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Seduced by the Secondary Hero
I knew I was in trouble when my agent asked me to rework the very first chapter before she sent out my proposal for Can’t Stand the Heat. The scene was a pep talk between my professional chef hero, Adam Temple, and his Brit punk best friend and sous chef, Frankie Boyd.
Maybe the way I described the two characters gives you a hint as to what my problem might’ve been—I was in love with my secondary hero. Frankie, with his flamboyant cockney slang and tough swagger, took over the whole scene, which was supposed to be about Adam’s nerves and excitement before a party launching his brand new restaurant. I ended up cutting Frankie right out of it and introducing him later, which let Adam shine in his first appearance on the page. (Although if you want to read the original version, just for fun, I posted it on my website here.)
Frankie has his own subplot that arcs throughout the three books that comprise the Market trilogy, Can’t Stand the Heat, On the Steamy Side, and the most recent release, Just One Taste. It was a constant struggle to rein him in. Readers and reviewers invariably comment on him and his story, which involves a rocky romantic relationship with a young server at Market.
I deliberately included a romantic subplot because my favorite romances almost always have one. Often, the subplot begins in one book and continues through a series until those secondary characters finally take center stage. Suzanne Brockmann has done this several times with her Troubleshooters, with Sam and Alyssa, Max and Gina, and my favorites, Jules and Robin. Eloisa James, too, is an expert on the art of the subplot—by the end of her recent Desperate Duchesses series, I was panting for the Duke of Villiers’s story!
Subplots are a great way to build sustained interest in a series, because readers have the chance to meet and get to know the characters over multiple books. With a subplot, you don’t have to wrap everything up in a single story—as long as the main couple gets their happily ever after, you can draw the secondary romance out, end on a cliffhanger, and not have readers wanting to kill you! Well, in theory. Because readers know the score—they expect to see those secondary characters again in the next book, and they’re even more likely to rush out and pick it up if they’re already invested in one of the plot elements.
And as I wrap up Frankie’s storyline in Just One Taste, I’m excited to share the conclusion of his story arc with his fans! I hope it’s as satisfying for them to read as it was for me to write.
What are some of your favorite ongoing series subplots? Who are some secondary characters who steal every scene they’re in?
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