I love secondary characters. They can provide comic relief or be the villain of the story. They are trusted friends, someone the main character can confide in and use as a sounding board. They can do or say outrageous things that the main characters may not be able to.
And they are necessary to the story. I believe secondary characters help give color and depth to a story. Just as in real life, our fictional main characters don’t want to live in the world alone. They too have family and friends they love and depend on.
I recently released my Love at Solace Lake series about three sisters who inherit their grandfather’s decaying fishing lodge in Minnesota. They work together to try to bring it back to life. There are several secondary characters in the three books; some appear in all three books and some in only one. Here are three of my favorite characters.
Abby Hanson first appears in LIES AND SOLACE, book 1 of the series. She’s also an important character in book 2 (SECRETS AND SOLACE) and book 3 (TRUTH AND SOLACE). Abby was best friends with the Lindquist sisters’ deceased mother, and she’s always been someone the sisters have trusted and confided in. But Abby has secrets. She knows things, things she’s kept from Harper, Scarlet and Maggie. When she finally divulges her secrets, she’ll shake their world.
The kitchen was sunny and warm, though not terribly big. While Abby put the kettle on to boil, Harper took off her jacket and hung it over the back of her chair.
“What made you and Reese decide to come back to Minnewasta?”
Abby placed a couple of teabags into a pot. “It was time to come home. This is where we belong.”
Harper blinked at her enigmatic answer. What did ‘it was time’ mean? Time for what?
Tessa Hainstock also appears in all three books, but we learn a lot about her and her relationship with her father in book 2, SECRETS AND SOLACE. Tessa is the five-year-old daughter of Cameron Hainstock, the hero of book 2. Tessa is sunny and bright, and Cameron would do anything for her. Through her, we discover that tough-guy Cameron has a big, kind heart, even when some of the things he says might make us, and Scarlet, think otherwise. Tessa is also important in showing Scarlet that she really could love a child and be a mother, something she never thought possible.
He scooped Tessa into his arms and held her securely against his shoulder with one arm. She woke, her eyes at half-mast. “Love you, Daddy. To the moon and back.”
He kissed her forehead and repeated the mantra they used every night she spent with him. “To the moon and back, pumpkin.”
She went back to sleep, once more as limp as a ragdoll.
Phyllis Carlsson was a hoot to write. She appears only in book 3, TRUTH AND SOLACE, Maggie Lindquist and Luke Carlsson’s story. She’s Luke Carlsson’s grandmother and Abby Hanson’s mother. She can come out with funny, sometimes irreverent things that make Luke want to laugh. Or cry. Phyllis has been Luke’s rock since childhood and she continues to support him through the difficult times he’s facing now. But Phyllis is no pushover; if she thinks Luke needs to do better, you can believe she’ll let him know.
“Your mother says you haven’t been to see her in a couple of days.”
The wrench slipped and clanked against the copper pipe. Luke had no answer for her. The truth was he’d been hiding, either at the lodge or with chores at his grandmother’s house. He couldn’t make himself go to her.
“I know it hurts. I know you feel powerless because I feel that way myself. And I’m angry, angrier than I’ve ever been in my life. I’m so angry that Abby is leaving me that I want to spit. I want to hit someone. I want to break something. It’s not supposed to be this way.”
Luke’s heart thumped painfully in his chest. He didn’t want to hear about his grandmother’s pain. His own grief tore at him like a wild animal, consuming him piece by piece. He couldn’t deal with her grief as well. He fitted the wrench carefully on the pipe once more.
“But you know what, Luke? Every day I put on my big girl panties, and I suck it up to walk the two blocks to my daughter’s house. I help her wash her hair or take a bath, and I make tea and chat. Whatever she needs. But I always make sure I share a laugh with her. Because right now, it’s not about me and my suffering. It’s about Abby.”
Secondary characters are a necessary part of romance fiction. They add color and life, provide reality checks for the main characters, and offer a shoulder to lean on. And they are definitely fun to write. Who are some of your favorite secondary characters from favorite books and movies?
Love at Solace Lake Series
Love is worth the risk…
When their grandfather dies, the Lindquist sisters, Harper, Scarlet and Maggie, inherit the northern Minnesota fishing lodge that had been in their family for three generations. The inheritance is bittersweet. They were raised at the lodge by their grandparents. The natural beauty of the place hasn’t changed, but the building itself is crumbling and desperately in need of repair. The lodge also reminds them of what they lost.
Twenty-two years previously, their parents died there in what was ruled a murder/suicide.
As the sisters struggle to breathe new life into the failing lodge, old fears and questions rise to the surface even as new love presents itself. Why did their father murder their mother? What truths did their grandparents keep from them? The sisters must fight to keep the wounds of the past from putting their futures, and their fledgling relationships, in jeopardy.
Book 1 – Lies and Solace
She can’t live with one more lie. He can’t tell the truth.
Harper Lindquist is convinced she’s found the answer to her financial prayers. Unless she pours cash into crumbling Solace Lake Lodge, she’ll lose her family’s legacy. Her would-be savior arrives in the middle of a Minnesota blizzard and she’s determined to prove to her reluctant, and trapped, financier the lodge is a sound investment. But Harper isn’t completely honest with him. And she has no idea the lake is hiding secrets of its own.
Ethan James is a liar, but his money is very real. He isn’t convinced a broken-down inn is a smart investment opportunity. But the more he understands Harper’s dreams and desires, the more he wants to be the man to make them come true. The trauma in both their pasts means neither can fully trust the other. They must find the courage to love, to trust, and to accept, or yesterday’s sorrows will keep them apart.
Excerpt, Lies and Solace:
As she stared into his dark eyes she realized how much she trusted him, and relied on him. That was something rare for her. The only people she trusted as much were her sisters.
I’m in love with him.
The thought blasted through her brain with the force of a tsunami. The tension of the last few weeks, the insecurity, the mistrust, the fear, slipped easily from her shoulders. For the first time, her mind was clear. She was in love with Ethan and she didn’t want to wait anymore. She wanted him. She wanted him to be her first, her last.
Finding courage she didn’t know she possessed, Harper slid off the stool and walked around the island. She plucked the wine glass from his hand and set it on the counter, then placed his hand on her breast. “Make love with me, Ethan.”
A fire lit in his eyes, telling her he wanted her, too. But there was a question there, a hesitation. “Are you sure?”
She’d never been more sure of anything in her life. “Yes.”
“Shhh. Let’s not talk anymore.” She placed one finger over his lips, then stood on her tiptoes and kissed him.
Ethan’s reaction was lightning swift. He wrapped his arms around her and brought her close, his mouth descending on hers in a wild, warm kiss. Their tongues tangled, slid over each other. She’d missed his touch, his taste. She moaned, and in the sound she heard thirty-two years of longing.
For this. For him.
Book 2 – Secrets and Solace
No matter how deeply buried, secrets rise to the surface.
Scarlet Lindquist has agreed to help her sisters rebuild the dilapidated fishing lodge in Minnesota they inherited from their grandparents. Although the lengthy restoration is bringing the three sisters closer together, Scarlet’s support is temporary. Her leave of absence from her job in Chicago is temporary and she has no intention of staying at Solace Lake Lodge, where the lake holds dark secrets. When frightening childhood memories resurface, they are tempered by her fascination with an irritating contractor. If only she could trust her feelings for him. If only he could trust her.
Cameron Hainstock meets Scarlet at his brother’s wedding to her sister and their attraction is instantaneous. But Cam avoids the beautiful marketing executive. All his efforts are aimed at battling for custody of his only child. When the unimaginable happens and Cam faces the biggest challenge of his life, he’s reluctant to accept help to halt his downward spiral. Can they learn to trust each other and fight for a future together or will they go their separate ways?
Excerpt, Secrets and Solace:
The shock on Scarlet’s face, the disbelief and grief, made him wish he’d kept his mouth shut. The last thing he wanted was to inflict her with the same hell he was going through. He turned away from her, pushing her hand from his arm. “Go home, Scarlet.”
“I’m not going anywhere.” She grabbed his arm again, preventing him from picking up the axe, the tool he’d used to keep himself from reaching for a bottle. “I won’t leave you alone.”
Ignoring the sweat and dirt, she wrapped her arms around his waist and held him tightly, resting her head against his chest. His body stirred to life at her touch, disgusting him. His world was crumbling around him and all he could think was that he wanted to bury himself inside her until she screamed his name.
“Go,” he said roughly. If she was smart, she’d run away and never look back. He was a bad-tempered, recovering alcoholic with nothing to offer her. He wasn’t worth the risk.
She looked up at him, her blue eyes clear and steady. “No. I won’t leave you.”
He pushed her up against the wall of the workshop, not sure if he was trying scare her away or make her stay. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
She shook her head. “You won’t.”
Cam closed his eyes and groaned. He wrapped his arms around her in a vice-like grip, unable to resist her any longer.
God, he needed her.
He lowered his head and kissed her. There was no subtlety in the kiss, no gentleness or finesse. Only passion and raw need. But she stayed with him, returning his passion, giving solace. He greedily lapped it up, taking everything she had to give.
But he wanted, needed more. He lifted her and she wrapped her long, slender legs around his waist. He buried his face against her soft, sweet-smelling neck, inhaling her clean, floral scent. At the same time, he snaked his hand up her thigh and began to pull down her panties.
“Tell me to stop,” he rasped. “Tell me now while I still can.”
Book 3 – Truth and Solace
The truth could destroy them. Or set them free.
Maggie Lindquist left Solace Lake determined never to return. Circumstances have pulled her back and she’s helping to restore her family’s dilapidated fishing lodge. When she agreed to the plan she didn’t expect to have to work side by side with the man who abandoned her ten years earlier. She didn’t expect to like him, or want him ever again. But can she trust him as she once did?
Luke Carlsson rushes home to tend to his ailing mother. Her lengthy illness means he needs to stay, at least temporarily. And to stay, he needs to work. Solace Lake Lodge offers him a job and an opportunity to work with the woman he’s never stopped loving. But the restoration is unleashing secrets hidden for decades and no one is left unscathed. Especially not Maggie and Luke, whose love needs to be resilient enough to forgive, and strong enough to build a future together.
Excerpt, Truth and Solace:
“Luke?” Maggie’s voice was husky with sleep.
“It’s all right, baby. Go back to sleep.”
The sheets rustled and the bedside lamp snapped on, creating a small pool of light that illuminated her tense face. “You’re leaving?”
He heard the disappointment in her voice, saw it in her dark eyes, even in the dim light.
“If I don’t leave now, my grandmother will know I’ve been with you all night. Harper and Ethan will see my truck here in the morning, and they’ll know we slept together.”
“Harper and Ethan are staying in Minneapolis tonight, but even if they were home, it wouldn’t matter. I don’t give a damn what anyone thinks, not even my family. We’re grownups now. We don’t have to sneak around to be together like we did when we were kids.” She lowered her gaze, her hands clutching the sheet to her breasts. “Unless you don’t want anyone to know. Unless you’d rather not be here.”
“It’s okay, really.” She looked away and shrugged a small shoulder. “It’s no big deal.”
He couldn’t leave her like this. He sat on the bed beside her and stroked her hair. “It’s a big deal to me. There’s nothing I want more than to stay, but it wouldn’t be fair to you.”
Her eyes flashed in disbelief. “Wouldn’t be fair to me? What are you talking about?”
“In a few weeks, after my mother is…gone, I’ll go back to my job in California. And you’ll be here.”
“And never the twain shall meet?”
“It’s not what I want, but it’s reality.”
“What about what I want, right here, right now? Maybe we don’t have forever. Nobody does. If I’ve learned anything from your mother’s illness, it’s that we can’t take anything for granted. We can’t let uncertainty and fear stop us. If we only have a short time together, so be it. At least, we’ll have had that time. I won’t regret it.”
She was amazing. She was still the strong, forthright, vibrant girl he’d fallen in love with that summer.
And he had loved her. Deeply. They’d been far too young to sustain a lasting relationship. But that didn’t mean he hadn’t loved her.
I still love her. I never stopped.
The sudden insight rocked him.
About Jana Richards
When Jana Richards read her first romance novel, she immediately knew two things: she had to commit the stories running through her head to paper, and they had to end with a happily ever after. She also knew she’d found what she was meant to do. Since then she’s never met a romance genre she didn’t like. She writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and historical romance set in World War Two, in lengths ranging from short story to full length novel. Just for fun, she throws in generous helpings of humor, and the occasional dash of the paranormal. Her paranormal romantic suspense “Seeing Things” was a 2008 EPPIE finalist. In 2015 “Always a Bridesmaid” was nominated for a Rone Award in the Steamy Contemporary category, and though it didn’t make the finals, it was an honor to be nominated. “Always a Bridesmaid” did, however, receive Best Opening Hook from Trans Canada Writers in their Maple Leaf Awards.
In her life away from writing, Jana is an accountant/admin assistant, a mother to two grown daughters, and a wife to her husband Warren. She enjoys golf, yoga, movies, concerts, travel and reading, not necessarily in that order. She and her husband live in Winnipeg, Canada with an elderly Pug/Terrier cross named Lou. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.janarichards.com
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