GS vs. STA: You Can Love More Than One Person In Your Life

Sex, Straight UpThis request comes from Louisa, who is looking for a specific type of plot device – in the back story.

I’m looking for books that might counter-balance a very specific pet peeve
of mine. I call it the “I only THOUGHT I knew what love is” syndrome.


I’m talking about books where the Hero (It’s almost always the hero) has
lost a lady love, never thought he’d recover, and then he meets the
heroine, falls in love, and realizes at the end that what he had previously
thought was a happy, loving relationship was nothing compared to the depth
of his love for and sexual satisfaction with this new lady.

An example of what I’m looking for would be Kathleen O’Reilly’s Sex, Straight Up.
The depth of the previous relationship is never sacrificed on
the altar of a new love. The hero fully and genuinely loved his first wife,
and that love was never challenged or trivialized when he falls in love

Any suggestions would be welcome! Thanks so much!

Ah, yes. The “Now I REALLY Know What Love Is” method of distinguishing the heroine from all those other pesky women in the hero’s backstory. It bugs me, too. Anyone have any ideas for Louisa?


Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Cät von J says:

    I can recommend two books out of Suzanne Brockmann´s Tall Dark and Dangerous (TDD) series. You can totally read these books as single titles, although its not really a single title if you have to read TWO books…but you get what I mean, don´t you? You don´t have to read the whole series, that´s my point :)

    So, the books are: It came upon a midnight clear, where Jake and wife #1 are the subplot, then The Admirals Bride, which stars Jake and wife #2.

  2. 2
    Miss I says:

    Long time reader, first time commenting (love this site by the way). I would recommend What I did for a Duke by Julie Ann Long. The hero, was previously married but we do see, and he states emphatically that he loved his first (now dead) wife. What I loved the most it that this does not in anyway subtract the love he has for the heroine, in fact his previous experience helps to affirm his developing feelings.

  3. 3
    Mitzi Flyte/Macie Carter says:

    Well, I’ll be so darn brazen and recommend my own short story erotic romance from The Wild Rose Press: Teasing the Muse. A young widower wants to thank the erotic romance writer, a favorite of his dead wife, who gave her such enjoyment and him such pleasure. But he finds much more than he bargained for.

    And if there’s no BSP here, I have no problems if this comment is erased. I’m a writer, I have no ego. I’m used to rejections.

  4. 4

    I have no help for Lousia. I just wanted to tell Mitzi how much I loved this line: “I’m a writer, I have no ego. I’m used to rejections.” Annnnd I may quote it, often, in the future.

  5. 5
    Jilli-bean says:

    You may enjoy this book better than I did, and it’s got what you’re looking for. Jenna McKnight’s

    Witch in the House

    actually opens with the hero being jilted at the altar. However, fate intervenes and he goes on to find a love like he’s never known before.

  6. 6
    AgTigress says:

    Several of Jayne Ann Krentz’s stories have a widowed hero who deeply loved his first wife.  His new relationship with the heroine does not in any way change or undermine that.  The one that comes to mind, because I re-read it recently, is Lost and Found (2001), but there are others.  Warning, though;  Jayne does also have some heroes whose earlier, pre-heroine, relationships were not satisfactory! 

    A widowed heroine who enjoyed a happy first marriage that enriched, rather than undermined, her passionate relationship with the hero is Grace, in Linda Howard’s remarkable time-travel romance Son of the Morning (1997).

  7. 7
    Josie says:

    Karen Ranney’s A Scotsman in Love
    He’s still trying to cope with the death of his much-loved wife and child when the book opens.

  8. 8
    Lyssa says:

    Brockmann’s Into the Fire (a TSInc book) definitely fits into this mold.
    Julia Spencer Fleming’s Miller’s Kill series has an ongoing relationship theme of dual loves for the hero.
    Toss in Bujold’s Vorkosigan (Miles has multiple loves and you get the feeling that it is circumstance vs lack of real love that keeps the protagonists apart. And it is only when the circumstances align that there is a HEA possible).

  9. 9
    Cris says:

    If you read, or are willing to try, M/M romance, Terence Michaels books “Faith & Fidelity” and the sequel “Duty & Devotion” are a fantastic example of this.  One of the men was married for 20 years and lost his wife and is absolutely shattered and never minimizes how devoted he was to her even as he falls for another guy. They are really, really good.

  10. 10
    Cris says:

    Dang auto-correct!  The author is Tere Michaels, not Terence :)

  11. 11
    Lynnd says:

    I’ll second the recommendation for Julie-Ann Long’s What I did for a Duke.  What a fabulous book and the fact that Alex admits his love for his first wife and his devastation at her death makes his character so much richer and his love for the heroine so much more believable.  I am always a bit sceptical about whether the hero/heroine is really in love “this time” when the love he/she purported to have felt the first time is dimiinished or denied.

  12. 12
    LMG says:

    I just read, and really enjoyed, Susan Grant’s Moonstruck (based on a recommendation from SBTB!). The heroine’s back story is all about how her first husband died, and her emotional journey involves her figuring out how she can love someone else without dishonoring his memory.  It’s part of a series, but you can definitely read it as a stand-alone book.

  13. 13
    kkw says:

    I can’t wait to see everyone’s recommendations for this. I can only think of one, unfortunately.
    Quinn’s When He Was Wicked is my favorite of the Bridgerton series, and I don’t think you’d have to read the whole series to enjoy it (and if you do read the whole series be careful to space them out so the patterns don’t rankle – they get rather formulaic for all that it’s a great formula).  The love the heroine has for her first husband is a big, sad, wonderful part of the story.

  14. 14
    Cathy says:

    “A Hint of Wicked” by Jennifer Haymore. This one’s different because both husbands are there (the first has returned from war after having been declared dead) and the heroine loves them both.

  15. 15
    LG says:

    I think The Shy Duchess by Amanda McCabe might have the kind of thing you’re looking for. The hero was married to a woman he loved, but she died in childbirth, which of course gives him baggage when he later falls in love with the heroine and worries about what might happen to her if she gets pregnant. His wife’s death happened long enough ago that, although he did love her, he’s not still pining over her.

    My disclaimer is that I don’t actually like this trope. I’m not a fan of widower heroes, whether they loved, thought they loved, or hated their first wives. I was relatively ok with McCabe’s book because the hero didn’t dwell too much on thoughts of his first wife. Plus, I felt the first wife was essentially cardboard – she existed, and the hero had good memories of her, but she wasn’t really a full character.

  16. 16
    SandyH says:

    Soldier on Her Doorstep (Harlequin Romance) Soraya Lane is a very sweet story about how a returning soldier who falls for the widow of the soldier who saved his life. The widow learns to love again but it in no way diminishes her previous love.

  17. 17
    Keri Ford says:

    Ditto Cathy’s rec of A Hint Of Wicked by Jennifer Haymore. Be ready—it’s not a formula romance! (IMO)

  18. 18
    Jennifer says:

    The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins.  The heroine is a widow and struggles to appreciate her new relationship because she loved her husband so deeply.

  19. 19
    Louisa says:

    Thanks to everyone for their suggestions! This one had just occured to me while I was away on vacation. I borrowed a friend’s Harlequin, though naturally I now forget the title, and this exact problem killed it for me. It literally ends with the hero saying, “I wasn’t afriad because I thought I couldn’t love you too, it’s that I finally realized that I loved you more!” And this is after he spent the ENTIRE BOOK mourning his wife who died in childbirth. Drove me nuts! I’ll definitely check these out!!!

  20. 20
    Lily LeFevre says:

    If you like early Victorian era, Anne Stuart’s most recent Rohan book, “Shameless,” had a widower who loved his first wife. I’m fairly sure he never once says or thinks he hadn’t REALLY known love after he falls for the heroine…his struggle is more like the one mentioned above, where bc she died in childbirth he doesn’t want to fall in love again only to lose her because she’s having his child.

    I am more curious about the female version, the widow who truly loved her husband. That’s one I have noticed that I rarely encounter, but now that you mention it there aren’t many widowers in that boat, either….

  21. 21
    Tamara Hogan says:

    In Diedre Knight’s BUTTERFLY TATTOO, the hero falls in love again – with a woman – after his male partner dies. (The hero is bisexual.)  It’s beautifully, beautifully done.

  22. 22
    Sheila says:

    I would highly recommend Judith A. Landsdowne’s book, ‘The Mystery Kiss’.  Here’s a link:

    In addition to being funny and very sweet, the hero most emphatically loved his wife.  The memories of her, shared with old friends and relations, serve to show how deeply he cared for her and also his own insecurities.

    The heroine, by the way, did not have a happy first marriage and gets past this with some help from the hero and other new friends.  I really enjoyed the different viewpoints in the book.  I also liked that the heroine isn’t a total ‘all men are evil’ stereotype which is refreshing.  The author is one of my favorites for her amusing and romantic plots.

  23. 23
    Lynn S. says:

    Definitely agree with the recommendation of What I Did for a Duke.  Beautiful handling of grief in that book.

    A couple of Harlequin Presents also come to mind.  Phantom Lover by Susan Napier and Bought:  Damsel in Distress by Lucy King.  For a reverse view where the heroine lost a spouse try In Bed with the Boss by Susan Napier which is probably my all time favorite HP.

  24. 24
    Jennifer O. says:

    I was going to suggest Suzanne Brockmann’s Into the Fire – it’s the first thing that came to my mind – and I see it’s been suggested by others as well.  The hero’s wife was killed, actually we see this in an earlier book (Hot Target?), and we see his recovery and the evolution of his relationship with the heroine, who was his wife’s best friend.

  25. 25
    Rose says:

    I know the request was for widowed heroes, but I see some of the recs are for books in which the heroine was the one who’d lost her husband, and will therefore add a couple: Liz Carlyle’s No True Gentleman (at least, Catherine liked her first husband very much) and Pamela Clare’s Breaking Point (dead fiance in that one).

    As for heroes who loved their first wives – I think Mary Jo Putney’s The Bartered Bride?

  26. 26
    RebeccaJ says:

    I call it the “I only THOUGHT I knew what love is” syndrome.

    Just about 95% of everything I’ve ever read in romance fits that category:)

    Not a book suggestion, sorry, but I hate the books in which their entire first marriage was a waste. It always makes me wonder if ANYONE had a GOOD first marriage that ended in death and not infidelity or abuse. Looks like I’m going to have to check out The Next Best Thing, too!

  27. 27
    Amber says:

    Comanche Moon by Catherine Anderson
    My One by January Rowe (an erotic novella)

  28. 28
    Asia M says:

    “Black Rose” by Nora Roberts is the only one I’ve read that seems to fit… The first relationship is not developed, but it’s clear that the heroine (a 40+ lady with three grown sons, also a nice change from most romance) never diminishes it for the benefit of her new man.

    I’m not personally a fan of such plots, because it seems that it must always involve death and widowhood, which is tragic and too sad to repeatedly read about. Indeed, if the relationship simply didn’t work out when it virtually could have, then you may obviously claim love, but it’s just as obvious that something was wrong, and that your love stumbled on something it wasn’t powerful enough to overcome.

  29. 29
    cleo says:

    I second The Butterfly Tattoo recommendation – beautiful book, and I remember thinking how refreshing it was to read about someone who could fall in love again, without dismissing his first love.  I’ll have to check out some of the other recs.  I think I read JAK’s Lost and Found, but I don’t remember anything about a widower.  Hmm.  I really like JAK but the plots don’t usually stick with me, so I get endless pleasure re-reading them.

  30. 30
    DreadPirateRachel says:

    I have no recommendations, because I haven’t read any books that subvert this oh-so-annoying mood-killer of a trope. I’m wracking up more titles for my TBR pile than I’m comfortable admitting, but I can’t wait for more! Damn you, Bitches. You’re murdering my bank balance.

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