockstar (Getting Real), a divorced woman on her own for the first time in a new neighbourhood, in 1975 (Hooked on a Feeling), and a CEO who’s suddenly unemployed (Insecure).

Grease Monkey Jive was my first, most obvious homage to the notion of tipping a character off the deep end and watching how they swim, or in this instance dance the light fantastic with two left feet.


A romance about changing the game, finding the truth, and fancy footwork.

Return Home: Christmas edition

by Darlene Fredette

 However far we wonder, where ever we may roam, our thoughts will still be turning to those we love at home. Author Unknown

Tropes like ‘Return Home’ are popular in romance stories, however every author must apply their own spin to make the trope their own and create a memorable storyline.

Returning home can be a mixed bag of emotion, with fun, but also conflict and tension.

In One Sweet Christmas, there’s a teaspoon of best friend’s sister and a tablespoon of a reunion. But the main focus is the cup of returning home; it’s a tasty recipe you just might find in Cane’s Chocolate Shop.

Jackson does not return to Redford Falls willingly. He is forced by a mere piece of paper. Upon his first step into the snow, emotion, conflict and tension erupt. Jackson not only has to face the past he left behind, but a family he has rarely spoken to, and the woman who holds his heart. There’s a lot at stake when he begins to wonder why he left, and whether a future is possible in the town he once couldn’t wait to leave.

Who knew returning home would contain a cool nip in the air, irresistible chocolate and a Santa suit?


It’s going to take more than a few pieces of chocolate to fill this Scrooge’s heart with Christmas cheer. Luckily Candice Cane has a whole shop full…

Return Home: Stranger in a Familiar Land

This week’s romance trope is Return Home. Kicking things off is Alison Stuart, who asks: Can you ever really go home?

A stench of animal and human waste and decomposing vegetable matter rose from the Thames and exuded in waves from the dark, narrow streets that led down to the dock. Standing at the rail of the ship, his hands gripping the weathered wood so hard that the knuckles showed white, Daniel breathed in the fetid London air as if it were the finest perfume he had ever smelled.

He had come home.

From Exile’s Return, by Alison Stuart

My husband maintains that in any given fictional story there are only two plots—‘stranger comes to town’ or ‘stranger goes on a journey’. The ‘return home’ trope is a subset of ‘stranger comes to town’, only in this case the stranger returns to a familiar world but finds they no longer fit in either because they have changed or their familiar world is no longer familiar.

It is a trope as old as literature itself. Think of Homer’s Odyssey—Odysseus returning to Ithaca after an absence of 20 years to find his home invaded by strangers, a son he no longer recognises and a wife who is on the point of giving him up for dead. Only his old, blind dog recognises him. In real life it is a common experience of soldiers returning after war, and you will see the trope used time and again in modern films such as Apocalypse Now or the Hurt Locker. Away from the military, think of My Fair Lady when Eliza decides to leave Henry Higgins and return to her old life.


I did not begin writing Exile’s Return with the conscious thought that the story muddling around in my head conformed to any sort of trope—that’s not how I write. Only as I signed it off did it occur to me that it is a classic ‘return home’ story.

The reader first meets the hero of Exile’s Return in the first book of the series, By the Sword. Daniel Lovell is eighteen. He is young, angry, and, like any young man, perceives his much older brother, Kit, as having had all the fun. The English Civil War should have ended with the death of Charles I in 1649 but in 1651 his son makes one last bid to regain the throne and this is Daniel’s chance for honour and glory and to avenge the death of his father on the battlefield of Worcester. Despite Kit’s injunction against Daniel following him, the boy disobeys him.

‘This may be my last chance,’ the boy said eagerly.

sword‘Your last chance for what?’ Giles asked. ‘Getting yourself killed?’

‘Everyone else has had their chance. I’ve always missed out on the fun. I was too young,’ the boy said in a petulant tone as if he had been denied an outing…

‘We’ll fight for the King and for glory and honour,’ he continued, oblivious to the cynical silence of his audience.

Jonathan considered the boy for a moment, seeing himself in the youthful idealism, but wanting desperately to prevent the futile loss of another life.

‘Daniel, war has nothing to do with glory and honour,’ he said and leaned forward, fixing the boy with a hard gaze. ‘Have you ever smelt the stench of death? Have you ever seen a man with his guts hanging out and still living or a man with his face shot away? Have you watched a friend die of gangrene?’

The inevitable happens, the King’s forces are defeated and Daniel finds himself alone, wounded and a prisoner. He doesn’t know if his brother is alive or dead or what his fate will be.

Exile’s Return opens in the last months of 1659. Oliver Cromwell is dead and there is a glimmering of hope of a restoration of the monarchy.

No longer the callow youth who dreamed of glory and honour, Daniel Lovell steps off a boat onto English soil for the first time in eight years. Scarred physically and emotionally, all his frustration has been channelled into one cause—to kill the man he believes responsible for the woes of the Lovell family.

He has been told his beloved brother Kit is dead. He doesn’t know if his mother and sister are still alive or living in the ruins of the old family home. Nothing is as it should be. He is quite literally a stranger in a familiar land. The only thing grounding him is his quest for revenge.

This is where the trope can take you in two different directions…either the stranger must come to terms with the changes in his world or he must move on.

As to how Daniel makes sense of this now unfamiliar world, where nothing is quite as it should be, and reconciles himself to his past, is not for me to say…I am afraid you have to read the book to find that out!


The breath-taking conclusion to Alison Stuart’s English Civil War trilogy introduces a heroine with nothing left to lose and a hero with everything to gain…

To mark the end of the Guardians of the Crown series, you can enter a contest to win some Guardians of the Crown swag. To enter just click HERE.