My short list of the reunion romance "somethings."
- "Remember me?"answered by "How could I forget?" It's knowing you're getting a story that has one of the best questions and answers in romance. (Or is that two questions?)
- It's the appeal of second chances. Yep, that seems most likely, but it's more than just retracing steps.
- It's the back story. Yes, sometimes I like back story. Actually, that's one of the rather unique things I think is so great about a reunion story. I know I can expect some "shared baggage" and I kind of like that. This kind of baggage is shared memories. They formed a bond that's still intact, and I want to hear about it.
- It's the lure of unfinished business. I'm curious as to why these two split up in the first place. Or, for that matter, why do they have a chance now? What has changed?
But in a way, even with a guarantee of a happy ending, picking up a reunion story is taking a gamble that a story that mixes the past with the present will be presented in a fresh and satisfying way. It's different than starting with a first meeting, but the reward can be great. Every once in a while, we get a gem of reunion story that sets things right for two characters we've been convinced were meant for each other. Their reunion story is Fate at work directing their paths back together again.
So, of course, I've been drawn to writing a reunion romance, and I think a large part of it is because the different perspectives of those shared memories is so interesting. Do the hero and heroine remember the past exactly the same? Probably not. Do they think they knew everything important about the other? Maybe. What happens when they meet up again and compare notes? Is the new information going to be the foundation for a fresh start?
Both of my first two novels are reunion stories that explore these perspectives. (My third novel, and current WIP, is actually my first story where the main characters meet for the first time in chapter one. I know, how "different" right? *grin*)
In my first story, a historical set in Regency England, the reunion story is a bit one-sided. The first meeting between the hero and heroine was actually when the heroine was about fourteen. Of course, while Ariana fell head-over-heals in love with Justin, the older hero, the age gap meant he didn't take her affection seriously. In fact, he didn't remember her at all when they did meet years later. And when he does remember, he calls her "little girl." Ouch!
But that one-sidedness was part of the appeal. We've all had those encounters, especially in our teen years, of the object of our affection being oblivious to our existence. I loved to explore the hero worship aspect and how the heroine had to reconcile the girlhood fantasies of her past with a flawed hero of her present.
Later in the story, the shoe was on the other foot when the heroine gets amnesia and forgets the hero. I hadn't thought I deliberately set out to do a little pay back for the hurt feelings of heroine, but it does seem like that is close to the truth. The reunion aspect was definitely a big draw for writing that story and I'll have to think about this some more in my revision. (Much more on my love of Amnesia Plots in a former blog post.)
And while I'm on the topic of amnesia, there's a television show on right now that is messing with my psyche. "Once Upon a Time" is a show about the modern day town of Storybrooke where everyone is a fairytale character -- only they forgot. I'm hooked into this series, which has a large portion set in the fairy tale kingdom as flashbacks. (You can definitely tell by the flashbacks that it's a series created by the same people who thought up "Lost.") In one episode of the new, alternate reality of Storybrooke, Mary Margaret (Snow White) is at the bedside of James (her prince) when he awakens from a coma. Not only does he not remember her -- although there's something about her -- but into the hospital room walks his wife! Snow White's prince is married to someone else. Oh, boy. Now that's just not right. I told myself I was not going to watch this show that dares to rewrite fairy tale romances with these sorts of complications.
But I still do. I have to see how they fix this. If anything, this series is a good test of how much I can accept of rewriting the the future of iconic characters while remembering the fairy tale of their past.
Actually, long before this series gave me something to think about when it came to messing with the perfection of fairy tale romances, I was into my second reunion story. In Ghost of a Promise, a contemporary, the heroine's husband is a ghost, which you could say took a reunion story concept to an extreme! This story is all about taking two characters who thought they knew everything there was to know about each other and showing them that there was more to learn. At times, I've been wary of messing with the "perfection" of their former relationship and I didn't want to shatter any illusions. But like my first story, change meant keeping the memories of the past intact while making the relationship stronger with new depths of understanding. I really felt like they were full partners in their future by the time they pieced together their separate perceptions of their relationship.
I guess I see a bit of a theme here to my reunion romances. It's not about losing the fantasy of a perfect romance. Or about changing them into totally different people. It's mixing the two parts together to make a whole.
Do you enjoy reunion romances? Have you watched the television series "Once Upon a Time?" What do you think about adding details to "rewrite" fairy tale romances?