If there’s ever been a romance trope more thoroughly beloved than friends-to-more, I’ve got the wrong data. Poll after poll shows above and beyond that this is one trope we romance readers will never, ever get enough of.
Now, I’m well aware that the actual term for this trope is friends-to-lovers, but sometimes “lovers” has a much different connotation than we as Inspy and/or Christian romance readers would give it, so I’ll stick with friends-to-more.
Why do we love this trope so very much? I look forward to reading your thoughts in the comments below, but I’ll share a few of mine first.
- Friendship makes for the strongest basis of any relationship. Solid, lasting friendships are build on a history of laughing together, facing life’s everyday challenges together, respecting each other’s differences, supporting one another with unconditional love and acceptance simply for who that person is. Sounds like the perfect foundation for a lasting marriage, too, huh?
- Friendship doesn’t blind you to the other person’s faults. When it comes to new love, it’s all too easy to see past a person’s flaws because of those rosy-colored, heart-shaped glasses we’re wearing. With friends, we see plenty of flaws and imperfections and choose to accept them—maybe even appreciate them—because you know the other person complements you because of them.
- Friendship builds intimacy. In friendships, we’re more likely to be vulnerable with what we’re going through and how we feel about it. Friendship feels safe, so it’s easier to come unguarded into the relationship without fear of rejection.
- New awareness changes everything, which means hello chemistry! That spark of new awareness, the hope of new love, the fear of love remaining unrequited…in other words, all the feels. This trope has more potential for emotional entanglement as a reader than any other, in my opinion.
- Other tropes can join in the fun and only make the story richer. Think of all the fun an author can have with this trope. I mean, add unrequited love or marriage of convenience, and BAM! you have a whole new aspect to what some consider an overused trope. (Overused my foot. I say unlimited potential!) Think of the possibilities!
It’s kind of funny how much I love this trope, actually. Up until the past few years, I never really considered my husband to also be my friend. In my head, it sounded sappy and weird, and I already have a best friend who has filled that role for far longer. A while back, though, I realized that I’ve been living a reverse of my favorite trope. After twenty years together, my husband and I still have our separate interests and hobbies. We fully support and respect and adore each other, even if our likes and dislikes don’t often overlap. We complement each other in the best of ways and are a unified team. And finally, it’s hit me that he is also my very best friend.
Best friends are the ones we run to when life is tough. The ones we call first with good news. The ones we laugh with and sometimes laugh at, but only because teasing brings us closer together. Best friends aren’t afraid to tell us when those jeans do make our butt look big, but the history and trust between us removes the sting of uncomfortable truth. Best friends pray over each other. They listen to the rotten day we had and offer up comfort—a joke, a hug, or reassurance.
When I’m writing, I don’t set out to write a trope specifically. The characters usually develop organically in my head first, and then the plot sort of fills itself in from there. But I’ve noticed a trend in my stories for those friends-to-more stories.
My favorite that I’ve written so far is Love, Laughter, & Luminarias. Nina and Garrett have been friends since high school. Their teasing relationship often feels more like siblings at times, until witnessing Nina chase down a shoplifter opens his eyes to a whole new side of his friend. The experience rattles Nina, who begins to seek God in her life for the first time. Her best friend’s faith and willingness to go along with whatever zany plans she comes up with sparks a whole new appreciation for the dependable book nerd.
While I don’t consider it my best work, What Could Be holds a special place in my heart as my debut novel. In it, single-dad Josh and slightly-naive daycare worker Brynn build a friendship over several months. There’s a bit of a love triangle in this one, as Brynn seeks God’s will regarding the steady relationship she’s increasingly certain isn’t the right one and the feelings she keeps denying for the man she never expected to care for.
Another one is What Makes a Home. Free-living artist Jobie and computer engineer Caleb form an unlikely friendship after he buys a rundown house across the street. Spending time together renovating his home parallels the work God is doing in Jobie’s life. While neither intends to fall for the other, unexpected issues arise for fledgling believer Jobie, and Caleb’s steadfast friendship and care become the foundation for a new kind of relationship she’s never known before. How can she not fall for him?
Now, while I argue that friends-to-more is the very best romance trope, I will admit I love variety. I also love stories that turn stereotypes on their heads and face unexpected challenges. And I haven’t really met a trope I don’t like so long as it’s done well. What about you? Do you agree that this is the best of all, or do you have a special favorite? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Remember—all comments this month get extra entries into our annual InspyRomance Birthday Bash!