Whereas most love triangles (i.e. Pearl Harbor and The Notebook) feature a woman having to choose between two different guys, few actually tell the tale of a heroine trapped between two brothers.
There are some stories that focus on “brother loving”; Moonstruck (starring Cher and Nicholas Cage), is a film about an Italian woman who falls for her fiancé’s foul-mouthed, crazy brother. And let’s not leave out the hottest supernatural triangle that keeps it all in the family, namely the one where Elena Gilbert falls for brooding vamp Stefan Salvatore, but cannot deny her attraction to his equally alluring older brother Damon in the Vampire Diaries. Still, brother lover plots are rare treats!
My favorite “brother lover” situation is the one that takes places in DeVa Gantt’s beautiful Colette trilogy, where an inexperienced governess named Charmaine Ryan has to choose between her employer’s sons Paul and John Duvoisin.
The protagonist Charmaine Ryan is a scrupulous yet surprisingly independent girl (with loads of riotous curls). Paul is a playboy who enjoys a good seduction, but proves he’s more than just good looks by working hard to establish himself (he’s the “illegitimate” son) on the island. John, on the contrary, serves as the wry and pained brother who keeps sabotaging himself from achieving true happiness. (A major aspect that I adored about all three of the books is the way Gantt handles the love triangle—they build both sides up equally, with enough sexual tension between Charmaine and Paul and John and Charmaine to make it difficult to pinpoint who she’d choose.)
The instant Charmaine Ryan steps off the ship that brings her to Charmantes, takes a good look around at the luscious scenery, and feasts her eyes on gorgeous bachelor Paul Duvoisin, she understands that this Caribbean Island setting means a fresh start. Although new to romance and out of her element as a governess in an exotic location, Charmaine Ryan transforms into an empowered woman who stumbles upon some pretty steamy desires and simultaneously falls for two brothers during her stay at the Duvoisin home.
Take a look at these two descriptions of Paul and John below and determine which brother makes you tremble with delight.
Charmaine falls in love with Paul right away and is in awe of his diligence, rogue demeanor and masculinity. He inspires her to passion and longing and makes her feel womanly with his constant advances. He’s considerate, hard-working and always up for a challenge—everything a man should be in her eyes (aka a handsome devil that knows how to properly smooch). She fantasizes about him often and whenever he enters a room she’s in, it’s like every light is on him and him only:
“With a sweep of his forearm, he mopped the sweat from his brow. Then, in imitation of the seamen and longshoremen, he ripped off his own white shirt, revealing a broad, furry chest and wide shoulders. He flung the garment over the railing and threw himself into the vessel.
Charmaine’s heart took up an unsteady beat. In Richmond, gentlemen never doffed their shirts, and astounded, she gaped at the play of muscles across his tanned back and arms. Obviously, he was not afraid to work; rather, he enjoyed it. She felt the blood rise to her cheeks as her eyes traveled down his back, which glistened with sweat, to his muscular legs, sculpted against his form-fitting trousers. She turned away, overwhelmed. She couldn’t breathe. He was, by far, the most handsome man she had ever beheld.” (A Silent Ocean Away, 37)
Charmaine’s interactions with the abruptly honest John are different; she initially despises him and the snarky comments he utters at her expense fill her with rage. With Paul, she feels more girlish, carefree and flirts a whole lot more—her creamy cheeks are always flushed when he devours her mouth with his fiery kisses. But with John, Charmaine enjoys more stimulating conversation (perhaps because he isn’t as focused on trying to bed her or staring at her heaving bosom) and they share a lot about themselves on outings with the children she cares for. He’s more of a broken soul which is what ultimately draws Charmaine to him. (Nothing a bottle of whiskey and a therapist in the form of a curvy, naïve governess couldn’t fix—just saying.) Here’s an excerpt during which Charmaine witnesses John’s heart-wrenching loneliness:
“Charmaine grimaced, aching for the loveliness that that had been annihilated.
Slowly, the punishment ebbed. Laying both arms across the keyboard, John buried his face there, weathering the constricting thud of his battered heart. He’d hoped to exorcise his demonic desolation, not conjure it. He inhaled deeply, then shuddered as he released the pent-up breath, unaware of the young woman who stood in the shadows, observing him in this new light.” (Decision and Destiny, 219)
After reading these two excerpts, which Duvoisin brother sounds more appealing to you—the masculine and proud brother who doesn’t wallow in his past mistakes and goes after what he wants, or the broken, angry one with a spirit that needs mending? If you were Charmaine, who would you choose?