Friday, February 12, 2010

What is it about a rekindled romance? - Kathleen O'Brien

Although most people probably wouldn’t be interested in revisiting an old love (which might well have ended in acrimony, alimony or plain, old-fashioned relief), most of us adore reading about them.

I’m no exception. I gravitate toward reunion books. Movies, too. My favorite is The Illusionist, and not just because Edward Norton is such a hunk…I mean great magician. I can annually watch Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly patch things up in High Society, and melt every time. For some reason, I get a kick out of watching True Love find a way, even past the most daunting obstacles—decades and continents in Mama Mia, serious time zone issues in The Lake House, and, in Ghost, even death.

The new Superromance I’ve just started is a rekindled romance story, too. I’m writing about Colby Malone, the brother of the hero in FOR THE LOVE OF FAMILY. Colby made a spectacular mess of his first love and finds himself with a miraculous second chance. I’m having a ball already. Colby is going to have to suffer, but it’s exciting to guide him full circle, back to the place his heart has always called home.
In fact, I checked—and, of the more than 30 books I’ve written, a solid third are, to some degree, reunion romances. Considering how many plotlines an author can choose from, this seems significant. And my most enthusiastic emails are almost always in response to those books. One of my earliest novels, a Harlequin Presents titled BETWEEN MIST AND MIDNIGHT, still moves readers to contact me, even twenty years later. It’s the story of a woman who returns to the man she loved when she was fifteen.

So what’s going on here? Is everyone harboring a secret desire to get back together with the skinny kid who took her on her first date? On this Valentine’s Day, would the perfect love letter be postmarked The Past?

Oddly, apparently not. As I explored the topic, I found a website that deals with lost loves. (, where a PhD shares her research on reunion romances. In one study, she reports that, of the respondents who had not already tried to rekindle a romance, a whopping 70% said they simply didn’t want to.

So the appeal of this beloved storyline must be something even more complex. Does the revisited romance symbolize all second chances, perhaps? Even the ones that weren’t about love or sex? (Is there such a thing? ) Could it perhaps stand for our need to rewrite the past, erasing our biggest mistakes? Or is it as simple as the vicarious joy of recaptured youth?

I’m still trying to figure it out. If you are drawn to these stories, too, I’d love to hear what you think.


Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Kathleen, your story sounds fantastic. Can't wait to read it. I, too, love the second chance romance story line. There is something fantastically mythical about it. Cheers~

runner10 said...

Absolutely do not want to revisit the past!!
Look forward to your next book.

Rebekah E. said...

Can't wait for your next book.

Pat Cochran said...


Second chances don't come to us
very often. I turned down the
first chance and I probably would
turn down any second opportunity!
(Much as it would hurt my heart

Pat Cochran

Kathleen O'Brien said...

Nancy, you're so right! Mythical is the perfect word. Maybe that's at the core of our profound attraction to the second chance romance.

Kathleen O'Brien said...

Denise, I hear you! LOL...there are some places in my past I'd rather not revisit, too! Thank goodness life moves on, right?

Kathleen O'Brien said...

Rebekah, thanks so much! I've really loved writing this Texas series. The setting is so evocative, and the men are so rugged! I hope you enjoy it and will stop by the website and let me know what you think!

Kathleen O'Brien said...

Pat, what a poignant comment! I think there must be a romance novel in that story somewhere. And it's always easier to experience the hurt second-hand, on the pages of a book, isn't it? Wishing you a happy heart on Valentine's Day!

Linda Henderson said...

I do enjoy reunion stories. I think a lot of us wonder what would have happened if we had stayed with someone in our past, or tried again years later.

Jane said...

There is something appealing about having a second chance at love, but I know there are some relationships that just weren't meant to be.

Unknown said...


Love your posts. They always entertain, but give me a moment to think just why it is I love a good romance. There really is something wonderful about the possibility of getting a "do over".

Can't wait to read Colby's story.