Love After Loss: Widow Trope in Romance

Love After Loss: Widow Trope in Romance

Widow romances are a trope that have been a cornerstone of romance novels since its inception. 

It was and still is very popular in historical romance. Widow romances became popular in the 18th and 19th centuries as a clever way to circumvent the social norms of the time, which often restricted depictions of female sexual experience to within the confines of marriage. They predate the bodice rippers of the 1970s. They were a way for authors to explore themes of love and sexuality within the socially accepted boundaries of their time, long before the more open and explicit portrayals of romance became mainstream in the literature.

The initial reason for writing my widow romance was to deeply explore grief, and highlight a significant shift in the thematic focus and character development within the romance genre. Unlike the historicals of old, contemporary stories tend to be a journey into the emotional depths of a character who's lost their other half. They're about grappling with loss, rediscovering inner strength, and the transformative power of new love. More than just a backdrop for a romantic plot, grief is a critical element that shapes the characters' growth and healing process.

The road my characters travel isn't straightforward. They face a whirlwind of emotions that challenge their identity and values, making them reconsider what truly matters in life. And that’s what’s fascinating about these narratives. The way the experience of profound loss can become a catalyst for change, opening the characters up to the possibility of loving again. It's not about replacing their past love but acknowledging their heart's capacity to evolve and embrace new love.

And perhaps the most compelling aspect of widow romances is the theme of healing through love. The connections formed in these stories are unique; they're rooted in shared experiences of loss and vulnerability. The new love interest often becomes more than just a romantic partner; they're a companion in the journey of healing, offering support and empathy that only someone who understands deep loss can provide. It's a testament to the power of love in its many forms to heal emotional wounds, offering hope and a renewed appreciation for life.

About The Love That Remains

In The Love That Remains, I introduce Carlotta Mercier, a woman who's been totally wrecked by the death of her husband, John Paul. It's been four years, and let me tell you, grief has really turned her life upside down. She's not the same person she used to be, throwing herself into work to escape that deep hole of missing him. And her dreams? They're so real it's like he's still there. She's stuck in this place, thinking she can't move on from the one person she waited all her life to find.

Before he passed, John Paul arranged to send an anniversary gift to Carlotta as they were both really into making a big deal about the day they were wed. In this letter, he’d planned a trip for her to celebrate their tenth anniversary to his hometown, New Orleans.  He wanted Carlotta to really get to know who he was before they met. This trip he dreamed up? It turns into this journey for her to figure out who she is without him and maybe, with the help of Enoch who idolized John Paul, learn about the person she's become from all the love that's left behind. 

When I was writing this, I really wanted to get into the whole love-after-loss thing. I think it hits close to home for a lot of folks who've been through similar experiences. I wanted to show how people can come back from grief and find themselves again. I didn't want to just breeze through Carlotta's grief. It's important to show all the ups and downs, you know? The real stuff.

The healing part in the story? It's more like a slow burn. Carlotta has to gradually open up, find little bits of happiness, and have the support of friends and a lover who get what she's going through. And when this new guy comes into the picture, it's not like everything's suddenly perfect. It's more like he gives her a fresh way to look at things and a reason to start thinking about the future again. He kind of nudges her to deal with her past but also to grab onto the love and joy that are still out there for her.

As I explored the depth of emotion in grief for Carlotta and Enoch, I kept a few key things in mind. Grief, in its simplest definition, is our emotional reaction to loss. We usually associate it with losing someone close, but it can come in many forms. It happens in stages, but it's not a straight line, and it's not the same for everyone. It's something everyone experiences, yet it's so personal and different for each individual. And yet, in romance, it's not often that we dive deep into characters who are actively going through it.

Let’s take a look Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's Five Stages of Grief:

1. Denial: When I write about this stage, I show my character in shock, almost acting like nothing's changed. It's their way of numbing that initial, raw pain.

2. Anger: As the denial fades, the pain comes back in full force. This is where I could have a character lash out at others, themselves, the person they lost, or even the world. It’s a that can stage bring in some intense conflict.

3. Bargaining: This is where my character might get caught up in 'what if' and 'if only' thoughts. It adds a real depth to their emotional journey, showing their struggle with the reality of the loss.

4. Depression: To depict this stage, I could show my character pulling away from life, feeling numb, or just not caring anymore. It's a quieter stage, but it's them starting to really face the goodbye.

5. Acceptance: Finally, this stage is about my character learning to live with the loss. It's not about being happy; it's about finding a way to move forward while keeping the memories of their loved one alive.

But remember, these stages aren't set in stone. Grief is super personal. The story or your character might skip stages, do them in a different order, or even circle back to some.

Grief also hits on multiple levels:

Emotionally: I show all sorts of feelings in my story, from sadness and anger to guilt and anxiety. These emotions can be overwhelming and intense. I think this is most poignant in Carlotta’s scenes with Enoch. In a lot of ways, I think it would have been easier to write her a hero who wasn’t connected to John Paul in any significant way. It probably would’ve resulted in a fluffier story. That wasn’t the story these two wanted to tell, though. 

Physically: Grief isn't just in your head. Character can deal with things like tiredness, changes in appetite, or trouble sleeping. I didn’t include this but Carlotta does make mention of a stretch of time when she couldn’t get out of bed and struggled with fluctuating weight due to spikes and dips in her appetite. 

Cognitively: Grief can cloud your thinking. When Carlotta arrives on the page, it’s clear that she’s not handling her grief well. She talks to her deceased husband as if he’s still alive and that makes her friend Evelyn very concerned for her mental health. She’s also struggling to make decisions about what she wants from her life and feels really confused about how to do life without John Paul.

Socially: I also explore how grief changes my character's social life, like pulling away from friends or how their relationships with others are affected. Carlotta only deals with two living beings outside of the people she works with: her dog, Maverick, and Evelyn, her best friend. John Paul was the extrovert, and without him, her world became very small and isolated. 

There's no one "right" way to grieve. I chose to focus on how my characters found ways to cope, how they adjusted to life without their loved one, but still keep their memory alive. It's about finding their own way through grief, as unique as they are.

Here’s a list of romances where widows find love after loss. These stories blend themes of healing, resilience, and the rediscovery of love:

Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer - A powerful narrative about a widow who must confront her past to embrace a new chance at love.

The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel - This enchanting novel delves into the 'what ifs' as a widow dreams of the life she might have had with her late husband, only to find new hope.

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh - A gripping love story interwoven with mystery, as a widow unravels the truth about her lost love and opens her heart again.

Second Time Sweeter by Beverly Jenkins - A moving tale of a widow who gets a second chance at love in the most unexpected way.

Her Second Act by Mona Shroff - This novel portrays a widow's journey to rediscover herself and find love again in the world of theater.

Forget Me Not by Brenda Jackson - A touching story about a widow who finds herself falling in love with her late husband's best friend.

Let Me Love You by Alexandria House - A heartwarming story of a widow opening her heart to love again with a younger man.

Hope Blooms by Jamie Pope - A beautiful story of a widow who finds healing and a new chance at love in a small town.

When I'm with You by Donna Hill - This novel explores the complexities of love and trust as a widow finds herself drawn to a new man.

These novels not only offer romance but also explore the journey of healing and the courage to embrace new beginnings.  📖💖



Happy reading! 

xo, Tasha

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