One of the themes that emerges in my writing, regardless of genre, is the importance of friendship in getting to the ‘stable world’ at the end of the story. Friendships among my female characters tend to arise naturally. So when I built the arc for my Victorian Romance series around five old friends/schoolmates from Harrow, the heroes of the stories, I thought I had a handle on these male friendships and how they’d grown, changed, and in some cases disintegrated over the years. Only when I got to revisions in book one did I realize that two of these friends who’d had a significant falling out needed to repair their friendship to move not only the plot of the first book, but also the arc of the series.
I’m going to dispense with the formalities of titles for purposes of this blog post, so the friends in question are Daniel (book 1 hero) and Edward (book 2 hero). These two are destined to cross paths and proverbial swords because our heroine, Emmeline, is both Daniel’s love interest and Edward’s sister. While each man loves Emmeline dearly in his own way, each believes he knows what’s best for her future (not-so-spoilery spoiler: their ideas of ‘best for Emmeline’ are different, and Emmeline doesn’t give a toss about their opinions of her life anyway).
In the first draft, I had Daniel and Edward sniping and verbally sparring, and eventually begrudgingly joining forces to do the right thing. That was all very nice and fine and good, but there wasn’t a lot of juice in their storyline. And what fun is it to read (or write!) about characters when there’s no juice? So I set out to make these former friends angrier, more intractable, and more diametrically opposed. Of course, you can’t have an immovable object meet an irresistible force without ensuing fireworks. And those fireworks? It turns out they’re the juice in the Daniel/Edward subplot.
There are two other friends (and future book heroes) with Daniel and Edward in book 1, each making their own misguided (and I hope humorous) attempts at reconciling the ex-friends. When it’s time for the inevitable showdown, one friend suggests a drinking contest to settle their dispute, while the other suggests an all-night card game. But those pursuits are too civilized for men as angry and passionate as Daniel and Edward, who determine that any attempt to settle their differences must include the ability to punch each other, and the underground boxing match of the Season is born. In the course of the match, each man gains a respect not only for how much the other loves Emmeline, but how much each has given up to protect his respective family and how alike the two really are.
Never fear; Emmeline and her friends aren’t about to let two testosterone-fueled brutes decide her fate, despite how much she loves them both. But for this book, part (but just one part!) of getting to the happily ever after for Daniel and Emmeline is negotiating a peace between the two men who love her most. Letting Daniel and Edward sink to their brutish depths so they could then find the better angels of their natures was the juiciest way I found to do it. It changed the stakes for our hero of book 1, revealed more character nuances about our hero of book 2, and started a bromance between two ex-friends that will carry on throughout the remainder of the series.
Is friendship a theme in your writing? Do you like friendship subplots in your romance stories? Do you prefer a hero with deep male friendships or lone-wolf leading men?