Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary. How Does Your Love Grow?

Sexual attraction, lust, love at first sight, friendship, instant hate, marriage of convenience, yearning for an ideal, ambition.

These are just some of the jumping-off points of writing romance.  One of the first aspects of planning a romance novel, for me, is deciding how the love between the hero and the heroine develops.  How do they feel about each other when they first meet? What makes them feel differently as the story develops?  In the end, what makes them feel like they can’t live without the other? In romance, the conflict drives the plot, but the central story development has to be the growth of the love between the hero and heroine. How we as authors create the relationship between our hero and heroine sets the tone for our entire story. It can help immensely when creating our story arc.

I could go on for days about different aspects of love. Here are just a few.



The most extreme arc occurs when the characters seemingly hate each other in the beginning of the novel, only to end up loving each other.  The old saying goes that “love is akin to hate”, and a recent study by researchers at University College London shows that the same neural reactors in the sub-cortex of the brain are responsible for both feelings.  What seems to differentiate them is the way the reasoning part of our brain, the cerebral cortex, reacts. Love is an unreasonable emotion; part of our reasoning becomes deactivated when we experience love, causing us to act irrationally. When we experience hate however, we actually act more rationally.

(“Neural Correlates of Hate by Semir Zeki and John Paul Romaya

This may explain why we sometimes, in the early stages of a love affair, become incapable of forming a sentence when the object of our love enters a room or speaks to us. Which in turn can lead to a really funny scene in a book.


Sexual Attraction/Lust

I’d be surprised if we haven’t all experienced this at some point in our lives. That instant connection, that hyper-awareness, the tingles racing up the spine. You can feel your face flush, your eyes getting a little brighter. You stand up straighter, momentarily, only to feel your body relax into a sultry, sexy stance. You lean into the person, body language flagrant while you throw off enough heat to raise the temperature in the room by five degrees.

A well-written scene where there is sexual attraction between the hero and heroine has a reader reaching for a fan. However, sexual attraction can’t be all there is in a romance novel. Love has to develop from it, and generally, the hero and heroine must at least be a little bit in love with each other (even if they don’t know it), in order for them to act on that sexual attraction.


Marriage of convenience

Used mostly in historicals, the marriage of convenience has to at least have a sympathetic hero, one who balks at being married off to an unsuspecting, innocent heroine. The hero acts nobly, he listens to his wife’s concerns, he offers her respect, and usually doesn’t force his attentions on his wife. The love story develops within the marriage, and the Happily Ever After comes when they both realize the wisdom in the pairing and the goodness of the other.

Marriage of convenience stories provide an instant external conflict, which is probably why they are so popular. Overcoming this particular conflict becomes a main part of the story arc.



Courtship by Edmund Leighton


The friendship element lends itself particularly well to writing a fun, and funny romance novel. Think romantic comedies like When Harry Met Sally. 

In my own experience, especially in my younger days, my friendships with men often started with a bit of romantic attraction on the side of one of us. When I was in my 20s, I had more male friends than female ones. Perhaps it was because I was a tomboy growing up, hanging around with my brother and his friends, climbing trees, playing baseball, Frisbee, kill-the-guy and Cops and Robbers.  As my male friends and I got to know one another better, it soon became clear that there would be no romance, but we had a helluva lot of fun.

I never had a friendship with a guy that developed into a romance, which is probably why this type of story is a favorite. Kristan Higgins is great at writing friends-to-lovers stories. Usually, though they might be friends, there is an obvious attraction (to the readers, anyway) on the part of either the hero or the heroine. The other is just unaware of it.


What kind of love story grabs you? If you’re comfortable sharing, does your personal experience include any of the above? Dish!





Leave a comment


  1. I like reading about finding love/romance in all the scenarios you mentioned. Also, the “opposites attract” is a fun one too! That least-likely-person-to-find-love-with gets me every time. Funny, like you, I too had more guy friends when I was younger, probably because I was a band nerd and hung out with musicians. Great post Jaye!

    • Hah, Nicole, you were a band nerd? I wouldn’t have guessed. Opposites attract is a good one…as long as they are not so opposite as to be unbelievable. But yeah…the sexy model and the buttoned-up banker…I can see that one.

      It wasn’t until I moved out of the theatre career that I started to “collect” my circle of empowering women friends. I had a few close women friends up to that point, but not the way I do now. It might also have something to do with all of us (men and women alike) getting married. 😉

  2. Diana Quincy

     /  May 5, 2014

    I like any trope, as long as the story is compelling. However, I have to admit I am a sucker for “friends to lovers” and “marriage of convenience” plots.

    As to my own romance, I guess I would have to say my husband and I developed from friends to lovers. We worked together for a year or so before sparks flew.

  3. I find myself going off on tangents when I comment here. Reason, at least my opinion will be read, unlike so many of my tales…boo hoo. However, this post caused me to create a little notebook from the the four points Jaye covered and explained. It is on my desktop.
    Thanks Jaye. To answer the question about what type of love story I enjoy…since I was a child and rather uninterested in reading or anything to do with academics, I somehow found Romeo and Juliet to be hypnotic. The Last of the Mohicans(novel) at times makes R & J look like a happy ending. I guess that tells a lot about me. Medication may help.
    Great post and helpful to me…see yah

    • Jaye Marie Rome

       /  May 8, 2014

      Keep writing, Joe! Your day will come.

      Funny about R&J…people seem to either love it or hate it. I love it, as well. Forbidden love is another good place to start.


  4. Well, I love all these tropes in romances so all of these love story grabs my attention~! 😀
    But I super love “friends to lovers” tropes. They can be very sweet and charming or just full of angst and heartbreaks but they all lead to a happy HAE!

    I have current WIPs and ideas for this “friends to lovers” trope so, I guess I’m being biased. 🙂

    But, I’ve never been in a relationship so…… It’s all imaginations and fantasy~ LOL

    • Jaye Marie Rome

       /  May 8, 2014

      Fantasy! I think that’s a bit of a problem for me, too…it’s so seldom that the reality lives up to the fantasy version. There’s a reason why romance novels are an escape, lol.

  5. I am not so big on the “friends to lovers” trope because I had that in my life once. And it was…weird. You get comfortable and then think a relationship might work, but there’s no ZING like when you first meet someone that knocks your socks off.

    I dunno, I’m sure it works for many but didn’t work for me. Maybe that’s why all my manuscripts start out with the hero/heroine hating each other? Now revenge tropes….there’s one I can get behind!

    • Jaye Marie Rome

       /  May 8, 2014

      Joanna…friends to lovers never worked for me, either. My mother would always bemoan the fact that I had so many boy friends but that none of them were boyfriends. There was one in particular that I think she hoped would change, but it never did. She was so disappointed.

      You are awesome at the revenge trope…it’s that wicked sense of humor!

  6. RoseAnn DeFranco

     /  May 6, 2014

    Great post, Jaye. I love love, I really do! Some of my favorite scenarios are the star-crossed lovers (R&J), I love opposites attract, and the love/hate scenario born from something like class distinction or a bad past experience/prejudice. From my own writing, I’d say I’m pretty big on the reunion/second chances trope, and just tropes in general. I like to mix and match my tropes within the same story. I’m an equal opportunity watch them fall in love kind of gal. There is really no trope that is a turn-off for me.

    I do love the friends to lovers scenario, but told from the perspective of unrequited love. Meaning…he was her older brother’s best friend and she had a crush on him for years, he never noticed her until years later when..HELLO, he notices her. I think there can be a nice side slice of revenge mixed in there as well. Yummy!

    • Jaye Marie Rome

       /  May 8, 2014

      I think at my age, second chances are very appealing. 🙂 Or, “the one that got away” romances. As I reconnect with various people from my past, especially my college years, I find myself wondering “what if?”. Of course, I do that with my career choices, too…”what if I had taken that job stage managing for NYC Opera?”

      It’s interesting to think about how your life would have been different if you’d made other choices regarding relationships, jobs, and other opportunities, isn’t it?

  7. Great post, Jaye! As a historical romance author, I do love the marriage of convenience plot. But I think my favorite is the love/hate plot. The external conflict is so strong and combined with sexual attraction, it’s always a quick and exciting read for me.

    • Jaye Marie Rome

       /  May 8, 2014

      Yes, and lots of fire and banter. I love those, too, Tina!

  8. Hi Jaye. I like to read a variety. I also like the love/hate revenge trope, especially Joanna’s. I’ve written a reunion story that was based on sexual attraction. Then a combo of reunion/second chances and and am now working on an opposites attract.

  9. Hey Janet, the friends to lovers seems like a trope used in a lot of novels I’ve read recently…I’m on a New Adult kick so… However, writing the love/hate relationship is SO MUCH FUN!!! Best, Michele


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