As writers of romance, we are expected to focus on the love shown between our hero and heroine. Whether we write steamy, explicit scenes or sweet, off-screen love scenes, they are expected to take place and to demonstrate the feelings our main characters have for each other.
But our hero and heroine are not the only ones who make up our story. Sure, they’re the focus, but they have to interact with other people. Maybe it’s a best friend or a sibling or even a child; they don’t live in a vacuum and they can’t be three dimensional characters without the village that surrounds them. Think of it this way: how boring would YOU be if you never talked to or interacted with anyone but one other person?
The relationships our hero and heroine have with other people are another way to demonstrate love and help provide context for the romantic relationships they’re capable of having. They also provide a way for the writer to reveal hints about upcoming events or reasons for why the hero or heroine act the way they do.
For example, in A Heart of Little Faith, my hero is fairly prickly and at times, unlikeable. But he shows a completely different side of himself with a child:
Her sobs snapped Gideon out of his reverie and he swore to himself. He hadn’t meant to yell at her, certainly hadn’t meant to scare her. He wheeled across the room, around the chair she’d left in the middle of the floor, and into his bed-room. As he pulled up to the side of his bed, he lowered his voice and crooned.
“Shh, sweetheart. It’s okay, honey. I didn’t mean to yell at you.”
Claire rolled over and pulled her knees up to her chest. She stared at Gideon, her breath hiccupping. Gideon reached over and brushed the tears from her face, his hands following the wet trail across her cheek and into her hair.
“I’m sorry, Claire.” He waited and gave her time to focus on what he said.
She sat up and he patted his lap. She climbed into it and he hugged her as he rocked her back and forth. The warmth from her body melted the icy feeling in his heart.
His sister, Samantha, is the catalyst to his relationship with the heroine, Lily. She often appears to meddle, but she does it out of love for him:
Gideon took a deep breath. “Samantha, I know you’re doing what you think is best, but believe me, I don’t want your help. I am perfectly happy just the way I am.”
“Are you?” Samantha asked. “I mean really?”
Gideon closed his eyes for a minute. “Sam, there are a lot of definitions of happy, so yes, I am. Besides, I can take care of myself.”
“I know you can. Okay, I’ll lay off.”
In Skin Deep, the hero has never known love from anyone in his past, except a special teacher who took on the “mother role.” Their bond is special, and is what helped to shape the way he relates to people as an adult:
“This woman saved my life.” He stared at Valerie. “She was there for me when no one else was.”
John rang the doorbell and squeezed her hand while they waited. After a moment, the curtains moved in the front window. A squeal, and the door opened wide, releasing the smell of cinnamon outside. A tiny woman with white hair and a huge smile stood in the doorway.
“John!” she cried as her eyes sparkled. She stood back and ushered them both into the house.
John reached down and gave her a quick hug. Valerie saw the brief look of shock on the woman’s face at the contact, before she hid it from view. This woman knew John well, she thought. Her arms fluttered around John like a butterfly, be-fore they rested lightly on his broad back.
“Hello, Mrs. Mayberry. I’d like to introduce you to my girlfriend, Valerie. Valerie, this is Mrs. Mayberry, my fifth-grade teacher.”
There are all types of love that can be shown in a romance novel. And the more you use, the more complex your characters, and your stories, will be.