GS vs. STA: Friendships

Book Cover Time for another Good Shit Vs. Shit To Avoid, this time prompted by Amanda, who is searching for books with strong female friendships:

I am looking for a book to read. I’ve been a little bored with the romance
novel offerings and here’s why: Why doesn’t anybody ever have a friend?
None of the women ever have any friends! I mean, sometimes they have a
convenient “This is my friend, sometimes I see her in a park, a ballroom
(if historical), or in yoga class (if contemporary). We talk for five
minutes and then we don’t think about each other for weeks.”

In fact, the only romance novel I’ve ever read with a strong female
friendship right at the center is “Bet Me” by Jennifer Crusie. I’d love
to read more books about women who not only have moving relationships but
great friendships with other women. Can the bitchery help?

It’s a tricky balance, since the friendships that contain those friends known as Sequel Bait must be heroine-potential but not overshadowing the heroine herself. Yet the friends must also be strong characters that reveal more about the hero or heroine—surely heroes can have female friends, right? The first books that pop into my head are the Wallflower Quartet stories by Lisa Kleypas, which are centered on four women friends in London. There are some where the friends are in the background – The Devil in Winter only has a few scenes of the quartet being themselves, for example – but the characters as a group serving as the focus point of all four (or wait, aren’t there five now?) books seemed startling and new to me at the time of publication.

Another book with a very strong and I thought believable friendship – though not between a man and a woman – is in Julie James’ Something About You. l liked the heroine’s friends (of both genders!) as much as I liked the heroine herself.

What about you? What books do you adore that feature strong friendships among characters who aren’t the hero and heroine? Amanda specifically asked for friendships between women, but I’m also open to your suggestions for friendships that cross gender lines.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Kaetrin says:

    The first ones that come to mind are The Bride Quartet by Nora Roberts.  Some of the best parts of those books are the friendships between the 4 women of Vows.

  2. 2
    BookwormBabe says:

    I have to agree with Kaetrin. 

    Nora Roberts writes about strong women and strong women relationships.  Whilst you will likely get a trilogy or quartet with these characters you usually don’t mind.

  3. 3
    EbonyMcKenna says:

    We were just discussing this on the weekend at my crit group. It’s become a cliche to have the single girl with no friends at all. Which is pretty pathetic if it was real life. Sure, the friends shouldn’t intrude too much and take over in the story, but for a character to ring true, they need friends.

  4. 4
    Rose says:

    Women in romance novels do seem to be shortchanged when it comes to female friends; at least in historicals, the men seem more likely to have (sequel bait) friends than the women. And I agree with Ebony MKenna, it doesn’t ring true for a character to be so isolated.

    Still, a few female friendships I can think of:
    Gaelen Foley’s Knight Miscellany Books: Jacinda Knight and Lizzie Carlisle.
    Loretta Chase, Captives of the Night: Leila Beaumont and Fiona, Lady Carroll. Esme from The Lion’s Daughter has a close friend in Donika, but the latter is a pretty minor character. I suppose you can add Lydia and Tamsin from The Last Hellion.
    Julia Quinn – Penelope Featherington and Eloise Bridgerton in the Bridgerton books; Miranda Cheever and Olivia Bevelstoke.
    Liz Carlyle – Sidonie and Julia in The Devil to Pay.
    Jennifer Crusie – not just Bet Me, she has several books with female friendships.
    SEP – Match Me If You Can for sure, possibly others?

    Two more that aren’t strictly romances novels:
    Jennifer Donnelly’s The Winter Rose – India and Ella (there’s also India’s med school friend Harriet).
    Tatiana doesn’t have any female friends in The Bronze Horseman, but has a very good friend (Vikki) in the other two books in the trilogy as well as lots of more casual friends from her hospital job in The Summer Garden.

  5. 5
    Tin CC-Ong says:

    I agree with Wallflower Quartet—great series with great heroines.

    Robyn Dehart’s (unfinished) Ladies Amateur Sleuth Society also featured a great friendship between the women in each story.

  6. 6
    Sarah W says:

    Jennifer Crusie’s Anyone but You and Strange Bedfellows.  And Agnes and the Hitman.

    Most of Eloisa James’ Duchess series.

  7. 7
    Anna Persson says:

    I always liked how Shelly Laurenston writes her paranormal/contempory heroines.

    Sure there are sequels where friends find their men but these ladies are always completely loyal to their friendships and never forget to spend time with their friends just because they found the man in their life.

    I also enjoy how, when characters appear as cameos in later novels, it’s usually in a social setting that makes sense considering what yu know about the character from previous books.

    For my favourite friendship read the three novels: The Mane Event, The Beast in Him and The Mane Attraction so that you can hang out with Brenda Lee and Sissy Mae in their wild and crazy way.

  8. 8
    Black Val says:

    I’m going to add some Kresley Cole to the list.  I really enjoyed the friendship between Lucia and Regan in Pleasure of a Dark Prince. 

    Capture: were13.  Yes, I think there are at least 13 were in the series!

  9. 9
    AgTigress says:

    As Rose and Sarah W have already pointed out, Bet Me is not the only Crusie in which close female friendships are at the centre of the story.  I would actually say that this applies to most of her novels (I haven’t read the most recent ones, since the first Mayer collaboration), but would specifically add Crazy for You to Sarah W’s list of examples.  Also her early book Manhunting, and of course Fast Women.  In fact, female friendships are almost as characteristic of her stories as dogs are.

    Female friendships also feature in many of Jayne Ann Krentz’s novels, contemporary, historical and futuristic/paranormal.  They do not always take the form of the heroine herself having very close female friends, though they often do, but actual gay couples (both male and female) are a recurring motif in the general circles of friends around JAK’s central characters.

  10. 10
    LG says:

    The Secret by Julie Garwood had what I thought was a really fantastic friendship – that friendship is basically what drove the story.

    And, it’s already been mentioned, but strong friendships are all over the place in Nora Roberts books.

  11. 11
    AgTigress says:

    I understand that the Gay Friend has become something of a cliché in some chick lit and romance, but again, Crusie has done this well and realistically (e.g. Joe in Charlie All Night and Cal’s friend Shanna in Bet Me).  Both JAK and Crusie create characters that ring true in the settings they depict, without necessarily setting up the secondary characters as central characters for future books.
    Just like real life.

  12. 12
    minna says:

    Yes, I’ll second Kresley Cole and Nora Roberts.  Also I liked the friendship dynamic in Jayne Ann Krentz books Light in Shadow and also Truth or Dare.  Now it’s been mentioned I’m going to be looking at the heroines in books I’m reading and wonder why they have no friends.

  13. 13
    Tea says:

    Oh, thanks for this list!

    My two centavos: Shelly Munroe, The Bottom Line. A group of Australian buds who call themselves “The Tight Five,” which is apparently a rugby move – depicts true friendships, and the women in the novels are all growing and testing boundaries and changing, as real people do.

  14. 14
    drcjsnider says:

    Susan Andersen – Cutting Lose and Bending the Rules (although they are sequel bait).

    Also

    Susan Elizabeth Phillips in Ain’t She Sweet – has the ‘Seawillows’ a very strong group of female friends…although the heroine spends most of the book at odds with them.

  15. 15
    JaniceG says:

    Besides those already mentioned, in Regencies, one of Mary Balogh’s interconnected series (starting with Dark Angel) has a strong female friendship between the cousins Samantha and Jennifer; her “Simply” series also has strong friendships between the teachers at a girls school, who feature in the various books. Also, Marjorie Farrell’s Miss Ware’s Refusal and Lady Barbara’s Dilemma have a very strong friendship between the main characters.

  16. 16
    Amanda says:

    It’s my question!  I’m internet famous!  Thanks for the suggestions, and I’ll keep checking back.  And AgTigress, I do know that the Crusie books in general have great friendships/family relationships in them.  It’s why I’ve read EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.  Bet Me just happens to be my favorite.  Which is why I read it for the (probably 15th) time yesterday…

  17. 17
    JoanneF says:

    Erin McCarthy’s “You Don’t Know Jack.”  For erotic romance there’s “Maverick’s Black Cat” and “Friends With Benefits” by Maggie Casper and Lena Matthews.  The heroines in those two books are best friends who end up with heroes who are best friends.

  18. 18
    Elli says:

    I think series of books tend to do better with how relationships change & evolve.  For that, I would recommend Patricia Briggs’ Mercy series, Charlene Harris (even beyond the vampire books) and NR’s Eve Dallas series.  For modern contemporary, Susan Mallery (thought frequently, frequently sequel bait) has her characters interact with both old & new friends.  The race car series by Erin McCarthy also links the women together fairly strongly as friends beyond the link between the drivers.

  19. 19
    Kristan says:

    Another great contemporary friendship spans Susan Donovan’s series Ain’t to Proud to Beg, The Night She Got Lucky, and Not That Kind of Girl. I loved this group of women…and their dogs, which match them so well.

  20. 20
    Josie says:

    Eloisa James’ Essex sisters as well as the Duchesses. Yeah, they’re sisters, but they are also friends. And you have to toss Griselda in there as well.

  21. 21
    Kathleen says:

    I agree with all who mentioned Nora Roberts, Susan Anderson, and Susan E Phillips books. But other authors who do good friendship books are Rachel Gibsons with Sex Lies and On LIne Dating, I’m In No Mood for Love and Not Another Bad Date. And Toni Blake has a great gal pals in her Destiny seriem One Reckless Summer, Sugar Creek and Whisper Falls.

  22. 22
    Melissandre says:

    I’ll echo Eloisa James.  In fact, all her series (though I haven’t read her latest) have some friendship elements that extend across the series.

  23. 23
    Laura (in PA) says:

    I’ve just recently discovered Jill Mansell, and I love, love, love her books. They were recommended to me by another reading friend, and I’m going through them now. They’re contemporary, and take place in England, and are romantic and hilarious. The ones I’ve read have the heroine with a strong group of friends – in the one I’ve just finished, Rumour Has It, the heroine’s relationship with her best friend actually gives the story its impetus, and there’s a strong group of intermingled friends throughout, some of whom have their own plot arc going.  Plus the ending made me swoon. And then laugh out loud. They are not series books, so the friendships are not sequel bait.

    I can’t recommend them enough for a fun, romantic, and touching read.

  24. 24
    Victoria says:

    I’m going to echo the recommendation of Julia Quinn—the Eloise/Penelope friendship in “Romancing Mr. Bridgerton” and the Miranda/Olivia friendship in “The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever” specifically come to mind.

  25. 25
    Randi says:

    I’ll second Anna Persson on Shelley Laurenston.

    Anyone got any recs for heroines with MALE friends that aren’t gay and who’ve never dated? I have those in real life and it always amazes me that heroines never have guy friends. Am I the only one that thinks that’s weird?

  26. 26

    Check out Regency-set historicals by Madeline Hunter in the Rarest Blooms series. The first book is Ravishing in Red.

  27. 27
    Jody W. says:

    It’s interesting how many of these are historicals or contemps without a suspense plot or paranormal (I think…haven’t read them all!). In many paranormals or suspenses, the plotting and action are so tight, I guess there’s not room to depict a believable friendship.

    When I started thinking about books with friendships, I mostly thought of historicals or women’s fiction.

    Here’s my contribution to the list: Natalie Damschroder’s Fight or Flight, which came out recently from Carina, is a women’s fiction/romance/suspense hybrid in which one of the protagonists is the mom and another is the daughter, who has two very close friends that get involved in the plot.

  28. 28
    Donna says:

    Yes, yes, yes to NR and JC. Also Christina Dodd’s first Governess books – although she did miss the opportunity for an epic women united moment in Hannah’s book. When her partners should have been outraged, they conspired allowing the men to stand back all smug & we know what’s best for the little woman. Hated that. Anyhow a lot of her books feature close relationships between friends and family.
    And yes, Kresley Cole’s Valkyrie & Witches have some good sisterhood going.
    spamword: friends55 – how appropriate.

  29. 29
    Amber Shah says:

    There is decent friendship in Anne Mallory’s Seven Secrets to Seduction and One Night is Never Enough. 

    Suzanne Enoch’s London’s Perfect Scoundrel also has the group of plotting friends like the Wallflowers.

  30. 30

    Candice Hern’s Merry Widows series has some great friendships bewteen all her ladies. Lady Be Bad, In the Thrill of the Night, and Just One of Those Flings

    I love her characters, because it feels like I could be sitting around having tea with them, or sneaking a scotch or something fun.

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