Keeping it in the family: when a heroine dates brothers

My husband’s the youngest of four boys. If I were a romance novel heroine, that would mean I’d have plenty of dating opportunities if anything awful happened to my husband.

As a real woman, that thought fills me with the ickies.

Dating two people in one family is a common theme in contemporary romance. Kristin Higgins’s The Next Best Thing, for example, is about a woman who starts sleeping with her dead husband’s brother while she’s grieving, but eventually learns he’s more than a way to forget her pain for a while.

One Good Reason by Sarah MayberryOne Good Reason by Sarah Mayberry—released this month by Harlequin Superromance—tells the story of Gabby, who falls in love with her ex-boyfriend’s brother. She’s only recently met Jon, who lived in Canada when she was dating his younger brother Tyler. And she dumped Tyler three years ago. Perhaps these details ease the ick-factor those of us with real-life brothers-in-law feel.

Jon himself is not immune to feeling uncomfortable that the woman he’s having sex with also used to practically live with his younger brother. And the sexual side of their relationship is what he focuses on.

She was hands down the sexiest, most responsive lover he’d ever had. Tyler must have been nuts to let her slip away.

Jon ground his teeth. He wasn’t sure from which dark, reptilian part of his brain that thought had popped up, but he didn’t want to hear from it again. The fact that Tyler knew Gabby intimately had always lurked in there somewhere, niggling at him, but he had refused to acknowledge it. He didn’t want to think about his brother with her. Didn’t want to imagine her undressing for him, moaning for him—

He shoved the piece of wood he’d been measuring along the workbench, sending a chisel flying into the wall.

He’d never been jealous of his brother, not even when they were kids. They’d had bigger fish to fry growing up, and as adults they hadn’t seen each other enough to drum up any rivalry. Truth be told, he wasn’t a jealous man. A perfectionist in his work, yes. A tough but fair boss, hopefully. But he’d never coveted another man’s woman before, and this seemed like a particularly shitty time to start.

Gabby’s not Tyler’s woman. Not anymore.

Gabby, on the other hand, doesn’t think about the weirdness of having sex with her ex’s brother. Instead she focuses on the emotional blockades that destroyed her relationship with Tyler.

Jon suffers from the same emotional constipation Tyler did, and these are the thoughts that torture her as he pushes her away.

Gabby stood at the window, watching Jon drive away. Everything in her had wanted to go down there and throw her arms around him and tell him it was going to be all right. But Jon didn’t want her comfort. He’d made that more than clear. He held himself as tightly as a fist and while he might let her in for sex, he wasn’t about to share the other parts of himself with her.

Remind you of anyone?

She’d already played this game with one Adamson. She didn’t think she had it in her to try again.

I can think of one good thing about hooking up with your ex’s brother: you already know how to deal with your in-laws.

I really enjoyed One Good Reason, but I had to switch off that bit of my brain saying “One Thanksgiving you’ll look around the table and realize half the people there have seen you nekkid.”

And for me, that would be enough to bring the stuffing back up.

What do you think of stories where the heroine has relationships with brothers?


  1. LOL. And did you share this blog post with your hubby? I’m not married and have only a brother (doing more than shopping with my sister-in-law isn’t an option, believe me), but it kinda gives me the ickies too. Then again, I have written a series with dueling first-cousins who both want my heroine. She hasn’t made her mind up yet, but I can pretty much guarantee she won’t ever do both of them, separately or together. Oh! That’s a whole ‘nother scenario. Threesomes with brothers!

    1. Oh my god! That thought just gave me the willies! *shudders*

      I know who I’m hoping your heroine picks, and I’m glad to hear she won’t sample them both before deciding!

  2. This one’s pretty high on the “eeeewwwhhh” chart! I’ve known my own brother in law since he was in the 8th grade and the thought . . . I can’t even go there even though he’s now in his mid-thirties. He’s truly my little brother. I can’t say that I’ve read a romance with this story line, but I don’t think it’s one I would use.

    1. Oh, yeah Amy, I imagine it would be right up there on the icky scale if you’ve known your BIL since he was a boy! *grimaces*

    1. Wow! Does she know she’s the same woman, or is she unaware of herself in other realities? Sound like a cool premise!

      1. In one reality she is a top scientist. In another she is a mere secretary. But the mere secretary becomes far less ‘mere’ as the story progresses, and events totally overwhelm the scientist. In her arrogance she is never aware of her doppelganger. I certainly had fun writing it – back in 2004. I recently completed a sequel, but sadly there was no room in it for either her or her tiny appendictomy scar.

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