Personally, I’m a sucker for the second-chance romance trope. Nothing is equally as infuriating as it is satisfying, and the happily ever after seems the sweetest with these types of stories.
The Appeal: A second-chance romance isn’t as cut and dry as it sounds. There are several origins to two characters getting a second chance. They could be exes or former lovers – either in a “one that got away” capacity or perhaps the relationship just didn’t or couldn’t work the first time around. The two of them could have been good friends at a time in their life and some series of events prevented them from making it romantic, only to get another chance at confessing their feelings after being reunited.
Second chances are a universal concept and not just in romantic relationships. People make mistakes and generally fuck up. Some of us may even have a “one that got away,” or are waiting for another chance at a relationship. It appeals to the notion that people can change for the better. And it turns me into a big ol’ softy!
The Pitfalls: Admittedly, this trope can be frustrating. There have been numerous occasions in which I’ve yelled, “Just kiss already!” However, the authors tends to know what they’re doing, and the constant tap dancing around the will-they-won’t-they plot only serves to increase the tension and the drama. But oh the drama! Second-chance romances are often oozing with melodrama, especially if the couple has a prior relationship history. Bad memories and horrible habits are brought up and sometimes, the reader is reminded of why it didn’t work out in the first place. And perhaps it should have stayed that way. That’s probably the worst thing that can happen. In order for the second chance to work, the couple needs to show that they’ve grown from their previous transgressions and that they’re finally ready to commit to this relationship.
Recommendations: Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage by Jennifer Ashley
Oh, boy. This one is a doozy. Lady Isabella is no stranger to scandal. She eloped to marry a notorious rake, only to divorce him a few years later. So that’s not one, but two scandals under her corset. Clearly, the hero and heroine are two very passionate people who both love hard and hate hard, and the book is a bit of a rollercoaster ride in the best way possible. The historical setting also adds another element to the second-chance romance, as shotgun weddings and talks of divorce in 19th century England weren’t really the norm.
Dark Skye by Kresley Cole
A bit of a caveat. This is the most recent book in Cole’s Immortals After Dark series. Those unfamiliar with the series could probably pick this one up and make sense of it, though it’s infinitely more satisfying if you’re familiar with the characters’ backstory and the overarching (and ensuing) apocalypse plotline. Thronos and Lanthe are the main characters of this book and their predicament makes an appearance about eight books earlier. Needless to say, I was over the moon when it came out. Both the hero and heroine are of different supernatural races, ones that are natural adversaries. The pair of star-crossed lovers suffered an awful betrayal, turning them against one another for centuries. I may have cried during this book, though I will admit nothing.
Hot Finish by Erin McCarthy
Though the third book in the Fast Track series, this can certainly be read as a standalone novel. The hero and heroine make appearances in the previous books, but there isn’t anything necessary that you’d miss out on if you choose to pick this one up without reading the other two. The two main characters, Suzanne and Ryder, were formerly married, with the heroine being a wedding planner and the hero being the best man at a wedding she’s obviously planning. The hero also happens to race cars for a living. Because the two of them had such a serious, previous relationship, it can be a bit of an emotional wringer as Suzanne and Ryder try to work out their differences and how they happened to fall apart along the line.
Because it’s hard for me to choose just three, I’d also like to give an honorable mention to the steampunk romance, Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook, and the romantic suspense (with some scifi elements), Blind Faith by Rebecca Zanetti.
Now let me hear some of your favorites!