Over the next couple of weeks, the skies will be filled with mortarboards as millions of students graduate from high school and college. After years of hard work and dedication (for most), their dreams are finally coming true. This red letter event is viewed as the start of new adventures—the start of higher education or a new career or just moving to some new locale.
For some, this time is filled with excitement and joy. Oh, they made friends during school, but for the most part they’ve been footloose and fancy free. For others, it is more bittersweet. Because during those years of studying and term papers and exams, they formed significant relationships. Now they are wondering if it is possible to keep these bonds alive.
Some are optimistic that the distance won’t change a thing. Others are afraid to risk the heartbreak, so they break-up early, calling it a mutual decision. Still, others are lamenting the fact that they never had the courage to tell “the one” of their interest and that window of opportunity is now gone.
Romance readers love second-chances-at-love stories, especially first loves, because it is such a compelling fantasy— a confirmation of kismet or destiny—Didn’t get it right the first time? Well, now you get a do-over!
Kristan Higgins has used the theme of high school crush or love affair in several of her books. In Waiting on You, Colleen O’Rourke and Lucas Campbell met in high school, took one look, and just knew they were fated for each other. For them no sacrifice was too great:
For three and a half years it worked. Whenever possible, in between working as a security guard at a gleaming skyscraper downtown, between fixing Stephanie’s car/furnace/pipes and the occasional stint babysitting the girls, working summers for a construction company, keeping his GPA over 3.7, he saw Colleen. He’d hitchhike back to Manningsport when he could, or kick his roommate out for the weekend when Colleen came to Chicago. They called, emailed, instant-messaged, took advantage of whatever form of communication available to them.
She was still his. He was still hers.
Until they weren’t. Since then. they've moved on in their head, but their heart is giving out another message:
“Oh, man, I remember him! Lucas, right?” Paulie ran a hand through her hair. “You were together, weren’t you?”
“Yeah.” She closed her eyes.
“Well, shit. Are you still in love with him?”
“Are your special places tingling?”
“Excuse me? No. No, that’s… of course not. I mean…he broke my heart. First love and all that crap. A long time ago.”
“Yeah, well, I’d give anything to have Bryce look at me the way Lucas was looking at you.”
In Until There Was You, also by Higgins, Posey Osterhagen fantasizes that high school senior, Liam Murphy, will reciprocate her feelings of love but to her sorrow, it never happened:
Of course, Liam—that bad-boy god—would fall for someone like Emma, the squeaky-clean and uber-nice princess. Posey knew that. She’d been studying Liam for months now and already felt like she knew him better than anyone. Still, her heart collapsed as Liam walked across the courtyard, straight to Emma, who looked right into his gorgeous, perfect, unshaven face and smiled, and that was that.
But now Liam is back in town, a single father of a fifteen year old daughter. Of course Posey knows how she would have liked to have met him again:
Every woman has a fantasy about running into the man who broke her heart. In such a fantasy, she’d be walking down the street, her well-dressed and gorgeous husband (let’s say George Clooney, shall we, circa Ocean’s 11) caressing her, perhaps nuzzling her neck because he can’t help himself.
But alas, it doesn’t happen that way:
That would’ve been nice. Much nicer, Posey Osterhagen acknowledged, than being dressed in the waitress uniform of Guten Tag, her parents’ restaurant-dirndl, ruffled shirt and vest embroidered with dwarves…not to mention the green tights and painted red clogs. Cheeks bulging with potato dumpling she’d just crammed into her mouth, as she was at the near-fainting part of her flea-like metabolism.
Still, no matter how she looks, she now has a second chance.
In Serendipity by Carly Phillips, Faith Harrington is back in town, and so is Ethan Barron. Once they meet again, Faith remembers the strength of her feelings for this boy that had his pick of many:
She headed into the coffee shop, needing space and air that didn’t include Ethan’s musky scent and the sensual awareness he inspired. Ten years ago, he’d tried to steal more than a kiss, making her desire things she’d had no business yearning for at sixteen. Making her want him in a way that surpassed anything in her previous experience. Little did he know that his kiss had meant everything to her.
In Playing Dirty, Susan Andersen puts her own spin of old lovers reuniting...if you can call two individuals who only had sex once lovers. Cade Gallari and Ava spencer were classmates all through school. She had a poor opinion of him for various reasons, including the group he hung around with, whose form of entertainment was to ridicule others. But after they are assigned to work together on a year-end senior project, she discovers that he not quite what he seems, or is he?
Yet over the past month and a half, she’d seen another side of Cade, a sweet, funny, thoughtful side she hadn’t dreamt existed. And sitting across from each other in the library or at the coffee shop tables they’d taken to staking out to work on their project, an insidious attraction had begun to grow . . . last night she couldn’t make herself say they had to stop.
Too bad she didn’t know what lay in store for her, the very next day:
Here you go, Gallari,” Dylan said, “two hundred bucks.” He extended it across the lunch table.
“A bet’s a bet, my man. You said you could bag the fat girl, and by God you did it.” Giving Ava a slow up and down that left her feeling naked, he curled his lip. “I’d say you more than earned it.”
Thirteen years later they meet again and still Ava feels that pull:
It just bugged the hell out of her that she felt his impact like a cattle prod to the breast bone. Why was it like this every damn time she laid eyes on him: this immediate, visceral one-two to the heart. It was identical to the reaction she’d had around Teenage Cade—and even after everything she knew about him, everything he’d done, seeing him gave her that same hot punch to the solar plexus.
Ava doesn’t realize it, but Cade is having similar feelings:
He looked away, jolted all over again by her unconscious sexuality. He’d felt it when they were kids, but had always assumed that was merely because A: she had a way of moving that made him think of sex and B: sex was all he had thought about at the time. . . but that didn’t explain his reaction to her now.
Victoria Dahl reunited Walker Pearce and Charlotte “Charlie” Allington almost a decade after graduation in So Tough to Tame. Charlie tutored Walker for most of his junior year and they became good friends. But for her it was a little more:
Walker had been a hell of a stud in high school. She’d had a serious crush on him though he’d been careful not to let him know. Half the girls in the school had had a crush on him.
And when Charlie meets Walker again, nothing has changed:
Every butterfly she’d ever felt for him swarmed back to life in an instant, only now their restless wings brushed more sensitive areas.
Walker is doing some noticing too:
The long line of her side curing out to that perfect ass, then those ridiculous legs. He’d noticed those even in high school. How could he not? She’d been one of the tallest girls in school. Still about six inches shorter than him but tonight the heels added a few more. Hell, he could kiss her for hours without getting a crick in his neck. He could even bend her over a table and—
His eyes skittered away from her ass as if they were horrified at where his imagination had gone. This was Charlie.
In Cowboy Take Me Away by Jane Graves, Shannon North still hasn’t been able to forget those halcyon days of summer and the way Luke Dawson made her feel:
She’d had a connection with him unlike anything she’d felt before, and she trembled with the thought of it now. She tried to tell herself in the years that followed that they’d only been kids, so realistically it couldn’t have meant that much. But no man since had made her feel the way Luke had, as if the sun rose and set only because she lived and breathed. He accepted everything she was and asked for nothing more, and for a few precious weeks during that long, hot summer, he’d made her feel warm and cherished in a way she never had before.
Now Luke is back in town, but he is still holding a grudge and refuses to let her explain.
Sharon Sala goes for the suspense angle in ’Til Death. Eighteen years ago, Meg Walker and Lincoln Fox were about to graduate from high school, and had their future all planned out. But with his father’s death, Linc is accused and convicted of murder. Shame kept him away, but now he has come home to clear his name. A chance meeting with Meg makes him realize all that he has loss. But Meg is not one to hide behind polite and well-mannered conversation:
"Don’t apologize,” she said. “I’m the one being stupid. Truth is, I don’t know how to do this.”
“Do what?” he asked.
“Pretend I’m not attracted to you. Pretend you’re not attracted to me.”
Pain for what they’d lost rolled through him in a long continuous wave, then it passed, leaving him weak and wanting.
“Hey…I never was any good at pretending, either, so why don’t we just admit it’s there and let it grow or die at its own pace?”
Sounds like a plan!
Does this time of year bring back thought of young love? Did you marry your first love? Which books get second chance at love right?
Leigh Davis, blogger