This post originally appeared on Miss Ivy’s Book Nook.
In romance, one of my absolute favorite tropes is the reunited lovers. What brings these two people who previously separated (often for very good reasons) back together? What changes must they undergo through the course of the novel to become the person that their significant other really needs? I’ve been with my now-husband since I was sixteen, and I’ve often said that if we broke up, I think it would have to be for good. We know too much about each other. I imagine our split would have to be over something earth-shattering.
With A Dangerous Invitation, my hero Daniel O’Reilly fled London three years prior. He had been accused of the murder that he didn’t commit, but the evidence against him was damning. Rather than face a hangman’s noose, he left the only woman he’d ever loved. He thought he was doing what was best for her—that she’d find someone else who could better provide for her. But being without her tore him apart inside, and his addiction to gin continues for two more years.
My heroine Kate Morgan was the daughter of Daniel’s boss. She led a fortunate life because her father owned Emporia Shipping, which I have set up to rival the East India Company in strength. But the company was far more in debt than she knew, and after her father’s death, bankers seize all the assets. Suddenly, Kate has no one she can count on. She’s looking at a life on the streets, selling her body so she can get food. But Kate falls in with my Chapman Street thieving gang, and with their help, she becomes a fence for stolen goods. She’s gained a little bit of independence in the rookery Ratcliffe, and she’s loathe to give up that for the love that broke her apart in the first place.
Now sober, Daniel returns to London to prove his innocence. When he learns that Kate is living in one of the worst areas of the East End, he goes to her, determined to save her and keep the promise he made to her three years ago. But like he has changed, so has Kate. He’s not sure how to relate to this new hardened version of her, with a love for her flintlock and more thieving associates than he can count. Underneath her air of bravado, he sees the woman he once loved and the more time he spends with her trying to solve the murder he was accused of, the more he falls in love with the woman she is now. Kate struggles with the idea of still needing him. Not wanting to be weak, she at first denies the passion she still feels for him. But when they’re stalked by the graverobbers who framed Daniel for murder, she faces losing Daniel for good. She must realize that she can love Daniel again without having to give up the identity she has built for herself.
By the end of the novel, Daniel and Kate have become different people. Their memories of the original courtship between them add layers to their relationship, but they’re instead defined by the new love forged between them. I think that’s what I love most about the reunited lovers trope—by the completion of the novel you’ve ended up with two entirely diverse relationships. The problems that made these people separate have been addressed. Either the hero and heroine have come to accept the imperfections of their partner, or the things that broke them apart have been replaced by new strengths. The second chance they’re given happens at exactly the right time for them, and they’re forever grateful to have found each other again.
The excerpt that you can read below is from Chapter 3 of A Dangerous Invitation. Daniel has followed Kate to her flat, and he challenges her to prove that she doesn’t still feel something for him.
“What part of ‘I shall make you bleed’ did you not understand?” Kate kept her hands hidden behind the solid wood of the banister, preferring him to think she might be armed.
He rounded the last step, coming to a stop in front of her.
Kate retreated against the bannister, which came up to her hips. “Why are you here, Daniel? I already told you I wouldn’t help you.”
“I need to know.” Daniel took another step forward, effectively boxing her up against the bannister.
She leaned back further, unbalanced. What did he need to know? Who had killed Dalton? If she believed him? Or worse, if she still loved him?
Cold air swept in through a broken window on the first floor, ruffled the knotted ribbon of her straw hat underneath her chin. Her fingers clenched around the worn wood of the railing, gripped so tightly her knuckles became white.
She might never feel sure of her footing again.
“You let it pass for three years,” she charged. His urgency made no sense.
“I shouldn’t have. I won’t this time. Dalton deserves justice, and so do I. I’m going to investigate Dalton’s murder whether or not you help me.” Daniel brought his hand to rest on her arm, heat penetrating through her greatcoat. “But truly, I came back for you.”
He leaned his head down, so that their eyes met. His gaze pulled at her. Her body longed for his touch, craved it, as if he was the answer to every question she’d had in the past three years. He could not love a woman so wrecked.
She retreated back again. Bent against the bannister, it sagged against her weight and a threatening groan echoed from the wood. She didn’t move, knowing that if she did she’d be back in his arms within seconds.
He took one look at the bannister, then at her, and tugged her closer to him. His hold was strong, but not unrelenting. She was flush against him, so close she could feel the beating of his heart. Warmth replaced brisk wind, and his presence blotted out loneliness until she was part of something greater, something powerful beyond herself.
She feared that heady sensation. Passion didn’t stick to predetermined routes and checklists.
When he spoke, his breath tickled her skin. His voice rumbled in her ear. “I don’t want to lose you again.”
A tremble tore through her. In those few months after he left, she’d woken with those words on her lips, whispers from dreams wherein he’d fulfilled his promise to return for her. He was here, and she forgot the reasons why she should loathe him.
Everything but the smell of bergamot and cloves disappeared. An altogether familiar aroma, one intrinsically locked in her mind as his, yet different this time without the overlay of pine needles. It enveloped her, clouded her senses. She lifted her head from his chest.
She looked him in the eye. But that was a mistake, for his eyes shone with the same desire she kept trapped.
“If I didn’t know better, I might believe you.” She forced herself to step away from him. “I can’t be with you again.”