Dec 3 2014 1:30pm

Top 5 Good “Other Women” from Mayberry, Beverley, and More!

The Last Goodbye by Sarah MayberryThe Evil Other Woman is a romance staple, although these days we're might be more likely to run into the Superfluous Other Woman—throwaway characters the hero never cared about and only used for sex. The evil other woman who turns out to have a human side, and might even be reformable into a heroine, has also become more popular. It's rarer to find an ex-love or romantic rival who's genuinely likable, and an interesting character in her own right. Here are a few good other women:

5) Gabby in The Last Goodbye by Sarah Mayberry

Gabby works for her ex, Tyler, and they continue to be friends. Even though she's the one who ended their romantic relationship, there's a hint that her feelings haven't entirely resolved themselves, and that she wishes she could have been the one to help him open up to love. But she greets the news that he's met someone else with joy, telling him, “You're one of my favorite people in all the world, and I want to know who this woman is who's made you so happy.” (Don't be too sad for her: Gabby finds her own happiness with Tyler's brother in One Good Reason.)

4) Parker in The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins

Parker had a child with the book's hero, but refused to marry him. The heroine, who is resolutely refusing to have feelings for Ethan herself, can't grasp it: “Why she passed on Ethan is a mystery—she's told me time and again she think he's a great guy, just not the one for her.” Unlike Gabby, Parker truly isn't holding a torch, and she happily encourages Lucy's relationship with Ethan — until Lucy hurts him. As a friend to both, she suffers from their unhappiness:

“Lucy, I have to wonder what’s going to happen to you two if you don’t make things right.” I don’t answer, just flex my tingling hands. Eventually Parker sighs. “I love you both, that’s all. You’re more my family than my family, and I just...” Her voice trails off. “Make sure you’re doing the right thing,” she finishes.

(Parker holds out for quite a while, but she gets her own hero in Somebody to Love.)

3) Blanche in The “Rogues” series by Jo Beverley

Blanche is originally introduced as Lucien's understanding mistress in An Unwilling Bride. When he marries, she lets him go gracefully and they part friends:

Gently he said, “It is still goodbye, my lovely one.”

Blanche stroked his smoothly muscled shoulder. “I know it, love. You're not a man to keep a mistress when newlywed. I hope you never keep one again. I'll miss you, though.”

Through complicated circumstances, Blanche becomes friends with Lucien's wife, and also finds love with one of his friends; several years older than the Rogues, and “a century older in experience,” she continues to be a voice of maturity and compassion throughout the series.

A Fire in the Heart by Katherine Sutcliffe2) Marianne in A Fire in the Heart by Katherine Sutcliffe

Marianne is the sort of woman traditionally reviled in romance. Sensual and fun-loving, she's not only unfaithful to her husband (they have an arrangement) but not particularly faithful to her lovers, either. Yet she comes across as the most moral and compassionate person in this old skool historical. In a story chock-full of prideful, reactive people, she is the voice of sanity, the one who asks instead of assuming the worst:

“Why?” she asked. 'Bonnie, why have you done this to Damien after he virtually saved your life?

“Don't bother,” Damien sneered... “It's obvious what she's done. She and Smythe were in this together all along.”

“Is that true, Bonnie?” Marianne asked.

Like many another warm-hearted mistress, Marianne knows about Damien's feelings for Bonnie before he does, and tries to open his eyes to them. But her goodness goes beyond that. When Bonnie is injured, Marianne tends to her, even moving rooms to be there if she's needed. And she refuses to have sex with Damien because of how much it would hurt Bonnie. (Who honestly doesn't deserve such consideration.)

1) Bria in The Passions of Emma by Penelope Williamson

Bria, the hero's wife, is such a major part of The Passions of Emma that some people feel uncomfortable reading it as a romance; it's essentially two romances with only one hero. Rather than focusing mainly on Shay and Emma falling in love, much of the story is about Bria's marriage to Shay, and the formation of her friendship with Emma. Here, she is seen through Emma's eyes:

Emma watched the woman sleep. Bria McKenna...Emma liked the name, for it had a brave, ringing sound to it. A brightness, like her hair.

Bria McKenna. Her dark red eyebrows were thick and uncompromising. Her mouth was wide and too full. She wasn't beautiful, but she had a striking face. It was her bones, what one saw in her bones—raw strength tempered by suffering. Hers was a warrior's face.

That's the description of a heroine, and Bria is indeed greatly loved by Shay. She's neither a perfect first wife, nor a selfish demanding one, but a very real, flawed, and lovable person. Though her romance can't have the traditional HEA, it ends with a form of happiness:

She opened her mouth to say his name and felt her breath leave her body, and she couldn’t seem to get it back.

For a moment she thought it had grown dark. But then she saw that she was wrong, for the sun was shining brighter than ever now, and Shay was coming toward her. A Shay without shadows, all light and youth, joyous and burning, and he said to her, “Will you dance with me, mo chridh?”

So she went into his arms, and they were dancing and laughing and loving in the sun of an enchanted day.

When Emma and Shay manage to overcome their obstacles and be together, we see Bria's approval of happiness for the people she loved through her brother, who thinks, “Ah, Bria, lass. You always did find a way to get your heart’s desire.”

Do beloved exes make you uncomfortable, or do you think they're a positive reflection of reality? Do you have a favorite good other woman?


To learn more about the books mentioned in this post:

The Last Goodbye by Sarah Mayberry  
The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins  
An Unwilling Bride by Jo Beverley  
A Fire in the Heart by Katherine Sutcliffe  
The Passions of Emma by Penelope Williamson  







Willaful has been diligently reading and reviewing romance for the past seven years, but for some reason just can't seem to catch up. She blogs at A Willful Woman and Karen Knows Best.

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1 comment
Jo Beverley
1. Jo Beverley
Thanks for including Blanche. In my view she's a wonderful woman.
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