Nancy: Putting the Bromance in Romance

bromanceOne 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?

7 thoughts on “Nancy: Putting the Bromance in Romance

  1. Now that you mention it, a lot of romances have lone wolves. But I do like a good bromance subplot. There’s Bet Me, of course, with the three musketeers meeting three men who have their own club. And I just read last month A Bollywood Affair, where the brothers are also best friends — that relationship drove the plot for much of the book. And let’s not forget Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Darcy would not have anything at all if it weren’t for his friends (particularly Mr. Bingley).

    • I was thinking about this morning, and realized that in my Women’s Fiction manuscript, the men look like lone wolves because we’re always in deep POV of one of three female protagonists and don’t see the men interacting with their own friends. There was a flashback scene in My Girls that I cut, which showed Maddie (protag’s best friend) and her life partner Mike trying to set up Eileen (protag) with some of Mike’s friends. But it didn’t move the story forward, yada yada yada, and now Mike and the other love interests in the book are never ‘on screen’ with their bros. So while writers might not think of their heroes as lone wolves, maybe they just end up written that way because we focus so much on our heroines?

      I don’t know, just pondering. But I agree, I love a good bromance subplot, which is why I’m enjoying writing the male friendships in my Harrow series so much!

    • That’s an interesting point, Jeanne! My husband is the male whose life and friendships I see most, and he’s had really deep, abiding friendships since I met him (we met at 17, when friendships are probably at the height of importance in our lives). And his friends are all great guys, which says a lot about his character to me, so it’s probably natural that I’m extending that perspective to male friendships on the page.

  2. It’s hard to get the balance right in a book—if you write in strong friendships, some might feel that you’re sacrificing the romance, or if there’s a strong romance, then their isn’t room to show the friendship angle. I guess that’s part of the difference between women’s fiction and straight-up romance—you have more room to demonstrate other relationships.

  3. Sorry, I’m a day late but I just wanted to say that a) I love friendships in romances (male or female) and I love the sound of your Harrow series Nancy. I had no idea you were writing that – is this new or have I just missed it? When is it set? I would buy it (or beta-read it if you’d like). 🙂

    • I don’t know that you missed it; I probably didn’t give enough detail for you to realize the series I’ve discussed entails. I might very well take you up on the offer to beta-read! Current goal (day job permitting) is to have the novella ready for betas by the end of August, and book 1 by the end of September :-).

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