Friends to lovers is one of my absolute favorite tropes and one that I love in most, if not all, of it’s forms. Since the last (and first) Trope Talk I did was on one of my least favorite tropes, Second Chance Romance, I thought I would talk about the estranged friends finding their way back to each other sub-trope since it sort of combines these two tropes.
1) Wrong to Need Youby Alisha Rai
I love the Forbidden Hearts series with a passion that defies logic, in part because of how Alisha Rai creates the perfect amount of angst in each of the books to break your heart and have you rooting so hard for these characters to get the happily ever after they deserve. Sadia and Jackson used to be best friends, before Jackson’s dad died and he was accused of a crime leading to him fleeing their town and not really looking back. When you add in that Sadia is a widow and therefore Jackson’s former sister-in-law and that Jackson has been in love with her forever, you have the perfect recipe a friends to lovers romance that begins with the same groveling sort of thing necessary in second chance romances. I could not begin to tell you why this is easier for me to deal with than a true second chance romance, but it is.
I have a full review of Wrong to Need You posted and linked to the side. If you haven’t read this entire series, you should absolutely get on that.
2) Dr. Strange Beardby Penny Reid
This installment of The Winston Brothers series was interesting and unique for a few reasons. For one, there was a pretty substantial time jump before the beginning of this book, which was necessary given that our hero is Roscoe, the youngest of the Winston Brothers. Roscoe and Simone were best friends until they were about sixteen, when Roscoe confessed his love to Simone and she rejected him. Roscoe remembers literally everything he experiences and so he couldn’t handle being around Simone. Now it’s ten years later and Simone needs Roscoe to help her with something. Oh, and Simone does not have any recollection that Roscoe had feelings for her because she was too intoxicated that night to remember. So Simone thinks Roscoe just up and left. The two of them finding their way back to one another is fraught and a little difficult, but ultimately, it is so worth it.
I do want to note that Simone is a Black woman and there is some commentary I appreciated about how to be a white ally and a few conversations about driving while Black. While I think Penny Reid did a good job discussing these things, it is very overhanded. That said, I’m guessing there are quite a few white women who may have read this book who needed to see this message.
3) Himby Sarina Bowen
This m/m romance is full of angst (Wes) and teddy bear softness (Jamie) and also hockey and I love it so much. Jamie Canning is one of my favorite romance heroes ever. His family is absolutely wonderful and so is he. Wes and Jamie went to the same fancy hockey summer camp for years as kids/teenagers, but at the beginning of the book they haven’t talked since their last summer camp and both of their teams are in the Frozen Four. Jamie has no idea why Wes walked out of his life, but Wes is convinced he took advantage of Jamie with this bet thing. They sort of reconnect, but Jamie thinks he won’t hear from Wes again, until Wes shows up at the hockey camp to teach there the way Jamie has been for the past four years. Working through all of their issues is not easy, but significantly easier than Wes thought it would be because Jamie is not a jerk about Wes being gay. The book is so wonderful and also a great reminder that communication is really important and if people would talk to each other it would be great.
4) A Rogue by Any Other Nameby Sarah MacLean
I adore this book even though I feel like the premise is a bit problematic. Bourne finds out that his family’s estate that he gambled away as a dumb 21 year old is now attached to his childhood best friend as part of her dowry. The only thing is, he hasn’t’ talked to her since his parents died, many years ago. So instead of talking to her, when he comes across her in the woods headed toward his family’s estate, he essentially kidnaps her to compromise her so she has no choice but to marry him. That said, because it’s Sarah MacLean, Penelope never comes across as a human lacking in agency so despite the weird premise it really works for me.
What is interesting is how their estrangement plays out. You get to see the letters she wrote him and see how she battles with who Bourne is now and who he was when they were young. It’s also nice to see him struggle with missing who he was when he was with Penelope and before all these things went really wrong in his life. Also, there is definitely a marriage of convenience vibe happening here so that certainly helps.
5) Mine to Possessby Nalini Singh
Mine to Possess is the fourth book in the Psy-Changeling series and is an interesting take on this trope because what drove Tally and Clay from one another was a huge traumatic experience. This book was difficult for me both times I read it because the first time I fully understood Clay’s emotional state (other than his extremely unfair jealous anger about Tally having slept with other men) and couldn’t understand some of Tally’s responses. The second time through, I was more understanding of Tally and therefore enjoyed the book a lot more, I really just adore Nalini Singh and this series, so… You know. But I will say seeing the estranged friends to lovers trop play out in this particular world was fascinating. Underneath all of the pain they both experienced, the two fall into familiar patterns and pull back and give in, and when this particular event happens, it was more of a, “Of course,” than anything else. It’s really a wonderful book.
What are your thoughts on this trope? Do you love it, hate it, or feel pretty meh about it? Regardless, please feel free to leave me your recommendations below!