I am using the term Unrequited Love as a catch-all term for one of my most favorite and incredibly emotional tropes. To me, unrequited means that one of the main characters has been in love with the other main character for a love time, but was unable to act one that love because the second main character is already attached to someone else. Or because the one main character just struggled to believe that the second MC could ever love them and allowed this to linger for many, many years
In my experience this trope opens the door for quite an emotional journey for the main character that is harboring a long love for the other. They are usually forced to deal with issues of low self worth and believing that they are in fact worthy of love. Books with this trope tend to be emotional and angsty and often filled with broken characters. And I ADORE broken characters.
For me, reading/watching the main character who has been full of these unrequited feelings of love finally get their happily ever after is just so incredibly satisfying. Sadly, that does mean that the second main character often has suffered some sort of loss, typically loss of spouse either by divorce or death. This isn’t always the case, but the key is to find a book where the author writes a delicate balance of loss or separation for the previously attached MC and the second MC to have their happily ever after.
My absolute favorite example of this trope is On Broken Wings by Chanel Cleeton. I LOVE this book so much. In order to get full impact, I recommend book 1 where we get a little bit of the set up and see how much Easy love Dani. After Dani loses her husband, Easy just knows he could never replace her husband, but he does want to be her friend. Reading the progression from friendship to more was filled with tender moments from Easy and Dani. I just love this book so darn much. I can’t recommend it enough, especially in relationship to this trope.
I submit my next entry on this list under protest as I really, really disliked the hero of this book. In Unbreak My Heart by Nicole Jacquelyn, the heroine, Kate has long pined for the Sean. Sean is in the military and when he loses his wife in an accident, Kate steps in to help with the kids. Even though I had many, many issues with this book, it definitely depicts this trope. It has a 4.12 star rating on Goodreads and it’s been nearly two years since I first read and got ragey over this book, the story still sticks with me to this day.
For a slow-burn example of this trope, look no farther than Kulti by Mariana Zapata. The heroine, Sal, has been in love with Kulti, or at least the thought of Kulti for many years. She finally gets the chance to meet him when Kulti starts coaching her team. He is pretty much a jerk to her to start. But over the course of the book, we get to see them fall in love.
I can barely make a list without mentioning Kristen Ashley, in Raid the heroine has been pining for the hero for many years. She has resigned herself to the fact that it will never be, and then it will be.
Wrong to Need You by Alisha Rai- The hero has been in love with his brother’s wife for a long time. But his brother has passed away and his sister-in law is available now. This book is quite an emotional journey and this is a great example of this trope.
This trope is a little hard to pin down and kind of falls under the category of “I’ll know it’s happening when I see it”. There are many iterations and adjacent types of tropes, like a MC falls in love with siblings spouse after a divorce, or even long time friends to lovers. It’s not shocking to know that Goodreads did not have a clearly defined list for me to peruse and review for the purposes of this post.
Doing a search for more books gives lists that include Lisa Kleypas, Linda Howard, Courtney Milan, Sherry Thomas and many more. What books have you read and loved with this trope? What do you love about it? I look forward to more recommendations for this trope.