Apr 8 2013 9:45am

Author Lauren Willig on Romantic Timing

The Ashford Affair by Lauren WilligToday, we're pleased to welcome author Lauren Willig to Heroes and Heartbreakers. Lauren's book, The Ashford Affair, takes place during two different time periods and two different couples—with one shared secret. Today, we've asked her to talk about timing in romance, something that is crucial to getting to that Happy Ever After. Thanks, Lauren!

You know how they say in real estate that it’s all location, location, location? In romance, it never does to underestimate the importance of timing, timing, timing.

Timing works in mysterious ways. I have a good friend who is convinced that the only reason she managed to get together with her fiancé is because they started dating two weeks before she left the country for a year’s stint abroad. Twice shy, most of her relationships tended to end after a month or so. By the time she got back to the States, after twelve months of Skype and emails, she was already deeply committed, without being quite sure how it had happened. 

We all have these stories: the chance meeting, the timing that shouldn’t have worked, but did.  But what happens when the right people meet at the wrong time?

It wasn’t until I handed the manuscript of The Ashford Affair in to my editor that I realized that I’d played out that “what happens when the right people meet at the wrong time” question in the book, not once, but twice, in two different contexts and time periods.

Usually, in romance, we get the joy of seeing the right people as they find each other at the right time.  But there are several romances—including some of my absolute favorites—that tackle the question of what happens when the right people meet at the wrong time.  Sometimes it’s a near miss.  Other times it’s a complete train wreck, as the characters try and fail to make it work.

Until, of course, they meet again years later….

Here are a few of my favorite right person/wrong time romances:

Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Ain’t She Sweet

When Sugar-Beth Carey and Colin first meet, she’s a high school princess with an attitude problem and he’s a callow young teacher in a strange country.  Not exactly a recipe for forever after.  When they meet again, fifteen years later, the scales have shifted.  He’s the one who’s a famous writer, established in the community, and she’s been taught more than her fair share of lessons by life.

Sherry Thomas, Ravishing the Bride

In this marriage of convenience plot, when the hero and the heroine first say their vows, the hero’s in love with someone else—and the heroine’s in love with the hero, but can’t admit it.  The story goes back and forth between the early days of their marriage and eight years later, as we see how they’ve grown into just the right people for each other.  I’d also add Sherry Thomas’s Not Quite a Husband as another “right people, wrong time” romance.

Harriet Evans, Happily Ever After

This book beautifully traces the ups and downs of the heroine’s twenties and early thirties as she grows into the person she’s meant to become—and, despite bumping into the hero early on, needs to go through the wrong relationships with various other men and make a life for herself a continent away before finally coming together with him in the right place at the right time.

Kate Saunders, The Marrying Game

Talk about bad timing: when the book opens, the heroine is coping with her beloved father’s death.  She is not entirely in her right mind.  The hero, a close friend of the family, is having similar issues.  The two can’t really come together until they’ve both worked through their confusion and grief. 

Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind

How could I possibly leave this out?  Talk about right people, wrong time: she’s in love with someone else; she’s married to someone else; she’s married to him but still in love with someone else; and by the time she realizes she loves him, he’s convinced he’s burned out and no longer loves her.  Am I the only one who views this as merely the prelude to their finally coming together for good?

What are your favorite right person/wrong time stories?


Lauren Willig is the New York Times bestselling author of eleven works of historical fiction. Her books have been translated into over a dozen languages, awarded the RITA, Booksellers Best and Golden Leaf awards, and chosen for the American Library Association's annual list of the best genre fiction. After graduating from Yale University, she embarked on a PhD in English History at Harvard before leaving academia to acquire a JD at Harvard Law while authoring her “Pink Carnation” series of Napoleonic-set novels. She lives in New York City, where she now writes full time. 

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Julia Broadbooks
1. juliabroadbooks
The only one on the list that I've read is GwtW. I never thought that Rhett and Scarlett got back together but I think I'm in the minority on that one. Isn't there a sequel.

I need to check out some of the others. I love the dynamic in When Harry met Sally as they flounder and discover themselves and then rediscover each other at the right time.
Heather Waters
2. HeatherWaters
Such a lovely post! Thanks, Lauren.

I feel like I talk about Ain't She Sweet all the time, because I love Sugar Beth as a heroine so much, and like you said--it's all about the timing. She's such a fascinating character because you get to see her Before and After, and her recognized awfulness as a child makes grown-up Sugar Beth feel all the more three-dimensional and her HEA all the more rewarding to read.
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