Aug 17 2015 4:30pm

Girl Power: Authentic Female Friendships in Romance Novels

Shanghai Wind by Chloe T. Barlow

Today we're thrilled to welcome Chloe T. Barlow to Heroes and Heartbreakers. Chloe's latest release in her Gateway to Love series, Shanghai Wind, came out earlier this summer. Romances always focus on the hero and heroine as they fall in love, but an important part of being able to fall in love in the first place are the other relationships in your life—and we're not talking about past boyfriends, but the friendships a heroine has cultivated. Chloe is here today to talk about the power of female friendship and how important they are to the success of a romantic relationship. Thanks, Chloe!

I have a little confession to make.

I am a proud and sassy romance writer, but I'm not sure if I really qualify as what one would call a “traditional romantic.” Specifically, I've never been much for over-the-top, fantastical gestures. Don't get me wrong – I can certainly enjoy the moment where a hero hops onto a table in a crowded cafeteria to announce his deep feelings of love to the whole school, or when the reformed bad boy hires a skywriter to propose to his heroine.

Yet, what I am truly a sucker for is the impact of realistic moments and sexy thoughtfulness in books. One, in particular, that always gets me is when a man recognizes the power of his love's relationship with her best friends.  Thus, as a writer, and reader, one of the first things I look for are whether the story before me has strong female characters, whose relationship has a dynamic and growth which is as much a part of the plot as the scintillating romance between the hero and heroine.

Upon reflection, I realize I've done this my whole life. As a girl, one of my favorite parts of the holy grail of nerd-girl romance—Pride and Prejudice—was, that at its heart, it was a tale of two sisters who were also best friends. Mr. Darcy might have been mine, and many other young women's, first literary love, but where would this tale be without the deep and accurate depiction of Lizzy's interactions with her dear, sweet Jane?

This obsession of mine continued in college, with the slightly lower-brow, but no less entertaining, Sex and the City. My best friends, and I would curl up on our second-hand couch watching the latest installment every Sunday night, sipping on our feeble attempts at cosmopolitan cocktails, with my friend Jess's two cats (named Jane and Lizzy, of course), purring at our feet.

It was a thrill for us, and so many other fans of the show to search for ourselves as reflected in these women – the way they related to each other, celebrated their differences, and unabashedly searched for passionate love.

I mean, who amongst us didn't swoon at the sight of Mr. Big finally joining Carrie and all her friends for a drink in season 2, in an episode elegantly entitled “The Man, The Myth, The Viagra.” I will bet good money this scene is what softened me up for the moment when I met my husband my senior year of college. The sight of him seamlessly making my friends quickly into his own buddies, too, turned me into putty even faster than his dimples and blue eyes.

I believe this is because, like so many women, my first exposure to caring maturely for another person, and attempting to engage in complex human interactions, came with my girlfriends. Those were the people who first heard all my fears and hopes, and with whom I had my biggest fights, and loudest laughs. Wanting to see that important relationship reflected in the romantic fiction I enjoyed seemed like a no-brainer.

Surprisingly, though, it feels like the literary world often presumes realistic female friendships can only be relegated to the world of “chick-lit.” By default, the romance genre is expected to give a superficial gloss to this dynamic – featuring the  “blonde pal,” or the “sexy partner-in-crime,” without looking much more deeply.

Finding a hot romance that also develops the heroine's relationship with her girlfriends is not only incredibly satisfying, but also a lot more common than this stereotype would have you believe. I took a very informal poll of my own street team to get their opinions on female friendships in romance, and the resounding response was that it was a highlight of the story for them – especially when the friends push each other to take a chance on love.

Some great examples of recent novels with strong female friendships, and hot romance include Julia Kent's very popular Her Billionaire's series and the spinoff novel, It's Complicated. It is a blast to enjoy Josie and Laura's mature and quirky friendship, while delighting in their perfectly angsty paths to love. You also can't go wrong with Tessa Bailey's back-to-back installments from her Line of Duty series: Officer Off Limits and Asking for Trouble. I could read a whole novel of Story and Hayden's antics together, but also getting to enjoy their blush-inducing love stories with their dirty-talking cops just makes it all the better!

Seeing as I like to write what I, myself, would want to read, it probably makes sense then that my series centers, in large part, around three close girlfriends, who are maneuvering the tricky world of love, family, and careers, while relying on the support of each other – rather than just on the hero of each story.

Ultimately, I feel it is empowering to a reader when she can relate to the way the female characters interact, while also having different examples of women with whom to identify. Being able to see multiple complicated female characters having fun and finding romance is a great way to celebrate how love, and life, is never “one size fits all.”

Because, tell me the truth—what is more romantic than building a life around all the people whom you love, while finding yourself a little more in the process?


Learn more about or order a copy of Shanghai Wind by Chloe T. Barlow, out now: 

Buy at Amazon

Buy at B&N

Buy at iTunes



Chloe is a contemporary romance novelist living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her husband and their sweet puppy. Chloe has always loved writing and cherishes the opportunity to craft her fictional novels and share them with the world.

When Chloe isn’t writing, she spends her time exploring Pittsburgh with her husband and friends. She also enjoys yoga, jogging, and all Pittsburgh sports. She is an avid reader and wrote her debut novel Three Riversin her spare time. She loves to research every last detail relating to her books. For example, in an effort to bring authenticity to Three River’s treatment of grief and loss, she consulted with a psychologist and grief counselor during its preparation.


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Beth Readd
1. Beth Readd
i have read all of Chloe's books and love them!! She is a great author!!!!
Jennifer Proffitt
2. JenniferProffitt
I love to see friendship in romance. Humans don't live in a bubble when they fall in love and I love to see how their love effects their friendships and vice versa. GREAT post.
Beth Readd
3. BevA
Wonderful article! I don't know where I would be today without the love and support of my girlfriends, including my sisters!
I have read and enjoyed each Chloe Barlow book! They are as amazing as she is!
Beth Readd
4. Sonya Heaney
The romance genre needs A LOT more female friendships. So often (especially in YA and NA) secondary female characters only exist to be enemies and romantic rivals. Authors need to stop making every female relationship about comeptition.
Jennifer Proffitt
5. JenniferProffitt
I'm currently reading Victoria Dahl's Taking the Heat and that one really highlights the female friendships. I just read a scene from it where the heroine finally decided to come clean about how much she hated NYC and that's part of the reason she moved back to her hometown and how she feels like a failure. The interaction between the women felt really genuine and lead to an epiphany for the heroine that I know will help her both as a person and also to deal with her hero later in the book!
Beth Readd
6. Jodilynn
I have read everything that Chloe has written, Can't wait for Steel City!! :)
Beth Readd
7. JessBrook
Great article. Friendships are what life is all about!
Beth Readd
8. bookwormrose
I find it interesting the number of romance heroines who are part of a trio of besties. To me it seems extremely prevalent in contemporary stand-alone series (the kind where each book has its own HEA), , even small town romances like Susan Mallery's Fool's Gold have bestie trios within the tight knit community. I don't know if this is because authors are in general drawn toward writing trilogies, or if there is just something inherently magical about three, but I do know I can always tell when I've picked up one exactly where in the series it falls by whether or not her friends have found their soul mates.
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